Kirkus Reviews QR Code
MEDIA VIRUS! by Douglas Rushkoff

MEDIA VIRUS!

Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture

By Douglas Rushkoff

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-345-38276-5
Publisher: Ballantine

 An inspired look at how ideas are disseminated by the media and at how new concepts can be injected into the mainstream, altering views about critical social issues. The ``datasphere,'' says culture critic Rushkoff (Cyberia, not reviewed), is the new territory of human development, a region as ``open as the globe was five hundred years ago.'' Discounting fears that new media will remain the province of corporations and governments, Rushkoff maintains that they're too complex and chaotic to be controlled by any one force. In fact, he asserts, the media replicates much like biological forms and can be manipulated to hasten our evolution. This book is a guide to empowerment through media activism; it shows how progressive notions are ``injected'' into the media--often with careful premeditation--via television programs like ``The Simpsons'' or through the recreation of events like the Rodney King beating on programs like ``L.A. Law.'' Rushkoff interviews young meta-media theorists who develop ``designer viruses'' such as the ``Smart Drugs'' public relations campaign (which works to legalize drugs the FDA forbids) in order to ``infect'' public thinking. And he shows how attempts to control the media can backfire, as happened in the 1992 Republican presidential campaign. The book has its problems: A helter-skelter style sometimes undermines the rigor of otherwise persuasive arguments, and Rushkoff is so enthusiastic about the positive power of everything from daytime talk shows to MTV that he barely acknowledges their negative effects. A more critical perspective-- or an examination of the media activism of the Christian right or other cultural forces--would have given his study a critical edge it lacks. But this book will convince many that the counterculture is alive and well--and more widely dispersed than ever. (Author tour)