Noise as Censorship

Inventing the EnemyNoise becomes a cover. I would say that the ideology of the censorship through noise can be expressed, with apologies to Wittgenstein, by saying, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must talk a great deal.” The flagship TG1 news program on Italian state television, for example, is a master of this technique, full of news items about calves born with two heads and bags snatched by petty thieves—in other words, the sort of minor stories papers used to put low on an inside page—which now serve to fill up three-quarters of an hour of information, to ensure we don’t notice other news stories they ought to have covered have not been covered. Several months ago, the press controlled by Berlusconi, in order to undermine the authority of a magistrate who criticized the premier, followed him for days, reporting that he sat smoking on a bench, went to the barber, and wore turquoise socks. To make a noise, you don’t have to invent stories. All you have to do is report a story that is real but irrelevant, yet creates a hint of suspicion by the simple fact that it has been reported. It is true and irrelevant that the magistrate wears turquoise socks, but the fact it has been reported creates a suggestion of something not quite confessed, leaving a mark, an impression. Nothing is more difficult to dispose of than an irrelevant but true story.

—Umberto Eco
“Censorship and Silence” in Inventing the Enemy

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