The intellectual, the writer and the mass media

Pérez Montaner, Jaume
Revista Literatures Núm. 0 1997

Literature and Society and The Writer and the Mass Media are themes which are closely intertwined and which refer directly to some of the main *raisons d'etre* of writing and the place of the writer in society as a whole. From the moment a writer decides to make his or her work public, he or she wishes to communicate and even to have a certain influence in the society of which he or she is a member.
The problem is in knowing what role has been allotted to the writer in a society and a period in which images and messages have ceased to become transparent and self-evident. On the one hand the intellectual - the difference between an intellectual and a writer is usually an extremely subtle one - has sloughed off all personal responsability and has adopted a posture of indifference to other people's misery and suffering. The organic intellectuals, as defined by Gramsci, have practically vanished due to the fall from grace or the disappearance of organisations associated with working-class interests, whereas there is now a proliferation of traditional intellectuals who simply defend their own interests or exercise control over cultural institutions designed to maintain the hegemony of their class.
The intellectual no longer plays the role he or she used to in previous centuries. His or her place has been taken by the fly-by-night celebrities of radio and TV, by journalists specialising in gossip, or by the so-called stars of popular culture. It has become clear to everyone that one exists as soon as one's figure appears on the TV screen. The figure of the intellectual who is critical of the system is as necessary now, or more so, than it was in the past. For this reason, according to sociologist Andrew Ross, the intellectual should re-situate him or herself with regard to popular culture and take pragmatic advantage of the possibilities opened up by new technology. It is in this field that the intellectual can still play a social role, trying to rearticulate that which is genuinely popular and confronting it with the worst excesses of commercial culture.
The only way out for the politically aware intellectual is to practice an active dissidence using the technological means which contemporary commercial culture has made generally available. In this way, it will be necessary to present the idea of the here and now, as opposed to the old notion of universalism and internationalism. "We are unrepeatable", said Joan Fuster, and it is on behalf of such individual and collective unrepeatability that it is necessary to fight. His thought, formed in the shadow of Modernist models but based on dialectic, on local vision and concern, carries a great deal of weight in our current post-modern situation.