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[The Political Analysis of Postcommunism. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1995, pp. 67-97.]

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Political Discourse * in Mass Communications

1 Vira VOVK, Andriy KLEPIKOV, 2, 3 Andriy KLEPIKOV, 4 Yevhen BYSTRYTSKY, 5 Natalia KOSTENKO, 6 Oleksandr KRYVENKO, 7 Oleh BILYI, 8 Anna MAKOLKIN.

1. Special Features of Political Discourse in the Transition Period

The state's domination over all spheres of life, in other words, the substitution for the public sphere by the institutionally organized acting on the basis of different types of compulsion is expressed on various levels. But the impossibility of total control, typical of the old regime, makes possible the spontaneous creation of discursive practices of criminal character: "The agreement" is made according to the conventions of discourse formed by those of the criminal world and those of traditional, pre-civilized societies.

* The notion of discourse is used here in the broadest sense possible as the fundamental condition for the verbal structuralization of a communicative act (including a political one) based on the will to power. At the same time discourse lays the foundation for the practical establishment of a communicative reality (including a political one) according to the power intentions of this act.

From this standpoint, the self-structuralization of discursive practices represented by the mass media takes place. Traditionally mass media in democratic society (newspapers, radio, and television) is a correlate of civil society. Mass information is easily identified with one or another of its sectors. But in the postcommunist states we are dealing with peculiar hermetic conventions which reflect the special zones of non-transparency which have appeared in society. This is precisely why the language of newspapers, its stereotypes /68/ and clichés, which have become so widespread in the socalled transition period, are the most expressive articulations of the non-structured (non-civil) postcommunist society with its strange agglomerations. A spontaneous manifestation of latent aggression and plethora of metaphors in political texts now call attention to themselves. Aggression points to the priority of coercion and intimidation, the heritage of the totalitarian state, while metaphor points to the lack of responsibility and "discursiveness" in the civil dialogue. Metaphor touches the unconsciousness mechanisms that function in the extra-linguistic realm and causes affects which undermine normal discursive practice.

In a paradoxical sense the press, the media of mass information, which create the infrastructure and thus the whole field of discursive practices, are thus transformed into their opposite. Instead of preventing conflicts by people in areas of total transparency with the help of social thought (Michel Foucault) they increase and preserve inexpressive paleo-symbolic speech simultaneously with the increase of various stereotypes and party jargons. Here we see the manipulative nature of the public word which is typical to the totalitarian regimes. The types of rationality which ruled the USSR and values orientation system of the old regime have transformed discourse into a "clinical" monologism. Political decisions and economic activities were turned into instrumentalities of propaganda. The postcommunist period has witnessed the simulation of democratic rule: without any direct relationship to real power, the individual has at the same time acquired total responsibility for the efficacy of state functions. The moral double standards characteristic of Soviet consciousness and its internal censorship complex have become pervasive. Only totems and taboo change.

Thus it is difficult to speak of political discourse as such in the so-called "transition" period. The path to discursive democracy as a source of legitimacy for the institutions of modern civilized society is complicated by the fact that the social dialog in postcommunist states is still greatly perverted by the traditions of totalitarian newspeak, which has produced a widespread type of verbal behavior whereby the /69/ articulation of meaning is substituted for the social dialog by aggregates of compulsion and special conventions. This is why the view that discourse as a medium, with the assistance of which individual and collective rationalities come together, simply does not work in the particular conditions which have come about after the collapse of communist ideology. The interests, needs, and dreams of postcommunist "wild man" cannot be understood and interpreted in the light of discursive practice. They are endowed with meaning in the sphere of nonpolitical reality.

The methodology used by Michel Foucault in his doctoral dissertation, "The History of Madness in the Classical Age," can be quite effective in analyzing discursive practice under postcommunism. A key term in his work is "delirium," and here language constitutes the initial and final structure of folly. If we understand democratic discourse as an ethic of dialog, then delirium always indicates the violation of this ethic and the potential for falling into a state of affect. This may be expressed on a verbal level by irony, silence, the reign of stereotypes, metaphoric talks, or hidden and open threats. In the postcommunist socium, mutual understanding and dialog are substituted by the affects of tyranny. From this point of view it becomes difficult to even speak of democratic discourse because its very basis is rendered unstable, mobile, and vulnerable. It was after the Bolshevik coup d'etat of 1917 and consequent sociocide that the institutions of civil society were ultimately destroyed and the basis for an ethic of dialog disappeared, pushed out by everyday rituals of loyalty.

The renewal of political discourse came about mainly as the result of perestroika and was not of any organic development of the institutions of civil society and thus of language. This was a direct consequence of how the repressive and manipulative character of the whole system by which man was drawn into social life, the result of his having long existed in a realm of propaganda, pervaded by compulsion. The collapse of this realm creates a chain of contradictions on the level of political dialog. Today many employ political rhetoric but they are unable to adequately use specialized /70/ economic, political, and philosophical terminology due to their occupation, life experience, and, above all, their economic unfreedom. To some extent such verbal activity is a result of the ideology of equality, decrepit illusions about social classes, and thus the idea of the superiority of manual laborers. It is also the product of the attainment of universal literacy in a broad sense.

But, of course, we mean here not only professional responsibilities. Any type of society has its, so to speak, gnosiological ardor. The each of consciously realized ultimate aim on the individuality level, the communist ideology supertask orientation destroyed normal political discourse and brought into it almost unalterable units. A sort of closed circle appeared such that the lack of institutional tradition of civil society prevented the formation of democratic discourse and the democratic institutions of a normal civil society. Thus faith in saving competition or market pricing looks illusive. Competition without rules of institutional ethics and culture degenerates into the competition of criminal structures and the mass dissemination of falsehoods.

The factors of political language, speech, communication, and discourse are becoming cornerstones of politics in the postcommunist period. The future Ukraine is maturing through communication. "What kind of society do we want to build?" was persistently asked by the former Prime Minister and now newly elected President Leonid Kuchma. This strategic question cannot be answered a priori, in advance. Such an important choice of a political future, the choice of Aristotle's "good life," must be legitimized in political discourse and all its real social manifestations.

There is a certain psychological complacency in being aware of participating in something much more progressive {i.e., market economy, democracy, reform of the political system) than it was before. But this gives no reason for complacency, for dreams of the future do not guarantee automatic progress. Western experience proves that the future depends on the degree of our handling of today's situation on the level of political discourse. For we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the terms of reference in political strat-/71/egy i. e., a transition from the silent manifestation of power to political discourse, by and through which politics is actually conducted.

Hence, political values are not just reappraised in the head of a political scientist or a practical politician. The reappraisal of basic values is something we all experience. That the common people are actively involved in political discourse is evidenced, for example, by the rather heavy voter turnout in Ukraine's most recent parliamentary elections. The overwhelming majority of us have assumed the qualities of a political animal, that is, of an individual who (one way or another) feels that his everyday life is dependent on political developments at various echelons of power, on the course of economic reforms, and who understands the longterm connection of his own future with that of the state as a whole. This involvement in a real political process leads to the formation of communicative competence or civic maturity, when "mass man" begins to bear a conscious responsibility for his own political choice and, hence, actions of social significance. Those who are still silent, "unconscious," in "the period of political discourse" provoke a new wave of social infantilism, which favor certain charismatic authoritarian-type leaders. Therefore, for us, the uneasy task of learning to speak has become indispensable.

Present-day political life in Ukraine has given urgency to the meaning of the political word. It essentially changes the system of requirements for a politician, each member of society and the whole situation. A politician has to know how to express in easy-to-understand terms his ideas and, hence, the political will of the community he leads; an enigmatic politician has no chance at all. This becomes the norm in a situation of political discourse, which requires revelation of hitherto hidden realms of thought thanks to the spoken word. Since the forced limitation of the horizons of thinking was based on ideology, glasnost politicized the whole of life. The word became a ray of light illuminating the darker sides of our existence. It is here that the enlightening role of political discourse lies. Immanuel Kant long ago defined the "state" as a condition of "resonating public consciousness". /72/

This role of the word in politics has become historically obvious. However, the word cannot be merely reduced to a method to be mastered, for political discourse determines not only the boundaries of political thought but also the feasibility for political action. The deeper meaning of political discourse reveals itself only when it becomes clear that the word is not merely the bearer of a simple sum of facts and propositions. For linguistic discourse comprises various human volitions, desires, aspirations, i.e., different "facts" of life, multi-directional practical prescriptions, as well as juxtaposing the various forms of human existence.

Everything we accept as fact is already our interpretation of the environment. Our language, especially political language, always contains an interpretation of the world, as well as covert and overt assessments of real and potential political phenomena. Political ideas and relationships of power find their expression in language. This is why political discourse predetermines the possible forms of political practice.

The degradation of political regimes and collapse of ideologies take place through degradation of the language. Ideological concepts influence our life by way of discourse. We still feel the influence of Soviet "newspeak."

Language defines the pretenses of politicians and simultaneously marks the boundaries of the will they represent through their own participation in the discourse. However, the old language cannot be done away with mechanistically. It should be narrowed in terms of discourse. Ideological patterns of Soviet "newspeak" must die in postcommunist discourse as unfit for an open society.

2. The Monologism of the Will to Power as Political Legacy

To what extent does political discourse depend on a type of politics or an acquired political legacy? Zoon politicon falls into a public type of political life defined long ago by Aristotle, who believed that politics was constituted in discourse, and political life took place in the market place /73/ at the agora. Following the tradition of the ancient Greek polis, the modern notion of discourse means openness to public criticism and conceding to others the right to have a liberal attitude toward political life. It is only in this kind of public society that a human being can form himself and become an individual.

Our "agora" laid out only prefabricated ideas and ideologemes, while political will itself (i.e., the will to power and the conflicting expressions of this will) took place in the quiet corridors of power under both the imperial bureaucracy of tsarism and the communist bureaucracy of the command-administrative system. In the bygone days of our discourse, political action always took place away from publicity. The Aristotelian type of politics can be said to have been replaced here by the Machiavellian type, hidden and manipulative. Even the general definition of politics as "the relationship between people and power" represents precisely this political tradition. The notion of power is a necessary but not sufficient key to understanding this ideal type of politics and "pure" idea of the state. The ultimate goal of politics, in this view, consists in imposing one's own will upon all members of the socium by any and all means. Thus, it can be characterized as a voluntaristic type of politics.

Such a concept of politics has deep metaphysical roots, namely, the domination of what Martin Heidegger called "subjectivism" in a broad sense. Orientation toward the Enlightenment ideal of the lucid understanding of reality and history becomes primary. A statesman's greatness lies in his ability to understand and change the course of history. This conviction, for example, inspired Lenin to state without any doubt that "politics has its own objective logic, independent of how it is defined by any person or party." In other words, a subjectivist orientation to understanding the phenomenon of power leads to a complete leveling of political discourse and elimination of the institutions of civil society. To reduce the political role of the latter to a minimum was a deliberate educational and ideological objective of the communist regime. And this is why the development of conditions for political discourse can surely serve as a criterion /74/ for the approach of postcommunism.

What limits this type of voluntarist politics? It may be discerned by the boundary of its enhancement, that is, when the factor of will in politics runs into radical restrictions or stops functioning altogether. Will is limited by political discourse only when a politician begins to squeeze out of himself, not a silent slave but, a general, a revolutionary, a political commissar, or a leader as an immediate agent of political action. Moreover, this squeezing-out occurs, not only in real politics but also, in the reinterpretation of politically significant history and culture (i.e., in terms of politics). Political discourse becomes actualized only when the skill at negotiation is more highly valued than a violent will.

3. The Domination of Sacral Political Discourse

The forms of political discourse in Ukraine are essentially influenced by a traditional political type characterized by us as voluntarism par excellence and made sacred. Will as a manifestation of authority its manipulative, behind-the-scenes, hidden nature manifests itself primarily in the ability to negotiate, arrange, or somehow come to agreement with members of the ruling elite, party in power, "our people," etc. This political discourse of agreement, hidden from the public, may be considered dominant in certain types of society. It is a form of intra-political discourse. As to the forced expansion of political ideas into the outside world, it was carried out through a system of totalitarian ideological institutions merged with governmental bodies.

This type of political discourse is ostensibly oriented to reason and argument. However, the main indication of a politician's skill became his ability to come to an agreement, to conduct a kind of negotiations. Suffice it to recall the history of the former Soviet Union. After lifting ideological restrictions, a negotiating discourse emerged which has proved to be the most interesting in all political history. The pre-war negotiations (agreements) with Nazi Germany, the Yalta conference (also aimed at a certain redivision of Europe into spheres of influence), and particularly the de-/75/bates and behind-the-scenes struggle in the leading echelons of the Communist Party still attract the attention of experts and laymen to the secrets of its hidden influence on the destinies of millions of people. This kind of public exposure has become possible only in recent years, after such political discourse lost its sacral nature. However, this desacralization within the dominating discourse of agreement has had the greatest effect on political history. The discourse of modern politicians and bodies of authority largely remains closed and sanctified. This is a discourse of a sacral community still patterned on the Politburo. Despite proclamations of glasnost and omnipresent political talk, truly influential discourse remains an "internal" affair of politicians.

This negotiation type of political discourse prevails in the CIS countries; little wonder, if one bears in mind the "mysterious Russian soul" and the Byzantine-court traditions of Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine, in the well-known words of Dmytro Dontsov, is still "of two minds" about East and West. The essence of the "European" (Western) orientation toward the negotiation type political discourse still dominant in Ukraine is its treatment of politics as a "procedure." By this we mean the bureaucratic regimentation of the negotiating process, multi-layered nature of negotiations, and the tremendous painstaking work of groups of experts who prepare agreements for signing at the summit level. The length and complexity of this process is vividly demonstrated by negotiating efforts in the former Yugoslavia.

A different picture is painted by the negotiation discourse between Ukraine and Russia. Suffice to consider the Massandra Summit between former Ukrainian President Kravchuk and Russian President Yeltsin on the Black Sea Fleet. Those negotiations showed that there was little need for institutional experts, for their work did not promote agreement. Only the summit meeting agreement between the highest officials made it possible to solve the problem. But this harmony was mere illusion. It turned out that it was technically impossible to implement the agreement because the experts had been ignored. This became apparent only post factum. In other words, there were many objective rea-/76/ sons why this negotiated settlement could not work. The point is that all such agreements, owing to their voluntaristic irrationality, are interpreted differently by the contracting parties. From the very outset, this creates great problems for the advisers, the "hermeneutists" of politics, and for the future consequences of unresolved political problems to the common people.

Political discourse evolves in this case like a mystical and sacralizing show. It brings a pervasive element of irrationality into politics. The above example is typical of Ukrainian politics. This is very dangerous when personal relationship, friendship or hostility, becomes the ultimate argument in politics, or when intimate sentiments decide the destinies of the state and citizen.

In this connection, political life itself serves as teacher. Recent elections have taught us many things. They showed that faith in political parties (institutions) and their leaders who sought to embrace a wide political spectrum was clearly insufficient. The idea that the electorate's interests were expressed by parties and party leaders has been undermined. The political struggle is now evolving into a political discourse which loses a great deal without duly taking into consideration the specifics of the political listener and without understanding his interests.

The ideal of an open society brings the problem of political discourse to the fore. Power no longer acts as a machine of repression. The very existence of a community and its institutions (above all, the state) largely depends on the way in which political communication evolves. In an open society this is characterized by the political significance acquired by the language of the Other. A realistic policy can not be confined solely to the implementation of even a seemingly ideal political project drawn up by monologue. No political and strategic (not to mention tactical) decision can be made forever and in advance. The choice of the best type of politics depends on the "yes" or "no" of other participants in political action. Politics is not limited to goal-oriented activity. As for the ideal type of politics, it becomes legitimized through communication and cannot be regulated out-/77/side political discourse, while the discursive form of politics, in its turn, determines its respective political content.

Open discourse makes it possible to join and enter into political dialog, while an open society fundamentally differs from a traditional one in the latter's communicatively limited quality. Under totalitarianism, civil society has no autonomy from the state. The state has only subjects, not citizens who can manifest their will in terms of discourse (i.e., who could have the ability to freely express their ideas).

In an open society discourse stands at the center of politics. Concerning the reasonable lucidity of argumentation, we are not carried away with optimism. Different peoples choose different paths. The poet's words, "we do for ourselves," is a constant in politics. They have an ontological sense, illustrating the localness of cultural worlds. The significance of doxic views, beliefs, and guesses in political discourse is no less than in addressing universal Reason. But all the various institutions which safeguard political discourse cannot be extrarational because their sense and social role consists in the rationalization of the will to power.

The revival of the nation and making of a civil society are what determine our political life. Our political future depends on the degree of "cultural resonating publicity" (Jiirgen Habermas) established in our country rather than on exploiting mythologemes, the "silent ground." Our national and cultural survival depends on the extent to which political power becomes the power of discourse.

To sum up, let us note that politics in modern society cannot be effected according to traditional formulae that only too often serve as classical models. Politics cannot be reduced to a manifestation of what is thought up, prepared, and calculated single-handedly. Politics has ceased to be the prerogative of prophets. It cannot be reduced to the realization of a political ideal, created monologically by either rational or extravagant means. Politics objectively exists externally in the world and in political discourse which is the means of its being.

Thus, as a means by which real subjects, fixed in time and space, act, politics cannot be completely liberated from /78/ the legacy of the past, which is fixed in the schematics and stereotypes of how the world, electorate, and politicians are depicted. It is tempting to formulate the requirements of contemporary political discourse by paying heed to the experience of the developed democracies. However, it must be recognized that it will continue to have many anachronistic characteristics and differ only externally from the political discourse of communist societies. Such is the case, as the following will serve to illustrate.

4. The Sociopolitical Characteristics of Postcommunist Mass Media

The media of mass information is that social institution through which the political discourse of postcommunism first acquires real legitimating force. This is merely the slogan of glasnost with stimulated widespread use of the term democracy to denote post-Soviet phenomena which could hardly be considered democratic. However, in determining the level of democracy in a society, mass media is actually a prime indicator, criterion, or scale of measurement.

The point is that mass media by its essence is the best indicator of a democratically organized society. Under certain ideal conditions mass media in its methods of operation is merely the concentrated expression of the idea of open public discourse, a social institution organizing interpersonal dialog, and civil consensus. Naturally, we must also bear in mind its destructive potential (possible ideological brainwashing of the population, indoctrination of ideas and views in the regime's interest, etc.). Thus, in order to verify the idea of democracy in Ukraine and to better understand its prospects for the immediate and medium-term future, it is worth looking more closely into how the Ukrainian mass media operates.

To return to the essence of what is nowadays called the media of mass information, one can see from this designation itself that the point at issue is the modes of information distribution which serve as mediators of human communication in modern society. Traditionally, they are defined as means /79/ of conveying information flow from one person to another or from one group to another. In this case mass media are said to give information, i. e., to "form internally" our consciousness. This is only half true.

The problem is that mass media itself mediates between people and actually forms the reality in which they live. Since the sociopolitical fabric of life is woven from human relationships, mass media touches the context of life with a certain additional awareness and fashionability, i.e., it impacts upon the organization and modes of human relationships. The very fact of mass media news coverage, its choice of themes and interpretations, makes mass media a reality to be reckoned with.

Moreover, information has another important quality: it is never neutral or inert with respect to people, no matter how eloquently the opposite might be argued. In the mass media, information is always language, a speech act, even if in written form. When one speaks and fixes attention on an event or a person, by so doing, this seemingly innocent act of the mass dissemination of information generally affirms the speaker's understanding, vision, and will to power. This is precisely what mass media is: simultaneously a means to mass affirmation of a will to power, desires, expectations, and will. Thus, mass media is perceived as a power in its own right, as the Fifth Estate. Having information at one's disposal and controlling its dissemination is very close to having power and coercively molding other people's consciousness and existence. This was unmentioned during the total domination of communist ideology and the Communist Party press. There was only one power, one ideology, and one self-affirming will. Such homogeneity and reductionism in informing and interpreting information produced an impression that the mass media played an educating role. It seemed to fulfill an enlightening or informational function and thus seemed not to be an instrument of total control.

The present-day changes in the former socialist countries, including Ukraine, are called postcommunist. Here we should differentiate between two meanings of the term "postcommunist mass media." First, postcommunism is per-/80/ceived, quite naturally, if somewhat inaccurately, as something "after communism." But, second, to be more exact, "after communism" comes first the ruin of the communist regime and totalitarianism, i.e., the first thing which emerges is its criticism, negation, the ideological banishment of old forms of consciousness and psychology; and here mass media helps "deconstruct the model." Under so-called glasnost there was much ado about freedom of information, pluralism, etc. But, in fact, only one thing was meant an opportunity to deconstruct the "communist model." Still, along with this laudable goal, the half-born, "new" old mass media came to be deformed by the same agency.

Martin Heidegger once aptly remarked that he who runs after will follow after. Or, to paraphrase, he who only ruins will himself be ruined. Lashing out at the "communist" or "nationalist" mind-sets as a way of institutionalizing the new mass media as a precondition of their "postcommunist" existence indicates only the persistence of totalitarian thinking, understanding, and information manipulation. It is precisely for this reason that in Ukraine numerous newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programs appeared and attempted to transform mass informing into an instrument to mentally impregnate people with new political and ideological stereotypes and, hence, to impose a framework of human relations which one or another political regime finds desirable.

Undoubtedly, this is not yet a real democratization of the mass media. All this is but a primitive ruination of the recent past and, unfortunately, ourselves, because by "postcommunism" one should understand not only a destruction of the old "model," not just a deformation of the information space and old forms of human relationships, but above all the dissemination of different views directed above all at the creation of radically new social interconnections and relationships rather than toward destroying or forming anew, violently, i.e., in a neototalitarian way, some "new model."

A new positive role of mass media, according to which it can be considered a true mass mediator among people, is quite clearly reflected by the notion of a developed commu-/81/nity. This can be defined as the openness of civil society, i.e., as the opportunity to make public all actions of the power structures and all acts of will directed against others. In this case theoreticians of open communication (Jiirgen Habermas) mention a brilliant expression of Kant who designated such a state of civil society's openness by the term "resonant publicity." In this sense the social function of mass media is not to form some new human being, say, a "real Ukrainian" in place of the late but not lamented homo soveticus. Under such conditions the mass media remains only an instrumentality of power, a means of communication for the ruling elite; it must be transformed into real mass mediators, i.e., mediators in society, into mass media as such. Only then can it "form," i.e., create such conditions, such a common reality of life that could claim significance for all: "reds" and "pinks," "greens" and "blacks," nationalists and communists, etc. Only on this basis can a real pluralism of ideas, views, speech, and texts be established and, hence, make possible relatively equal and just conditions for the multiplicity of individual wills to power.

Under such a system of open communication a new type of discourse can also be instituted non-partisan, civic, and civil. This is why the situation under postcommunism is really a situation of not only and not so much one of multi-party politics and, thus, of a supposedly pluralistic press. It is only one of the inception of a non-partisan and, hence, pluralist mass media. It is the beginning of the exuberant growth of the prospects for forming civil society.

5. The Cultural Paradigms and Prospects of the Ukrainian Mass Media

Two paradigms dominate contemporary approaches to the study of mass communications. The so-called post-modernist perspective constitutes the first; the communicative perspective the second.

In the first case, social demands on the mass media center on the notions of a new kind of social control, the socalled "control through the temptation" of the public by /82/ means of creating a special, sensual, symbol-laden reality. In the second, such social consequences are linked with the possibility and hope of bringing about a certain true social integrity based on essentially intersubjective human actions. And the very feasibility of being oriented toward these paradigms is reassuring because it enables Ukraine to fit in (so far, theoretically) with movement of world culture although, to be frank, the peculiarities and prospects of our communicative situation are rather unattractive.

Still, the Ukrainian reality constituted by the mass media contains attributes of what we today call "post-Modern culture" and a certain proto-rational discourse. This is, in particular, the duplication of images of the world, social structure, political life, etc. All this exists together with a constant inter-textual quotation (i.e., the construction of dialogs by means of quoting different texts) coupled with a stylistic multitude and all kinds of simulacra which pander to the readers' wishes or appear as a result of the journalists' intentions to fulfill the will of sponsors who interpret these wishes in their own way. True, it can hardly be said that we have now fallen into the "ecstasy of communication" promised by the media theoreticians (Baudrillard). Ukrainian mass media works in a follow-up mode, as if trying to catch up to a lost tradition or cling to certain hastily assimilated Western cliches. In this movement of interpretation, symbols are sure to largely precede meanings, thus engendering myth-making. True, there is not enough money, and hence paper and screen time, for even a detailed mythological, let alone rational, interpretation.

From this flows a situation that gives rise to opinions, which are not subject to argument, which are abrupt and primitive, but which all the same seem to assume the equivalent of content. The mass media is transformed into a helpful maker of hastily concocted names and symbols. These symbols lose any integrated content, they seem to shake off their meanings. Although in this case our language constantly brings out certain primary meanings, it is not easy to hear them. For example, the symbolic word "democratization" has quickly become part of mass-media rhetoric and success-/83/fully replaces the more precise "movement toward democracy." Therefore, the long movement toward an ideal and the complex process of reaching the latter may be either arbitrarily shortened by the word "democratization" or, on the contrary, stretched to infinity (shifting there the ideal itself), sometimes even without articulating at all the complexity of democratic movement ("we favor democracy" may mean that "we are already hard-core democrats" or that "we also favor democracy in principle," etc.).

Other features of this mass-media reality should also be mentioned. For example, an element like game. This does not at all mean the participation of the mass communication media in political games. What I mean by game is the creation of a special reality which is not the battlefield of lie and truth and cannot be mastered by rules of rational discourse. It is important for us to understand that the mass media does not merely mirror something correctly or incorrectly, true or false: it creates a special reality and itself constitutes a game-like reality, which it makes no sense to evaluate in terms of truth or falsehood.

Still, it would be an oversimplification to say that now our behavior is so pre-determined by the disruption and stratification of symbol areas in mass communication. In any case this predetermination is not so dramatic as is the case in the monetary (also symbol-laden) field which, quite in the spirit of post-Modernism, has literally disintegrated before our eyes into the two non-interchangeable worlds of Ukrainian kupons and US dollars. Suffice it to recall our presidential elections. Of course, the result would have probably been entirely different if you went by our mass media alone. Moreover, our contact with the mass media is reduced to a minimum due to our lack of money and free time.

As to rational discourse and its capabilities in our communication network, here too, there is not much to count on in the foreseeable future. The point is that rational discourse, as understood by, say, Jürgen Habermas, is achieved in the line of a special communicative action of people who come into contact for the sole purpose of mutual understand-/84/ing. But it requires several factors for such a communicative interaction to occur. The communicators somehow have to substantiate their claims as to the truth of the knowledge they offer, to the correctness of their linguistic (here, journalistic) behavior and, finally, to the sincerity of the reasons they advance. All this is not so easy to achieve under the current conditions of the political process in Ukraine.

This kind of a fully "accomplished" communicative act is a rare thing in mass communications. It occurs, as a rule, according to other canons and rules of strategic action. It is carried out as a means of achieving a specific purpose, i.e., to change, form, or reformulate something as an object of nature. It is still difficult to overcome our heritage of the former totalitarian understanding of the mass communication media as an instrument of agitation and propaganda, an instrumentality for reshaping people into something like objects of nature.

All the same, today's mass media remains capable of fostering and creating rational discourse in Ukraine. For even now it marks out the space of public discourse, i.e., its public sphere. This means it must create conditions for a more ample implementation and rationalization of the abovementioned mythology.

In this respect the Ukrainian mass media carries certain important attributes of contemporary culture, the culture of discourse and, say post-Modern culture. Certainly, such attributes are still very weak. In addition, unfortunately, the old "extraordinary" function of the mass media to exercise ideological control still persists, though not in such a total sense as before.

6. Mass Media in Ukraine

The Ukrainian press has, by and large, passed through the period of civic choice or self-expression and entered a business mode. This business does not yet bring super-profits but there is no question of a mass dying off of newspapers, radio or TV stations. Isolated instances of failure are part of any business. /85/

Analyzing the ability of the Ukrainian mass media to influence public opinion, we see a number of signs of the "no-longer-communist-but-not-yet-anything-else" period in which we live.

First, a geographical constraint: not one Ukrainian newspaper, radio or TV program can boast of influence over a very large part of Ukraine.

Second, a structural constraint: the social groups (from business people and politicians to homosexuals or artists) in different regions or even within one city are drawn, if at all, to qualitatively different publications. The reason for this resides in Ukraine's lack of a political nation, national mentality, and linguistic unity.

There is no single information arena in Ukraine, and Ukraine is not integrated into the world information system. It is no less difficult to read a newspaper from a different region than one from a different country, except for the Russian mass media which exerts influence on a very large part of Ukraine for various historical reasons. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian mass media encounters such obstacles as the non-structuralized nature of society, regional differences, scarcity of information, and an absolutely unequal competition with Russian media.

These obstacles will disappear as Ukraine forms a political nation encompassing its whole territory, enters the international arena, and moves toward democratic statehood. Our chance lies in the fact that the tempo of these processes is directly connected with mass media activity. Our postcommunist world will not evolve into "something else" without the media's contribution, that is, without tactical and strategic steps to promote information flow among various regions, from Ukraine to the world and vice versa. It must foster the formation of a civil society an indispensable prerequisite for creating a united nation. By the same token, it must either overpower the Russian mass media or make use of its capabilities in our interests. /86/

7. Current Metamorphoses of Soviet Newspeak

On the eve of the twenty-first century, perhaps the most essential problems of modern thinking in the postcommunist world are the problems of language and the problem of power. The catastrophic consequences of mass scale bewilderment caused by the long-term domination of the official ideological jargon still make themselves felt. Suffice it to hear the rhetoric in sessions of the Ukrainian Supreme Rada, where even now one encounters the same verbal hodgepodge used by the old nomenklatura. The Orwellian Soviet newspeak, not without reason, called the linguistic plague of the twentieth century, has poisoned all varieties of speech. For a very long time its verbal defenses have insulated the individual from his justifiable wrath at the totalitarian communist regime, while its value-laden norms of verbal casuistry carve the stereotypes of social hierarchy and set the ritual of verbal behavior. Newspeak cemented power relations more strongly and tightly than direct coercion.

The disintegration of the communist ideocratic system has created a unique vacuum. Recall that during the brief and fast-paced period of perestroika, it was philological critique that destroyed such sacred notions in the bowels of a language as class, Politburo, Central Committee, etc. But even now many speeches and articles still preserve the old Marxist-Hegelian cliches such as "working class", "peasantry" and "intelligentsia." This, despite the fact that even during the period of the self-construction of totalitarianism and creation of the ruling corporativistic community that the original class content of these pillors of "scientific communism" were already eliminated.

Word utilization, the orientation towards sacred notions under these conditions, has been, more often than not, a method of simulation and "controlled schizophrenia" (Arthur Koestler), of confirming double standards. However, these sacred notions in a society devoid of the intermediate centers of democratic civilization establish a basis for communications and legitimacy needed by the political elite. /87/

The uncertainty, which pervades today's tireless search for an acceptable form of address corresponding to the spirit of the times ("Comrade"? "Mr."? "Sir"? "Friends"?), is also a sign of a crisis in communications as a whole and in the mutual understanding of the political elite and everyday people. "Comrade" was a form of address used in the semiotic arena of society to simulate communal equality of both parties in a dialog, to introduce into communication an element of intimacy and an impression that all were bound together in the supposedly common cause. This form of address, together with a system of sacral notions, helped disguise the ruling political elite and attributed to it characteristics it did not possess. A war of symbols has gone on since perestroika, a war which also, in an essential fashion, complicates the communicative links within society and prevents the formation of a new discourse of power capable of avoiding social conflicts. Let us examine this more carefully.

8. Old Metaphors And New Paradigms

The dramatic events in Eastern Europe, which involved the most dramatic shift from totalitarianism to democracy, were expected to cause a complete, but no less dramatic transformation in discourse be it literary, musical, political, or scientific. This transformation was bound to create a new paradigm as well. Indeed, the trivial cliches, such as "servant of the state," "builder of communism," "hero of the people," and "sincere communist" have disappeared from the pages of the new, so-called uncensored newspapers, giving way to new stereotypes "market economy," "freedom," "democracy," "prosperity," "prosperous West," "poor and mismanaged socialist economy," "united land," "independence," and "self-determination."

The crucial issue here is that this new, allegedly "uncensored" discourse in the former USSR and Eastern Europe in general, and Ukraine in particular, is not necessarily new nor uncensored (i.e., free). It tends towards remarks similar to the nineteenth century romantic paradigm and the twentieth century Marxist discourse. Moreover, it is still under /88/ heavy censorship. However, the censor is no longer an appointed official of the communist-Marxist state but a natural outgrowth of collective mythology from a source or group.18

Let us first recall what was the romantic paradigm of the nineteenth century the age of hero worship, heroic battles, and inception of future tragic Utopian theories. It was an age marked by romanticizing the archetypal hero and heroic renaissance. It was a century when the pendulum of philosophical values turned away from the Christian heroic code and ultimate hero, the Christian's God, and towards Marxist Atheism, with its pagan polytheism and denunciation of Christian values.

During the romantic period, the interest toward the primitive heroic self was revived. Themes of universal folkloristic heroism once again became popular. The key concepts of the romantic period had deep roots in the traditional philosophical categories such as Good and Evil, Hero and Villain, Heroic Deed and Reward, Hero-Man and Nature. The archetypal icons which permeated the romantic discourse included:

Night/Day | Good/Evil

Victory | Destiny

Immortality | Remembrance

Liberty | Equality

Democracy | Freedom

War | Struggle

Morse Peckham defined the romantic period as the "period of the establishment of the Self."19 The romantic Self tried to redefine itself through heroic performance amidst the struggle for democracy (the French and American Revolutions); the struggle for scientific reinterpretation of the natural world (Charles Darwin's Origin of Species); and the struggle for economic "utopia" (Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx). Ultimately, the most radical expression of the romantic "Self" was to be in the October Revolution, with its struggle for the Utopian dream of a new, proletarian "paradise" and the ultimate denunciation of Christian ideology (which Lenin considered the "opiate of the masses"). /89/

Christianity, with its specific agenda of struggle for morality and good, was theoretically shattered. Its ecclesiastical heroes, saints, and martyrs were pushed into the background, making place for the new "heroes" Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries and ideologists, atheists, social reformers, and seekers of the new romantic "Self." As Peckham put it, "it was a revolution in the human mind," and so it was.20

But it was not only a revolution in the belief system of the sociopolitical order, it was also a radical change in cultural expression. The popular romantic motifs such as struggle, love, hate, evil, underworld, paradise, and conquest found their best expression in music, poetry, drama, journalism and scientific discourse.

The neo-pagan romantic renaissance coincided with a global shift from a primitive agriculturally-based society to an urban society with technology-oriented organizational structure. But the urban industrial realities failed to bring happiness to the millions of romantic "revolutionaries". Consequently, their anguish in the post-industrial urban "hell" was immortalized in the volumes of European romantic literature, which gave birth to the new "hero," a "thinking rebel," who suffered and felt deep nostalgia for the past.

The romantic renaissance also transformed the archetypal folkloristic hero into a national "hero-poet" and national "spokesman" for the collective interests of the group. If the eighteenth century was the "Age of Enlightenment" and deep belief in reason, the nineteenth century was the "Age of Feeling" and filled with anger, rebellion and collective omnipotence.21 The romantic hero was not a thinker but a doer an active "rebel" against industry, science, capital, and Christian philosophy. He acted upon impulse while denying, rejecting, and debunking so-called "reality." The ancient Greek mythical heroes once again became the seductive heroic matrices for the collective mimesis. The Judeo-Christian philosophy could no longer satisfy the heroic appetite of nineteenth century romantics. Return to the ancient heroes such as Apollo, Prometheus, Zeus, and Agamemnon to replace Moses and Christ was inevitable. /90/

The romantic hero was anti-Christian in his basic essence; and a particular "national" hero of a particular nation had once again prevailed over the universal one. The Romanticism of the nineteenth century went parallel with the so-called "national liberation movements," which symbolically represented a violent romantic competition for the heroic title of "nation-hero." Thus romanticism and nationalism went hand in hand. Darwin's Origin of the Species inspired global competition for the strongest, wisest, and "chosen" nation. The concept of "folk/Volk" hero was central to the romantics, and the idea of nationhood shaped itself around this "folk/Volk" archetypal heroic paradigm.22 It became a blend of all the heroic concepts of the past, a fusion of all familiar myths as well as their conflicts.

Thus the age was one of particularity versus universality; one single God for all nations versus individual gods and national heroes for each separate nation; the cult of a particular language or folklore versus the cult of a collective universal Marxist hero the proletariat or "working man." Paganism, Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, Nationalism, and Marxism all put forward their own "heroic" doctrines, while the romantic ethos of the nineteenth century nourished all of them through the cult of a poet, writer, or spokesman for a particular group.

This brief digression into the romantic era was necessary in order to understand and account for today's collective mythology, which was created by the romantic renaissance of the nineteenth century. The break-up of the first Utopian Marxist state (the former USSR) demolished the belief in the utopian philosophy and set the preconditions for the current collective philosophical "truth" and its new censorship. Furthermore, the strictest censors and propagators of current myth are its philosophical "truth" producers the group. In the case of Ukraine, the romantic lifeline is rooted particularly in its restoration through the formation of an independent state. However, the pattern of discourse in this newly emerged and theoretically different state is remarkably similar to that of the not so recent past, as well as to the romantic past of the nineteenth century /91/ with its icons.23

To begin, consider some of the following characteristic themes from various periodicals. Similar examples may be found in any other Eastern European journalistic discourse, but since the present work is dedicated to Ukraine we shall limit our analysis to the most popular and most recent utterance in the Ukrainian press:

Our daily bread

Autumn of our anxiety

The first and last commandment

We cannot return to prison

Struggled, To struggle

We shall struggle

Your children, Ukraine

State of one's soul

If there is God in one's soul

The island of hope

Land and freedom24

There are several running motifs in these examples. First and foremost, the rehabilitated and resurrected Christian ideology. Previously a taboo in the Soviet Marxist-atheistic state, Christian ideology is now striking today's Ukrainian readers with such familiar and yet unfamiliar verbal icons as "God" and "Commandment."

There is also a secular archetypal theme of "Struggle," inherited from the nineteenth-century romantics, but never abandoned by Marxist dreamers of the romantic "socialist" paradise. After all, struggle for Marxists could equally apply to the "struggle for the victory of communism," the "struggle for the fulfillment of a five-year-plan," or "the struggle against capitalism." In each case the language possessed a kind of elasticity which enabled its users to stretch the meaning of the verbal icon in all possible directions. Thus, the archetypal struggle has changed its goals:

In the USSR:

Liberation of proletariat


Downfall of capitalism

Communist paradise /92/

Current political correctness:

Market economy

New paradise

Independent Ukraine

Condemnation of the past

Similarly, "to struggle against" has come to mean struggle "against" the pre-perestroika period of "socialist stagnation" with the same verbal icons displaying the vicissitudes of trust and mistrust, and vagaries of collective desire and collective mythical consciousness. Ironically, the powerful platform "land and freedom" one of the themes enunciated during the October 1917 Russian Revolution, was used again in the post-perestroika era with some substantial changes in the meaning of the old verbal icons.


Land for all peasants

Freedom for the downtrodden

Phrases for Today:

Land for a particular ethnic group

Independent Ukrainian land

Freedom for independent Ukraine

The trite metaphor "motherland" (forgotten in the Western hemisphere) was revived, echoing nineteenth-century romantic slogans. The Ukrainian nation state, which was not allowed to exist in the romantic past, emerged at a time' when the passionate "Children of Ukraine" were being perceived in the West as rather naïve. This may be explained by the fact that the romantic anthropomorphism and the metaphorical pathos to the icon "motherland" have virtually disappeared from the contemporary Anglo-American press. One would be hard pressed to hear an American President ask American soldiers, when sending them on a military mission, to defend their "Motherland." Instead, they are usually called upon to defend "freedom" or "democracy."

"Motherland" usually appeals to the sense of kinship and natural biological connection, and since most Americans are America's "adopted children" from various "mother-/93/lands," the familiar romantic icon "motherland" has been replaced by the ideals of their adoptive country, America. It reflects the historic reality of New World countries as well as the post-romantic and post-nationalist mentality of the newly conquered land which has yet to be discovered by the new Ukrainian and the other young, independent European nation states. At a time when the New World and Western Europe have painfully but finally abandoned the myth of a monoethnic state, and are trying to accept the reality of human existential dynamics with its mostly ethnic face, Ukraine and other newly formed East European nations are still vulnerable, it seems, to an unchanged romantic paradigm.

In the phrase "Your children, Ukraine," the speakers return to the past, to an old nineteenth century theme when "children" stood for the members of the same ethnic, racial, and religious group. But for those who are not "children of Ukraine," where is their "Motherland"? The verbal icon "children" is used interchangeably with the more current "indigenous population."25 Despite the fact that among those romantic appeals to the past one may also hear in the phrase "Autumn of our anxiety,"26 the disjointed postcommunist chorus is also dominated by the melodies of Gobineau, Hitler, and Stalin's racist rhetoric, neatly packaged.27

Analyzing the above examples, it is possible to detect the direction of the new philosophy. The themes of God, Soul, and Commandments suggest the restoration of the old, previously discarded and condemned, Christian philosophy. Marxism, which had not brought economic prosperity and Western standards of living to Ukraine, has been replaced by the resurrection of Christian ideology and iconography. Christ, previously a taboo, is revered and worshipped again; while saints and Christian martyrs have replaced the heroes of the Marxist state the "servants of the people."

Following the same strategy of Christian teachings, Stalin (the embodiment of evil) is condemned as much as the archetypal Satan. In relation to this, the theme of lament and mourning over tortured political prisoners of the Stalinist era has become the predominant theme of the new /94/ postcommunist discourse. Ukrainian periodicals have dedicated special sections in their publication to the condemnation of the Stalinist past. Meanwhile, previously forgotten or unknown poets and artists are honored in the new press. Readers are now able to learn about an entire generation of forgotten artists, which were an integral part of Soviet heritage. Ukrainian readers now hear new names and are introduced to new potential cultural icons.

Other prominent philosophical themes (myths) include "the people," "nation-hero" and "folk/folklore." Echoing the romantic nineteenth century, the postcommunist East European societies have sought to escape from reality in the revival of theoretically genuine, but truly specific and particular folkloristic tradition. If past romanticism was defined as the rediscovery of the particular "self," then the contemporary search for "self" leads to the cult of folk and folklore as a unique and distinct origin and expression of the collective ego of a particular nation.

Sentimental accounts about the return of prayer and revival of the church are intermingled with the nostalgic escape into folklore, as well as folkloristic art and design. Panegyrics to folklore and popularly approved art such as Ukrainian embroidery fill the back pages of every popular Ukrainian journal. For example: "Embroidery is the beautiful and bounteous soul of our people. Each design is as a talisman, a symbol of the enchanted wisdom. I believe. I envy. Our art of embroidery is being reborn."28 Black and red colors are used as romantic interpretations for the symbols of blood, sacrifice, struggle, and martyrdom.

Even the Soviet establishment had a strong ideological interest in the cult of art by the people. But the Soviet people in the past had also been encouraged to have a sense of the folkloristic "self." By cultivating folk song and dance ensembles, promoting the particular collective self, and keeping a good record of the folkloristic heritage, the leaders of the former Soviet Union substantially relied upon the cultural roots and cultural expression in their construction of the Marxist Empire.

The Soviet demos ("people") and narod ("proletariat") /95/ never left the romantic paradigm of Johann Herder's Volk. Suffice it to recall that such Ukrainian poets as Tychyna, Bazhan, and Rylsky contributed substantially to this cultural policy. Being worshipped in what used to be Soviet Ukraine and having received numerous honors, these Ukrainian Soviet poets were not merely regarded as spokesmen for the Soviet establishment, they were also symbols of archetypal legitimate folklore as well as the romanticized and idealized art of the people. Surprisingly, the familiar Soviet archetype "poet of the people" has acquired new applicability in the changed circumstances of independent Ukraine. It has been slightly rephrased from "poet of the people" to "poet of the reborn nation."

The nonviolent shift from Marxism toward democratic mythology that we witnessed during the perestroika era in Eastern Europe bears strong resemblance with the (mythical) pattern of the romantic past. On a daily basis new poets and new heroes are rediscovered, published, displayed, and offered up as new objects for intense public worship by the entire demos. The general trend of the new romantic narratives is to replace the incompetent, immoral, inept, and dishonest politicians by new talented, able, and allegedly sincere Hero-poets, artists, and new politicians. It is symptomatic of the new romanticism, that not only Vaclav Havel could lead a post-Marxist state in Czechoslovakia, but such Ukrainian poets and writers as Dmytro Pavlychko, Ivan Drach, and Pavlo Movchan take a most active part in the political life of the new Ukraine. The popular collective myth repeats its familiar cycle when the poet-artist becomes the new divinity. The pages of Ukraina, Dnipro, and Literaturna Ukraina are full of obituaries to the hero-poets, while political and social commentaries are written by poets, writers and artists. The traditional Carlylean hero-poet is adorned with contemporary mythical layers, such as "poetvictim of Stalinism," "poet-martyr," and "poet crucified by the brutal socio-political system." Disenchanted and disillusioned masses seek guidance and return to the familiar archetypal symbols. However, much like their romantic predecessors, the creators of the popular cultural text have dual /96/ mythical loyalties to both the resurrected Christian "mythology" and the rejuvenated myth of the poet-divinity or other divinity. Even those poets who were god-like figures in the old Soviet Ukraine are now rehabilitated to heroic status and their names have been added to the "heroic pantheon" in the new independent Ukraine.

The myth of "genius" and "national genius" is another preoccupation of the popular culture. Numerous articles have been devoted to the concept of the extraordinary human being, and many of them even include the term, "genius" in the titles. For instance, in 1991 Literaturna Ukraina, published an article by Lina Kostenko titled "Genius in the Circumstances of a Blocked Culture." The article had been dedicated to the memory of Lesya Ukrainka, the famous Ukrainian poet and evokes not only the romantic Carlylean myth of the poet as a divinity figure but also deals with "genius" as a cultural necessity, philosophical entity, and national property. A famous poet in her own right, Kostenko passionately asks: "Why is there no word "genius" in all the available Ukrainian encyclopedias?" She uncovers an interesting paradox there is no Ukrainian word for "genius" it happens to be a Latin word, but Ukrainian does not come from Latin. In one of her digressions from the main topic, Kostenko also speaks about the Ukrainian historian Mikhaylo Hrushevsky, presenting him to the reader in the following heroic manner: "He was an ordinary son of Prometheus; from the same family as Saint Volodymyr, Mazepa, Bohdan, and Taras."

By so writing, Kostenko uses the following heroic metaphors: (1) family the Ukrainian nation, and (2) Prometheus oppressed Ukraine tied to the rock {i.e., the Russian-Soviet empire).

The vicissitudes in mythical thinking distort the process of history in the form of "icons" and thus, in turn, establish the discursive ground for the mythical plots and for the system of heroic values like "Free Europe," "liberators," or "a nation with a special mission." Eventually, it is the prevailing group that censors the names of its chosen heroes as well as its own creations and popular myths, be they /97/ romantic or neo-romantic, nationalist or racist, American or European, religious or secular. Thus can the meaning of the sign (symbol) be collectively created and sustained by the old metaphors in the new paradigms.

18. Nikolai Berdyaev, On Human Slavery and Freedom (Paris, 1936, in Russian). The concept of the unofficial group-censor was suggested by Anna Makolkin in her article "The AbsentPresent Biographer in V. Veresaev's Pushkin v Zhiznie," Canadian Slavonic Papers, XXXI/1, March 1989, pp. 43-56.

19. Morse Peckham, Triumph of Romanticism (Columbia, SC, 1970).

20. Ibid.

21. Northrop Frye, Study of English Romanticism (New York, 1968); idem., "Myth, Fiction and Displacement," Fables of Identity (New York, 1963), pp. 21-39.

22. Bill Butler, The Myth of the Hero (London: Rider & Co., 1979).

23. Anna Makolkin, Name, Hero, Icon (Berlin - New York, 1992), pp. 21-39.

24. Literaturna Ukraina, July 14, August 17, September 12, September 26, 1991.

25. The motif of "indigenous population" is becoming an alarmingly prominent theme in the current socio-economic and political discourse in general, but it is not limited to Ukraine nor to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and /351/ other parts of Eastern Europe. It reminds one of the eternally present fear of "the Other" and the dormant virus of intolerance.

26. Allusion to John Steinbeck's, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), which won him a Nobel Prize the following year.

27. Arthur de Gobineau, Selected Political Writings (London, 1970). His attempt to establish the original state of the "ingenuous population" and fear of contact with "the Other" would be replayed by the ideologues of fascism and later by ideologues of Marxism-Leninism.

28. Ukraina, No. 18 (September), 1991.

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