"Media Warfare" is the concluding volume of Melvin Lasky's
monumental "The Language of Journalism," a series that has been
praised as a "brilliant" and "original" study in communications and
contemporary language. Firmly rooted in the critical tradition of
H. L. Mencken, George Orwell, and Karl Kraus, Lasky's incisive
analysis of journalistic usage and misusage gauges both the
cultural and political health of contemporary society as well the
declining standards of contemporary journalism.
As in the first two volumes, Lasky's scope is cross-cultural
with special emphasis on the sometimes conflicting, sometimes
mutually influential styles of American and British journalistic
practice. His approach to changes in media content and style is
closely keyed to changes in society at large. "Media Warfare" pays
particular attention to the gradual easing and near disappearance
of censorship rules in the 1960s and after and the attendant
effects on electronic and print media. In lively and irreverent
prose, Lasky anatomizes the dilemmas posed by the entrance of
formerly "unmentionable" subjects into daily journalistic
discourse, whether for reasons of profit or accurate reporting. He
details the pervasive and often indirect influence of the worlds of
fashion and advertising on journalism with their imperatives of
sensationalism and novelty and, by contrast, how the freeing of
language and subject matter in literature--the novels of Joyce and
Lawrence, the poetry of Philip Larkin--have affected permissible
expression for good or ill. Lasky also relates this interaction of
high and low style to the spread of American urban slang, often
with Yiddish roots and sometimes the occasion of anti-Semitic
reaction, into the common parlance of British no less than American
"Media Warfare" concludes with prescriptive thoughts on how
journalism might still be revitalized in a "post-profane" culture.
Witty, timely, and deeply learned, the three volumes of "The
Language of Journalism" are a crowning achievement to a
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