Uninvited Dinner Guests: A Theoretical Perspective on the Antagonists of Journalism Based on Serres’ Parasite

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Uninvited Dinner Guests: A Theoretical Perspective on the Antagonists of Journalism Based on Serres’ Parasite


  • Gerret von Nordheim Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Hamburg, Germany


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Abstract:  In the digital age, the crisis of journalism has been exacerbated by antagonistic actors infiltrating the journalistic system without adhering to its norms or logic. Journalism itself has been ill-prepared to respond to this challenge, but journalism theory and research have also had trouble in grasping these phenomena. It is thus the aim of this article to propose a theoretical perspective on a specific set of antagonists characterized by its paradoxical nature. It is ‘the excluded third, included’ as described by Serres, the parasite that is both part of the system and its antagonist. From the perspective of systems theory, the parasite is a subsystem that threatens the integrity of the primary system. Thus, the parasite is defined by the relations that describe its position, its behaviour towards the host system. Due to these peculiarities—this contradiction, this vagueness—it evades a classical bivalent logic. This may be one reason why the paradoxical nature of the antagonist from within, the ‘uninvited dinner guest,’ has not been described as such until now. The parasitic practices follow the logic of the hacker: He is the digital manifestation of Serres’ parasite. Accordingly, parasitic strategies can be described as news hacks whose attack vectors target a system’s weak points with the help of specific strategies. In doing so, they not only change the system output but also compromise its values and exploit its resources.

Keywords:  antagonists; attack vector; hacking; news hacks; parasite; Serres; systems theory

Published:   3 February 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i1.3419


© Gerret von Nordheim, Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.