Cultural Conditioning

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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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Abstract

While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.

 

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On Sunday, I baked the bread ground from the wheat berries from the previous week, described in the last post.  While I am a perfectionist (regarding taste and aesthetic and artistic appearance) with my bread experiments, everyone is always pleased with the results.  The recipe is basic and a modification of a standard Southern Italian Pugliese country peasant loaf.  The recipe that I use will undergo a slight modification so I will only post the recipe that I will use in the future rather than the one I used.  In fact, this will also end up as the modified Spelt recipe that I experimented with weeks ago and have experimented with for the last few years.

On Thursday, I created the build, the mixture of already growing rye sourdough starter and wheat flour.  I use sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast because it is more natural, healthier, ancient, and challenging.  For this recipe, I use a 20% mixture where 20% of the flour equals 100 grams and 20 % of the water is 60 grams.  This is for a total loaf size of 500 grams flour bread loaf. Two rough tablespoons of starter are enough and may be more than is needed but it is my standard and it works fine.  For reference, I use the metric system grams rather than the English pounds and ounces because the metric system is much easier to multiply and divide.  Additionally, weighing ingredients is much more accurate than the volume measurements of measuring cups.  So now you know.  It takes anywhere from 4-6 to 12 hours and sometimes more (depending upon altitude and weather) for the build to grow where it is ready to add to begin making dough and bread.

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Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

While on one level the entire continuum of experiencing body suspension immediately incorporates IndividualEvolution.org’s (IE) heart, head, and hand, the wholeness of it also profoundly and radically transcends individual evolution and becomes an individual revolution, as I like to call it.  It incorporates IE’s scientific method of inquiry, reaches beyond its body, mind, and spirit, and grasps through centuries to an ancient universal personal quest.  Such exploration can only happen with subsequent suspensions and their reflections.  This is infinitely more about exploring spirituality, exploring zones of safety and personal comfort, and transforming personal space.  It is also about eclipsing the logic of the mundane.  It is about, what Baba Ram Dass aptly manifested not so long ago: being here now.

When I decide to actively approach a challenge, it isn’t analyzed as much as it is pondered as a spiritual challenge to enhance practice and even emotional fitness, rather than a physical one.  This same mindset was tapped into when I decided to overcome my fear of public speaking and join a college speech team, when I decided to learn tango dancing, and even when I decided to pursue masters and doctorate degrees. That same font of spiritual power was consulted when I decided to body suspend several months ago and when I actually suspended a few weekends ago at Skindicate’s DisgraceGiving in Atlanta.  I plan to access that spiritual energy often because it needs replenishment often to increase its ability to transcend the mundane obstacles that I am faced with daily.

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McKnight & Kretzmann’s Mapping Community Capacity address an issue that I have puzzled over for many years:  How can the government create an incentive to better one’s life circumstances without creating and perpetuating an environment of unhealthy need and dependence that engenders mere existence and probably hopelessness, to create producers rather than service clients?  Unfortunately, I have observed friends living on public assistance who don’t realize they have skills and creativity to contribute to their community, and I have seen politicians that are not interested in addressing this problem where one group votes to cut benefits and the other group votes to increase benefits.  Neither is interested in the disenfranchised and how to help them.  The disenfranchised are merely pawns for votes or non-votes.  I don’t see hope in the perpetuation of such inequities.

The alternative is an asset-based community development (ABCD) that assesses the knowledge and experience already present in the community, to help people thrive rather than merely survive, to value the skills that are already present in the community rather than concentrate on what is missing.  There is also a more practical reality in this approach:  Most urban communities have no hope of attracting major industries or services that would bring local jobs.  The old saying regarding making lemonade when all you have are lemons is appropriate here.  Use the resources you have and get creative.

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(And so the saga continues as I wrassle with determining what a proper hypothesis.  The below is an indication of how far I have come and ow far I need to go.  But I am getting closer.) 

  1. Original Hypothesis:  Individuals and small groups are influenced by intentional sexist propaganda embedded in media texts that influence unintentional propaganda in conversational language.
  2. Alternative Hypothesis 1:  Implicit language in media texts will influence the behavior of individuals and small groups.
  3. Alternative Hypothesis 2:  Unintentional propaganda that occurs between individuals and in small groups is influenced by the language of sexism within everyday conversation embedded within media texts. Read the rest of this entry »

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I see the potential for perpetual personal evolution and perhaps personal revolution within Diaz’s summary, “. . . a relational/empathy based concept of social justice provides us with an interpretation of social justice as the perpetual process of creating and recreating relationships of awareness, empathy, and empowerment.” I see this either as the direction that is needed by societies, current social evolution or I am projecting personal evolution and revolution that is occurring for me at the moment.  Nonetheless, for society to thrive and survive, perpetual social justice is vitally necessary.

In the discussion of procedural justice, Diaz asks a series of difficult but necessary questions to determine what is and what isn’t procedural and moral justice for the franchised and the disenfranchised. I was struck by the timeliness of such questions in relation to the inequality that surrounds me daily and by the recent US government greed, selfishness, and apathy without any desire for real justice over personal, self-inflicted revenge justice from so-called liberals and so-called conservatives.  I understand that the self is of highest importance in social interactions, and most individuals cannot see outside of themselves unless it is blatantly obvious and unless they can relate to the other.  I also believe that more relational justice needs to happen in order for the privileged to understand those that are not privileged on a more human level.  Perhaps privilege makes people apathetic or immune and perhaps relational justice and discussion will allow for better understanding on so many other levels. On a local level, I believe relational justice can be quite effective and possible if people remain open to others that are different and open to real personal justice rather than justice by the letter of the law.  But people must understand that suffering exists in everyone, that people must work together to achieve real evolutionary change in society.

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(The beginnings of one….)

I. Title. Unintentional Propaganda as Sexism:  How Embedded is Prejudice within English Grammar?

II. Abstract. The subject of this paper begins to analyze unintentional propaganda that occurs in small groups, the propaganda that is inherent in the grammar and language that perpetuates sexism. For purposes of this study, the language in question is the English language.

III. Introduction.  Sometimes sexism is “subtle,” sometimes it is overt, and sometimes it is “invisible.”

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Harvard’s Implicit Associations Test is interesting, as loaded as an adjective as that is in this case.  The visual portion of the test makes certain assumptive social constructs that particular categories of individuals “look” a specific way (I took the gender- science test and the African American-European American test—twice) rather than another.  There was no room for variations or exceptions to this test “rule”. For any interested in seeing the tests, please click on this link, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit//demo/, and find “Demo”.

Now to the results, what I found, what I think of them, and the test.

1. I took the Gender- Science Test and the African American-European American Test—twice.

2. The tests’ results were not consistent with my conscious attitudes and beliefs very simply because the tests did not allow for an African American that “looks” like a European American, who looks like a Hispanic American, who looks like an Asian American, or who looks like any other variety of multi-racial or multi-ethnic American.  Additionally the test allowed for no variation in the test answers if I associate the adjective of one stereotypical “racial characteristic” or gender characteristic with the one that is not associated with that stereotype.  When I attempted to do this, my answers were marked “wrong”.

3. I think I obtained the results I did because I learned how to “take” the tests in a particular way and in a way that my brain was able to respond and follow the directions of the test that stated that the adjectives of one type and one social construct had to be associated with one key on the keyboard and the adjectives of another type and social construct had to be associated with another key on the keyboard. Once again, my impression of the tests is that they test your ability to take tests and very little else.

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In this article as I interpret it, Bronfenbrenner argues that science, at least the sciences that relate to human development in theory, method, and substance, are generally caught and placed in a box to verify stringent ideas of what science defines as evolving and developing as a human.  When studies do not allow for variation and exception, when studies attempt to find and prove rules and ignore exceptions and other conditions, I believe Bronfenbrenner is correct in pointing out the limited significance of such a study.  I also see this when I am faced with statistics, but my bias at the moment is that statistics can be made to prove anything, however slim.  She calls it being caught between the rigor of science and its relevance in the real world.

However, the science is still relevant if applied correctly.  It isn’t rejected outright.  The science has validity if applied to the wider public properly.  As the article title states,  a scientific perspective of the ecology of human development is proposed.  In the first definition, studying the human being as s/he relates to his/her environments is proposed.  In the immediate past, I would have described sociology simplistically in much the same way.  However, I don’t believe that definition is accurate any longer.  I do believe this definition comes close to explaining social psychology that I have a particular interest in learning much more about.  In fact, the article cites the varied systems of microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem that relate to human development and environmental interaction as it relates to Kurt Lewin’s psychological and sociological substance.

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is spot on once again

 

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Ernest Hemingway at his most brief and pithy.

(For those that see the similarity to the previous Propaganda and Goffman’s Face to Face Interactions, this is the same paper with a major overhaul of the introduction and a minor rewrite of the body with one concept deleted due to confusion. I am taking this paper to a few conferences this year to wow the intellectuals. There will be additional updates to this paper as it is the subject of my thesis)

Propaganda is everywhere.  It permeates and smothers every aspect of our individual lives, and most of us don’t seem to notice what we see when our friends wearing logoed shirts, hats, and clothing, talk with us about favorite musical artists, technological devices, and even what they ate for lunch from the fast food restaurant around the corner.  We engage in propaganda in small groups subconsciously and unintentionally. Propaganda existed in the United States before its introduction as a word during World War I, and it existed long before its creation by the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century to propagate their faith and to counter the negative effects of Protestant Reformation propaganda.  Public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words are all derivative synonyms for propaganda.  Samuel Adams, P.T. Barnum, and Harry Houdini were all propagandists. Adams used propaganda to promote the independence of the colonies from the British Empire.  Barnum and Houdini used propaganda to promote their entertainments to the American and international consumer public.

Edward Bernays, who is generally believed to have built the public relations industry into the behemoth it is today, introduced propaganda to the U.S. public as a word during World War I.  He introduced it in the posters promoting U.S. military efforts, in effect stating that the Germans were using propaganda against the people of the United States but that the U.S. was telling them the truth.  However, Bernays found it difficult to neutralize the term after the war.  “. . . Propaganda got to be such a bad word because of the Germans using it.  So what I did was to try and find some other words, so we found the word (sic), counsel on public relations.” (Kelsall & Curtis, 2002).  From its transformation into public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words, industries, and job titles were derived.  And we have even recently added Internet social commerce to this family of related activities.

But what is propaganda exactly? Intentional propaganda is propaganda as most people consider it.  It is “the systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, esp. in a tendentious way in order to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response.” (Oxford English Dictionary CD-ROM Edition:  propaganda, 3.).  It is defined by external indicators, visible or audible, whether that is a symbol in the form of a logo, trademark, or a proper name associated with a particular entity immediately recognized by an individual or a group as a brand, product, service name, proper name, or idea that immediately reminds that individual or group of that entity, calling it to their mind, causing that individual or group to act upon it in some way.  It implies a preexisting relationship or knowledge by a signifier (the individual) of a signified (the symbol). That individual usually has a preexisting knowledge of what the symbol means, its understood shorthand symbology.

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(By no means is this complete, but I have to start someplace)

I.               Introduction.

Intentional propaganda is the systematic propagation of ideas in a deliberate manner in order to encourage or instill a particular attitude or response and it is a broad and infinite subject.  In other words, it is deliberate and intended.  Here I am only concerned with small group propaganda.  While there has been much research done on the larger subject of propaganda in the past and the present, whether military-, media-, political-, or the various aspects of the most common types of public relations-propaganda:  advertising, marketing, and publicity, there has been little research done on small groups and small group propaganda.   In small groups, this occurs intentionally and unintentionally.  In this, I propose to briefly research intentional propaganda as disseminated by large media companies, government, political parties, political candidates, and the like as it filters into small groups where it unintentionally spreads.

Propaganda occurs in the day to day but few consciously notice it.  It is ever present, ever influencing, and officially ignored by our family, friends, and neighbors unless it is by conservatives to discuss the propaganda techniques of the liberals and the liberal press, recognizing the tactics of the “enemy” but never one’s own.  Interestingly, enough it is rarely something that liberals will point to conservatives to definitively accuse.  Propaganda is also rarely noticed in small groups in the real world or in the virtual world of the Internet, No one notices it in their discussions, in their likes, in their fashion and political choices, or even in their decisions influenced by other friends and acquaintances.

While propaganda is a fairly broad term and carries with it a negative connotation in the minds of the general public, the various forms of propaganda that are familiar, briefly mentioned above, are fairly specific and not readily recognized as propaganda.  The history of propaganda in this country was adversarial, used as a war term to describe the negative intents of a military enemy during World War I.  Edward Bernays who was responsible for creating this negative mindset in the minds of the United States Public, decided that that negative intention had to be transformed into something inoccuous by creating new terminology that was unfamiliar to the public.  He therefore transliterated propaganda into Public Relations.  From here, advertising, marketing, publicity, and the like, became its children.  Here, in order to return these derived propagandist concepts to their rightful origin, in order to reorient the public to their real intent, these terms will be hyphenated with their original, i.e. advertising-propaganda, marketing-propaganda, publicity-propaganda, and possible others.  To clarify, advertising-propaganda is a paid product or company announcement in one or all of various media outlets, whether television, radio, magazine, Internet or elsewhere.  Marketing-propaganda is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. Publicity-propaganda is the business of promotion or advertising to attract public notice.  In reality, there seems little to distinguish one of these from the other.  However, since Bernays time, the industry has insisted on these gray-area distinctions so they deserved clarification here.

I will especially focus on unintentional propaganda or concealed propaganda (derived from intentional propaganda above), propaganda that is disseminated within small groups of people, the types of propaganda that do not “look like” propaganda to the naked eye.  For example, the standard view of distorted history that we were taught in grade school by our teachers fits so well into actual public opinion-propaganda that it is considered an automatic “fact,” one that only a historian or an extreme radical would question or notice.  The “likes” of various products, events, and companies by our friends on the front page of our Facebook accounts are another form of unintentional propaganda where a product is liked and talked about where our friends are not paid marketing-propagandists for the companies or products in question. The same occurs in the day-to-day conversations I have observed in public where one person talks about their latest electronic purchase or what he or she ate for lunch, for example.   While it is completely intentional by the companies in question, the dissemination of that advertising-, marketing, or public relations-propaganda by our friends is unintentional or concealed in that they are not consciously or deliberately promoting or even aware that they are promoting it, and they are obviously not paid advertising-, marketing-, or public relations-propagandists for the products, companies, or events.

Specifically, for this research proposal, I am interested in the relationship(s) between local musicians and their fans, where local musicians “fight” for promotional-propaganda space in the interested minds of their potential audience in the same way as the larger labels and the major media conglomerates.  This “fight” becomes one where musical artists utilize their own intentional propaganda to promote their music and their local, regional, and national music tours as well as their musical product.  Realistically, an artist does not have the large budget(s) of the media conglomerates so he, she, or they improvise(s) with what is available:  a real and virtual social network of fans who are unintentional propagandists who engage one another by talking to their friends and acquaintances about their favorite music and their favorite bands without deliberately intending to engage in promotional-propaganda.  Rather, their intention is to tell their friends about the music they are hearing, hope that their friends will appreciate it as much as they do, start exploring it, and tell their friends and acquaintances.  The cycle is and can be endless.

 

II.        Conceptual Framework

This research proposal will take a symbolic interactionist perspective on small group propaganda (Blumer, 1969; Goffman, 1959; Goffman, 1974) that builds upon the literature of propaganda studies (Doob, 1935; Doob, 1946, 1948; Ellul, 1965) and build upon participant interviews, observations, and participant conversations.  From this vantage point theorizing, interpreting, and engaging the world and constructing a grounded theory in order to understand how small group propaganda operates within the context of propaganda in general.  Specifically, I am interested in how intentional and unintentional propaganda operates within the small group dynamic of local, independent, and unsigned bands, their fans, and the friends of those fans as well as the extent of the propaganda in question.

Literature that deals specifically with small group propaganda, intentional and unintentional is limited within Leonard W. Doob’s Public Opinion and Propaganda (1946, 1966), Propaganda:  It’s Psychology And Technique (1935), and Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda:  The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965).  However, both are the most detailed discussion of propaganda as a whole to date.  Influence within small groups, i.e. symbolic interactionism is discussed at length within Goffman (1959, 1974), Blumer (1969), and Mead (1935)

There is little current literature specifically related to small group propaganda, but there is a more thorough discussion of the symbolic interactionism of small groups within various subcultures in two longitudinal studies:  Pam Hunt’s Where the Music Takes You:  The Social Psychology of Music Subcultures (2013) and Lisiunia Romanienko’s Body Piercing And Identity Construction (2011).

Within Hunt, there is discussion of cognitive social schemas as they relate to group dynamics and what is and what is not acceptable behavior within a particular social group.  This behavior extends to musical discussions and musical appreciation within the group as well as new music to be introduced to the group.  Significant symbols, whether they are of mainstream culture (rejected or accepted) or of the particular subculture, are also discussed in this context.  It is this particular acceptance or denial in its relation to promoting, reinforcing, or denying specific ideas, concepts, and objects that is of particular interest.

Within Romanienko, the discussion of subcultures and influence probes much deeper than a single varied (musical) subculture and explores several related subcultures ethnographically over the course of a longer period of study.  These groups may appear to be externally unrelated but are internally united by their “membership” within the body modification community.  Communication within these groups takes on the same characteristics observed above:  Significant symbols of acceptance, denial, and persuasion are communicated from member to member within each small group.  Significant symbolic texts within these small groups are reduced to tattoos, piercings, and articles of clothing with specific meanings within each group.  This textual symbolism is the same that exists within the relationship between music artists and music fans.

 

III.           Research Questions

The classic literature exploring propaganda has looked seldom at small groups with as much detail as it has looked at “traditional” propaganda on the mass level. The past and current literature on symbolic interactions and small groups discuss the influence of individuals within small groups but it has not looked at propaganda as a phenomenon within those small groups.  In this, I propose to unite the study of propaganda with the study of small groups, studying and analyzing the symbolic interactionism of propaganda in small groups, engaging the world and constructing a grounded theory.  I want to better understand how small group propaganda operates within the context of propaganda in general.

In this study, I propose to ask the following research questions: 1. To what extent does propaganda exist in small groups in the physical and the virtual worlds? 2. How is propaganda generally used within these small group contexts?  While propaganda has been studied before, from a biased perspective of opposition and a rarely from an objective perspective (Doob, 1935, 1946; Ellul, 1965), it has never been academically studied from the point-of-view of a small group.  Other questions may arise that will need to be address but they will relate to the main research questions asked above.

 

IV.           Research Methods

Research will be gathered through data collection of interviews and extensive observations of small groups in live music settings as well as small groups in larger gatherings of festival-sized concerts and social networks through the Internet.  Data analysis of interviews from respondents will be combined with data analysis of additional study results to fully explore propaganda in its small group context.  It is these results that will be applied to propaganda in its wider context and to perhaps continue work into the small group propaganda nuances in another small group.

 

V.             Validity

To deal with any bias in the study and the results, I will exercise extensive reflection and reflexivity in each small group member interview and observational setting while observing any similarities and contrasts that exist between groups.  To deal with any reactivity, I will engage with each interview respondent extensively to determine the depth of their understanding of the small group propaganda that they are using within their small group or groups.

Ultimately, this study is designed to be generalizable to the larger population and other small groups, whether they are mainstream, whether they are a subculture small group, or whether they are a loose collection of individuals forming small groups occasionally or rarely over time. This study is designed to verify that propaganda is used to influence large groups and each member of those large groups as they individually and unintentionally influence their friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances.

 

VI.         Conclusions

While propaganda has a negative connotation in this country, it nonetheless exists in the embodiment of its transliterations:  public relations-propaganda, advertising-propaganda, marketing-propaganda, and others.  In the mind of the general public, propaganda is viewed as something that the enemy engages in, something that a government that is adversarial to one’s political ideas does.  It is something that is viewed as having a less than noble purpose, something evil, akin to what the Germans did in World War II, and something the communists did during the Cold War.  It is generally not viewed as something that is performed and perpetuated by television stations, news media, advertising agencies, or multibillion-dollar corporations.  And it is certainly not viewed as something that is unintentionally perpetuated by individuals in small groups.

But propaganda is all of those things individually and collectively.  The results will verify the goals of this study of intentional and unintentional propaganda in small groups.  It is something that is ever present and “ignored”.  It proliferates our society to such a point that the general public knows it is there because they discuss it individually, but they don’t see it.  This study aims to study propaganda in small groups, how it is perpetuated unintentionally, and to teach inform the academic and general publics that it is everywhere.  It is at this point of the results that the research will not conclude but will continue as I research with others, propaganda in other venues, in other small groups, to determine the extent of propaganda in these other areas and to inform the public what propaganda is on a deeper level.

Sources:

Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Goffman, E. (1973). The presentation of self in everyday life. Woodstock, N.Y: Overlook Press.

Hunt, P. (2013), Where the Music Takes You:  The Social Psychology of Music Subcultures. United States:  Cognella Academic Publishing

Mead, G. H., & In Morris, C. W. (1934). Mind, self & society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.

Romanienko, L. A. (2011). Body piercing and identity construction: A comparative perspective—New York, New Orleans, Wrocław. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

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