Media-Propaganda

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Abstract

There is a substantial amount of feminist research on sexism in language and various forms of media sexism (children’s literature, print, radio, and television advertising and programming, and motion pictures). However, after an extensive search for studies linking language and media sexism to unintentional propaganda that occurs in small groups and one-on-one, nothing specifically linking them was uncovered. This literature review hopes to fill that gap.

Keywords: feminism, sexism, language, media, unintentional propaganda

 

Research Statement

While my fascination and study of propaganda began several years ago, I did not make the leap and link it to language and media sexism until a few years ago through a feminist psychology course. My research began with the definition of unintentional propaganda supplied by Leonard W. Doob (1966). This definition allowed me to make the connection to language, small groups and unintentional influence. When I began researching literature for this bibliography, I was hopeful that I would find unintentional propaganda, or at least propaganda linked to language and media sexism within the research. After an extensive search, I found nothing directly. Instead, I found references to overt, subtle, and unintentional sexism embedded in language, literature, and media texts. I was able to tie these directly to unintentional propaganda based on discussion material in each source.

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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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Pretty much my views with a few explanatory elements removed, like the biases of everyone from the Ownership/management to News Director all the way down to News photographer with the Reporters, writers, anchors, and writers in between. Believe what you want but believe you are being manipulated every second by news media everywhere.

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(Once again, I freely admit this isn’t perfect, but from the earlier Goffman Paper to this, I see some marked improvements. I would also like your constructive feedback when you have a chance to read it.  This paper is slightly similar to the Research Proposal but there are minor but significant changes to this one when you have a chance to read and skim.)

It may not be necessary to research the sexism embedded in the English language because it is overt and omnipresent to the people who are aware of and affected by it the most.  However, a grand examination or even a small study in a quiet corner of the language to determine sexism’s extent and affect would be extensive and vast, due to the limitless language of male domination employed and reflected in the conquering of foreign lands and peoples of the “New World,” much like the Romans in the old world before.  Inherent within our verbs, nouns, and grammar is the nationalism, capitalism, and cultural values that devalue women and people of color and dominate the usage that is taught to foreign nationals learning English for the first time (Piercey 2009:  111).  Frankly, if each of us notice enough of the English language and work to change it within our speck of the Universe, the English that all of us use will evolve over time. It won’t eliminate sexism completely, but evolutionary change will happen.

Obviously, sexism may be apparent in media texts such as television programming, advertising, and movies, but the sexism within those texts employs sexist language that is embedded within our language that was discussed briefly earlier in the semester during one of many discussions of media sexism.  The origin and effects of specific propaganda can be overt or subtle and embedded so deep in the language that it becomes difficult to recognize and challenging to change. Intentional propaganda is that which is practiced and performed by media companies with a deliberate agenda to promote or sell ideas or products utilizing language or socially constructed visual symbols that are already present and used instinctually and subconsciously.  Sexist propaganda is that language, by common usage, that places women in an inferior or subservient role to men rather than the role of an equal.  Sometimes this language can be blatant, and sometimes it can be subtle, commonly overt and socially accepted (Chew & Kelley-Chew 2007:  644). However, to counter the effects of sexist language that all of us are subject to daily, gender-neutral language will be employed throughout this paper rather than the sexist language that will be used as illustrations within directly quoted examples. Specifically, instead of using he as a “neutral” gendered term, s/he or one will be used, and instead of him, herm may be used.  They may also be used to signify a singular or plural pronoun.

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I wonder what Eddie Bernays would say if he were here to see it?

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N.B.  This summary is a “follow up” on my reaction to the Implicit Associations Test that I wrote of earlier.  I wanted to summarize a journal article that presented a different perspective than mine even though I am still in disagreement with the intention and what I feel is a bias in the tests that I took.

Summary.  The implicit associations test, according to the author, is a means to determine what role cultural elements play in the understanding and behavior of individuals, especially since elements of the culture in question exist independently from how they are used or understood by the individual.  The question that is asked is what effect that external cultural environment has on the individual. Culture is a major term for this study so it is defined, in short, as the “interaction of shared schematic representations [shared by individuals and groups] and the external world.” (Shepherd: 122).  The author studied literature that draws upon the Implicit Associations Test to determine how culture functions and how it fits into current sociological study.

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Summary. The authors discuss the demarcations between what is considered journalism and what is considered public relations. However, the authors use the professional societies of each to describe, define, and delineate between what constitutes the key elements of each profession.  While acknowledging the professional job descriptions of each, the authors also acknowledge that the development of information and communication technologies as well as social development processes has blurred the lines between the two where now a journalist may contribute to the promotion of some goods or services. (p. 218). While I understand this is a summary of a study, I disagree with the generous assessment of the authors regarding the long-standing “impartiality” of journalists who retain biases from what they are assigned and from what they write and ask.

Problems. The authors admit that both journalists and PR specialists are increasingly blurring the lines of demarcation between the two professions due to the proliferation of information on the Internet that is freely used by both. The authors make a distinction between PR, advertising, and propaganda (the former subcategories of propaganda), admitting that the PR specialist uses these and the journalist frequently uses the press releases wholesale as “stories” from the PR specialist.  Additionally, the authors cite the acceptable practice of negative coverage of a featured advertiser as a story subject until their advertising budget is paid to the media outlet.  This, according to the authors and the ethics of the two groups societies, is acceptable.  The authors are not interested in eliminating the demarcation problem, but they point out further trends for discussion.

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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is spot on once again

 

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calvin new

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(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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Please click for larger view.

Please click for larger view.

 

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Most of the visual data that I selected was deliberate, from my collection of photos taken over the last several years for my Internet Radio web site, www.radiocasbah.com, and from the front page of my Facebook feed relating to musicians that I know and the ever-present promotional-propaganda on the Facebook side panel.  The only errant photo was the photo used from Subjectivity, Role, Access, Ethics.  The subject of that paper did not lend itself too readily to the photos that I have since none were ever taken as I interviewed the various musicians I interviewed since 2005.

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facebook2While I made my observations of musical artists’ publicity-propaganda on my Facebook page feed over a week ago, I observe this activity daily in my personal life so these observations are ongoing and continuous.  Facebook is just the latest, but not necessarily the greatest addition to self-promotional-propaganda.  There are thousands of platforms on the Internet that all foster this ethic.

Facebook allows for small group conversations around all sorts of topics, fostering these small group gatherings through the avenues that are used to advertise on Facebook through the “Likes” of individual, band, product, and even company web pages.  Daily, hourly, this happens, and it happens often enough where I see multiple friends talking about a product or service (defined as the above page “likes”), “liking” it and telling additional Facebook friends.  This is promotional- and advertising-propaganda in small groups, specifically unintentional propaganda.  While this has always happened in public spheres, the Internet has made it more visible and has caused corporations to reassess and implement additional creative means to promote themselves.  Viral video contests sponsored by these corporations are another means of promotional-propaganda from person to person.

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What is institutional ethnography?  At a basic level, institutional ethnography is the study of the social organization of everyday life.  What it does not do is objectify the subjects or people into objectifications of the everyday world that one is studying.  The social ontology of institutional ethnography, its underlying fundamental, essential principle, is that the social is something that unites people’s activities.  As I see in the day to day everyday, people “do” things.  However, there is more to it than this basic definition.  There are key features that determine its scope and its facets.

Institutional ethnography’s emphasis is on research as a form of discovery rather than the testing of a hypothesis.  In sociology, the emphasis is on conducting studies, interviews, and research to support a preexistent hypothesis rather than exploring a problem from the bottom, from the people affected most and tracing it up a chain of command to the very institution or institutions “controlling” the subjects.  Institutional ethnography accomplishes this through the use of interviews “for the investigation of organizational and institutional processes.” (IEAP:  15) As a result, practitioners of institutional ethnography begin where they are and discover the institutional organizations of power that control people experiences.

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This is an observation from the main page of my Facebook feed.

This is an observation from the main page of my Facebook feed.

While I completed this observation on 18 and 19 February, I observe this phenomenon daily on the Internet and in the external world.  I have observed all varieties of propaganda in the everyday for far longer than Facebook has been around, Facebook exemplifies what is most fascinating about this phenomenon:  the example of unintentional propaganda of an artist’s performance at a Renaissance Faire and the unintentional propaganda “like” of a large music information web site on the top right. Both are examples of small group propaganda in the social network sphere.  They appear on the pages of the companies in question, and they appear on the artists’ pages themselves.

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(This something that I have considered since working for local network television news.  The readings lately and the other students viewpoint on this have just codified what I have known all along.  Now I just have to find a way to research with this in mind.  Stay tuned.)

Everyone has a bias, and objectivity is an illusion.  If one admits and begins from this assumption, then individually, each of us can step back and analyse those biases to determine each of our qualifications or disqualifications for a particular study.  However, if each of us can scrutinize those biases in depth and lay them out in the research study for all to see, construct study questions in such a way that the bias is minimized (admittedly difficult), allow the study participants to speak for themselves without any interpretational editing after the fact, and minimize the usage of linguistically loaded language that implies inferiority or superiority, then a valuable research study might result.

All of these issues and more are built into what Davidson describes in the table of four-fold perspective on subjectivity in Qualitative Research Design for the Software User.  The subjectivity and role of the researcher are things that cannot be realistically controlled, given our individual environmental and cultural conditioning.  Subjectivity, especially, is something that most individuals take for granted.  Individuals assume that most people in their immediate surroundings are similar to  them, but when behaviour that is counter or alien to what they assumed or expected, the response can be inconsiderate, and sometimes even culturally insensitive.  Role can be controlled to some extent by certain personalities, but it is still subject to the same environment and cultural conditioning.  Admitting these shortcomings as much as possible places more value on an individual as a researcher and on the research he or she is conducting.

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Changing Modes 8 June 2011, Atlanta, GA

Changing Modes 8 June 2011, Atlanta, GA

My driving research interests are more like lifelong passions, as any glance into one of several bookshelves of my library will reveal.  However, those interests are usually distilled into a few topics that contain a myriad of additional subjects.  I am fascinated by sociology in general, but I am especially fascinated by how people react and act in various contexts towards other people whether they are individuals or small groups and vice versa.  This fascination predates my knowledge of Erving Goffman, though Goffman and a handful of others have codified this interest into the myriad of interests that encompass small group propaganda.  That driving research interest has been and will be the subject of several papers, a thesis, and several conference presentations.

Previously, I stated that my driving interests contain a myriad of additional subjects as well. This is especially true of my interest in music, local, independent, and unsigned musical artists.  Here, my two lifelong interests in propaganda and music converged in New York when I attempted to be a big-picture propagandist, what is commonly called a publicist, for a few bands and one open mic night at a New York bar on the Lower East Side.  I succeeded in achieving some publicity in a few local newspapers (which I am pretty proud of), but I realized shortly that I was always mediocre as a publicity propagandist at best.  I have always understood the whys of propaganda better than those who practice it, but the how was always elusive.  When I decided to return to school for a master’s degree, I toyed with the idea of an MBA in Marketing for a quick minute until I looked into the propaganda bookcase and saw nothing but sociologists or practitioners influenced by sociologists. Marketing would have also bored me to tears.

And so I arrived at sociology and I arrive at Music and Propaganda as driving research interest.  I suspect that this driving research interest will be fine-tuned in the near future, but I would like to dig a little deeper into how musical artists, independent of labels (or signed to a label so small there is no advertising propaganda budget), use propaganda to promote themselves to sell “merch,” promote themselves as artists, and promote a series of shows, whether local, regional, national, or international.  It is independent artists that I am interested in,  and so it is small group propaganda that is still the most applicable.