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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Zelenski, J. M., Murphy, S. A., & Jenkins, D. A. (2008). The happy-productive worker thesis revisited. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(4), 521-537.

Introduction

Zelinski, et al (2008) look at over 70 years of research realizing that little has been revealed regarding whether happier workers are more productive.  Utilizing a longitudinal literature review and experience sampling methods, they examine this relationship amongst Directors in the public and private sectors and attempt to reconcile the long history of mixed findings of this happy productive worker thesis.

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

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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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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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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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(This is more or less a brainstorming session to begin fleshing out these thesis ideas and, and, and, to satisfy the assignment requirements for Social Psychology.  Bear with me folks.  It’s getting interesting.  And if anyone at all has any suggestions to improve this, please let me know.)

  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.      If I was to use a survey method for my study, how might I change my hypothesis? If I were to use a survey method for my study I may change my hypothesis to reflect that survey thus, Individuals and small groups are influenced by intentional sexist propaganda embedded in media texts that influence unintentional propaganda in conversational language surveyed through word association and analogy tests.

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While much has been said and much has been written about scientific objectivity and, in the case of my experience in local television journalism, much has been said regarding journalistic objectivity, sometimes quite passionately to the detriment of the local issues being discussed.  Both have their place, but I have never really understood why there isn’t a middle ground to analyze the needs of objectivity in relation to the needs of the community and the activism necessary to improve the work of both.  The scientific objectivity is recent within the study of sociology, psychology, and the IndividualEvolution.org classes that I participate in on Saturday mornings.  The journalistic objectivity is not new but while I was immersed in it, I always saw the false integrity (even without my awareness of the propaganda) in claiming objectivity while accomplishing no community improvement.   This objectivity vs. productive involvement is something that has also interested the readings’ authors as well, and I am glad that it has because I have wondered if I had been the only who has been puzzled by this.

Freire takes on this dichotomy to analyze the oppressed vs. the oppressors.  Other than the unique situation of the oppressed and the dictatorship of 1960s Brazil and the unique ways that subversive music produced (In the case of music specifically, Gilberto, Jobim, and Os Mutantes, for example, were part of an underground movement protesting the dictatorship while seeming to follow the strict dictates of the regime.), I see little difference in the ways that the oppressed of the world are reacting and rebelling against their respective oppressors, even in the United States where the economy continues to create more poverty and more apathy in the economically oppressed and the rich, respectively.  However, in the case of the oppressors, there may have been an element of humanity present when Friere originally wrote.  I see few elements of humanity in any present day oppressors unless there is humanity in apathy.

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(At least the beginnings of one)

  1. What was the original theory and/or hypothesis that you based your study on? The original theory that I based my study on is the language of sexism, that sexism exists in the grammar and language of English that is discussed in one article by Julia Penelope, Prescribed Passivity: The language of Sexism, and several past studies.  While this phenomenon is pervasive, what I want to uncover is more complex than just this simple explanation.  It is an interest in the oftentimes inherent intentional but sometimes-inherent unintentional propaganda within the language of sexism to control women and elevate men and boys. It is language that is used every day that most are unaware of, sometimes-even women.  So I want to study this phenomenon to determine the effects of such propaganda on women and perhaps the effects of counter propaganda in interviews and focus groups.
  2. What are the limitations of this theory or research that you hope your study will address? The limitations of this theory may include failing to achieve a large enough sample to base a study upon and participants who do not understand the positive and/or negative connotations of particular descriptive adjectives being used.  However, I believe the latter is not going to be a realistic possibility.
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Media propaganda is vitally important, whether advertising, marketing, movies or television shows, to the reinforcement of stereotyped images of women and persons of color, most of it subconscious and embedded within the very imagery of language that each of us use and the conditioning propaganda that all of us have been subjected to and programmed with for centuries, especially the twentieth and the twenty-first.  This conditioning propaganda surfaced in a recent Facebook conversation with a friend who emphatically and seriously believes that feminism, through a government interventionist conspiracy, destabilized and destabilizes societies worldwide.  He apparently has “evidence” of this and would not even consider that patriarchal control and domination of corporations, and hence government, is responsible for destabilizing society by not treating everyone equally in the eyes of the law, letter or spirit, or even within the wider society in general.  Just this one example convinces me that this is an important and insidious issue that must be overcome, but like racism that is tied into the feminist issue of true equality for all, it will take decades, if not centuries, of intentional and intensive counter propaganda, aided by assessments of imagery and semiotics until it becomes a truly subconscious and unintentional propaganda influence that pervades wider society from person to person and group to group.

The readings in Chapter 2 of Women and Gender, Images of Women and Men, discuss beauty, whiteness as a social construction, stereotypes, sexism, and language imagery as means to perpetuate the status quo of sexism throughout the media.  Gender propaganda is not discussed specifically, but I believe it pervades and influences every other aspect of inequality that is discussed throughout the chapter.  It is the underlying subconscious shorthand re-enforcer that conveys immediate ideas without conscious thought, to sell products, to reelect politicians, to perpetuate the white social construct, male-dominated societal power structures.  To the advertising and corporate executive or even most of the masses, this propaganda conditioning is part of their very being.  They don’t even think about the words of the script or the imagery used because they believe in the rightness and normality of the status quo and so are unable to see the underlying damage that is perpetuated. Here is why I can understand somewhat that someone would believe that feminism is responsible for the so-called destruction of the very fabric of society. To the public, this is reinforced conditioning of stereotypes that do not allow anyone to evolve or to be treated with equality. The gender propaganda reinforces unacceptable behavior as a norm while moving product is of primary importance, not the propaganda behind the methods used to sell it.

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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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Introduction.  This study examines consumer body type affects the food eating habits of those around them adjusted for whether the influencer is overweight or thin and whether the person being influenced has high or low self-esteem.  The authors note that several authors point to a sedentary lifestyle and the high consumption of food as the main reason behind obesity, but little research has looked at how “food choices are shaped by those around us.” (p. 915).  The study hypothesizes that food choice is subject to interpersonal influences, and people choose larger or smaller portions after viewing another consumer choices.

Methods.  The three studies were conducted with pairs of individuals (one a confederate) who were invited to the lab to examine movie-viewing experiences. Two snacks were used based on weight and perceived healthiness or unhealthiness, granola and M & Ms. The confederates were outfitted with body suits in the cases where the study participants were overweight.  (p. 918) The dependent measure was the perceived weight of the snack food in relation to the body “type” of the study confederate.  The independent variables were the snack amounts taken and the confederate body type. This study was also augmented with a series of survey questions to determine how often study participants diet, if they eat sensibly in front of others and splurge alone, and if they feel guilt after over eating. (p. 918)

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Introduction.  The common misconception is that investors in stock markets, referred to as homo economicus at the beginning of the paper, are isolating individuals who do not gather in herds, and are thus not influenced by the herd.  However, homo sapiens do gather in herds and are influenced by other humans, whether it is sometimes beneficial and other times when it is not.  The research question here becomes, what is “the extent to which and how different types of social influence play roles in the investment process.” (p. 4).  While influence may be direct, where herding occurs, it may also be indirect, “common knowledge, fads, common investment strategies, and similar compensation schemes.” (p. 5)

Review of Research.  Much of the research centers around whether herding exists, whether it is rational or irrational, and what causes it. The literature has provided mixed results.  While some studies indicate that herding exists, other studies indicate that it does not exist.  (p. 5) Experimental studies research indicate that information that is provided by one’s actions is utilized by others.  Additional literature indicates that information cascades where investors ignore their private information and imitate others in the herd. Experiments are cited where the above information cascades end in expected results and other experiments result in an unpredicted “irrational” result. So the studies do not indicate one way or another whether there is any validity in the rationality or irrationality of the social influence of herding. (p. 6)

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(Work with me here.  I am formulating ideas for a thesis on unintentional propaganda and this is part of an assignment so it may not be immediately understandable.  Big things, good things, are coming.)

Hypothesis:  Individuals of multiple ages, social classes and genders within a specific ethnic group internalize general frameworks (“interpretive schemata” or “logics of action”) from the culture in which they are embedded and socialized.

Based upon social value framing theory and recent literature on schematic, internal cultural frameworks by Stolte and Fender, subjects emotionally identify with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit a particular frame than with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit an alternative frame.

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(Possibly part of an ongoing series.  Stay tuned)

Beginning this I had thought that it should be, “I am a feminist because…” primarily because feminism has been on my mind for the last several years probably without placing the label on it, and quite possibly due to the roles that my grandmother and my aunt have played in my life.  My life is an evolutionary process and, thus, I am learning, and programming thoughts in my life on a daily basis.

So the fact is I need feminism because, I become irritated and angry when human beings are treated as inferior because their socially constructed gender, race, or “acceptable” or “unacceptable” appearance does not conform to the so-called majority.  I need it because my grandmother and my aunt were THE strong and intelligent family leaders in my immediate and extended family, and my father, who immigrated from a heavily male-dominated society, Italy, was the most obvious sexist in my life.  Juxtaposing those two contrasts disturbed me enough to think about equality and feminism without placing a label on it until later

For me, the subject of propaganda will come up many times in this class, because it is a subject that fascinates me as a neutral term, rather than a negative one.  It is the intention and the effects that can be either positive or negative.  But I also see a very strong relation between feminism and propaganda texts (either feminist or sexist, but primarily sexist) used within advertising, television programming and motion pictures, newspaper articles and op-ed pieces.  Make no mistake that I see the overt propaganda in all media, but the sexist textual context is something I obviously need to learn more about, so yes, I need feminism because. The conversations that I have with friends and acquaintances and conversations that I overhear where human beings are prejudged as either superior, equal, or inferior based on part or all of their appearance kept me silent but disturbed until recently when I have reached the end of my patience, which can only turn me into a better activist for equality.  People who assume the inferiority of a person based solely on their gender, color, and body modifications particularly disturb me.  The psychological effects can be debilitating and superficially unnoticeable.

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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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