Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Stereotyping has existed for a long time, and a lot of the generalizing that occurs today has its origin in historical events like wars or colonialism. Such events often spark insulting and trivializing images of the other and a use of propaganda which promote feelings of hate (Khorana, 2014), and these images, or stereotypes are very hard to get rid of. In old Western movies it was the Mexicans and/or the Native Americans that were depicted as villains and savages and in modern Hollywood we are introduced to Arab and Muslim terrorists (Khorana, 2014). As the media contributes to these stereotypes they communicate a negative and false representation of other cultures.

Interestingly though, after the war on terror, propaganda has become less effective and the acts of warfare has become more transparent in the media and therefore it has become increasingly important to communicate ‘positive’ representations of our enemies so that we appear as ‘good-doers’ in the midst of our wars (Alsultany, 2013).

Evelyn Alsultany (2013) therefore talks about a new type of race representation in the US after 9/11 which blends negative and positive traits of an ethnic group; she calls it “simplified complex representations“. It challenges traditional stereotypes but also justifies discrimination by contributing to a multicultural ‘illusion’. For example; TV-shows and films have incorporated patriotic Arab or Muslim Americans into their plots who assist the Government in fighting terrorism to counteract stereotyping, in TV-dramas they are often victimized to create empathy, sometimes we are led to believe that they are the leading terrorists but later it is revealed that it was someone else (‘flipping the enemy’), and in news media we are often first given a disclaimer (“these are not Islamic practices”) before we are told about the brutality of Islam.

Alsultany (2013) argues that such representation “do the ideological work of justifying discriminatory policies” because simultaneously as the Arab or Muslim American is e.g. victimized, the storyline often also express that it is unavoidable due to the national security crisis, and in the news media diversity and complexity is loosely mentioned but the majority of evidence supports the negative outlooks of the ethnic group.

References:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Race and Representation’, lecture, , BCM310, University of Wollongong, 05 May.

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, Project Muse, vol. 65, no. 1

The public sphere used to be defined as a place (often a coffee-shop) for men to sit down and rationally discuss the daily issues of concern; a place where each man would be heard and taken into account. This is a picture of democracy as it once was. But as time has passed our view of the world and our interpretation of what is common sense has changed too. Back then, men where the only thinkable characters to participate in politics, a woman with an opinion were considered ‘unladylike’ and unheard-off.

Today we find ourselves in an era where politics is everywhere and everyone is politics. We have passed the days when men where the only participants and we are now about to pass the days when the traditional press are the only ones with a legitimate right to voice and decide ‘what was the news today’. Propaganda (politicians) and selective news (traditional journalists) are being accompanied with an abundance of information coming from many different public spheres and it changes the ecosystem of the media. The 4th estate is not our one public sphere. There is a public sphere in reality shows, the school-yard, in the hospital’s waiting-room, online and everywhere our day-to-day concerns take place. These concerns are the politics of the public.

While journalists report their views of events, popular culture and now also the public produce content based on their interpretation of these events, and as Berkowitz says, all these ‘opinion’ mix and together they influence the audiences mind and play a role in shaping how the world works (2009).

Many would suggest that this enhances democracy as the public’s opinion becomes more evident, but when public opinion is infused by both traditional journalism and popular culture, we struggle to separate them. Teneboim-Weinblatt (2009) says that the countless different media-texts that we are exposed to are being utilized in various ways to “construct political meaning and identities” and this builds a new challenge in our media-ecosystem.

References:

Berkowitz, D 2009, ‘Journalism in the broader mediascape’, Journalism, vol. 10, no. 290, pp.290-292.

Teneboim-Weinblatt, K 2009, ‘”Where Is Jack Bauer When You Need Him?” The Uses of Television Drama in Mediated Political Discourse’, Political Communication, vol. 26, no. 4, pp.367-387.

The Arab Spring was revolutionary in one way or another. The question being debated is; what role did social media play in the revolution? Social media is relatively new to us, and therefore I think that none of us are educated or experienced enough to know what it will come to mean to us yet. We have no history or similar technology to compare it with, and so we are not in the position to give any scientific or academic views on the matter. We are “guinea-pigs”, creating history and experience for the next generation’s academics.

When looking at it from this perspective, social media’s role in the Arab Spring becomes impossible to define just yet. It feels like jumping to conclusions without having the evidence. It becomes a discussion between cyber-utopians and those critical to the power of the Internet.

The Internet has come to be our new public sphere. It is a space in which everyone is welcome to participate, and so it may facilitate a perfect place for political debate. During the Arab Spring I believe that social media became a major hub for exactly that. People who had been suppressed for a long time finally found a way to communicate with each other as well as across borders. There is no doubt that social media made is possible for peripheries to make a central (Mitew 2012).

I think we need to ask another question; what would have happened if social media networks did not exist? Would we then have witnessed the Arab Spring? I think that if the Tunisians were not able to share videos, tweets, pictures and blogs in real time, it would not have spread to Egypt, Algeria and other North African countries in the same way, at least not in the same pace. The communication between and within the different countries became a trigger for the different protests. The anger and desperation have been present for a long time, but I think communication through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sparked cooperation, comfort, support and information. Social media networks presented to them a new possibility and potential to be heard.

So I believe that social media played a big part in the Arab Spring. Why else would the Egyptian government censor the Internet? Individuals like Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz exploited the potential of social media at its best. Using it as a tool for information sharing they managed to create awareness of the situation worldwide.

The Internet is indeed a political space, but we have still much to learn about its potential. The Arab Spring leaves us one experience richer for further knowledge.

 

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, #mena #arabspring, the social network revolutions, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

There is no such thing as politics or entertainment. It is mashed up in a mix of show-business and political statements. The culture industry has always carried political messages like “Flower Power” in the 60’s and punk as anti-consumerism in the 70’s, but a newer phenomenon is politicians blending into popular culture.

Jon Stewart is a popular actor and stand-up comedian but at the same time a political satirist and media critic. Entertainment can be a vehicle for propaganda as there often are made room for political ideologies which can act as a hidden manipulator. Political visitors are common on Mr. Stewart’s talk-show, and given his popularity and influence in the American society, it is easy to see why.