There are various other factors in the media apart from news that control our thoughts and understanding of the world, Susan Willis (2001) talks about our never-ending quest for gratification. This concept is epistemic or divine, in that we an always strive for it but never attain it. This could be why many people insist on watching every moment of Big Brother, in case they miss something relatively exciting. James Siddal’s column in ‘The Independent on Saturday 5 April 03 talks about the materialism that is evident in today’s women with regards to cars.
It is the media that provides this matrix of what is cool and what is not. The ideal perception of what a woman should look like is constantly used in ads, and this repetition does nothing more than objectify women, and place sole emphasis on physical characteristics, while ignoring her personality etc. Wahl- Jorgenson (2002) talks about the construct of the audience in newsrooms. If they are a construct of media, surely they have a dependence on the media for guidance etc.
Habermas (1989) in describing his public sphere talked about how in the eighteenth century, people would talk about a variety of issues, and the media would cover these issues. Now, the media is selective in nature in that it provides the topics of discussion. For example, before, people could talk about anything, it could be said that now, when one talks about weapons of mass destruction they can only be heard in the press if they talk about Iraq’s weapons, and not India’s, Pakistan’s, North Korea’s, America’s or Israel’s nuclear weapons.
This trend can also be seen with regards to letters to the editor as Editors choose which letters they want published. These letters hardly consist of any kind of criticism of the newspaper; neither do they conflict with the editor’s opinions. Furthermore, editors can edit and distort letters to serve their own means. Issues that the press do not deem suitable to report on, they ignore. This is why the world ‘forgets’ about things like the treatment of the Taliban POW’s in Camp X-Ray etc (included in African Perspectives- January 2002) Mabote (1998) talks about the media only operating for or catering for a specific segment.
He uses the example of a house in Sandton getting broken into, getting media coverage, while just ten kilometres away in Alexandria, a family that has been massacred gets no coverage. A similar incident happened recently when CNN covered the smash of the Columbia space project intensely, while giving an Earthquake in Nigeria almost no coverage. Seven people died in the shuttle, while over 53 people died in Nigeria. How can CNN claim to be catering for a global audience, as their selectiveness does not indicate this in the least? Tony Bennet (1982) discusses the Frankfurt school and their opinion of the media.
Marcuse, a key thinker from this school of thought talks about the media as being this defining institution that influences the way in which people think of the world. Another prominent member in the Frankfurt family, Adorno, believes that people desire popular music, because capitalists ‘hammer’ it into their minds and make it appear desirable (cited in Strinati 1995) Considering the power American opinion has over the world due to periodicals and broadcasts that span the globe, it could be argued that American mainstream media is by far the most important and influential.
Though American media is not under the direct control of the government as in some other countries and does provide limited coverage of oppositional beliefs on issues, it is under direct corporate control and often gives one-sided preferential treatment of arguments and debates. Robert McChesney (2001) argues that “The firms that dominate U. S. media also dominate the global system, and the system operates on the same profit maximizing logic” Since this is a relationship between ownership and power, it can be said that political economy of the media is the pursuit of profit, through the commodification of media.
‘The media plays a pivotal role in organising the images and discourses through which people make sense of the world’. This means that the media is a vehicle for the promotion of ideology. The conventional definition of ideology is a set of doctrines or body of opinions that people have. It is a way that people use to construct their opinion of the world. However, recently this term has not been able to shed the political implications that it carries. Over time, a negative connotation has been applied to the term as well.
A variation of ideology is ‘Para ideology’. It lacks the completeness of total ideology as it “Is an aggregate of only partially thought- out values which is neither consistent nor well integrated” Gans (Making the News: 1980). This ‘botched’ variation usually leads to rebellion as public become less ignorant. Many questions arose after the September 11 attacks on America. Various components that constitute Ideology have been used to mask or discredit them. There was a restriction on who could speak and who couldn’t.
Alternative theories were quickly silenced and through repetition, the public began to believe that it was certainly a Muslim fundamentalist, even though no credible proof has been shown. To give a practical example of how the media plays a pivotal role in organising discourse and controls thought processes, I have decided to look at the construct of a Canadian, from an American mass media perspective. Renowned literary Academic Hoggert (1970) made a revolutionary statement when he proposed that instead of studying the great texts and epics, we should study what the masses are reading, the popular culture.
If one has to look at popular culture conventions like professional wrestling (www. wwe. com), one can see a very negative and biased view of Canadians being inculcated. Popular wrestlers call Canadian fans ‘Mother Canuckers’. In the story line driven nature of the World Wrestling Entertainment, the Canadians are always the antagonists battling against the ‘good guys’ (their American counterparts). International wrestlers like Bret The Hitman” Hart’ from Calgary, Alberta Canada has to fight opponents with cheesey names ‘The Patriot’. Even the most useless of performers can sway crowd participation with a chant of ‘U.
S. A U. S. A’ (even though occasionally both wrestlers are from the same state) a recent feature length version of South Park saw more anti-Canadian sentiment trying to control the American Mass. The blatancy of this hostility and negativity can be seen in the climatic song, “Blame Canada” In post apartheid South Africa producers encouraged sitcom makers to make comedies about the transitional phase that was present at the time- post 1994. Sitcoms like Suburban Bliss were made to tackle topical issues like racism and segregation in a lighter manner, which will heal political wounds.
The show’s executive producer Carl Fischer describes the show as being “The typicality of Suburban Bliss and its portrayal of the peculiarities of South African life. ” http://www. suntimes. co. za/1998/07/05/arts/gauteng/anej01. htm Viewership figures published by South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) Television Audience Measurement Survey show that local programmes dominated viewership preferences and had the highest ratings. In the 1998 list, Suburban Bliss was placed as the second most watched programme on South African Television.
Most of the viewers were children, whose ideology was being moulded within this set of equality values. A Sunday Times article published on the 19th November 2002 discusses the problems faced when students of different race groups swap places. The interviewer says, “The volunteers began to realise that their mutual suspicions were based less on their own experiences than on what they saw on TV”. This would imply that television was a big influence in their lives, and moulded their beliefs and perhaps reinforced their stereotypes. Many critics believe that we live in a Post-modern society.
Post modernism can be described as the fragmenting and restructuring of social norms and values. Critics cite the end of the Cold War as being the cause for this way of thinking. Before, there used to be single explanations or single theories as to why things happened, there are no more single reductionist explanations. Homosexuality or coming out of the closet, even though practised by the people of Sodom in Biblical times, can be seen as a post modern concept. The media has approached this subject rather positively, and people’s ideas on homosexuality have changed as they have become more accepting of this way of life.
This can be attributed to the media for changing peoples ideology. Sitcoms like Will and Grace and Ellen use satire to promote gay awareness and to naturalize it in society. A movie like The Jackal has had gay overtones. Philadelphia was the first Hollywood studio picture to take AIDS as its primary conflict or subject matter. “Director Jonathan Demme (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) wasn’t interested in preaching to the converted; he set out to make a film that would connect with a mainstream audience. And he succeeded.
Philadelphia was not only a hit, it also won Oscars for Bruce Springsteen’s haunting “The Streets of Philadelphia,” and for Tom Hanks as the gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who is unjustly fired by his firm because he has AIDS” Jim Emmerson – appeared on the vhs version of the movie The Academy Awards are used by the media as a glitzy promotional tool. Movies that have won Oscars have these accomplishments at the top of its trailers. Not taking away anything from his acting skills, it can be said that the Academy Awards publicity of Philadelphia served the interests of the media and reinforced gay awareness.
Media promotion of Gay awareness Day and day is also used to change sectarian mindset and convert more people into secular liberals. Therefore it can be seen that the media plays a pivotal role in organising the images and discourses through which people make sense of the world’.
References: Habermas J. (1994) The emergence of the public sphere. In the Polity reader in cultural theory. Cambridge: Polity Press Hoggert (1970) Speaking to Each Other. Middlesex: Penguin Books Wahl-Jorgenson, K (2002) The construction of the public in letters to the editor. Deliberative democracy and the Idiom of Insanity.
Journalism 3(2) The Independent On Saturday 5 April 03 Bennet, T (1982) Theories of the Media. Theories of Society. Britain. Methuen and Company Robert McChesney (2001) Making Media Democratic http://www. uaf. edu/journal/morrison/McChesney. html accessed on 1 March 2003 Sanchez- Taberneo, A. (1993). Media Concentration in Europe. European Institute for The Media Curran, J. , Gurevitch, M. , and Woollacott, J (1982) The study of the media: Theoretical approaches. Culture, Society and the Media. London : Methuen Strinati, D. (1995). An Introduction to theories of popular culture.
London: Routledge, pp 2- 85 Willis, S (2001) Unwrapping Use Value in Media and Cultural Studies: Keywords. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd www. m-w. com accessed on 27th March 2003 Mabote , R (1998) The Media- South Africa’s 10th province. Equid Novi 19(2) African Perspectives- January 2002 Sunday Times 19th November 2002 http://www. suntimes. co. za/2000/11/19/insight/in01. htm Sunday Times 5th July 1998 http://www. suntimes. co. za/1998/07/05/arts/gauteng/anej01. htm ‘Local Programmes score top points in viewership figures’ http://www. sabc. co. za/press/INDX0298. HTM accessed on 10 April 2003.