Nov 10, 2009

Spinning a National World

Siochru & Girard focus on how media is the cusp between industry and culture; Waisbord looks at how media normalizes nationalistic feelings, providing shared concepts and history uncompared to other forms of communal identity; Dewey points to a ritual perspective of media, which serves to renew nationalism continually.

Hafez furthers Siochru & Girard's examination at how 'internationalism' has not filtered down to content level. Instead regionalism abounds, with inordinate emphasis on a negative, violent world with spotlighted politics and elites. The most damaging part of this is the process of decontextualization: "there is communication about, but not with, the countries involved... They cement the interpretative sovereignty of the particular national media system. In the 'global' world, the cross-border flow of information, does indeed increase - but the mechanisms of local cognitive appropriation and domestication remain...The ethnocentric apparatus informing most people's conception of the world has survived even in the age of globalization."

This is outright dangerous - the whole point of news is essentially to inform. But now the task is to make the mass information intelligable. However, if media doesn't serve as a place for more open interpretation, cultural conflict will be merely reinforced and the link of public diplomacy, as Brown argues, is thwarted. Mutual understanding goes nowhere. Especially as Hafez goes on to pinpoint a failure to present structural problems in international relations. Overarching problems that involve media itself or require a more in-depth understanding of superstructures are not well represented or seemingly understood by specifically American media.

Brown, delves deeper into content, to give the precise phrasing by President Bush, pressed for comments right on 9/11, led to an entire discourse and framing of 'war' instead of 'crime.' The media scrambled and "it is not so much that governments actively influence the people. Rather, through their belligerent behaviour, they set the scene for the triggering of defensive instincts among members of the public, who come to see themselves as a defensive community. The informational raw material of the news may come from outside, it may contain correct (and incorrect) facts and reports from countries such as Iraq, but the 'story' of the war is a domestic production." The media stoked the flames of war instead of acting a mediating force between different understanding, due to the fact media is still a national enterprise and cultural maintenance mechanism.

As Brown wrote, "the way in which the mass media represent the conflict is part of the conflict." As long as the media is predominated by national interests, more broad interpretations will continue to be stifled.

And the rest of the world will continue to be spun by each nation's media.

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