The Spiral of Silence Theory

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor but no corrections were made.


The Spiral of Silence Theory

In 1963, Bernard Cohen identified a mass media phenomenon called agenda-setting, a theory which posits that the media has an influence over what topics people think are important even if it has limited control over the content of those thoughts (Baran and Davis 264). Research in 1972 by Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald Shaw appeared to confirm the theory while later researchers expanded on the nature of agenda-setting and amount of interchange between the media and the intended audience (Baran and Davis 264-268). Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann originated the spiral-of-silence theory which argues that people will be more reluctant to express their views if they believe those views are in the minority. This self-censorship results in views that are perceived as less popular gradually disappearing from public debate (Baran and Davis 268).

In 1973, Noelle-Neumann examined what caused the media to possess this agenda-setting power. In her view, one factor is that the media is readily available for consumption. Another reason is that there is a cumulative effect – the messages cross content formats and types of media and are repeated over time. Thirdly, there is a lack of diversity among the opinions of journalists that tends to lead to homogeneity of topics presented to the public (Baran and Davis 268-269). Other researchers have continued to criticize, test and analyze the spiral of silence theory (Baran and Davis 269).

During the 20th Century, information tended to flow in a top-down manner from the elites to the masses. In the present time, we still use legacy media such as printed materials and electronic media. The category of actors that would have relied on such “old media” to distribute their messages, such as activist groups, governments, organizations and companies, are still using those legacy channels along with the newer decentralized web-based platforms. Additionally, we are producing user-generated content in the form of blogs and social media posts that compete for time and attention alongside the more elite content sources (Poulakidakos 373). The line between production and consumption has been considerably blurred (Poulakidakos 377).

Individual media users make decisions to determine when it is safe or desirable to express an opinion in the public sphere (Poulakidakos 374). Users do monitor whether their opinion is in the majority or minority and take the effect on their online and real-life relationships into consideration before deciding what to share (Poulakidakos 374). A 2011 study by Andrew Hayes and associates examined the effect of opinion polls and found that they do have a greater influence on people who suffer more fear of social isolation (Baran and Davis 269). There is a tendency for some individuals polled to tell the researchers what they think they want to hear rather than their true opinion (Gearhart and Zhgang 38). This behavior suggests that some people who think they are conforming to their fellow citizens to gain social acceptance are really conforming to the perceived opinions of the poll takers instead.

What factors make people more willing to take the risk of expressing their opinion? Awareness of a wider variety of opinions helps – with more diverse points of view available for consumption, there is less fear of social exclusion for expressing an opinion, helping to break the spiral of silence effect (Poulakidakos 375). Minority opinion holders are more willing to speak out on issues that they hold very firmly and believe are of high importance (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). People are more willing to express their true opinions in forums where they are not required to reveal their real-life identity (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). Less popular opinions are more likely to be expressed when people perceive that their view is gaining momentum (Gearhart and Zhgang 48).

Research by Gerarhart and Zhang shows that the perception that the media is in line with the user’s opinions has only a limited effect on the willingness of people to post truthfully about their thoughts. The perceived opinion of other members of the person’s nation had very little effect (Gearhart and Zhgang 44-46). In other words, the opinions of real-life friends and family carry a lot more weight with individuals than the media or the general public (Gearhart and Zhgang 50).

Even if the intended effect is not very significant, some appear to feel that any advantage is worth pursuing when the stakes are high, such as they are in the case of a major election. It is estimated that 1.4 billion USD was spent on digital advertising in the 2016 US Presidential election (Madrigal). A Pew research study shows that with over a year to go before the next Presidential election, 46% of social media users are already fatigued by the amount of political content they are exposed to (Anderson and Quinn). Our current culture is increasingly tolerant of incivility and some of the political content and behavior goes beyond mere propaganda, taking the form of online shaming, bullying and offline terrorism. Vitriol is not only directed at candidates but also their supporters (Gordon). On our own Webster University Campus in 2019, wearing a candidate’s t-shirt or having a candidate’s bumper sticker on a car has resulted in attempted property damage, vituperative verbal insults, and physical assault (Farrah). It is possible to be attacked even when not engaging in public political speech based solely on identity (Gordon). In 2015, a man was allegedly beaten on public transportation in St. Louis for declining to state a political opinion when asked (Associated Press). The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2016 that there were 10 active hate groups in the St. Louis area that “target others based on perceived membership in a class of people” (Moffit).

Studies cited earlier in this paper have found that the opinion climate in a particular environment does have some effect on open opinion expression. In the case of political views, can the majority consensus in a social media platform, such as Facebook, accurately predict voting behavior? According to a study by Mihee Kim, if an individual is not strongly committed to a political point of view, not only is such a person unlikely to express an opinion in a hostile environment, that person is less likely to vote at all. People strongly partisan to a certain point of view were also less forthcoming with opinions in a hostile environment, but rather than reducing political participation in the real world as the less committed did, they increased their activities in a direction opposite of what they perceived as the majority view (Kim 700). As a result, those actors attempting to sway voters in their preferred political direction by making it seem as though the voters’ own opinions are unpopular are likely to get the opposite outcome than was intended.

The nature of new media results in users having more choices of what content to consume and more individualized control over what they prefer to consume (Poulakidakos 374). If our nation has lost its’ tolerance for the open debate that allows ideas to be heard and judged on their merits, then we will continue to make important decisions about the future of our country with only the opinions from our own self-selected sphere of influence to guide us (Poulakidakos 374).

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica and Dennis Quinn. “46% of U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions.” Pew Research Center, 2019, www.pewresearch.org/…/46-of-u-s-social-media-users…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Associated Press. “FBI investigates possible hate crime cases in St. Louis.” CBS Interactive Inc., 2015, www.cbsnews.com/…/fbi-begins-investigations-into…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Moffit, Kelly. “10 hate groups in the St. Louis area: Defining and discussing what they stand for today.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2016, https://news.stlpublicradio.org/…/10-hate-groups-st…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.


Further reading: Here are some links to things I didn’t use or cite but might be interesting to read if you like this topic!

Democracy vs. Republic

The Power to Influence

12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Facebook Says it Doesn’t Try to Influence How People Vote

“Feminazis,” “libtards,” “snowflakes,” and “racists”: Trolling and the Spiral of Silence effect in women, LGBTQIA communities, and disability populations before and after the 2016 election

Effects of the “Spiral of Silence” in Digital Media

Spiral of Silence, and the Election Half of us Saw Coming

The only true winners of this election are trolls

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

How do we decide which media sources we can trust?

For our first test in Mass Communications class, we were asked to pick two questions from four offered and write at least a page on each. I’m going to take a risk and put these out there before they are graded because it might be a week before I get the graded test back and I don’t want to sit on this for that long. I’m spoiled and too used to the instant gratification that comes with self-publishing I suppose! If I decide to make any changes after grading I’ll indicate what I changed so you can see the corrections.


3. Explain Propaganda Theories. Contrast Lasswell’s Propaganda Theory and the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ perspective. How do you see propaganda currently?

Mass society theorists have been fearful about the influence of mass media on average people since mass media first became prevalent (Baran and Davis 56). World Wars I and II along with the rise of totalitarian governments around the world caused researchers and critics to study how oppressive regimes used propaganda and to explore whether propaganda could be used to preserve and promote democracy instead (Baran and Davis 56). Behaviorism was an early theory that proposed that most human behavior could be explained by external conditioning rather than conscious choice (Baran and Davis 46-47). Freudianism was another theory that was also skeptical about the abilities of humans to use reason to control their actions. To Freudian thinkers, the rational mind was called the Ego. They believed media could be used to cause either the Id or the Superego to become dominant and undermine the Ego, resulting in people losing reasoning ability or giving up control to others (Baran and Davis 47-48).

Harold Lasswell was a political scientist who believed that the mental state of the subjects of propaganda was more important than the actual media content. In his view economic problems, war and conflict induced a form of psychosis that made people more susceptible to being manipulated (Baran and Davis 48). Democracies are designed so that it’s necessary to debate ideas in order for voters to decide which is the most rational. In his time as well as today, political discussions could become verbally rancorous and sometimes even escalate to physical violence. Lasswell believed it was too risky for people to engage in or witness such contention because it would induce psychosis that could lead to the adoption of subversive ideas (Baran and Davis 48). It would in his view be safer to expose people to benign propaganda crafted by a scientific technocracy rather than allow open debate (Baran and Davis 48-49). He advocated for long-term campaigns, possibly lasting months or years, that utilized every possible form of media to associate meanings with symbols that could be used to plant ideas into consumers that were more compatible with democracy (Baran and Davis 49).

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was an interdisciplinary association that existed from 1937-1942. It’s purpose was to explore how the public could be educated to consume communication more rationally and become resistant to propaganda (Sproule 486). Today we would call this type of education media literacy (Baran and Davis 293). The IPA identified the “seven common propaganda devices”, which they termed “name calling, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks, card stacking and band wagon” (Sproule 488-489).

In the postwar period, other theories and research methods were developed that made the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ research and list seem out of date among many researchers (Sproule 495-496). Nevertheless the ideas and terms that the the IPA introduced are still in use. A 1995 publication by the Institute of General Semantics advocates the use of the IPA’s concepts because they are non-technical and understandable by a wide variety of people (The Iconography of… 14). They created a set of symbols to illustrate and provided rhetorical examples with the symbols inserted to indicate which propaganda devices were used. A 2017 article in Psychology Today makes the case for continuing to use the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ list along with an introduction that explains some of the history of propaganda and the IPA (Shpancer). A web site called Propaganda Critic was created during the early years of the World Wide Web. The project team for Propaganda Critic views itself as a successor to the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (Delwiche and Herring). They retain many of the IPA’s terms and ideas on their Propaganda page while renaming and adding a few of their own (Delwiche).

It’s not new for the elite classes to be concerned every time a new communication technology is introduced (Baran and Davis 33). An example of a media literacy effort developed to combat the new challenges that come with new technology is DROG. DROG is a European interdisciplinary organization that produced an online game called Bad News in collaboration with Cambridge University. Players are cast in the role of an online propagandist and earn badges for Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. The goal of the game is to make media consumers more aware of the new propaganda techniques made possible by modern technology. Although the goals of DROG are very similar to organizations like the older IPA, they have created a new list with new terms that does more than just put a new label on old ideas (DROG).

 

4. As an example of Normative Theories, what are the major aspects of Social Responsibility Theory? What are the pros and cons? How do you see Social Responsibility in the future?

A normative theory explains “how a media system should be structured and operate in order to conform to or realize a set of ideal values” (Baran and Davis 16). Social responsibility theory has been the dominant normative theory in the United States from the reform era of the early 20th century up to the present time (Baran and Davis 60-61). Since our Bill of Rights contains Freedom of the Press, the government is limited in what it can do to regulate communication (Baran and Davis 64-65). The Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press, consisting of leaders in different fields, was convened and financed from 1942-1947 by the CEO of Time, Inc. to explore how the press could better serve the public and avoid excessive government regulation (Baran and Davis 72). The commissions findings were summarized in Social Responsibility Theory of the Press in 1956 (Baran and Davis 73).

According to the ideas in the report, journalists were encouraged to be professional by being competent, accurate and balanced in their coverage. Beyond just their own financial interests and that of their employers, they had a duty to also serve society. Serving society was thought to consist of abiding by the law and not inciting crime, violence or disorder. All members of society including minority groups would ideally be respected and have their interests and views represented (Baran and Davis 74).

Doubts abound about whether social responsibility theory is actually followed by media professionals. Even if attempts are made to follow the guidelines, the results are not always what were intended (Baran and Davis 74-75). There are many barriers to living up to the ideas in social responsibility theory. Often members of the media are reluctant to engage in policing each other because they fear undermining faith in the whole organization or profession (Baran and Davis 75). Standards are vague enough that members of the media can go pretty far in protecting their own interests (Baran and Davis 76). There are no professional licenses that allow journalists to practice and it’s difficult to define who is a journalist and who is not (Baran and Davis 76-77). The output that journalists produce is often the product of many hands and it’s difficult to know who is responsible and what the actual damages are from misdeeds (Baran and Davis 77).

Technology has democratized the ability to be a publisher and consumers can choose from a wider variety of information sources (Baran and Davis 82-83). The American public’s trust in the media had dropped to a historic low point by September 2016 according to a Gallup Poll (Americans’ Trust in…). If the media wants to regain more of the public’s trust it might benefit from some self-examination and self-regulation in the tradition of the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the press.

 

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Delwiche, Aaron. “What Is Propaganda Analysis?” Propaganda Critic, 2018, https://propagandacritic.com/index.php/how-to-decode-propaganda/what-is-propaganda-analysis/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Delwiche, Aaron and Mary Margaret Herring. “About This Site.” Propaganda Critic, 2018, propagandacritic.com/index.php/about-this-site/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

DROG. Bad News. 2018, http://getbadnews.com/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Shpancer, Noam. “The Con of Propaganda.” Sussex Publishers, LLC, 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201702/the-con-propaganda. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Sproule, J. Michael. “The Institute for Propaganda Analysis: Public Education in Argumentation, 1937-1942.” Conference Proceedings — National Communication Association/American Forensic Association (Alta Conference on Argumentation), Jan. 1983, pp. 486–499. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=20908496&site=ehost-live. Accessed 23 September 2019.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“The Iconography of Propaganda Analysis.” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, vol. 52, no. 1, Spring 1995, p. 13. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=9503150320&site=ehost-live. Accessed 23 September 2019.


Interesting links I found but didn’t use:

No, I haven’t read all these (yet). But I want to save them where I can find them again and if you are interested in the topics I wrote about above you will probably find some good reading in there!

Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Answers to Reader Questions on Our Brett Kavanaugh Essay

Information & Media Literacy: Skills Needed in Today’s World

Majority of U.S. adults think news media should not add interpretation to the facts

Public Attitudes Toward Computer Algorithms

What are the best examples of modern-day propaganda in the US? – a discussion that shows that some people have a good grasp of what propaganda is and some just define it as whatever they don’t agree with.

Partisans are divided on whether they associate the news media or Trump with ‘made-up’ news

Public Attitudes Toward Technology Companies

Public Insight Network

Handbook for Citizen Journalists

Digital Hydra: Security Implications of False Information Online

Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking

Emotional content to earn more attention

Time to call out the anti-GMO conspiracy theory

Bots, #StrongerIn, and #Brexit: Computational Propaganda during the UK-EU Referendum

Computational Propaganda Worldwide: Executive Summary

Causes and Consequences of Polarization*

Political Polarization & Media Habits

The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science

Discrediting moves in political debates

https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-internet-trolling-3485891

Propaganda in the Digital Age

“Everything I Disagree With is #FakeNews”: Correlating Political Polarization and Spread of Misinformation

Enjoying My Home Grown Greens

Fresh picked salad from the backyard with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens.
Fresh picked salad from the backyard with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens. I served the produce over cold edamame noodles.

I hope now that the ordeal with our rain garden is over Tom and I can start actually enjoying our garden! One of the many things we like about it is being able to pick fresh salads every day in season. I’m going to be really sad when it gets too cold to do this.

Since I took these photos, this monarch has hatched and is on it’s way to Mexico right now if it has not run into misfortune along the way. I’ve helped raise a bunch of caterpillars this year by providing habitat and I’m really happy about that!

Monarch butterfly caterpillar turning into a chrysalis over a 24 hour period.
Monarch butterfly caterpillar turning into a chrysalis over a 24 hour period.

Since I welcome caterpillars to my garden, I get species I really want as well as caterpillars that eat some of the greens I want to eat. One of my strategies is to plant enough to share. I also like to encourage beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.

Read more about it on the Schnarr’s Blog:
What is Eating My Mustard Greens?

My Former ‘Zine and Mail Art Days

A black and white collage faux postage stamp sheet I made around 1997.
A black and white collage faux postage stamp sheet I made. I used to get these printed on gummed paper and send them to other mail artists. Circa 1997.

I’ve been out of the Mail Art and ‘Zine scenes for over 20 years now, and to my surprise for some reason I’m getting nostalgic about it and thinking about getting back into it a little bit. I’ve never stopped making faux postage designs, rubber stamped art and Dada-influenced collages, but I stopped networking except through my web site because I got spooked by some of the extreme networkers I was occasionally in contact with. I figured I no longer had the stomach to participate in the “underground”. I mainly was networking for art and creativity and I’m still inspired creatively by what I did back then. I was not in it for anarchy, political change or social change except for some social commentary that I occasionally included.

I think part of the reason I feel like possibly participating again is that when I got spooked, I was in the middle of a couple of Mail Art group projects that I didn’t finish and I never sent out the documentation. I’ve felt guilty about this for a long time. One was called the “Turn Off Your Television Project” and another was called the “Fish Tapestry Project”. After writing the research paper I just published yesterday, I think I might want to finish that documentation and fulfill the obligation I took on myself 20 years ago. I probably won’t be able to get in touch with all the people who participated but I can try.

The Turn Off Your Television Project on display in my 1998 art show "Areas Affected by Shapes".
The Turn Off Your Television Project on display in my 1998 art show “Areas Affected by Shapes”.
A graphic I made to promote the "Turn Off Your Television Project", circa 1998.
A graphic I made to promote the “Turn Off Your Television Project”, circa 1998.

My friend Mark Reed who co-hosted the fish tapestry project with me passed away late last October and it would be a great tribute to him if I could finish that one too someday. I have only this week been able to bring myself to look again at some of his artwork that his family gave to me. I always thought he threw away too much of his old work and I’m glad that I have some of it. I may even finish some of the stuff that is unfinished. We collaborated and shared ideas a lot back in the day. I think he would like that.

Oh how I used to love making animated gif art!
Oh how I used to love making animated gif art!

I would be pleased if someone finished my old work after I’m gone. I’d rather have that happen than it be thrown away. I always have a lot of unfinished projects that I take up and put down at various times. I’m sure I’ll be leaving some unfinished ones behind someday. Actually it’s been painful for me to look at a lot of my old work and archives for a long time because so many of the people that I lived that time of my life with are dead. Maybe now I’m finally able to start dealing with the memories. Also I felt like much of my old work was an embarrassing failure. Looking at it now, some of is indeed embarrassing but some of it is not so bad! A former abusive relationship made me feel like I should not do any art because I was no good and didn’t deserve to do it just because it was good for me and made me feel alive. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I was ever going to take it up again.

My 1997 Artist Statement

My 2000 Artists Statement

Here is a faux postage design I made as a computer graphic when I was a beginner at learning Photoshop. 1997.
Here is a faux postage design I made as a computer graphic when I was a beginner at learning Photoshop. 1997.

My Mail Art name was Carolyn Substitute, my ‘zine was called the Lime Green News, and my faux postage was produced under the name “Lime Green Post”. I decided today to do an online search and see if I could find any references to my old Mail Art activities.

If you would like to explore this world I found the following:

John Held Jr. – Collection of Mail Art Periodicals

A Little Introduction to Mail Art

Mail Art Periodicals – MoMA

Links of Mail Art / Visual Poetry

Welch. 1995. Eternal Network. A Mail Art Anthology. Part 2.pdf

Tutorial: Carving Stamps

IDAC Jas W Felter’s “The International Directory of Artistamp Creators”

The Translinguistic Collaborative Poetry of Serge Segay, Rea Nikonova, and John M. Bennett – I can’t find specifically why my search turned up this web site but I did used to correspond with a couple of the people mentioned here so maybe a deeper search would be fruitful!

ArchivesSpace at the University of Iowa – Looks like they have at least a few issues of the Lime Green News in their archives.

stardust Memories Mail-aRt-Links and projects – bless this person for putting a link to my old web site on archive.org! I haven’t seen it in so long. I redesigned it in 1999 and I don’t think I looked at the old one since then because it made me so embarrassed!

cbanle

Lime Green Evolution World of Art – 1997-1999 – My first web site, how I transitioned from analog networking to digital networking. Thinking back on it, printmaking class in 1987 led to rubber stamping, rubber stamping led to Mail Art, Mail Art led to ‘zines, ‘zines led to taking a class to get better at desktop publishing, which led to published a web site, that led to being a web designer, which led to doing marketing which led to me working on a marketing degree. No wonder I called my first web site Lime Green Evolution. And I didn’t even put in all the other tangents I followed along the way! I used to stay late a lot after my web design job ended at 5 pm to work on my personal web site and wait for the traffic to die down.

One of the things we are studying in my Mass Communications class is how people make media meaningful for themselves. Back in the ‘zine / grunge / Mail Art era we used to do a lot of collages, small press publications and mixed media projects. I’m sure there are still people out there doing these things and with technology we have a lot more options available. Most likely I’ll be exploring this in a future research project.

Edit: here is my new page on the International Union of Mail-Artists web site. I’ll be putting some old and new work there.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor. I rewrote one sentence that was awkward but didn’t change anything else. I made a couple of minor formatting changes for online viewing, the printed version attempts to conform to MLA style. Comments on any of my blog posts are encouraged at any time and if you have any critiques that would help me write better I especially would welcome those.


Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence

Social scientists have been studying mass media for decades to see if there is a link between consuming violent media and real-life violent behavior. All social scientists do not agree but over time the majority have come to accept that there are causal links (Baran and Davis 193-194). Many researchers use social cognitive theory as a framework for explaining how and why people learn behavior from the media (Baran and Davis 193).

Human beings sometimes observe and then imitate behavior, but imitation doesn’t happen in every instance (Baran and Davis 170). How does a violent idea escalate to violent action? There are many variables in the content itself that influence behavior. If the subjects receive punishment for their actions, the content will be imitated less frequently (Baran and Davis 176). The Hays code, which the US Movie industry imposed on itself from 1934-1965, was an example of self-censorship to avoid consumer outrage and government intervention. The strictures that filmmakers had to follow indicate early awareness that the moral and legal contexts in which violence and lawbreaking were shown did make a difference in how they were received by audiences (Hays Code).

Experiments have demonstrated that there will be more imitations of violence if the behavior is rewarded in the character’s world, the content causes emotional arousal, if the violence is portrayed in a realistic way or with humor, if the motive of the subjects is seen as justifiable and if viewers identify with the characters (Baran and Davis 176).

The circumstances under which violent content is viewed are another area of influence. Violent effects are worsened if people become de-sensitized by frequent viewing (Baran and Davis 176). Content in which the user is active rather than passive, such as in a video game, has greater effects on the user (Baran and Davis 181).

From the beginning of the study of mass media, researchers and theorists have been interested in what the individual who is viewing the content brings to the interaction between the consumer and the media. Some of the earliest mass society media theorists did accept the paternalistic view that certain members of society were more vulnerable than others to the undesirable effects of low-quality media products (Baran and Davis 21). They feared that changing populations no longer protected by older institutions would not be well-served using the media as a substitute (Baran and Davis 36).

The story of the legendary 1938 radio broadcast War of the Worlds is well known by many Americans, but it has been greatly exaggerated into myth (Pooley and Socolow). The majority of people who heard the broadcast were not fooled into thinking that the Earth was really being invaded by Martians. There were, however, some people who were affected in alarming ways and researchers did attempt to find out why. The listeners who believed the broadcast was real and in turn responded with panic tended to be fatalistic, had low self-confidence, were afflicted by phobias and were emotionally insecure (Dixon, 2). These findings are an example of acknowledgement over time by many researchers that media does not affect all people the same way, an observation known as the individual-differences theory (Baran and Davis 105).

Even as limited-effects theories were becoming more dominant among researchers in the middle of the 20th century (Baran and Davis 22), they did not discourage other theorists from examining what kind of people were vulnerable and why. Neo-Marxists conceded an advantage to elites because of their economic power (Baran and Davis 23). Carl Hovland who led a research group for the US Army about the effectiveness of propaganda in training new recruits found that in general the films they tested did not have a great effect. The team did find that balanced presentations that explained both sides of an issue were more effective on people with more education (Baran and Davis 99-100). News-flow research associated poor news information retention with lower educational levels (Baran and Davis 110). Cultural criticism based on deterministic assumptions rose in popularity among 1970s academics as a humanities-based counterpoint to postpositivist limited-effects theories (Baran and Davis 24).

Children view media differently according to their level of development, therefore the age of the person viewing the violence is another factor that determines susceptibility to media effects (Baran and Davis 178). Ever since the first generation of people raised with television came of age in the tumultuous 1960s, researchers have been interested in trying to see if there is a link between exposure as children to violence in mass media and actual violent behavior (Baran and Davis 166-167). Enough causal relationships were found to cause the Surgeon General of the United States to commission research in 1969. After the findings became known the television industry engaged in some self-policing to quell criticism and prevent government-imposed regulations that might harm their interests
(Baran and Davis 167).

In the United States communication freedom is so essential to our form of government that freedom of the press is written into our Bill of Rights. That does not mean that no legal limits on media are allowed at all, but it is difficult to create new regulations that protect some rights without curtailing others (Baran and Davis 66). Media creators who subscribe to social responsibility theory may choose to create content they believe is in the public interest but the government has a very limited ability to compel them to do so (Baran and Davis 80), assuming there would even be a general consensus on what content is actually in the public interest.

Real-life violence has many costs. Obvious direct consequences are death and injury. Even indirect exposure to violence has detrimental effects on mental health, social interaction, cognitive function and academic performance, especially in children (Sharkey 2287). Since consumption of violence in the media has been determined to be one of many contributors to real-life violence, reducing exposure or taking steps to mitigate the effects of violent media content should help reduce violence at least to a degree (Fingar 183). Since consumption or non-consumption of most media can’t be compelled by law any more than the production, would education about media help consumers make better choices?

One attempt at mitigation is media literacy, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages” (Baran and Davis, 293). Participants in the Media Literacy movement believe that education is a powerful tool in the hands of consumers, particularly young consumers (Fingar 183). Studies undertaken in schools have shown enough positive changes in behavior for researchers to recommend that Media Literacy programs be more widely accepted and implemented (Fingar 189, Scharrer 82-83). In a society founded on Libertarianism (Baran and Davis 55), perhaps media literacy will gain more influence as new technologies draw people even more deeply into the world of media (Baran and Davis 192-193).

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Dixon, Robert. “Limited Effects Theory.” September 2019. PowerPoint presentation.

Feilitzen, Cecilia von, et al. Outlooks on Children and Media: Child Rights, Media Trends, Media Research, Media Literacy, Child Participation, Declarations. Compiled for the World Summit on Media for Children (3rd, Thessaloniki, Greece, March 23-26, 2001). Feb. 2001. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED450947&site=ehost-live. Accessed 13 September 2019.

Fingar, Kathryn R., and Tessa Jolls. “Evaluation of a School-Based Violence Prevention Media Literacy Curriculum.” Injury Prevention, vol. 20, no. 3, June 2014, pp. 183–190. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2013-040815. Accessed 13 September 2019.

“Hays code.” Siteseen Limited, 2017-2018, www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/hays-code.htm. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Pooley, Jefferson and Micheal J. Socolow. “The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic.” The Slate Group, 2019, https://slate.com/culture/2013/10/orson-welles-war-of-the-worlds-panic-myth-the-infamous-radio-broadcast-did-not-cause-a-nationwide-hysteria.html. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Scharrer, Erica. “‘I Noticed More Violence:’ The Effects of a Media Literacy Program on Critical Attitudes Toward Media Violence.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 21, no. 1, Mar. 2006, pp. 69–86. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2101_5. Accessed 13 September 2019.

Sharkey, Patrick T., et al. “The Effect of Local Violence on Children’s Attention and Impulse Control.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 102, no. 12, Dec. 2012, pp. 2287–2293. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300789. Accessed 13 September 2019.


Links to things I didn’t use

If you are interested in the above topic and the media in general you might enjoy some further reading.

7 Ways to Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Violence in the Media

Protect Your Brain from Images of Violence and Cruelty

Tips on How to Deal with Media Violence

Blocking kids from social media won’t solve the problem of cyberbullying

Effects of television viewing on child development

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

The media exaggerates negative news. This distortion has consequences

Facebook Has Seized the Media, and That’s Bad News for Everyone But Facebook

The Real ‘Fake News’ Is The Mainstream Media

The Media Is Obsessed With Bad News

Speaking of the Lime Green News and studying other cultures…

Collage made with paper and rubber stamps
Collage made with paper and rubber stamps

I made this collage right at the time I stopped publishing the Lime Green News in paper form. I’m pretty sure I have a draft written on some floppy disc somewhere about how I made this collage and some others using outlines of black paper that I cut out with paper edging scissors to make compositions that look like postage stamps. I was going to publish the tutorial and a copy of the background for people to make their own stamps. I made several stamp sheets using this background as I recall. Such stamps are also known in the art and stamp collecting world as “Cinderella Stamps”, “Postoids” and “Artistamps”.

I never went back to the idea with this pseudo-postal background because I assumed that with computers and desktop publishing becoming more prominent people would not be interested in making faux postage stamps the “analog” way any more. But looking at this collage now that more than 20 years have passed since I made it I actually like it a lot. After going to that Gauguin show that I wrote about in my last blog post I’m reminded of how much I loved studying other cultures and abstracting some elements from them into and combining them with Mid-Century Modern type of abstraction. A lot of the black line work was made by rubber stamps. The Egyptian hieroglyphics stamp is a commercial rubber art stamp, but I carved all the others.

The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header
The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header

For some reason if I scan a collage and invert the colors in Photoshop, the results are often better than the original. I needed a new Facebook header so I rearranged the above collage and did a quick inversion. Fun!

Here is another collage I made using the same background
Here is another collage I made using the same background

Gauguin was a zine publisher! Who knew?

Tom is in red, Mike is in Yellow.
After Gauguin we looked at some of the other galleries. Tom is in red, Mike is in Yellow.

Yesterday my husband Tom and I attended the last day of the Gauguin exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention. Our friend Mike went with us and treated us to the tickets that he had earned from doing volunteer work.

When I first became interested in studying art, I wanted to be a painter. When I took ceramics and printmaking for the first time, I lost interest in painting and stopped reading about it as much as I used to in favor of my new passions. Over the years I also have done some pretty intense study of fiber arts, various crafts, collage, Dadaism, neo-Dadaism and Mail Art, ‘Zines, book arts, Outsider Art, Pop Art, photography, computer animation,  web design, architecture, graphic design, the decorative arts, archaeology and anything Mid-Century Modern. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were the first kinds of painting that drew me in but over the years I came to prefer Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism as painting styles. I hadn’t done any reading on Gauguin for a long time.

If you missed the show you can listen to the audio presentation and view some of the images here:
https://www.slam.org/audio/paul-gauguin-the-art-of-invention/

Here is a transcript of the audio guide for the show:
https://www.slam.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/gauguin-audio-guide-transcript.pdf

Some of Gauguin's wood cut prints and a handmade book.
Some of Gauguin’s wood cut prints and a handmade book.

I really enjoy artists and designers who work in a variety of media, such as Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and Frank Lloyd Wright. A lot of times I feel guilty about having so many interests and dabbling in so many different occupations and areas of study. Today’s society seems mostly to expect you to do only one thing but that is not and never will be “me”. So at this Gauguin show I was very intrigued to see some of Gauguin’s ceramics, wood carvings and woodcut prints alongside the paintings. There were ceramics and decorative objects from Gauguin’s personal collection as well as Oceanic and Peruvian art that was representative of the cultures Gauguin was influenced by. He was also at various times a sailor, a stockbroker and a writer. People like this make me not feel so weird!

ceramics in the Gauguin show
The bright green and bright red ceramics and the one that kind of looks like a gourd are from Gauguin’s collection. The other more figurative ceramics were made by him. Some of these ceramics were inspired by paintings he owned by other artists, and the green jug was in one of his paintings. It’s always interesting to see artists’ personal collections!

guaguin_masthead

As a former ‘zine publisher (Lime Green News 1991-1998), I was excited to see a woodblock print graphic in the exhibit that Gauguin carved to help him publish his own newspaper, which could be considered a type of ‘zine. I’m currently taking a Mass Communications class and in our textbook Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future by Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, I’ve highlighted a very intriguing sentence: “Extremists were often forced to rely on older media like pamphlets, handbills and political rallies.” I don’t know if Gauguin would have been considered an “extremist” in his time but he was critical of religion and government and his lifestyle was, to put it politely, pretty “bohemian”. When I read the above sentence in my textbook I thought of the history of self publishing and the many forms it can take. Before movable type printing presses, documents were hand written or perhaps laboriously printed with hand-printing methods such as stamping and wood block printing. Later there were typewriters, carbon paper, mimeographs, copy machines, desktop computers with printers and the World Wide Web, making self-publishing easier and more accessible.

When I was ‘zine publishing, I used to make my originals on paper to be copied on a copy machine at the office supply superstore. I started out with text printed out on an inkjet printer on my 1983 Commodore 64 computer, which I used for all my word processing until 1995. I essentially made big collages for my pages, combining the printed text with a variety of graphics, collages and hand-drawings. If I wanted to add color I would sometimes carve a rubber stamp and stamp it on the finished prints. I think the largest edition I ever made of my ‘zine was 100, so stamping 100 times to add a bit of color was feasible.

I got a Windows computer in 1995 with a black and white laser printer. At that time I got Internet access for the first time and started reading on the World Wide Web. My first web site went live in 1997. Gradually I made my ‘zine using more modern desktop publishing methods and by learning software such as the Microsoft Office suite, Corel Draw and Photoshop. The last years of my ‘zine incorporated more and more “modern” techniques but were still made as big collages with some hand-embellishments before copying. In 1998 I just switched my ‘zine content over to my web site, which although a bit out of date in spots is still live (www.limegreennews.com). It needs some (ok a lot of) work because I’ve been neglecting it in favor of the blog you are reading now.

Publishing online is very satisfying, but I miss the lower-tech, handcrafted methods of self-publishing sometimes. I still like book arts in various forms. I’d like to write about or engage in some self-publishing as I work on my master’s degree if possible. It’s been on my mind ever since reading that sentence in the textbook. I got out some of my old ‘zine originals to go down memory lane and think about some possible research ideas. ‘Zine publishers do a lot of trading and I had a big collection of other people’s ‘zines plus material they sent me for consideration for publication. I donated the bulk of my collection to the Poetry and Rare Books collection at the University of New York at Buffalo some years ago but I did save a few things I especially liked. I have no idea what they kept of my collection if anything, but they did have a subscription to my ‘zine when it was in publication and I didn’t know of anyone else who might be interested! I didn’t save much of the “extremist” stuff for my own collection because it frankly scared me and was one of the reasons I dropped out of the printed ‘zine scene – it helped contribute to a major anxiety attack that I eventually received treatment for and recovered from. I don’t think I’ve ever said publicly why I dropped out of the ‘zine and Mail Art scene suddenly but that is a major part of why I did that. I do miss aspects of it though. I’m kind of hoping that working on my degree will bring opportunities to do some research on this era of communication or even get back into it in some way. I might even re-publish on this blog some things that are not too embarrassing that aren’t yet online. We’ll see!

lgn2_cover

Just for fun, since the art show I just saw included Oceanic art and some work by Gauguin that shows how he was influenced by that art , here is what the cover of Lime Green News #2 looked like. I took a postcard with rubber stamped art work that I liked from another mail artist and taped down some sketches from my then-current Oceanic art history class. I drew and stamped crudely around the sketches and the postcard to make a cover. On the left is my original, on the right is a simulation of what the cover would have looked like after copying it on a black and white machine at the office supply superstore. I don’t know if I even have a printed version of this issue in my archives, I probably just have the original. At that time, if my memory is correct, I used to print about 10-15 copies just to trade with people.

What do Ross Perot and Oceanic art have to do with each other? I had no idea then and don’t now, but one thing I have not ever grown out of is making collages out of random things. Now I call it Art Journaling and use it as one of my artistic outlets since I don’t really try to make “Fine Art” type art any more. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas, I do, I just don’t see what good it would do for anybody. But I never know what older ideas I’m going to go back to!

The Film “Good Night and Good Luck” and Theories of Propaganda

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor but no corrections were made. I made a couple of minor formatting changes for online viewing, the printed version attempts to conform to MLA style. Comments on any of my blog posts are encouraged at any time and if you have critiques that would help me write better I especially would welcome those.


The Film “Good Night and Good Luck” and Theories of Propaganda

Propaganda is a communication strategy that aims to influence the ideas and behavior of people without the subjects being consciously aware they are being manipulated (Baran and Davis 43). 20th century theorists in the United States differentiated between different types of propaganda. White propaganda was defined as the suppression of some ideas in favor of other ideas favorable to the goals of the propagandist. Black propaganda was the deliberate spread of misinformation (Baran and Davis 43). Gray propaganda was defined as information that made no claims to being either true or false (Baran and Davis 44). White and Black in this context are old-fashioned terms that are not accepted today because they can give offense but at the time these theories were first promoted they were shortcuts for Good, Bad and ambiguous (Baran and Davis 44).

The effectiveness of propaganda had been demonstrated to the satisfaction of many elites and social theorists by the events of WWI and the rise of totalitarian governments in Europe by the 1930s. In the United States there was concern about whether democracy could survive when the world was full of enemies willing to use propaganda as a weapon (Baran and Davis 45-46).

New York Times columnist Walter Lippmann was one of those who advocated for the formation of an intelligence bureau that would disseminate information selected by scientific methods to be distributed to government decision makers and media (Baran and Davis 51). An example of opposition to Lippmann’s view was philosopher John Dewey who believed that education was the best defense against propaganda (Baran and Davis 51). The educational prophylactic approach as a guard against propaganda came to be known as media literacy (Baran and Davis 51).

World War II and the Cold War further encouraged mass society theorists who nurtured ambitions to control information for the public good, although a formal government intelligence agency for that purpose was not formed at that time (Baran and Davis 51). Limited-effects theory advocates conducted studies that gave them confidence that leaders and the public could mitigate the effects of Communist propaganda on average people. Senator Joseph McCarthy did not share that confidence. As an apparent mass society theory believer, in the 1950s he and his allies began a campaign to purge communists from the United States government and media which came to be known as the Red Scare (Baran and Davis 22).

The 2006 film “Good Night and Good Luck” is based on historic events and chronicles the public clash between journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator McCarthy (Clooney). George Clooney is the director of the film, the co-writer of the script and also stars as Murrow’s producer Fred Friendly. As depicted in the film, Murrow is host of a television news segment on CBS. He and and his team decide to produce a story about an Air Force officer who becomes collateral damage as a result of the Senator McCarthy’s anti-Communist actions. They fear McCarthy and his power to bring ruin to people by accusing them of being a Communist or associating with Communists. Because of their concerns about civil liberties they decide airing the story is worth the risk to themselves (IMDb.com, Inc.). Murrow is depicted as someone who is conscientious about avoiding factual errors, reporting both sides of the story, preserving his reputation as a serious newsman and taking the role of the media in a democracy very seriously (Clooney). Both antagonists try to use their best weapons to take down the other after the fight gets personal toward Murrow and some of his associates (Clooney).

George Clooney stated in an interview that his father was a news anchorman who greatly admired Edward R. Murrow (George Clooney Talks…). In another interview, Clooney told of sitting in on his news director father’s meetings and learning how to do his own news reading (Lear). Clooney looked up to his father for writing his own copy and insisting on sufficient sources for stories (Lear), qualities in common with his film’s depiction of Murrow (Clooney). Clooney admits to being concerned about being labeled a traitor and suffering a career backlash for speaking out against the US invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. He made “Good Night and Good Luck” when he did in response to things he was observing in post 9/11 America that reminded him of the McCarthy era and the Red Scare (Lear). Later in the interview Clooney states that he thinks the American people as a whole can understand subtleties in programming and don’t have to have their content simplified as much as the establishment thinks is necessary (Lear).

What attitudes about programming and propaganda does “Good Night and Good Luck” try to promote? The film ends with an excerpt from a famous speech that Edward R. Murrow delivered on Oct. 25, 1958 at the Radio Television News Directors Association convention (On October 15…).

A comparison of the onscreen version of the speech with a transcript of Edward R. Murrow’s speech in real life shows that while the onscreen speech has been severely truncated and rearranged, the main message behind the speech is intact (On October 15…, Clooney). The onscreen Edward R. Murrow (Clooney), the real life Edward R. Murrow (On October 15…) and George Clooney (Lear) himself all appear to support the premise that democracy is best preserved if the people are given a chance to consume news and information without having it selected or filtered by decision makers that know better than they what is good for them to hear. The film becomes a powerful argument for a media theory similar to that of John Dewey who believed that media should not be used to manipulate but to facilitate the free exchange of ideas (Baran and Davis 52).

Did director and writer Clooney make his film in a way that shows that he really believes in Murrow’s preferred approach? Some critics did examine whether the film attempted to manipulate the depiction of historic events in “Good Night and Good Luck”. Phillip Lopate includes in his review some mild criticism for film-making flourishes that increase Murrow’s heroic stature (Lopate 32). Reviewer Terry Teachout criticized the film for leaving out information showing that while many accusations of Communism were in reality false, some were not (Teachout 71). Thomas Doherty points out that several historic incidents were shown out of order and attacks on McCarthy that did not originate with Murrow were omitted from the film to give Murrow more credit for his victory over McCarthy than was actually due (Doherty 55). Clooney is also credited for giving nuance to some of the characters (Doherty 55) and including amounts of information and detail in the film that elevates it in quality from many other comparable products of his industry (Doherty 55, Klawans 48).

Clooney may have intentionally blended a benignly intended message about the role of the mass media as a source of information in a free society while simultaneously attempting to protect the interests of himself and his industry associates from the ill fates suffered by some of their on-screen counterparts (Clooney). If that was his goal, “Good Night and Good Luck” is an example of a skillful use of “White” propaganda (Baran and Davis 43, 56).

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Clooney, George, director. Good Night, and Good Luck. TVA Films, 2006.

Doherty, Thomas. “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Cineaste, vol. 31, no. 1, Winter 2005, pp. 53–56. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fah&AN=19418527&site=ehost-live. Accessed 7 September 2019.

“George Clooney Talks About Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck.” Watchr Media, 2005, movieweb.com/george-clooney-talks-about-edward-r-murrow-in-good-night-and-good-luck/. Accessed 6 September 2019.

IMDb.com, Inc., 2019, www.imdb.com/title/tt0433383/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ql_stry_2. Accessed 6 September 2019.

Klawans, Stuart. “Lessons of Darkness.” Nation, vol. 281, no. 13, Oct. 2005, pp. 48–52. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=18506171&site=ehost-live. Accessed 7 September 2019.

Lear, Norman. “George Clooney.” Interview Magazine, 2012, www.interviewmagazine.com/film/george-clooney. Accessed 6 September 2019.

Lopate, Phillip. “The Medium and Its Conscience.” Film Comment, vol. 41, no. 3, Sept. 2005, pp. 30–37. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aft&AN=504082227&site=ehost-live. Accessed 7 September 2019.

“On October 15, 1958, veteran broadcaster Edward R. Murrow delivered his famous “wires and lights in a box” speech before attendees of the RTDNA (then RTNDA) convention.” Radio Television Digital News Association, 2019, www.rtdna.org/content/edward_r_murrow_s_1958_wires_lights_in_a_box_speech. Accessed 6 September 2019.

Teachout, Terry. “Journalism, Hollywood-Style.” Commentary, vol. 120, no. 5, Dec. 2005, pp. 69–72. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=18962558&site=ehost-live. Accessed 7 September 2019.


Unused interesting links: These are links that I found while researching the above that I did not use in my paper. They might be interesting reading for anyone who read my above paper and is interested in the topic(s).

“A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” – Transcript of the March 9, 1954 See it Now broadcast

Joseph R. McCarthy – Prosecution of E.R. Murrow on CBS’ “See It Now” – transcript and video of McCarthy’s response

Edward R. Murrow – Response to Senator Joe McCarthy on CBS’ See It Now – Transcript and video of Murrow responding to McCarthy on April 13, 1954.

Poll: 73 Percent of Republican Students Have Hidden Their Politics over Fears about Grades

Edward R. Movie. Good Night, and Good Luck and bad history.

George Clooney Biography

George Clooney (and his dad) vs. George W. Bush

George Clooney: Neocon

Hollywood and the Iraq War

“Good Night, And Good Luck”: PE Interviews George Clooney And Grant Heslov

Washington’s Hollow Men

‘Agent of influence’

Popular And Elite Culture

Elite Culture

Pity the Postmodern Cultural Elite

Mass Society Theory Still Influences Media Use in the Contemporary United States

Here is my first paper for my Media Communication class, MEDC: 5000-01, with Professor Robert Dixon at Webster University.

The reason I chose this topic for my first paper is the authors of our textbook, Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future by Stanley J. Baran and
Dennis K. Davis said that Mass Society Theory does not hold up to scientific studies but it does resurface again and again during turbulent times. I will define Mass Society
Theory toward the beginning of the paper. This information is very interesting to me because I can think of many times in my life that I have behaved as though I believe in it even though I was not familiar with the name of the theory. My parents also behaved as though they fully accepted it. I did an informal un-scientific poll while I was working this paper by asking people in my life if they think the media has a major influence on our society. Some said they believed the effects varied depending on how you react to it but all I talked to agreed it had some influence and some thought it was a major influence. In the class I’m taking now we are not going to be doing our own data collecting, we are going to be using data already collected, but if data collecting and polls were part of this class I know some I’d like to do! I certainly know how to do online polls technically but I don’t have any training in how to do them scientifically (yet).

This paper was difficult to wrap up because I kept finding more and more fascinating pieces of information and I couldn’t fit them all in because it would take me off topic and make the paper too long for the assignment. After the paper, I’m including links to some of the interesting tidbits I found but did not use at this time in case you want to do some more reading. Some of these sources or ideas might be things I come back to in the future but either way they are interesting and I think anyone who enjoys the topic enough to keep reading after my paper might find them useful.

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading and corrections from the Professor. He had three formatting/citation changes he wanted me to do but the content was not changed before uploading. One of the main objectives of this class is to learn how to write at the graduate level in an academic style. I made a couple of minor formatting changes for online viewing, the printed version attempts to conform to MLA style. Comments on any of my blog posts are encouraged at any time and if you have any critiques that would help me write better I especially would welcome those.


Mass Society Theory Still Influences Media Use in the Contemporary United States

When mass communication products and ready audiences were first brought together by industrialization in the Western world, the changes that occurred were examined by social theorists of the day. Some were optimistic about the potential for information to improve the human condition while others warned of resulting unrest and moral degeneracy. Many believed that people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum were particularly vulnerable to manipulation by the popular media of the day, which included advertising and sensational journalism (Baran and Davis 20-21).

As the halfway point of the 20th Century approached, some researchers attempted to test mass society theory using scientific methods. Many of these researchers concluded that the data did not support mass society theory media after all. Their interpretation came to be known as limited-effects theory (Baran and Davis 22).

Postpositivist researchers, that is researchers who use scientific methods to gather data, left mass society theory behind as the century progressed in favor of newer media theories or other research fields entirely (Baran and Davis 14, 23). In addition, mass society theories lost favor in academic circles because they were associated with the Red Scare of the 1950s headed by Senator Joseph McCarthy in his attempt to prevent Americans from being influenced by Communist ideas (Baran and Davis 22).

Baran and Davis believe that mass society theory is not valid but acknowledge that it keeps popping up again and again as technology and society go through unsettling changes (Baran and Davis 20). Are there examples we can see in the recent history of the United States that show that many mass media consumers and creators still accept mass society theory as credible?

Baran and Davis compared the early 21st century to the late 19th century as times when new technologies spurred the creation of new media institutions (Baran and Davis 27). The technological revolution brought about by rapid adoption of the World Wide Web in the 1990s and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred close together in history. Either of these injections of instability would by themselves be presumed by Baran and Davis to bring about the re-examination of media theories (Baran and Davis xvi).

A 2002 article by Robin R. Means Coleman, “Prospects for Locating Racial Democracy in Media: The NAACP Network Television Boycott” illustrates at that time some media users still accepted mass society theory enough to take some kind of action against the “old media” while others were examining how the “new media” might be more effective. Included in the article is an account of the early 2000s NAACP boycott of major television networks motivated partially on the grounds that under-representative or negative portrayals of African Americans in entertainment have a detrimental effect on the real-life conditions of African Americans (Coleman 25). The author includes quotes from members of the public obtained from a 2001 poll on the NAACP web site about whether such a boycott is worthwhile. Three individuals quoted are skeptical about whether it makes any difference while another is supportive but wants to explore ways to make the effort more effective (Coleman 26-27). It’s not stated whether skepticism is the dominant opinion in the totality of the public’s responses that were not highlighted. As the author points out in the footnotes, the comments were not obtained under controlled conditions (Coleman 30).

Does the NAACP still consider portrayals of African Americans in mass entertainment as significant? The NAACP current web site contains eight categories of issues of current interest. Media Diversity is one of the categories. On the Media Diversity page, the NAACP reminds readers that the organization has been fighting racial stereotypes since the notorious 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” (Media Diversity). In 1915 the mass society theory would have been the dominant theory as the limited-effects trend in mass communication theory did not start to take hold until the late 1930s (Baran and Davis 20-21). The mass society theory still seems to have some traction with the NAACP in 2019 as they maintain a Hollywood Bureau which promotes economic opportunities for African Americans as well as encouraging and showcasing positive images (Media Diversity).

The NAACP is not alone. There are many other instances of behavior that indicate activist media users are working hard to combat what they see as the detrimental effects of mass communication. Elites who incline toward mass society theory but have diverse political views have the following in common – they believe they know better than the average person what ideas are ok for public consumption (Baran and Davis 21). According to the article “The Business of Boycotting: Having Your Chicken and Eating It Too”, boycotts can be used to coerce behavior by inflicting economic damage (Tomhave and Vopat 126). That is not the only motivation for boycotting. The aim behind some boycotts is to silence certain views (Tomhave and Vopat 125).

Searches for “right wing boycott list” and “left wing boycott list” on the search engine Bing performed on August 31, 2019 produced examples of lists of organizations that consumers are urged to boycott for political reasons.

Regardless of whether the proposed boycotts bring about the desired outcome, the advocacy of such boycotts in recent history demonstrates that mass society theory still has traction among a non-scientific sampling of activists.

The consumer side of information also appears to still give some credence to mass society theory. Most Americans report that they have encountered fake or made up news and have modified their own information consumption habits to compensate (Pew Research Center 3, 21). 50% believe false news and information is a bigger problem for the United States than violent crime, racism, illegal immigration, terrorism and sexism (Pew Research Center 11). Americans consistently rate themselves as better than most other Americans at detecting misinformation in several categories (Pew Research Center 25).

It appears as though mass society theories are still considered useful to some consumers and those attempting to influence the masses. According to Baran and Davis this condition is to be expected when society and technology are changing at a rapid pace (20).

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Coleman, Robin R. Means. “Prospects for Locating Racial Democracy in Media: The NAACP Network Television Boycott.” Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, vol. 3, no. 2, Spring 2002, pp. 25-31. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=10512976&site=ehost-live. Accessed 31 August 2019.

“Media Diversity.” NAACP, 2019, www.naacp.org/issues/media-diversity/. Accessed 31 August 2019.

Official Boycott List For Conservatives, 2018, www.boycottleftwingers.com/. Accessed 31 August 2019.

Pew Research Center. “Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed”, 2019, www.journalism.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2019/06/PJ_2019.06.05_Misinformation_FINAL-1.pdf. Accessed 31 August 2019.

Tomhave, Alan, and Mark Vopat. “The Business of Boycotting: Having Your Chicken and Eating It Too.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 152, no. 1, Sept. 2018, pp. 123-132. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10551-016-3336-y. Accessed 31 August 2019.

Warde, Samuel. “List of Companies Supporting Right-Wing Causes To Boycott.” Liberals Unite, 2016, samuel-warde.com/2016/05/list-companies-supporting-right-wing-causes/. Accessed 31 August 2019.


Unused interesting links: – food for thought, no promises made about objectivity or veracity.

Bad News – a game that lets you play media manipulator. Challenge your friends! Can’t wait to try this!!!!

Republicans fear prejudice on campus – an experiment was done to test the political climate at the University where I am studying. This article was published on the campus newspaper web site.

You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You?

Why do people believe the mass media, instead of their own knowledge and experience?

Teaching Media Literacy: Its Importance and 10 Engaging Activities [+ Downloadable List]

The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies

Law & Liberty

Medium

Flash Cards: Baran and Davis, Chapter 1

stlmedia.net

Why It’s Prime to Boycott Amazon – they want to boycott Amazon and Whole Foods, and a box at the top says they want to stop Google from boycotting them – interesting!

Facebook flags users who try to ‘game’ fact-checking effort

Facebook to tighten political ad rules for 2019 elections

Wordplay persuades for customer reviews of truffles, but not laundry detergent

Online reviews: When do negative opinions boost sales?

Why You Should Stop Watching T.V. and What to Replace it With

Big Sponsors Drop Support of Tasteless Trump Assassination Play

SocialBook Blog

I am a Gorlok!

gorlock_coloring_web

That’s the mascot of Webster University where I just started to work on a Master’s Degree in Marketing and Advertising Communications. I had to look up what a Gorlok is – it’s a Cheetah/Buffalo/St. Bernard mix made up in the 1980s inspired by the intersection of Gore and Lockwood streets. I got the above coloring page in my welcome packet. It’s good to see adult coloring is still really popular! It always will be popular with me I think. However disloyal I’m afraid my favorite mascot will always be the University of American Samoa Land Crabs!

I’m going to be writing a lot of papers, so look for them to appear on this blog if they turn out well. I write all the time so thinking of something to write about does not scare me but it’s literally been decades since I tried to write in an academic style so that will be a bit of an adjustment. My first few papers will likely be dealing with some aspect of marketing theory. That might sound kind of dull at first but after giving it some thought, people and institutions make important decisions based on marketing theory all the time. In our culture we’ve been living with mass media for the entirety of our own lifetimes and so have multiple generations of our predecessors. Because of the type of work I’ve chosen to do, it’s obvious I think media is interesting, important, and influential. If I can learn and share some things about how to better understand this complicated culture we’ve created, I think that is worthwhile. I have to decide by tomorrow morning what the topic of my first paper is going to be. Some topics I’m kicking around in my head are:

  • How do people perceive the influence of media on their lives?
  • How important is media in decision making in certain groups of people?
  • Do people in our culture feel the need to protect themselves from the media?
  • Does the media manipulate or emotionally abuse us? If so, are people aware of it?
  • Does the media affect mental health?
  • How do people use media to achieve their goals or add meaning to their lives?
  • Do people see themselves as active or passive media consumers?
  • What factors make a person an active or passive media consumer?
  • How do people determine what media is trustworthy?
  • How do people take control of media in their lives?
  • What makes certain forms of media fall in and out of favor?
  • How do people think media affects other people?
  • Do people have different perceptions of how the news media should conduct itself depending on political affiliation?
  • Do social scientists follow different theories of mass communications depending on political affiliation?
  • Do people in the United States feel that the mass media supports democracy?
  • Do people in the United States feel that the mass media should support democracy?

As you can see I won’t have any trouble thinking of something interesting to explore. What I will have trouble with is making it fit into a three page paper!

Although I am out of practice in academic writing, I’m not out of practice in being a student. It’s been 26 years since I’ve received my B.F.A. degree but in the meantime I’ve taken numerous Continuing Ed classes and worked in jobs that required constant learning of new material. When I studied for my Master Gardener certification in 2016, that sharpened my mind quite a bit because I had to get used to studying for tests again. Tips we were given in class about helpful technology made that pursuit easier than it used to be. Being tech and media savvy are big help when you’re a returning student as well as in life in general. When I graduated from St. Louis Community College with my A.A. degree, I was the commencement speaker. I haven’t re-read my speech since I gave it because I don’t remember it as being very good and I don’t want to cringe! Some of my writing from that time I still like but I don’t know about that one! My overall theme however, to encourage lifelong learning and to not stop after you graduate, was something I was passionate about and at least following my own advice in that instance has served me well. I’m still passionate about it and that is why I love to learn and to teach.