What I’m Listening To: Best of the Left

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I am currently studying Religion in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University. As part of the literature course, our professor has asked us to write a bibliographical review of sources that we may use for our thesis. I have chosen to write my thesis on media and its effect on immigration policy. Therefore, I will be reviewing articles and books that focus mostly on the refugee crisis sparked in part by the Arab Spring movement in 2011.

The Best of the Left podcast is a twice-weekly podcast discussing American progressive political ideas. The podcast compiles clips from other left-wing podcasts around a central theme. Episode 972 discussed the Syrian refugee crisis, specifically America’s response to it. There was also some reaction the response of the American media.

In the first clip, Glenn Greenwald, speaking with Democracy Now, points out that Muslims should not feel obligated to condemn terrorist attacks, even though they definitely do (Best of the Left 2015).  Keith Ellison, the first Muslim US Congressman, condemned restrictions on Syrian refugees, arguing that America’s xenophobia aided recruitment amongst terrorist groups (Best of the Left 2015). Democracy Now also points out the parallels with Jewish refugees, calling the nativist response strange given the immigrant nature of the country (Best of the Left 2015).

In the second clip, The Young Turks describe the US screening process and how thorough it is, calling it more thorough than any other country (Best of the Left 2015). Another clip from the Young Turks points out that most victims of the attacks of Daesh are Muslim. For those government officials, calling for religious tests is called “unAmerican” (Best of the Left 2015).

Many of the arguments on this podcast were also made by John Oliver on his shows about the refugee crisis. These will pair well with the conservative media pieces I will have to read to prove my thesis.

photo: Jim Black

What I’m Reading: Political Discourse Analysis

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I am currently studying Religion in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University. As part of the literature course, our professor has asked us to write a bibliographical review of sources that we may use for our thesis. I have chosen to write my thesis on media and its effect on immigration policy. Therefore, I will be reviewing articles and books that focus mostly on the refugee crisis sparked in part by the Arab Spring movement in 2011.

Isabela and Norman Fairclough collaborated on Political Discourse Analysis: A Method for Advanced Studentsa new theory of discourse analysis that looks at politics as a deliberative method of creating action and not just a moral stance (Fairclough and Fairclough 2013).

Politics have become a major part of deciding how the world works. In Western, democratic governments, politics has been overtaken by the wishes of powerful people over the minority (Fairclough and Fairclough 2013); many times, decisions are made for expediency’s sake.  However, deliberative politics “involves weighing reasons in favour of one or several proposals and reasons against” (Fairclough and Fairclough 2013: 26). This may seem as though it is happening in democratic societies, but it is often difficult to do so and so, quick decisions take precedence over deliberative ones.

Fairclough and Fairclough argue that deliberative political decisions are only achieved when it “involves the participation of all those who will be affected by the decision,” which in turn “makes decisions legitimate and binding” (2013: 30).

Political discourse analysis is important for my thesis because it is important to see how political speech directly affects society, especially the speech during the refugee crisis and the Arab Spring movement directly before it.

photo: John Hain

What I’m Reading: Language and Globalization

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I am currently studying Religion in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University. As part of the literature course, our professor has asked us to write a bibliographical review of sources that we may use for our thesis. I have chosen to write my thesis on media and its effect on immigration policy. Therefore, I will be reviewing articles and books that focus mostly on the refugee crisis sparked in part by the Arab Spring movement in 2011.

Norman Fairclough’s Language and Globalization is a treatise on how language is being used to prop up neoliberal hegemony. Proponents of globalism conflate the idea of an increasingly connected world with the idea of free trade and low government interference.

Globalism and globalization are not the same thing: globalism is the neoliberal idea of capital moving freely around. According to Fairclough there are six tenets of the globalist idea (2007: 33); remember that globalization (the connectedness of the world) and globalism (capital moving across international borders) are two different ideas. However, in globalist texts, they are one and the same.

According to Fairclough “globalism can be seen as having created a space for unconstrained and highly profitable action on the part of the corporations of the most power countries on earth…on the basis of the claim that markets work benignly without external regulation which the crises of the late 1990s…have shown to be false” (2007: 34). Even the move from industry and manufacturing to the so-called Knowledge Based Economy has been described as inevitable, and globalists insist that there should be no regulations on this economy (Fairclough 2007).

So how has globalism affected media? Fairclough uses Chouliaraki’s ideas from her books to describe how globalism still paints news from a Western perspective, but he also points out that most Western news is controlled by Western multinational corporations (2007). Fairclough writes that “they have contributed to the dissemination of globalist discourse, claims and assumptions, and of the values, attitudes and identities which are culture conditions for the successful implementation of globalism” (2007: 85).

Knowing that media is affected by outside forces will help me be able to analyse the articles and videos that I am going to read for my thesis. Fairclough is a leading expert on critical discourse analysis, and his books will help me strengthen my arguments.

photo: Andras Barta

What I’m Reading: The Ironic Spectator

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I am currently studying Religion in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University. As part of the literature course, our professor has asked us to write a bibliographical review of sources that we may use for our thesis. I have chosen to write my thesis on media and its effect on immigration policy. Therefore, I will be reviewing articles and books that focus mostly on the refugee crisis sparked in part by the Arab Spring movement in 2011.

Lilie Chouliaraki’s book The Ironic Spectator analyses how solidarity has shifted from spiritual or revolutionary ideas to the performative aspects of therapy and aesthetics. I was most interested in her analysis of media’s influence on how we view suffering. As in her other two books (previously discussed here and here), there is a sense that media, whilst transformed by social media and easy access to technology, it is still constrained by old models of transmitting the news and centring it on Western sensibilities.

Chouliaraki describes the difference between spiritual solidarity, revolutionary solidarity and the post-modern “ironic solidarity” (2013). According to Chouliaraki, ironic solidarity ‘explicitly situates the pleasures of the self at the heart of moral action, thereby rendering solidarity a contingent ethics that no longer aspires to a reflexive engagement with the political conditions of human vulnerability’ (2013: 14). That is, instead of the solidarity of a group of religious cohorts or the solidarity of the proletariat, there is just the solidarity of pity or sympathy, without any religious or political support.

This new ironic solidarity is tied with the marketisation of humanitarian efforts. With the explosion of aid agencies, they must compete in capitalistic terms. So they must advertise themselves as if they were commodities by using tactics that cause the spectator to feel pity or sympathy; NGOs have become a brand (Chouliaraki 2013). However, these economic approaches completely gloss over the ‘”big picture” questions of injustice and redistribution that are specific to the contexts of development” (Chouliaraki 2013: 18).

Using media is the easiest way to market NGOs. By harnessing the new social aspects of mass media–that is, traditional media’s call for tweets, personal videos and personal testimonies–humanitarian agencies are basically given free commercial access (Chouliaraki 2013). However, media is still a moralising force throughout the world and in constant threat from authoritarian regimes and even capitalist market forces that choose what is important to Western spectators.

Like her other books, Chouliaraki analyses media sources in order to build her arguments, something that I hope to emulate well when it comes to my own thesis. Her books were helpful, although I did struggle with the sometimes dense, overly-academic language.

photo: Engin Akyurt