What I’m Reading: Self-Mediation

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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.

Self-Mediation: New Media, Citizenship and Civil Selves is a collection of essays studying an analysing the rise of social media in the daily lives of people around the world, and how this new form of media is allowing otherwise oppressed voices to speak out. Of course, this rise has also come with new oppressions and also self-conscious displays of a new form of aesthetic.

I chose two essays: Greg Myers’ “Stance-taking and public discussion in blogs” and Lilie Chouliaraki’s “Ordinary Witnessing in post-television news: towards a new moral imagination.” In Myers’ essay, he writes that blogging, which is seen as independent from traditional media, is “not independent of prevailing ideologies and institutionally organised campaigns” (Myers 2012, pg 56). This means that a blog writer, though writing independently, brings their own ideals, morals and ethical beliefs into every post. Myers also quantifies words that are considered stance taking, ironic takes in comments and more conversational style of writing (2012). He uses the speech analysis software called WMatrix to pore over 50,000 words collected over five blogs, with comments included. Looking at comments on a blog can be particularly insightful, but only to a point; as Myers says, comments tend to go off-topic, either deliberately or by “gradual mutation” (2012, pg 57). Commentators also tend to use irony in their comments, in order to throw something they see as incongruous into relief or as a mocking strategy (Myers 2012). Myers’ essay will help me in quantifying and sorting words in the conservative media that I will be reading.

In Chouliaraki’s essay, she writes about mass media and its growing reliance on direct witnesses (2012). She argues that whilst this direct witnessing gives audience members “potential to care” (Chouliaraki 2012 pg 113), most of the direct witnesses are still part of the powerful majority or some way part of an existed power structure. So instead of the victims’ voices, we hear from the NGOs who are ‘saving’ them. There is also a lack of objectivity in order to be the first source on television or other forms of mass and social media (Chouliaraki 2012). Chouliaraki also points out that in order to be first, there is no time to analyse or deconstruct the history or reasons behind certain disasters (2012). This is especially true when natural disasters hit former colonies that have been stripped of most of their resources by their colonial powers.

Both of these essays offer valuable insight into the language usage in current mass media, whether traditional or social. As I am not a conservative media consumer, Myers’ essay will help me decipher stylistic usage, and Chiouliaraki’s will support my findings of non-objective witness reporting.

photo: geralt

What I’m reading this week: 26 February 2016

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This week I’ve been terribly busy with work, where I’ve had three football (soccer) matches this week and oral exams. Of course this means my reading has been done in the morning during planning/at lunch.

I’ve been worried politically about two things: Donald Trump and the Brexit; of course I’ve been reading about other things. But, to the things I’m worried about first. Donald Trump’s rise is not only of national importance, but internationally as well. Libération has a story about Trump from , entitled Trump, du cauchemar à la réalité (Trump, from nightmare to reality – article is in French) if that tells you what most French people feel about him. I always enjoy reading articles about America from the perspective of other nations.

Election season seems interminable here in the United States, especially so since President Obama is on his second and final term. This means the race is wide open, and so has begun in 2014. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben writes an article about the laws governing how short elections can be. The length of campaigns goes from Japan’s paltry twelve days, to the USA’s ridiculous 877 days. I don’t mind Britain’s 139 days, or nineteen weeks, though some Brits might disagree with me.

Heading back to the European Union for a moment. Many countries in the EU have much stricter laws governing speech. Stricter laws cropping up after terrorist attacks are being too widely applied, according to civil rights groups. Spain and France are some of the worst offenders of this ‘strengthening’ of laws, according to an article by Raphael Minder at The New York Times. Whilst I don’t mind some of the restrictions against freedom of speech, like Germany and France banning Holocaust deniers, there are moments when it goes too far. Freedom of speech is definitely a complicated thing.

The refugee crisis has brought out some of the worst in human nature. The Swedish Metro‘s Evelina Pålsson wrote an article about some refugees paying for contracts to rent flats (sometimes up to 70.000 SEK or 8200 USD) and being locked out of their flats. I’m not sure why people are so awful, but this is a reminder that there are people in the world that will take advantage of the desperation of the worst-off among us.

And my last worry is the Brexit; there will be much arguing and debate before the 23rd June referendum. The BBC shares an article about an important facet of the argument: the economy. Most arguments for staying in the EU revolve around it, and many British companies wrote a letter to say that ‘an EU exit would deter investment in the UK.’ What the voters believe is not up to them. We shall wait and see, of course.

Until next week. – SDM

Photo by Stefan Schweihofer

The Road to My Political Destinations

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The very first car I can remember being in is my father’s Volvo. I’m not sure where we were. The thing about remembering is that memories very often smoosh together when trying to recall them later.

My parents had eclectic musical tastes. My father made tapes for our drives across Europe; I remember listening to Billy Joel and Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and Cyndi Lauper. I don’t remember ever listening to the radio. Talk radio was clearly out of the picture then.

My father did not vote. He had never registered. He also never discusses politics with me unless it is about poverty and the pervasive anti-Blackness in America. He does listen to a hell of a lot of music though, and reads voraciously.

When my parents divorced, my mother invited a family friend to move in with us to help with the bills and the rent. I’ll call her M. She was a friend of my father’s, I think. M was a military vet and was working for a rental car company, and then John Deere. She was tall and funny and masculine. (She passed away in 2010, of a very aggressive form of cancer.)

M listened exclusively to talk radio on WGAC 580 AM whilst driving. She was a chauffeur for mum and me, before I got my own car, and so we heard it all. I didn’t really know how vitriolic Rush Limbaugh actually was, or how toxic his language was, but his over-the-top conservative language was entertaining, at least, and Kim Kommando’s computer show was informative. I supported Bush, I think, probably because of my constant exposure to Limbaugh and his ilk.

When M didn’t feel like listening to AM radio, we listened to NPR/PRI, but only the BBC World Service and Rick Steves. Those were my first introductions to what I felt was America’s only unbiased news source (though that has changed somewhat now).

September 11th will be its own post in future, but talk radio reached a constant, interminable beat of war-drums after the attacks. I remember I wrote in my journal that it was ‘justice’ and not ‘revenge’ that were were seeking when we sent jets to Afghanistan. I regret this entry to this day.

When I finally got my own car, I remembered NPR had the BBC and put it on. I listened to it constantly, from the time I got into my car to the time I got out of it, even putting it on in my bedroom. I am not ashamed to admit that by the time Bush wanted to invade Iraq, I had become seriously disillusioned with Limbaugh’s bombast. I was too young to vote in 2000 (and would have probably voted for Bush), but in 2004 I sent in my vote from university. It was a proudly Democratic ticket, from the president down to the most ‘liberal’ propositions that my very conservative state had to offer.

I will not pretend to know why the things I listened to in the car had so much influence on my political life. It is probably just a bit of strange synchronicity, but I will not pretend that that early exposure to talk radio did not change me. And yes, I still listen to NPR exclusively in the car. The only time I hear Limbaugh is when he’s being played on various podcasts to be lambasted and torn apart–and good riddance to him.

Until next time, then. – SDM

Photo by Marek Kocjan