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

What I’m Reading: The Spectatorship of Suffering

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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.

In Lilie Chouliaraki’s book The Spectatorship of Suffering, she discusses and analyses the various ways that Western spectators view suffering of a distant ‘Other’. Television and other forms of media has put a veneer of aesthetics over suffering, where there is a disconnect between the visualization of suffering and the actual reality of it (Chouliaraki 2006). In this age of hyper-visualisation, Chouliaraki says that “spectators today are not required to call on their capacities to create and interpret meaning” (2006: 51). This means that, like other parts of their lives, they are only consumers.

Chouliaraki defines three types of news reporting of disaster news: adventure news, emergency news and ecstatic news (2006). I concentrated on adventure news and emergency news, as my thesis will go over media coverage about the so called ‘migrant crisis’ and conservative immigration reform in the United States.

Chouliaraki defines adventure news as “news items that […] consist of random and isolated events” (2006: 97). In normal news, they are stories of tragedy that are told in a minute or so, and given no context. In this way, the spectator not only has no chance to feel pity, the sufferers are completely dehumanized (Chouliaraki 2006). Adventure news is categorised by three main themes:

  • descriptive narratives that register only ‘facts’
  • singular space-times that restrict the spectator’s proximity to suffering
  • the lack of agency that dehumanizes sufferers and suppresses the possibility of action in the scene of suffering (Chouliaraki 2006: 98)

Adventure news is especially prevalent in 30-minute news shows, where there are multiple bits of news to get through. These news stories are usually devoid of context and seemingly unconnected to any other events happening either at the same time, or historically (Chouliaraki 2006).

The other type of news I concentrated on was emergency news. Emergency news is news that demands action from the spectator, but not in any direct way (Chouliaraki 2006). In emergency news, the suffering is closer, both verbally and visually. Instead of static maps and lists of those killed or injured, there are dynamic images and videos that place the disaster in a specific time. Finally, the suffering a slightly humanised by their actions, however limited they may seem to Western spectators (Chouliaraki 2006).

Chouliaraki’s books are quite dense with complicated academic writing that can be intimidating, but the research and analysis is quite helpful, especially when deconstructing how news brings suffering to indifferent spectators. I hope, with my thesis, to create context for media’s impact on actual political policy.

photo: jane b

 

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: Language and Power

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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.

Critical discourse analysis is the study of language as social practice. The analysis is mostly leftist and oppositional. In Norman Fairclough’s book Language and Power (2015), he argues that language has been changed by a neoliberal, globalist and capitalist society in order to suppress resistance and individualise issues that are caused by social ills. This book will be particularly helpful in revealing how conservative media outlets in the United Kingdom, the United States and France control and constrain the audience (Fairclough 2015).

There are many ways media may control and constrain the discourse, especially in public, one-way communication such as TV broadcasts and newspaper articles, either by suppressing certain voices or placing more emphasis on ‘powerful’ voices (Fairclough 2015 and Bell 1991). One important way of suppressing certain voices is by creating a standard language and making anyone who does not speak that standard language seen as either less educated or less reliable (Fairclough 2015). Though Fairclough uses the example of Standard British English and Received Pronunciation (2015), this happens in the United States as well; African American Vernacular English [AAVE] is seen as non-standard and inferior. For French, the standard is the French spoken in France and not its former colonies; television news broadcasts will often put subtitles under people speaking non-standard French, though they may be perfectly understandable.

One way that capitalism has been particularly invasive and insidious is its use of social justice and change type language in order to sell a product. Most recently, Colin Kaepernick as the face of Nike and Kendall Jenner’s tone-deaf ad for Pepsi, the former hailed and the latter panned, has made consumerism a form of political discourse (Fairclough 2015). By building a certain ‘image’ of their company, these multi-national companies can hide behind language of resistance whilst creating more consumers for their products.

Social change in general has taken a blow by the creation of centre-left parties that have taken on neoliberal, capitalist ideals and deemphasising their pasts as socially progressive, anti-capitalist parties. Hence New Labour and New Democrats in the United Kingdom and the United States respectively and Emmanual Macron’s République en Marche (The Republic on the Move) in France. By erasing their more socialist pasts (or, in the United States’s case, completely switching ideologies after the Southern Democrats jumped ship after the Civil Rights amendment passed), these parties have capitulated to the idea that capitalism is the only way forward and so must work within that parameter (Fairclough 2015).

Fairclough’s book is going to be very helpful in dismantling the ways the news media has constructed the language surrounding the plight of the refugees and asylum seekers in the critical period of 2011-2016, and the current language of immigrants in general.

photo: Bruce Emmerling

What I’m Reading: The Language of News Media

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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.

Allan Bell’s book The Language of News Media was published in 1991, which means that it does not cover the explosion of the Internet, but the language used by news media actually has not changed much since the 1990s, so this book is still valuable. Media is organised in many different ways depends on type of media, but there are some similarities, such as the editors and journalists who generate and modify language (Bell 1991).

One spot that has weakened with the advent of the internet is something Bell calls disjunction and isolation (1991). Since news can be accessed anywhere with a decent digital signal, the audience can be both local and world-wide, and news can be accessed almost instantaneously.

Most helpfully, Bell writes about how news media manipulates time and location (1991). This is especially true in regards to the advent of ‘fake news’, where so-called bad actors use old pictures, or take video or audio out of context, or even completely edit video and images to prove some other point.

Media has become a globalised commodity and Bell’s explanation of how the traditional news media is structured is helpful, if outmoded. However, the language he describes is still used, even if it’s at an accelerated pace.

photo: Matthew Galbraith