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: 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

#atoz: Something Rotten in these United States

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Change and innovation are part of the historical meme. Better, newer, faster is the constant drumbeat of American society. I am addicted to technology; I enjoy using it, and I’m sure that it would be hard readjusting to not having it. But I also enjoy preserving the connexions to our past. Just as people in Europe live in flats built in the 17th and 18th century and walk streets set down even further in the past, I want to be able to say my flat was built in the antebellum period, or that our library was built in the 1920s. However, historical preservation is on a local level, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is just not a priority.

But it is not even the historical preservation. We are destroying community in the race for profit. Small businesses are being swallowed whole by mega-corporations, and minority communities suffer from a lack of resources for many reasons, some malicious and some just through “tradition”, which can be just as malicious. And our infrastructure is crumbling: highways, bridges and rail-lines have not been updated since the 1950s, and some even longer.

To be “American” is not defined by being beholden to a certain set of core values and beliefs. Perhaps we have become integrated, but unlike the ideal “melting pot” of immigrants living beside each other, we are a mixed salad of things that, when put together, sometimes does not pair well. We cannot bond over a common heritage and history, so we should preserve the things we can.

We should not erase heritage and history, and if we continue building new without fixing what works, our foundations shall crumble, in more ways than one. – SDM

 

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by arutina

#atozchallenge: The American Oligarchy

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Euphemisms are the bastions of politics. So when political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page published their study in the Princeton University Press about oligarchy within the American politics*, they certainly don’t call it an oligarchy. They use economic elite domination. Which is exactly what an oligarchy is.

Oligarchy and kleptocracy (see my previous post on kleptocracy) are parasitic and vicious cycles: government hands its largesse to a select number of businesses, and those businesses then turn around and pressure or pay off government to get preferential treatment.

Only the largest and most egregious law-breakers are ever brought to media attention: AT&T, Comcast and in 2008, Lehman Brothers and its ilk. America is held hostage by the greed of these companies: there are de-facto monopolies in every industry and our regulatory agencies cannot stop them.

Before we point fingers and accuse our international compatriots of letting business, greed and graft control the political class, let us take a look at our long history of allowing the same in America, in the name of innovation.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by istara

#atozchallenge: Capitalism has Failed

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It is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money in and of itself. Hoarding it, refusing to spend it, refusing to pay taxes on it so that it may help others, is the love of it.

The re-distribution of wealth are the four most hated words in any crony capitalist society. ‘We earned it!’ cry the CEOs of Fortune-500 companies who have placed so little value on their workers. ‘If you weren’t so lazy you could be here too!’

The fact of the matter is the value placed on owning something is much higher than working for it. Therefore, a CEO obviously will make more than a shop assistant because we believe that having the company means more than working for it. And this model follows everywhere: the principal of a school makes more money for running the school/being ‘the face’ than a teacher does in the classroom.

And so, of course, money flows upwards. Those at the very, very bottom are left fighting for what is left over, and even those who do not place much value on money say ‘just work smarter, not harder and you can get to the top’.

Capitalism even at its purest is a terrible idea for any diverse society made up of people with different needs, wants and talents. Capitalism at its worst postulates that if you do not or cannot supply capital, you do not deserve to live. And in 21st century Western society, we see it happening: people who do not have capital die from a lack of it.

American and European societies are held at the echelon of what a ‘developed’ nation should look like. What is it, exactly? Mal-nourished children who are struggling in class because they’re hungry? Homeless veterans with no place to turn to receive aid for their PTSD? If we live in the greatest society, what then, is the worst? – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Joel Santana