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American Media and Why Americans Can Be So Uninformed . The Impact of the Various Media. Decoding the message Visual Images Still images Moving images Aural messages Drama series--Dicky, Dick, Dickens Written messages. Can the Media Manipulate. Visual manipulation Subliminal affect

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The Impact of the Various Media

  • Decoding the message

    • Visual Images

      • Still images

      • Moving images

    • Aural messages

      • Drama series--Dicky, Dick, Dickens

    • Written messages


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Can the Media Manipulate

  • Visual manipulation

    • Subliminal affect

    • Fantasy creation

  • Aural manipulation

    • Music and consumer behavior

  • Written manipulation

    • Loaded vocabulary


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The Concentration of Power in American Media

  • Rupert Murdoch

    • Censorship—”Stupid White Men”

  • NBC—General Electric

  • CBS—Disney

  • ABC—Viacom

  • CNN—Times Warner

  • Knight Ridder—owns over 50 newspapers


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Uninformed Americans

  • Students at prestigious universities scored 53% on a high school level multiple choice test—ex. When was the Civil War?

  • 40% could not name the Vice-President

  • 11% read a daily newspaper

  • 44 million are functionally illiterate

  • Most Americans get their news on TV

    • Read books 99 hours/yr watch TV 1460 hours


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The Media as the Fourth Branch of Government

  • The Media’s functions are:

    • To provide the public with adequate information to make informed political choices

    • To watchdog the political process and keep politicians accountable to the public

    • To raise political issues

  • The question is whether the American media is fulfilling this goal.


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The Necessity of Having Media Which Fulfills this Role

  • Abu Ghraib,

  • Guantanamo,

  • War in Iraq: WMD and al-Qaeda connection

  • The Carlyle Group

  • Global Warming

  • Enron

  • Abuse of civil rights & the Patriot Act

    • George Bush described the Constitution as “a goddamned piece of paper.”

    • "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war.“— Leak to the NY Times/surveillance

  • The Wilson-Plame case

  • Planting news and journalists


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American media

  • The historical background

  • The good news

    • PBS

    • The New York Times/Washington Post (sometimes)

  • The bad news (sometimes)

    • The Networks—CBS, NBC, ABC

    • Local newspapers

  • The horrible news

    • Fox, talk radio & government disinformation


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Historical background

  • The Puritan influence

    • A city on a hill—the new society as a beacon to the world

    • Good vs. evil

    • Right thinking and conformity (un-Americanism??)—Do Americans want to be informed?

    • “One nation under God”

      • Senate 99-0

      • House 417-3


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Historical background

  • The American Dream

    • Hope for the downtrodden and a source of optimism (blind optimism??)

    • A belief that the individual is responsible for his own fate and should chart his own course.

      • “There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families”—Margaret Thatcher

      • Can a nation chart its own course and disregard a global context?


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Historical Justification for “A City on a Hill”

  • “Give us your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses, yearning to breath free.”

    • The USA provided refuge and opportunity for 40 million Europeans from 1825-1925.

  • The USA experienced the greatest industrial expansion the world has ever known.

  • The USA saved Europe twice.

  • The Marshall Plan, the UN, NATO


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Historical background

  • The American Dream

  • Do we believe in the rightness of our country and our right to chart are own course to the point that we become totally uncritical to the direction of that course and its consequences?

  • You are either with us or against us.

    The impact of 9/11

    Is being critical, being un-American?

    • How much do we want to know from people who are against us including the media?


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The aftermath of 9/11

  • What were the two most bought items the days after 9/11?

  • Up until 2004,47% of Americans polled felt that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attack and 74% felt that he had connections with al-Qaeda.


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Broadcast Decency Act

  • Bans nudity and profanity on TV

  • The fine is up to $325,000 per incident

  • The outcry after Janet Jackson’s breast exposure during the Super Bowl half-time show led to this legislation.

  • Cable and satellite stations do not face such restriction.

  • Some “live shows” are delayed to allow censorship

  • Some TV hosts have been fired due to profanity.


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Profanity and Nudity

  • What is profanity?

    • Bono’s exclamation on winning the Golden Globe award, “It’s fucking brilliant,” was declared not profane as it had nothing to do with sex. Is sex profane??

  • Are TV stations speculating in sex and profanity to increase the dosage to keep their audience or are they simply a reflection of real life? How real life is “Sex in the City?”


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Enter commercial media

  • BBC’s governor once said: “BBC should provide the programming that people should want to watch.”

  • What is the goal of American commercial media?

    • Providing the programming and information that people want to watch???


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Conclusion

  • An uncritical belief in the rightness of America and its right to do (just as it is the right of all right-thinking individuals) to do just what it wants (naturally with the grace of God).

  • The sense that you are either with us or against us and in “times of war” we need to employ extreme means.

    • “It’s a shame that the press disclosed our surveillance activities because that aids the enemy.”—G.W. Bush

    • Pressure on the press to present the right version.


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The good news

  • PBS—Public Broadcasting Service

    • Independent stations which cooperate in program sharing

    • Funded by viewer and foundation donations

      • Non-commercial

    • Culture, news, documentaries, series and debate

      • The best visual source of information—equals BBC


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More good news

  • NPR—National Public Radio

    • Independent stations which cooperate in program sharing

    • Funded by viewer and foundation donations

      • Non-commercial

    • Culture, news, documentaries, series and debate

      • The best aural source of information—equals BBC

      • Don’t miss “Prairie Home Companion”

      • Tuning in—NPR, NPR Everywhere (left hand column),

        NPR Worldwide


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Some good news

  • The NY Times and Washington Post

    • Critical journalism

    • Have disclosed Washington lies

      • But, sometimes they wait a bit too long

        • Surveillance scandal was known before the election 2004—why did they sit on it?

    • Limited circulation and appeals to an elite


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The Questionable News

  • 200 Christian TV channels

  • 1500 Christian radio stations

  • Questionable?

    • These stations are almost always fundamentalist and support the Christian right’s key issues such as Creationism, prayer in schools, and anti-gay and anti-abortion issues.

  • Where was the press 2008: rigged election


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The Bad News: FOX

  • The news is biased and verges on right-wing propaganda.

  • Fox has replaced the networks & CNN as the source of news for most Americans.

  • While 47% of those primarily receiving their news from NBC thought that there was a between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida, 74% of those primarily receiving their news from Fox thought the same.


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FOX

  • A FOX newscaster, Glen Beck said of Obama; ”he is a fascist, nazi and marxist.

  • Rush Limbaugh’s undeniable truths

    • ”The earth’s eco system is not fragile.”

    • ”Feminism was established as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”

  • These newscasters play on anti-intellectual and anti-government feelings


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Ann Coulteron FOX

  • “God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet—it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining, and stripping. “

  • Vester: You say you'd rather not talk to liberals at all?Coulter: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days.

  • My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.


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The Media Dilemma

  • The shift from the traditional media to the net.

    • Reliable newspapers such as NY Times and Washington Post are suffering what many paper versions are, declining circulation and profits—what will take over their role?

      • All sources on the net are not reliable

      • News on your cell may not be as in depth, nor will you take the time to read an in dept report—news on the go, is not as thorough.


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The Media Dilemma

  • New media outcompete traditional and often more in depth media such as quality newspapers

    • Facebook, computer games, chatting absorb time with little or no informative function except how drunk you got on Saturday and who broke up with whom.

    • Are the new media, ego focused rather than other forcused or are the interactive and inclusive?


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The New Media as a Democratic Force

  • Obama’s campaign brought millions into the loop and gave them a voice

  • Civil rights and consumer action groups can spread their message.

    • The straight party line has a competitor

  • Consumers can access information about products they are considering buying.


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Kinda bad news

  • The Networks (CBS, NBC & ABC)

    • Their ownership

      • The players, NBC (General Electric) , CBS (Viacom), ABC (Disney) Fox (Murdoch) CNN (Time Warner)

        • Corporation where the bottom line is the deciding factor

        • Entertainment is the focus on Viacom & Disney

      • They are intertwined owning stock in each other, do joint ventures & divide profits.

      • Vertically integrated squeezing out competitors.

      • News coverage is tending toward sensationalism

        • Crime in the U.S. went down 20%, but its coverage in the TV news media went up 600% recently.


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American TV

  • The networks’ focus--entertainment

    • Programming--the diet (talk, soap, action, news, public service, sports, sit-coms, games, documentaries)

    • The message

      • Competition

      • Style and status

      • Glamour and self-absorption

      • Crime—blacks, violence and fear

      • Middle class conformity—a non-critical orientation

      • Conspicuous consumption


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HBO and Quality TV

  • A new trend

  • HBO challenges standard American TV’s concept of infotainment based on standard scenarios.

  • Sex in the City, Six Feet Under, Sopranos all challenge not only American morality but success fixation which characterizes American TV.


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HBO’s Advantage

  • HBO is doing a disservice to its viewers and the American people by presenting polygamy as a valid lifestyle choice.—a statement by a conservative commentator

  • Unfortunately, “Big Love” has a better chance at survival than “Daniel,” because HBO doesn’t have advertisers to answer to.

    • If subscribers want it, they can get it without the station fearing reprisals by sponsors.

    • Sponsorship flatten and waters down the message.


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American Films

  • The original purpose—maintaining the Am. Dream

  • Film scenarios today

    • The struggling loner

    • Success

    • The happy ending

    • Action and violence

    • Special effects—the spectacular


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American Films cont.

  • Pushing the button and getting a reaction

    • Sex, violence, action, control & glamour

  • Films are so expensive that they have to grab mass audiences.

    • Entertainment is valued at the expense of reflection.

    • Tied in to marketing schemes for products

      • Often the contracts with consumer goods producers insure the financial success of the film.


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Local press

  • Most mid-sized towns and almost all small towns have only one newspaper.

    • The local editor has a monopoly on the news

    • The news is often limited to at best local and national news.

      • The smaller the town, the greater the focus on local news.

  • Little latitude for liberal thinking.

    • Subscribers cancel their subscription.



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The horrible news

  • Talk shows

    • Anti-government attitude

      • Conspiracy combined with sensationalism.

      • The more controversy, the greater the ratings

      • Right-wing emphasis

      • The overwhelming majority of the hosts

        • Rush Limbaugh & Ann Coulter

          • 600 radio stations broad cast Limbaugh to between 15-20 million Americans

          • 35 undeniable truths

          • Ronald Reagan was the U.S.’s best president

          • The earth’s eco-system is not fragile

          • Feminism was established as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society


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American Advertising

  • A reflection of American values

    • Appeals to self-images: Sexines, power, control, smarts, carefree life, popularity, happiness and status

  • Life style: The Coca Cola life style

    • Coke redefined Santa Claus

  • Mono-culture

  • Americans have seen ½ million TV ads by the time they are 18. Ads can be shown every 8 min.

  • Impact world wide--Americanization?


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Advertising

  • The U.S. economy is dependent on personal consumption

    • It represents 2/3 of the GDP and 2/3 of production goes to this market.

  • Goals

    • Need creation

    • Insecurity creation

    • Image reinforcement

    • Consumption as a joy and a necessity


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Advertising’s Negative Impact

  • After WW II the American economy expanded

    • A new working class with rising incomes emerged

    • ”Keeping up with the Joneses”

      • An extension of ”conspicuous consumption.”

      • We are what we own and our status is reflected in what we can buy.


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Advertising’s Negative Impact

  • Advertising quickly inspired the working and middle class to use the increasing income to consume.

  • However, from 1973 to the present, real wages have declined, but encouraged by advertising, consumption continued.

    • How: credit cards

    • Consumer debt in the U.S. is $2.5 trillion, but falling due to increased savings=stagnation


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The Ads

  • The excitement of consumption

    • The announcer’s voice

    • Being blasted with the necessity of having the product.

  • The necessity of having the latest product

    • The ring about the block in Cambridge, Mass to buy the latest sneekers.

    • Lines to buy the latest video games

  • Keying ads to selected programs


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PoliticalAds

  • Candidates spend hundreds of billions of $

    • Makes them dependent on donors, many of whom expect something for their investment.

      • Politicians get tied to special interests.

      • Obama avoided this somewhat buy appealing for small donations through internet

  • Dumbing down

    • What political message can be sent in 30 seconds? Image creation rather than facts.


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Conclusion

  • The best and the worst

  • Infotainment

  • The 4th pillar of government

  • The dangerous gap between power and information


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The video clips

  • Attack TV

  • Political coverage—The networks

    • Scandal and sensationalism

    • Winners and losers, but no detail

  • Distortion--Fox


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