ICOM 892Session 2 Political Cultures & Public Opinion
Recent Events • We will be discussing recent events as examples. Please make sure you read newspapers and watch tv commentaries and that you understand what is going on. Focus on the public/diplomacy/p.r. aspects. • The recent World Youth Pilgrimage in in Sydney • China and the Olympics • Russia and Georgia plus US statements. • Israel/Palestine clash
Turnitin • Your assignment should be submitted both in a hard copy to me and also electronically through Turnitin. • You will receive an email from the SCMP ID coordinator early in the semester telling you how to register. Please keep a copy and refer to it when the time comes.
Readings • The work by Bluhm is interesting and those of you who are also doing ICOM815 will find it relevant, especially to our consideration of Western ideas on power. • You do not have to memorise everything in the readings. Just get the basic ideas. • For next week, pay particular attention to Mannheim’s model and agenda setting.
What do we mean by Political Culture? • There are many ways of organising human communities and the kind of political culture you have will affect both the states sending the message and those receiving • Political Culture is the way in which a community is organised politically and the ideology which supports that form of organisation. Bluhm (Ch,1 is interesting on the relationship between ideology and political culture) • This is related to hegemonic ideas and concepts of leadership – who is entitled to lead and why • People may take their ideas from political, social or religious leaders, sporting figures, pop stars and various forms of media. There may be others.
Some Political Cultures • Empires, kingdoms, dictatorships, oligarchies, democracies of various kinds may be based on personal, legal, religious or traditional values of one kind or another • Smaller entities may be contained within larger ones, eg Roman Empire, Ottoman & Austro-Hungarian empires • Primitive communities are small and may take decisions on consensus. Leaders are often war leaders or like Melanesian “big men”. As communities grow, leaders may be appointed through some form of inherited authority eg China, Europe. Larger societies may employ organised force through police or soldiers. • Economic systems can vary considerably and may or may not be related to the political culture
Authoritarian models • Most human societies throughout most of human history have been authoritarian; democracy is rare and new • Personal rule through force, the threat of force and/or traditional hegemonic values is probably the most common; most people obey the law because they think it is right to do so – only sometimes through fear • The classic model is the King or President surrounded by courtiers and appointed officials in the capital and the provinces. Challenges may come from others and the ruler must stay alert to stay alive. • Such rulers cannot ignore public opinion as Louis XVI of France and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia found out • Rulers can be murdered, dethroned in a palace/military coup or, less commonly, overthrown by a popular revolt
Closed societies • Where force, especially combined with ideology, is the major source of power, rulers are very sensitive to outside interference which may destabilise their rule. The people are fed like artificially grown mushrooms • North Korea (DPRK) and Stalin’s USSR are modern examples of closed societies where domestic propaganda is pervasive and foreign propaganda banned. Saudi Arabia probably is too • PRC and Vietnam began that way but are modifying. We will discuss PRC later.
Secular Dictatorship • Some examples are Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Suharto’s Indonesia, military rule in Burma, Latin American dictatorships • These tend to be low on ideology but the ruler is a father figure and saviour of the nation; they are usually based on force but people have some access to foreign ideas • Excellent fictional accounts are those by Latin American novelists such as Mario Várgas Llosa, Miguel Angel Astúrias & Gabriel García Márquez. Sometimes, as in the case of Iraq the ruler favours and is supported by an ethnic or other group (Sunni from Saddam’s tribe).
Fear and Force • The importance of political “freedom” to ordinary people can be overestimated. • People may be kept in check by force and fear but often they accept the system so long as it is not too oppressive. • The Roman formula of bread and circuses works just as well today. Security & prosperity are often seen as preferable to freedom and honest government. Frances Fukuyama was wrong.
Religion • Many dictatorships have been underpinned ideologically by religion but some are essentially theocratic states eg Iran (perhaps?), Saudi Arabia, the Papal States (Vatican), Tibet (before the Chinese takeover) • In others, religion has a special status, eg Israel, Franco’s Spain. Some of these accept differences within the society but not threats to the mainstream religion. UK has an established religion • Obviously any PR directed towards these places must take account of the dominant religion and its values or else it will be censored • Christian countries have traditionally been intolerant but the growing influence of secularism in Europe and its offshoots since the Enlightenment has greatly weakened the power of Christians. Nevertheless, they cannot be ignored eg while there is no legal reason why the president of the US must be Christian, all except one have been and I doubt that an avowed atheist could get elected. • What do the Americans in the class think of this last idea?
Islam • ”The Islamic notion of community or ummah has no equivalent in either Western thought or historical experience. The concept of ummah is conceived in a universal context and is not subject to territorial, linguistic, racial and nationalistic limitations… Sovereignty belongs to God and not to the state, ruler or people; therefore the concept of ummah is not synonymous with “the people”, “the nation” or “the state” which are the vocabulary of modern international relations…” (Hamid Mowlana) • This is a traditional view of Islam but, in practice, it is not always how it works. Turkey and Indonesia, for example, are secular states where most people are Muslim. Shiite Muslims do not accept Sunni views on who is the rightly guided Caliph. • Like every other system of belief, Islam is not monolithic.
Islam (2) • It is, however, important to understand the view that where (Western?) universal human rights clash with God’s law, then God must prevail over man’s law. This is also a traditional Christian view despite the theoretical difference implied in the Gospels (Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s). Separation of Church & State in reality is something quite new in Western societies • Moore: “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first” • How can unbelievers influence Muslim groups and societies? Should they try? Why? • Muslims or those from Muslim countries might talk to this item.
Marxism • Karl Marx preached the dictatorship of the proletariat where the exploited masses would overthrow the exploiting capitalists; this was historically inevitable but revolutionaries like V.I.Lenin and Mao Dze Tong helped the process along a bit. • The first Communist state, the USSR, failed. Cuba and DPRK exist but have been left behind. China and Vietnam are adapting their theoretically Marxist systems to a kind of hybrid capitalism. Where this will end up is not clear • Marxist systems have an ideology which in practice has tended to change into a kind of oligarchic dictatorship where propaganda reigns supreme
Marxism(2) • Marxist states tend to be strongly influenced by the traditional culture of that society. • China is the most interesting of these. The Red Guard phenomenon was a frenzied outburst like the French Revolution or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The Tian An Mien incident showed that the government would brook no opposition to its rule • Marxist cultures have command or supply driven economies instead of demand ones like capitalist societies – the market does not decide • Chinese students might like to lead discussion on China today
Democracy • Democracy was invented by the Ancient Greeks, failed, and then reappeared in France and the USA around the 1780s. It evolved in Britain before and after this and was taken up by a number of other countries early in the 1900s and then by many more in the second half of the 20th Century. Many of these later became dictatorships. • There are many models and it is probably better to speak of democratic features rather than “democracy” as if it were like pregnancy. For example, the USA shared with its Greek predecessor things which most modern democracies would find unacceptable: slavery, franchise restricted to men and an inferior status for conquered peoples (Indians aka native Americans)
Democracy (2) • Today, we tend to distinguish between presidential models like the USA and Westminster parliamentary models like UK & Australia. There are, however, many other models, eg France, Germany. • Another distinction is between federations of various sorts and unitary states • Most people have lived under non-democratic governments for most of human history and most probably still do. Many democrats believe in a kind of social Darwinism wherein Democracy is the most advanced and evolved form of government but this is not necessarily so
Features of democracies • The essential features are free elections at regular intervals which produce a government that rules according to a set of known rules. The judiciary may be appointed or elected but should be independent. The executive may or may not be separate from the lawmaking body. Freedom of expression and a free press are essential. In economics, they can be capitalist or socialist or a mix. They may or may not have a written constitution • Some people mix up democracy and modern views on human rights and other issues – democracies can be oppressive and aggressive
Features of Democracies (2) • The will of the majority can lead to persecution of minorities and views can change, eg homosexuality used to be illegal in Australia; now it is not. Divorce is illegal in some countries. • Lobby groups, religious beliefs, ethnic minorities, cultural values must all be taken into account. • Anyone who wants to influence democracies must understand how each system works. They are by no means all the same either in theory or in practice.
Mixed Systems • Many scholars (e.g. Harold Crouch) and others refer to countries like Singapore and even Malaysia as mixed systems. They are authoritarian in tone but not oppressive. They have widespread popular support or, at least, acquiescence • They have elections which are more or less free but there are restrictions on how oppositions parties can operate • The media is free on some issues but “guided” on others • In wartime, most democracies give up some freedoms if the country is threatened • In Malaysia you have a kind of voluntary apartheid where the races are separate but by agreement and consent.
General comments • Political cultures can be complex and can change. Military coups may take place or authoritarian systems may gradually democratise. eg UK & USA evolved from oligarchies to democracies • Ethnic and regional groups can be important even in nominally unitary states. In federations, you have to know what powers are where • Although we are talking about “political cultures”, the economic system can be an important feature of the political culture both in practice and in myths • The techniques you must use will vary from place to place depending on all the things we have looked at today. We will come back to this question in considering how to plan a campaign.
Political Culture & Public Opinion • There are probably fewer differences than we imagine but the expression of public opinion does vary in different political cultures • Each political culture tries to channel public opinion different ways and people may look at government differently • We will now turn to public opinion
What is Public Opinion? • There are many publics and many opinions even in the one country. • If we want to influence public opinion we must first decide what public we want to influence and what we want them to do • In authoritarian societies public opinion is less openly expressed but it still exists. • Now we look at attempts to define and measure public opinion and at the views of some very effective practitioners of the art of manipulating the public. Some of these practitioners were not very nice people, but they understood public opinion.
Some Comments • Public opinion is “an ill-defined, fluid, unmeasurable phenomenon” Michael Kunczik • “Government is nothing unless supported by public opinion” Napoleon Bonaparte • “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln • “The Public has neither shame nor gratitude” William Hazlitt • “When people have no other tyrant, their own public opinion becomes one”. E.G Bulwer-Lytton • Homines libenter id quod volunt credent (People believe what they want to). Julius Caesar. De Bello Gallico
Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf) • The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and these must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Hermann Göring (at his Nürnberg trial) • Naturally the common people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders…All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Domestic Public Opinion • People tend to come together during war, natural disasters or other major events; crowd psychology can affect public opinion • However, in normal times we find an enormous variety of opinions on all sorts of issues and opinions can change quickly • So, what is public opinion in Australia or the US about abortion or the war in Iraq? The war in Vietnam had overwhelming public support at first in both countries but was then opposed. • Groups influence their members, eg. Roman Catholics on abortion • Public pressure: it is hard to be the village atheist in a small, pious community where they burn witches.
International Public Opinion • Are there universal opinions on anything? Some people claim there are universal human rights but others dispute this • Kunczik: growing tendency for major newspapers to run the same stories and NGOs mobilise opinion in many countries • Davison: “People in several countries must give their attention to a given issue: they must have sufficient means of interacting so that common and mutually reinforcing attitudes can form; and there must be some mechanism through which shared attitudes can be transmitted into action”.
World Opinion • Kunczik says that whether or not world public opinion exists, what matters is whether politicians think it exists, cf Talleyrand, the “ethnic vote” domestically • Trans-national public opinion amongst elites or other minorities eg business, religious, occupation or ideology. • “Workers of the world unite!” Ummat, Christendom, Amnesty. Rotary ? These are international opinions or interest groups which cross national boundaries.
Measurement of Public Opinion • Can we measure public opinion? Your readings have some attempts to do this • Polling is a major industry but how accurate is it? • Sample, bias, statistical validity and what question you ask can give different results • Talkback radio, letters to newspapers and politicians, public demonstrations, others? • Lobby groups pressure decision makers by claiming to represent a certain vote, ie opinion • In a democracy, elections are the ultimate expression of public opinion but does that mean voters approve of everything the winning party wants to do? • Discuss
Media and Public Opinion • There is much debate on the influence of the media on public opinion and vice versa • We will come back to this question in Session 6 but clearly what the media selects affects what the public knows • On the other hand, politicians the media hates get elected. Do people believe what they read in the papers or watch on TV? • Can the media turn around strongly entrenched beliefs or does it reflect what it thinks people want to hear? Are media campaigns effective? • Are visual images more effective than print?
Control and Censorship • All governments try to influence public opinion but authoritarian ones do it more directly and more often • Censorship controls what the public can see or know about sex, politics, religion … • Advertisers can exercise censorship by refusing sponsorship; no dough, no show • Public Opinion exists in authoritarian societies but is harder to gauge, eg Soviet jokes- Pravda/Izvestia. You must be careful what you say and to whom. Media tells us what the party line is but not what people really believe.
Public Opinion & Foreign Policy • People do not know much about the world outside so the public depends on the media and to some extent on their government • We will discuss images next week and will look at the media later but it can be argued that media selection is more important in forming public opinion on foreign matters • The views of other countries (as reported) can influence domestic public opinion • Stereotypes, myths. History etc
Technology • Technology is affecting the way public opinion is formed. Public meetings and the print media are much less effective than before while TV is more effective • Visual images are more immediate, eg would WWI have lasted as long with T V? • TV has led to a short concentration span and over-simplification, especially of foreign events. • The internet provides greater access to information and opinion but who uses it for that? • Is it easier or harder to con the public? Are people more or less interested? Do people trust governments and media more or less than before?
Summing Up • Public Opinion is an elusive quantity which is appealed to often but harder to quantify • Some leaders have an instinctive ability to understand and direct public opinion(s) • There are many opinions and they can change; may be regional, ideological, etc • International public opinion is even more elusive than domestic but it can be said to exist in limited ways • Governments and others seek to control public opinion by controlling the flow and selection of information • Technology is having an effect, eg TV is more important than print, radio and personal appearance
Group Discussion • Discuss how public opinion in Australia and other countries has been affected by the Iraq war. • What is the role of the media and governments? • How has TV coverage affected perceptions?