A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 18, 2009

Media and Framing of Culture

This is a paper I authored analyzing an an ethnographic study performed concerning the media and cultural occlusion vis a vis The Vietnam War.

This paper is the intellectual property of the author and may not be utilized in any form without proper citations and/or permission of the author.

The Media as a Framer of Cultural Norms

 

            In society today, as well as in the past, there is a constant shifting of oppositional positions.  One of the major functions of the media is to inform the general public of the relevant issues which are parties to the constant stir in the social and political realm.  The media – whether in book, radio, television, daily publication, movies, and most recently in electronic weblogs (blogs) – serve a dual purpose in society as a reporter of the events, and also as a framer of the discussion regarding those events.  Media can by the sheer volume of their voice call attention to or occlude reality, and thereby frame a discussion or limit discussion by eliminating it from the public discourse.  A common perception is that the mass media is a vital player in the framer of societal norms, values within a culture which supersedes the framing role of the educational system, family system, and the political system.

            How the media frames a cultural curriculum was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War, and whether the history represented by the media formed a “collective memory”.  The study posed to answer the question how media and popular culture frame historical knowledge and how it is transmitted across generations. 

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era.  One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam.  Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era.  Each of these photographs had become iconic of the Vietnam War Era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers.  Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “A war without a reason”.

Using well documented photos, produced by the mass media, both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?”  Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. 

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall.  Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture.  All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial.  Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do.  For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past.  However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all.  The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam.  Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults.  Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon.  The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace.  Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”.  For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture.  Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might.  The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters.  One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. 

Interestingly, for the adults, while the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront.  One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement; while another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”.  Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”.  The young man is clean cut and wearing clean clothing with an overall appearance which does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s. 

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation.  The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies.  One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”.  This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. 

The majority of students were unable to interpret the photo.  One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served.  One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.  Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War.  More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality, as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.  However, the media through a repeated message – that the Vietnam War was without support and baseless – had constructed a framework of history apart from the reality of fact.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed by images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, such as Forrest Gump, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, which were frequently cited as sources of history.  Despite various ethnic and cultural variances, a consistent perception about the war had been formed in these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably more similar than those of their parents, who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point.  The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War.   In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters.  In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct and the largest framer of that occlusion has been the media.

The findings of this study have vast implications for the transmission of knowledge to a society by the media.  The demonstrated ability of mass media to control the flow of information, through a mode of entertainment, gives it the ability to form a cultural curriculum, and a view of historic events which may be anything but a view which is based upon the truth. 

The challenge facing educators is one of coalescence.   In many areas, in particular to this study, The Vietnam War, a common belief about the war has become imprinted upon the framework of the nation.  Any idea which challenges this view reached by occlusion, must take on a cognitive dissonance, which precludes any view other than the one which is currently held.  The common belief of a culture, particularly when spurious, must be challenged by other sources to allow students to use inductive reasoning to frame a true understanding of historical consciousness.  The real danger resides when educators themselves have bought into the common belief of history, which is often formed by ideology rather than reality, and are no longer capable of presenting historical information apart from the vantage point of merely spewing out what other sources have programmed them to say.

 

References

Wineburg, Sam; Mosborg, Susan; Porat, Dan; Duncan, Ariel; (2007). Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Conciousness. American Education Research Journal, Vol. 44, No 1. pp. 40-76.

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May 11, 2007

Cuba: Michael Moore a Victim of Censorship

From the Seattle Times

HAVANA — Cuba characterized American filmmaker Michael Moore as a victim of censorship and the U.S. trade embargo as it reported Friday on a U.S. Treasury Department probe of his March visit here for his upcoming health-care documentary, “Sicko.”

Now that is an endorsement that only someone who is a bit out of the mainstream could take pride in. Ahh, Michael, Michael, Michael, one can only hope that this gets much more exposure. If Karl Rove were giving you advice this couldn’t have been planned better for the RNC.

“Any resemblance to McCarthyism is no coincidence,” the newspaper opined, referring to the political witch hunt that U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy carried out against suspected American communists in the 1950s.

The U.S. government’s targeting of Moore “confirms the imperial philosophy of censorship” by American officials, it added.

“I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me – I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help,” Moore wrote in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. “But until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide.

We shall see, hopefully there is a long trial so you and your friends of the fringe can get LOTS of press coverage, because I honestly feel the best chance for the GOP is for you, who represent the DNC base is to speak. Loudly, clearly, and frequently.

May 9, 2007

Bush’s Approval Ratings SKYROCKET – Developing Trend?

I bet I got you on that one!

Recently I posted about Newsweek’s poll and its 28% approval rating for President Bush.  I stated the internals of the poll and showed the reasons why the 28% was not correct, as it oversampled registered Democrats by 50%.  I guess Newsweek counts on people NOT reading the fine print, which is why they are little more than a rag which appeals to the least intelligent part of the nation.

Opinion Research and CNN recently conducted a poll, and whie it may not have the Bush Administration singing for joy, it showed, like Rasmussen, that the President’s approval level is at 38%, or more than 25% higher than Newsweek’s biased poll.  The reason is simple, CNN did not overpoll Democrats, although there was a slightly higher number of Democrats than Republicans 454 to 414, this represents a 10% overpolling of Dems, which is slightly higher than the national average of voter registration.

What does it all mean, is it that the President is Rebounding?  No, it means when you put in garbage, you get out garbage.  The 38% is much more accurate of a view of the President’s ratings.  Newsweek I am actually becoming convinced, simply put out BS skewed data to better serve their Master, NBC news, which is hands down the “most” biased of all the newscasts.  MSNBC using the equivalent of a “Democratic Shock Jock”, Kieth Olberman, to be an anchor makes it very clear to see they are truly operating from a bias that makes FOX’s Conservative bias look mild.

May 8, 2007

Newsweek Poll – Bush Approval at 28% – Dem Candidates Trounce GOP

Results from the Newsweek Poll:

May 5, 2007 – It’s hard to say which is worse news for Republicans: that George W. Bush now has the worst approval rating of an American president in a generation, or that he seems to be dragging every ’08 Republican presidential candidate down with him. But According to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, the public’s approval of Bush has sunk to 28 percent, an all-time low for this president in our poll, and a point lower than Gallup recorded for his father at Bush Sr.’s nadir. The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979.

The poll goes on to show all Democratic candidates with fairly good leads over all combinations of GOP candidates, which is quite contradictory to all of the other polls being let out over the past few weeks. Another startling number was 71% of those polled felt the country was going down the wrong track. If all of these things are true, it would seem that the blue tide that came over the country in November was just a bit of undertow compared to a tsunami brewing in ’08. That may not be the case.

The mystery of polling is never to be discerned in the raw numbers, the factors that make up a poll are the way questions are framed, and who was asked the questions. The latter is always the most important, and this poll, registered Democrats composed nearly 50% more of the field than registered Republicans. While the Democrats do enjoy a slightly higher registration than Republicans, it is not a 50% majority.

Democrats were 36%
Republicans were 24%
Independents were 37%
Others/not interested were 3%

The polls sample was horrifically skewed. The poll also failed to expose demographics by age, gender or racial affiliation.

I’m not saying this poll is good news for the GOP, and anyone who has eyes which are open knows this, but this poll, is one of the worst constructed polls I have ever seen, and I’ve seen more than a few.

Rasmussen has been conducting tracking polls for years on daily approval, and Bush’s approval comes in between 37-40% the past week, which is a signficant difference. By the way, Rasmussen was very close on ’00 and hit ’04 and even the midterms dead on. He’s simply the best pollster out there, and his numbers show GOP candidates much closer than Newsweek’s poll.

This poll seems made for the MSM, particularly MSNBC. Now, I try not to complain too much about MSNBC’s bias, but remember Chris Matthews (former Carter Speechwriter, former Tip O’Neil aide, former Muskie and Moss aide) and Tim Russert (former aide to Mario Cuomo, and Sen. Moynihan – whom I happen to admire) bring a wee bit bias into their presentations. Newsweek’s editor, Howard Fineman is a regular contributor to their shows, as well as Kieth Olberman.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say that MSNBC is doing all the can to act as the Democratic Press Release Committee – but I guess that they would say the same thing about Fox.

🙂

May 4, 2007

GOP Debate: Forget “Who Won” – Who Lost? Answer Fred Thompson

Well, the snapshot GOP debate is over and rather than mull over who are the winners I’ll go out on a limb, and disagree with many blogs when I make this assertion, Fred Thompson is the Big Loser. You may argue, how could he lose, he wasn’t there. If you did that, you just gave the reason. His absence here was notable, and it will hurt him.

The adage of out of sight out of mind must be remembered. There will be some likely shifting in the polls from the debate. My feeling is that Romney will pick up a few points from his anemic 10%, but where will it come from is the important question. There are a few sources, but there is no bigger source than the non candidate Fred Thompson who is around 15% in most polls, and Former Speaker Newt Gingrich who has about 8%, but I don’t think Newt is a viable candidate and he’s smart enough to know that he can’t win. He’s far too polarizing a figure.

So, that makes Fred Thompson as the most likely source to lose support, and it will go to Mit Romney who spoke articulately and clearly on a number of positions. I also think that when the dust settles, it is not likely that Giuliani will lose any ground, and will probably pick up a few points. Senator McCain is also hard to figure. On the one hand he spoke his voice, but he also seemed edgy and a bit too agressive for the format. He constantly went over his time, and I have a feeling that the base, that isn’t too enamored with him as it is, and is looking for reasons to vote against him, which may be unfortunate, I see him staying pat, but Romney closing in, and possibly losing ground to Giuliani. He could find himself in third place after this debate, which would be a disaster for his campaign.

However, former Sen. Thompson’s non participation and non announcement reinforce a perception about a dispassionate person, who does not feel a fire to run. That doesn’t bode well, as people want a Chief Executive who wants to be there.

Survey USA Poll: Giuliani Beats Opponents in Debate

A poll of 317 viewers watching the debate were asked to rate the performance of the candidates:

Rudy Giuliani 30%
Mitt Romney 12%
John McCain 11%
Jim Gilmore 8%
Duncan Hunter 7%
Sam Brownback 4%
Mike Huckabee 4%
Tom Tancredo 4%
Ron Paul 2%
Tommy Thompson 2%

UPDATE: Drudge report is having an interactive poll, but it does allow for multiple voting, so pretty worthless.

The Debate: Who Won and Why?

You see the title; what is your answer. I will reply after I think.

Updated: Well I thought and I will now take out my teacher’s red pencil and give each a grade in no particular order.

Rep. Tom Tancredo – Looked frustrated at times. I think part of it is that his campaign is struggling for air, and the format hurt him as he tried desparately to get out his views and distinguish himself, particularly on immigration. I also think that people saw that frustration and it didn’t help. Grade D

Rep. Duncan Hunter – Was clear, concise, and strong in many of his answer. One area that may hurt him was he was the most aggressive on Iran, and to a country that is not at all happy with Iraq, showing this posturing towards another nation in the area, one that does make everyone nervous may hurt with many even among Hawks. His trade and pro-worker solutions were noteworthy. Grade B-

Mayor Rudy Giuiliani – He was strong on war on terror and framing himself in his model of Conservativism. The questions on abortion won’t help with the base, and will help him with those who are softer on pro-life/pro-choice. He stumbled on that area, but did make his case with his time as NYC Mayor. I still support him. Grade B-

Sen. John McCain – Anyone who said that he lacked vigor got the reply in spades, he was energetic, perhaps too much so, to the point of aggressiveness in tone and body language. He also really had a problem keeping to the time, and wasn’t held to the time limits strictly. He didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself too much. He came out fairly strongly against President Bush, with saying numerous times, “The war was mismanaged”. He seemed passionate and assertive, but perhaps too agressive. Grade C+

Gov. Mit Romney – Of all the candidates the former Bay State Governor stood out. I am not a big Romney fan, but if I had to declare an overall winner, it would be him. He was able to frame his “flip flop” on abortion, and gave a reason that was credible. He also was well versed on the issues and inviting. Grade A

Gov. Jim Gilmore – Did very well tonight too. He was able to state that he was the “consistent Conservative”. He also did well to elicit his positions. However, there are few moments that make him stand out, and he probably won’t see his coin rise. Grade B-

Gov. Tommy Thompson – Did very well on many areas, but there was one area that may hurt him, and that was the question about firing people due to their sexual practices. I also believe that there was a pause that would have allowed him to nuance his position, and his silence was pregnant. This will be picked up. I don’t know if this is a valid reason to terminate an employee in the private sector, other than religious organizations, such as a parochial school, which are exempt from such restrictions and understandably so. His Iraq solution is interesting and deserves a look. Grade B-

Sen. Sam Brownback – Made some good points tonight, and particularly in his stressing the need for the political process to have a more dominant role in the process. His stands on abortion will help only with those who don’t know him, as they are well known. He also held up his credos to the bases fondness of evangelical base. Overall he may have helped himself, but like so many in the second tier is so far behind. Grade B-

Rep. Ron Paul – Made his stand as the maverick in the field. He also came across as passionate, principled, and had a good wit. However, his views on foreign policy are going to hurt him in the end. As much as America may wish to go back to isolationism, that ship has sailed. He advocated himself well, but his views won’t hold. Hard to grade with this dynamic, but based on his performance, and not his substance B.

Gov. Mike Huckabee – He had some good moments, and probably the biggest yuck of the night with his joke concering “The Governator”. He came across as genuine but may have suffered from the format as his positions are hard to define from some of the others, and nuance of his stands may be lost in the shuffle. Grade B-

Overall big winner has to be Romney. He did very well, and being slotted first, by the draw helped him. I think the big loser was Tom Tancredo, and this is not a slight, but he seemed frustrated and this won’t give him much of a bump.

I think that the only shift will be Romney moving up, but the question is who will pay for this hike Giuliani – who probably won’t lose support, McCain or maybe the non-announced candidate, who will also miss South Carolina’s debate, Fred Thompson.

If I had to be like a reality show and only promote five I think these five will likely be in SC.

Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Rep. Hunter, and either Sen. Brownback or Gov. Huckabee.

Then again, I could be wrong.

May 3, 2007

Where You Stand Politically

So, you want to  know where you stand and how you can get that cool little icon like I have on my blog?

Well, just go to this site and take the quiz.  I would put no opinion if you are not sure about something.

Please post your results, and you get BIG TIME BONUS POINTS for reasonableness if you score Moderate, Conservative or Liberal!  I “hope” I have constructed a place where divergent views are allowed and where we gain from seeing each other’s perspective.  I also hope that sometimes someone will say, I see your point, or something like that.

So often politics are too personal, so maybe this would at least bring back agreeable discussion and dissent to the forefront.

I’m posting this on all topics to hopefully get maximum participation.

IF you wish to take the quiz it is here.

Thanks!

Will the Second String Survive the Cut?

Tomorrow’s GOP debate at the Reagan Library may be the best chance for some of the candidates who enjoy the most modest of support to make their case to the American people.  It may also be their only chance.

All ten of the declared candidates will be square off on equal footing to a national audience in the 90 minute debate sponsored by MSNBC and ThePolitico.com, starting at 8pm EST.  Reports are that Nancy Reagan will be present, and the Reagan Library will provide the backdrop as all the candidates will try to dress themselves in the mantle of The Gipper.

However, there is another side to this coin of equal footing and equal opportunity.  This may be the only chance that some of the candidates that comprise what could be called “the second string” to see game time.  Fox News, along with the South Carolina GOP Party have agreed that candidates must have attained a threshold of a one percent national standing in ratings, and having filed papers in South Carolina.  This puts several – up to seven – of the candidates on the bubble.

Those who are on the bubble include, Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Sam Brownback, Gov. Mike Huckabee (ARK), former Gov. Jim Gilmore (VA), Rep.  Duncan Hunter, Rep. Tom Tancredo, and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.  All of these current candidates hover near or barely above 1% in the aggregate of national polls, and this puts pressure upon them to try and carve out a niche in the GOP Party which seems to be crystalizing among former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, and a potential run by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson.  Although Mit Romney is not in danger of failing to make the cut, and his polling is rising, he is still hovering at about 10%.

Other than those who are their most ardent supporters little is known about the “second string” – and this is not meant to intone perjurative – but is meant as a statement of political reality.  I will be posting tonight the “stated positions” of the listed candidates aka”The Second String” from their websites and from “On the Issues”.  I expect KUDOS! 🙂

April 27, 2007

Harold Ford – Time to Talk

Former TN Congressman Harold Ford (D), had a fairly good idea for the Administration and Congress.  The sides need to get together and try to talk and develop some sort of dialogue rather than playing the high stakes game of chicken currently going on in Washington.

Although I’m all for talk, I’m not sure if either side can muster the political will, to attempt to find some common ground with regard to Iraq.  The seeming snubbing of General Petraeus by Speaker Pelosi, who wouldn’t even attend his briefing, but took a phone call instead, states pretty plainly that she is not really willing to engage in substantive dialogue, but then again, it’s unlikely that the President would be given much wiggle room, other than establishing a timeline.

On another note, former Rep. Ford is a very likeable and articulate politician, who must have become a closet Republican to take a job with Fox.  It would be better if those in Congress had his demeanor, which has always been engaging.  Although, Ford is not a conservative, he certainly is among the more moderate voices in the Democratic camp, and I for one, look forward to his insights on the dealing on Capital Hill.

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