Essay – To what extent is the media a reflection of popular consciousness or a construct of popular consciousness, or is it both?

So now that I have done my essay and it is past hand in time, I feel a bit better about posting it. I wrote it in a blog window, exported it to a word document, edited and formatted it, and here it is. And sorry about how shit it looks when its copied straight from a word document.


Major Essay

“To what extent is the media a reflection of popular consciousness or a construct of popular consciousness, or is it both?”

Samantha White

Popular consciousness has a large amount of influence over media through discourse, to the point where media can sometimes seem like a reflection of it. To first discuss how this influence occurs, it is important to look at what forms media has taken over the years; from the Guttenberg press to YouTube and video games, media is an ever evolving source of infotainment with the viewer being an unaware contributor to the production process. The contribution made by the viewer is determined by their contribution to (and reception of) popular consciousness, which (though hegemonic) controls the cultural and social norms of a society, and hence controls what the viewer wishes (and chooses) to see within the media.

By looking at how popular consciousness is formed, its hegemonic nature and its power through discourse, this paper will discuss the extent to which media has been molded by popular consciousness to become a complete reflection of it. This will be done by breaking down Appadurai’s (1990 ) ‘scapes’ and comparing them to theories of base superstructure, ideology, hegemony and discourse. These comparisons will be used to view how popular consciousness is constructed and how this construction is mimicked within the media.

In order to look at how media is a reflection of popular consciousness, it is important to first look at how popular consciousness is formed, Appadurai (1990) does this by describing a series of five ‘scapes’ which are used to construct popular consciousness. The first of these, Finanscape, is the power money has over the flow of human movement, the technological flow and financial transfers; this is best seen as a significant source of power within popular consciousness, as control over the Finanscape allows leverage over popular consciousness (human movement is not only physical but also intellectual, so human movement within the Finanscape can be viewed as the changing of ideals/ideas.) The Technoscape is a recent addition to Appadurai’s (1990)‘scapes’ as it reflects the ability for one to access communications, labor, politics and money remotely, which allows for a more efficient mode of globalization (Chomsky’s (2002) propaganda model expanded on the use of these new technologies to induce hegemony on a larger scale.) The Ideoscape, in which power is used to fuel discourse and persuade the viewer’s opinion to change in accordance with the wishes of those in power. The Mediascape uses semiotics to relay concepts and create multiple constructions of ‘imagined worlds’ (i.e. the American Dream.) And lastly, Appadurai (1990) describes the Ethnoscape, this is the most pivotal of Appadurai’s ‘scapes’ in relation to popular consciousness and depicts a constantly moving sea of viewers who form opinions on topics and relay it within their own communities through strong social relations and discourse. Continue reading

Mill’s Harm Principle

Question; What is Mill’s harm principle? How does the harm principle support an argument against censorship?

Answer; Mill’s harm principle states that the only reason to legally restrict an individual is if they mean to (without restriction) cause harm to others. Risks may be taken, and harm to one’s self should not be restricted unless in the process one is to harm others. To Mill’s this harm was physical, (with offense not being thought of as ‘harm’) constrained the freedom of others or damaged another’s property.

This supports an argument against censorship in that, by not censoring media no physical harm is being dealt, nor is freedom of others being restricted. Therefore uncensored media is in fact, not harming anyone according to Mill’s harm principle and so the reason for censoring media to ‘protect’ others becomes meaningless.

Racial Hatred Act (1995); (‘Why Be Racist In The First Place’ Act)

Question; What types of speech are unlawful in Australia under the Racial Hatred Act (1995)?

The Racial Hatred Act of 1995 (an extension of Racial Discrimination Act (RDA)), restricts racially offensive behaviour which includes public acts that

• offend

• insult

• humiliate

• intimidate

Based on…

• race

• colour

• national or ethnic origins of an individual or group (culture)


This act makes offensive and racist speech illegal within public areas or in any area where someone may be offended by the unlawful speech, some examples of what would be considered unlawful speech within the Racial Hatred Act (1995) include;

• Writing racist graffiti in a public space

• Making a racist speech in a public place

• Placing racist posters/stickers in a public place

• Racist abuse in a public place

• Offensive/Racist comment in a publication


Chomsky and the mass media’s propaganda function (we meet again Chomsky)

Question; According to Chomsky, the mass media has a propaganda function: “…to inculate individuals with the values, beliefs and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.” Is he right?


Yes, Chomsky’s opinions on conformity to a larger society is based around his propaganda model, throughout which he explains the different techniques used by the mass media  so as to maximise its ability to influence individuals into becoming part of a larger society. This is done by influencing values, beliefs and codes of behaviour. In the following short essay Chomsky’s propaganda model will be explained in relation to its ability to influence individuals.

The size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth and profit orientation of mass media firms greatly influences the mass media’s ability to effect individuals. Once broken down, this effects how large the mass media firms are and their influence as a result due to the amount of their exposure. The larger the media corporation the more exposure it gets, the same goes for wealth, with the profit orientation effecting individuals by tailoring the way the larger society is represented/perceived by specific target markets.

The second part of the propaganda model is the notion of advertising as the primary source of income for the mass media, in regards to how this influences individuals; it is through the iconic/hegemonic adverts. An example of this is the amount of car and beer ads shown at the time of a football match (or other ‘manly’ sporting event) on television. So even though this is the only source of income, it still instils the notions of a larger society which should be conformed to, within the minds of individuals.

This hegemonic focus is furthered with the mass media’s use of “experts” who are usually certified by agents of power such as the government or a large business/corporate. So the sourcing of mass media news may also be used to change an individual’s concept of values, beliefs etc. by misrepresenting a story or case in such a way that the individual’s opinion develops along the lines of a hegemonic norm.

Following along this hegemonic line is the “anticommunism” argument (that is the concept of anticommunism being displayed throughout the media as a national religion of sorts which id the hegemonic norm.) The anticommunism argument brings up the white picket fence ideal as a control mechanism, so that the ideals presented to individuals are only attainable through anticommunism are also set as a way to control individuals further by making them fit in with a hegemonic society.

The last aspect used to control people using the mass media is ‘flak’ as the only way to discipline the media, which means that the only way to discipline the media, is to criticise it, but not enforce any penalties as such. This means that the mass media has the ability to massively influence values, beliefs and codes of behaviour to create a form of cultural and social hegemony within individuals without any consequence. Even if the information is vague or false there is little/no real consequence for attempting to integrate individuals into a larger society.

In conclusion, through use of the propaganda model, Chomsky shows how individuals may be influenced to join a larger/hegemonic society through the mass media’s ability to change values, beliefs and social values.

Reference; Chomsky, N 2002. ‘A propaganda model’ in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Random House, NY, pp 1-35

Louw and the PR-ization of warfare in regards to Iraq

Question; What does Louw mean by the PR-ization or warfare? Discuss in relation to the Iraq war


This short essay explains how the war in Iraq has become affected by PR-ization through the explanation of the three main ways in which the Iraq war is shown to the citizens within the Allied Nations, this includes: Nintendo warfare, the villain-victim model and demonization of the ‘enemy.’ These concepts bought forward by Louw are then applied to the current war in Iraq, so as to show how the PR-ization of warfare can be used to sway public opinion.

The propaganda model suggested by Louw can be seen as demonstrated by all nations involved in a major war effort. The most relevant case (and also the most recent) is the Iraq war. Louw’s concept of PR-ization in regards to warfare involves a few key issues (a few of which the current US Government took from Goebbel war propaganda model.)

Within the Iraq war, warfare became what Louw calls ‘Nintendo Warfare’ by excluding images of dead bodies, blood, brutality and gore and instead portraying war as a low risk with large amounts of tanks driving around and people patrolling and helping locals. The war is portrayed as ‘clean’ and almost devoid of suffering or death, in place of blood and dead bodies of civilians there is a seemingly censored silence and the only real destruction shown is the destruction of inanimate objects, such as bridges and buildings.

This then morphed into what I call the ‘Mario Complex’ (the villain-victim model) where a victim is created that needs rescuing, like in Mario, this victim is helpless and the people fighting the war must overcome challenges and traverse terrain so as to be welcomed into the loving arms of the victim. So, while all the brutality of the Allied troops is ignored, the brutality of the demonized enemy is portrayed in full, usually with the enemy/opposition displaying brutality towards the victim (hence why they need to be saved by America, in the case of the Iraq war.) Within the war on terror we find pictures of either happy civilians in Iraq/an oppressed people in despair, with the majority of images portraying the allied nations as a beacon of hope/helping hand which was desperately needed, this then furthered with the recent capture and Execution of Saddam Hussein.

The demonization of the enemy is the major way in which the war in Iraq has been PR-ized. After 9/11 the al-Qaeda were held responsible, and though this was a minority group, due to the emotional impact of 9/11 on the citizens of America they became definable by Goebells’ propaganda machine, that is, that the American citizens became mentally lazy and moreover, passive. This allowed the installation of a new idea, that, rather than the al-Qaeda being responsible for 9/11, it was the arab terrorist/other. This concept was furthered by many slogans posted throughout communities, both online and in the real world that with actions such as buying goods from Iraq an individual was funding terrorism (which set the foundations for a pro-war communal mindset based on xenophobia.)

In conclusion, through the use of Nintendo warfare, the villain-victim complex and demonization of the ‘enemy’, the Iraq war saw a massive boon in troops wishing to fight for a ‘greater cause.’ This was due to the xenophobic mindset, taken up by citizens of Allied Nations and set in place by propaganda used by the governing bodies of the Allied Nations.

Reference; Louw, P E 2005. ‘Selling war / Selling peace’ ch. 10 in The Media and Political Process, Sage, London, pp. 210 – 235.

Rachels and the Need for Privacy

Question; Rachels claims that we need privacy in order to maintain our social relationships. Explain

Answer I just typed; Rachels’ opinion on privacy is based around control, control of oneself and how one is viewed. This is especially important in regards to an individual’s image, and the concept of multiple masks, that is, the ability to change one’s persona based on the company they are keeping. The reason privacy is integral to this, is that without privacy an individual loses the ability to change their ‘mask’ based on their current social situation (as everyone has gained the ability to truly see them, with all their flaws) a harrowing experience to be sure.

Answer I then found in my workbook (thank you past me); As humans are social beings there is a wish to control how one is viewed, so as to be able to appear as desired; essentially gaining some sort of control over one’s social environment. As activity within one’s social environment is integral to the human species (and within the 21st century, survivability), people will always try and control as much of it as possible (Rachels explains this through the use of the mask (only ever revealing parts of one’s true self).)

ReferenceRachels, J 1997. ‘Why privacy is important’ in Ermann, M. D., Williams, M. B. and Shauf, M. S. Computers, Ethics and Society, Oxford University Press, NY: pp. 69 – 76.

Solove and Reputation Control over the Internet

Question; According to Solove the proliferation (reproduction) of personal data on the internet makes it harder for individuals to control their reputation. Explain


The main concept put forward by Solove involves the ease of replication within the digital sphere, he explains that once something has been placed on the internet there is no way to remove it. This means that small details of a very personal nature can be leaked over time, whether this is done intentionally by an individual or by accident, the result remains the same, the individual’s reputation is at risk of being altered drastically in a short period of time. In regards to the mass reproduction of images within the digital sphere, Solove uses the example of ‘Star Wars Kid’ and ‘Dog Poo Girl’, examples which, through mass reproduction online lead to loss of control over reputation for these individuals. A warning undertone follows these two examples which explains the danger of releasing/recording digital content of a personal nature, as once something becomes digital the individual loses control over it.


ReferenceSolove, D 2007. ‘How the free flow of information liberates and constrains us’, ch. 2 in The Future of Reputation: Gossip rumour and privacy on the internet, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 17 – 50.