Monday, September 15, 2008

Never called it propaganda

Kathleen Hall Jamieson spoke at my university this evening. It was very good, as I expected. She spoke tonight about the new media of political communicaiton, viral videos, the sophisticated political messages we are being bombarded with. She could have presented a real doom and gloom, but instead she was very hopeful and pinned her hopes on the "new" generation of 18-29 year olds, who are more media savvy and internet skilled to demand facts and accountability. She also pointed out that research the Annenberg Policy Center was conducting showed that conversations within families that crossed political boundaries acutally occured, which she found to be very helpful.

She showed several political videos. She "deconstructed" them for the audience, giving all of us a primer on political communication deciphering. She never, once, however, called any of it propaganda.

Propaganda is a dirty word in the US. Of course, it is all around us, we just call it advertising. Information meant to "move" you toward a particular view or action is propaganda. Communications directors are propagandists.

I admire Hall Jamieson. She keeps it very even, despite what I think are her political leanings (having watched her on TV for many years). And that I think she is a democrat/liberal is her belief that facts matter. Always the democrat/liberal achilles heel. To use some of her own message tonight, if we look at her framing of her own message, the assumption is that reality/facts matter to people.

Yes, I know, how could you argue with that. If it is about power and winning, then facts do not matter. Her arguement is that facts don't matter when you only speak to people who you agree with ideologically. But, if we begin to cross lines, then facts matter.

I agree that facts matter (I'm a materialist afterall), but perception and construction matter more. As W.I. Thomas put it, if a people define their circumstances as real, then they are real in their consequences. So, it matters little that Senator Obama, for instance, is not a Muslim...but that people believe he is. The consequences of that belief are just as real if Senator Obama actually was a Muslim.

I think Hall Jamieson is pretty good. I like her scholarship. I hope she is right about the future.

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