Monday, August 24, 2009

article review - meg lowrey

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception – Adorno & Horkeimer

Adorno and Horkeimer’s article explores the idea of the media as a ‘culture industry’. They argue that this industry is a key agency of capitalism, and that culture is produced and then pushed upon society in such a way that the media and its producers begin to manipulate society and its consciousness. As a result culture becomes standardised and repetitive. Producers within the so called industry use this repetition to create and perpetuate a particular response from the audience. The authors suggest that this methodology has become so prevalent that free thinking is no longer expected, and that in essence it is no longer production but reproduction that the industry carries out. The outcomes of such an industry include a passive and uncritical audience, or consumer, and an unregulated media and producers. They also argue that this cultural passiveness is impossible to avoid, and that this can and often does result in a society with a steadily declining sense of individuality. Horkeimer and Adorno’s article highlights the strength of the media and those that produce it. They also theorise about the media’s ability to manipulate society how individuals live and the ways in which they understand the world around them, and perhaps have some degree of control over it.

Terrorists We Like & Terrorists We Don’t Like – Elliot

This extract contains an excellent example of what the culture industry (Adorno & Horkeimer) can produce. It examines the media’s ability to generate stereotypes, particularly through the use of negative imagery. Elliot suggests that news media, popular culture and a government’s power and influence allow them to create new, and usually negative, meanings and connotations for a variety of things. The article examines specifically the U.S. media’s bias and treatment of so called ‘terrorists’ in light of 9/11. In the months and years after the incident, reports in the U.S. media on the event itself, its impact and indeed other similar attacks, are more often than not accompanied by images of men wearing turbans, veiled or burqa wearing women, even simply people with middle eastern or ‘Arab’ features. As a result Elliot argues that these images have become synonymous with words and concepts such as terrorist, fundamentalist and even to a degree evil. The article also goes on to examine the confusion that can arise when using terms such as terrorist and freedom fighter or opposition army. Confusion arises when an attempt is made to distinguish between the different groups. Freedom fighter or opposition have fairly positive connotations in vast contrast to that which is associated with the word terrorist. The use of these labels is politically motivated with media or governments choosing labels which suit their particular agendas. Elliot makes this clear when using a U.S. example. During the Soviet expulsion from Afghanistan Osama bin Laden was referred to as a freedom fighter, post 9/11 he is the world’s most well known terrorist. These labels along with confused imagery make gaining an understanding of actions and motivations seemingly impossible for the individual. Elliot effectively explains the significant role that the media has had in the development and perpetuation of these stereotypes, to the degree that media, pop culture and its audience now subconsciously make these connections.

U.S. Adolescent Religious identity, the Media, and the “Funky” side of Religion – Lynn Schofield Clark

Clark’s study set out to examine the impact that media has on the formation of teenagers (specifically in the U.S.) ideas about religion. Using a rather small sample, 262 people in total, just 102 of these teenagers, she was able to separate teens into five categories. The first, the traditionalist, had a larger participation in organised religion and established a line between religion and the media. This group was followed by the intrigued teens who found it harder to define the line between religion and the supernatural elements they saw in the media. The third group used religion to help them understand spirituality, the media was relevant when it fit with their specific beliefs this group was known as the mystical teens. The experimenter teens, were able to use the media at times to underline their own beliefs and accorded value to both traditional and non-traditional religion. The final group Clark labelled as the resisters; these teens allowed for the supernatural but rejected organised religion. Clark also suggests that the culture within the U.S. has allowed for some teens to wish to be seen as religious in order to also be seen as ‘good’ and ‘moral’ extending this desire to all five categories including the resister teens. Knowing little about American culture I am able only to comment on that which I know, for myself I tend to believe that there are many teens that do not fit into the categories outlined by Clark which tend to box in teens. I would argue that there are teens who accept both the supernatural and the religious and vice versa rejecting both. Another point which struck me was the size of the study, the number of participants, particularly the number of adolescent teenagers, on which the study is based, would tend to restrict the range and exactness of results. Clark does however highlight the fact that teenager’s understandings of both the supernatural and the religious, is formed by a variety of different cultural factors, not only the media.

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