President Obama complained about the fragmentation of New Media

Obama made his remarks on new media and politics during an interview he conducted with author Marilynne Robinson published in the New York Review of Books. They discussed her books, and his own reflections on politics that He lamented the fact that people can turn to alternative sources of news, instead of the centralized media landscape of old making his administration more difficult.  (The link: http://www2.nybooks.com/articles/s3/2015/nov/19/president-obama-marilynne-robinson-conversation-2.html)

Obama said “You can argue that that’s part of the reason why our politics has gotten so polarized, is that—when I was growing up, if the president spoke to the country, there were three stations and every city had its own newspaper and they were going to cover that story…and that would last for a couple of weeks, people talking about what the president had talked about.”

Then he argued that the lack of a common media source in the era of new media made it difficult to have a reasonable conversation about political issues. “It’s not so much, I think, that people don’t read at all; it’s that everybody is reading [in] their niche, and so often, at least in the media, they’re reading stuff that reinforces their existing point of view,”

Obama also admitted that it was harder to get his own message out in a new media cycle that he says favors sensationalism over substance. “Today, my poor press team, they’re tweeting every two minutes because some new thing has happened, which then puts a premium on the sensational and the most outrageous or a conflict as a way of getting attention and breaking through the noise…”

In my opinion, although it is a bit ironic that Obama successfully used new media to run his election campaign but now complains about the new media, it is that fact new media has created a more fragmented media environment that news flows faster than ever and some people are more likely to just that seek out the more like-minded news sources, contributing to the reinforcement of prior beliefs and opinions and exacerbating polarization. Even new media allows people to have more access to different news sources and viewpoints, it is very usual for us to just follow those politicians, political groups and news page that we like in Facebook or Twitter or stick to one talk radio. On the other hand, we ignore those groups holding an opposite stance. Thus, I also think that it would be a threat to the public sphere since it seems that having public discourse about a political or social issue are becoming more difficult now.

But still, I believe that new media still playing an important role in encouraging people encounter more viewpoints which can avoid manipulated by the agenda setting and framing by the traditional media.

Written by Kit Si

Two panda’s and a sick queen

The heading of this post might sound like the title of a really bad joke but it is actually the two main topics of the media coverage on King Willem Alexander’s state visit to China.

The Dutch King went on a state visit to China last week to strengthen and maintain the relationship between the Netherlands and China. The main reason of his visit was focused on political and economic ties with the visited country. However the only update the Dutch public received from the media about this trip was focused on the sick Queen and the gift from China of two panda’s.

Firstly the news came out that the state visit, that was mainly focused on trade and economics looked promising. For what reason? Well The Netherlands got handed a gift from the Chinese because of the attendance of the King to their country. In fact the gift consisted of two panda’s. The media were immediately all over this, and the entire country is excited to welcome the two new animal friends to the country. This completely overshadowed the fact that the visit led to half a billion euro of assignments and agreements for Dutch business life. This accomplishment was barely addressed by the media and the public has no idea what their King is actually doing in China. Of course, the image of two cute panda’s is way more fun to watch and follow.

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The second big news that came from China was that the Dutch Queen Maxima had to abandon her duties in China and return back home due to illness. The news shocked the Dutch public and  the media was mainly focused on how the King would respond to the absence of his wife, and the fact that she is sick. Interviews were aired showing the personal side of the King and again the focus was completely taken away from the state visit and the things going on there.

So overall, these sensationalist topics clearly have the overhand in this case. The political and economic achievements and arrangements made by this state visit were overruled and shoved in the corner. The importance of this visit was disregarded by two cute panda’s and a sick queen.
Apparently the media provides what the public wants.

Gossip Girl and access: Who’s hungry?

 

Spotted: Blair Waldorf (Queen B of the Upper East Side) finding solace in the arms of Dan Humphrey (Lonely boy of Brooklyn). How could this come to be?

Dan and Blair embracing...
Dan and Blair embracing…

Coming from a social inquiry background and of course, being stimulated from Netflix’s recent re-adoption of Gossip Girl, I became intrigued about class codes and the relationship between class and access to the media, in the same way that powerful politicians have more access to the media than more local politicians do. The class hierarchy in Gossip Girl is an example of back-door and front-door access as highlighted by Wolfsfeld (2011). Indeed, news is news when someone says that it is news. And if you know Blair Waldorf, you have no choice but to believe her news. To clarify, though, this news does not always represent important issues pertaining to society; it is more often than not, about the political elite, and in Gossip Girl’s case: the economic and social elite.

I also came across an article defining language and discourse codes; and according to Bernstein’s theory, “members of the lower class… have access to only a restricted code while members of the upper and middle class have access to both a restricted and an elaborated code” (1971, p. 135).

Bernstein further clarifies that “elaborate code selects meanings that are explicit, context independent and universal; restricted code selects meanings that are implicit, context dependent and particular” (1971, p. 170-89). This quote, in conjunction with the quote above, and the behaviour of the social elite show that it is the upper class who have access to both codes because it is the exclusiveness of the upper class that impedes others from understanding their code. However, they can also adopt codes that are universally relevant.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.57.06 pm
Yes, Dan got there eventually.

Essentially, this means that Blair grasps more power than Dan in Gossip Girl’s case and that Dan has no chance of escalating himself into ‘beau monde’. Although in contemporary society, with the formation of newer communities, that is, digital social platforms facilitating class interplay through anonymity, class mobility is able to thrive, and these quotes are now seen as outdated.

On new platforms, Dan represents himself as one of them, in pursuit of becoming one of them. Eventually he triumphs over the upper echelon and becomes ‘nouveau riche’. For those that haven’t watched Gossip Girl, this means that earlier on, the higher class had more power over influencing the mindsets of the general public, having front-door access and voice, whilst the lower classes had to fight for a voice, always chasing for attention like back-door access. However, through new media platforms and the opening of opportunities, the lower class has more agency to access other channels of exposure. In Dan’s case, he utilised new digital platforms to create controversial stories about people, simultaneously disrupting social circles, perhaps laying in sync with side-door access.

Rumour has it, one may not be born into the upper class, but class mobility is definitely achievable and side-door access may as well get you front-door access if you utilise it extremely effectively; and word is, today, the ladder of opportunity is more available than it ever was. Who’s hungry?

xoxo Winnie – 432416

Throw out the pudding: the media distortion of US Politics

US Politics

In 1605, Englishman William Camden wrote, “All the proof of a pudding, is in the eating.” Later – perhaps because ten words was too long – this truism’s American cousin has devolved into the logically unconstrained, “The proof is in the pudding.”

US media, covering both this week’s debate between Democratic Party candidates and the leadership crisis in the Republican’s house coalition, have vigorously jabbed their hands into both puddings in the quest for answers. Seasoned connoisseurs of the Washington’s nuanced flavours and textures, pundits have fingered the pudding and pronounced judgment.

The problem, of course, with the pundit’s coverage of American politics is that, really, the proof isn’t in the pudding, but its sales. And the American public, on these two issues at least, are purchasing a product distinct from the one the media is advertising.

First: the Democratic debate. In the media coverage immediately following that Las Vegas Showdown, nearly every pundit declared Hillary the clear victor.

Commentators universally argued that her charisma, stage presence, and confidence made her the most persuasive—and, shockingly, entertaining—speaker. More important, her performance hampered the potential success of Biden campaign by reassuring party elite, major donors, and centrist voters. Knock out—she wins.

The inconvenient problem with these media pronouncements, however, is that voters just can’t seem to agree with them. Of all major polls conducted following the debate of Democratic voters, only one declared Hillary the victor. Indeed, Mr. Sanders won nearly every measure of party response by a margin of at least 18 points.

Meanwhile, writers about the current leadership crisis in the House of Representatives likewise continue to massage the pudding without actually tasting it. They label the Tea Party caucus as “extremist,” “fringe,” and “dangerous,” often pointing to structural (gerrymandering that creates extremely conservative districts) or cultural (white, uneducated, rural—read: backwards—voters) explanations for its meteoric birth and cosmic dysfunction.

But, here again, most pundits fail to explain the facts that don’t fit their narrative, notably the sustained popularity of Donald Trump (as well the slightly more likely, and likeable, Ben Carson), as well as, again, those pesky polls. Republican voters from all districts and all demographic strata report overwhelming dissatisfaction with business as usual in the House of Representatives.

In truth, both parties are caught in the same dilemma: though you can only win elections from the wings, but you can only rule successfully from the center. For years, Republican politicians have made repeated promises to their activist base—Christian conservatives, anti-immigration agitators, and small-government zealots—and then bargained away those promises in order to keep the government functioning.

Likewise, Democratic candidates pay lip service to the progressive movements within their parties but fail to deliver meaningful change on climate-change, women’s rights, and Wall Street regulation.

In short, fueled by years of frustration at government that is either centrist or dysfunctional—from Clinton through to the present day—the extreme wings of both parties have rebelled, giving us in the same presidential contest both the nation’s most popular ever Socialist (a formerly naughty word) as well as its most revered jerk.

The massive changes currently rocking the American political climate, as well as the media’s failure to accurately portray them, are not aberrations. They are hints at a larger trend, fueled by the breakdown of traditional structures of political power and political reporting—a trend toward extremism, iconoclasm, and regional separatism. There may be two puddings, not one.

Not long ago, America’s National Public Radio correctly pointed out that the proof cannot be in the pudding—it would be a messy, if not completely silly place to keep it. US political pundits would do well to remember that, in fact, we know very little about the pudding from feeling about inside it. This ridiculous truism is useless in understanding political reality, and those who depend on it are part of system that fails to inform. There’s no proof in the pudding. It’s in the polls.

Gun violence in the USA: a controversial topic.

The issue of gun violence in the United States has been discussed so many times in so many different contexts that it almost becomes too difficult to write or say something original about it. The shooting in Oregon on October 2nd was the 45th shooting this year in the United States. These tragedies happen so often that it is very hard to believe these laws and regulation will ever change.

I spent my gap year between high school and university studying in the United States. People were very interested in our norms and values compared to theirs, because, even though the Netherlands and the US are both western countries, there are lots of differences in perception, norms, values, cultural ideas and beliefs. This made it really difficult to discuss the issue of gun laws and regulations. Most people really would not believe that the issue can be solved by restricting the laws regarding owning and using guns. I don’t believe that it is a straightforward matter; it is too simple to say that all problems will be solved if you just make the laws regarding guns more strict.

John Oliver is the host of the last week tonight show. In his show, he discusses controversial topics in a rather funny way, but with a serious approach. I really like his videos, because it makes you think about certain topics, but you can still have a laugh. His way of presenting is nice, because he voices his opinion, but at the same time he is open to other people’s opinions. His made several videos about gun control in the United States, but I like this one in particular. It is focused on the shooting in Carolina earlier this year. Check this video out and let me know what you think about this topic. How can this issue be solved? Is there even a solution to the problem?

How Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou build a good relationship with media

Politics is always a show. Building and projecting a good image to the public has been daily routines for politicians. To establish a favourable image in the eyes of the public, the most efficient way is to build a favourable relationship with the media, which has big impact on public’s perception. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou knows how to play this game well.

Last week, he was interviewed by the ETtoday, which is a popular news website in Taiwan. This is the first time for Ma to visit a domestic network-based media.

On that day, Ma wore a blue shirt and long jeans instead of the full suit which politicians or governors used to wear in public places. Wearing full suit undoubtedly gives a professional image to the public. But being the President, wearing casual wear delivered the image that he is close to the people.

At the beginning of the dialogue, Ma comforted some reporters not to be nervous because of seeing the President. He also had chitchat with them on trivial matters and daily lives, such as what is usually inside his briefcase, how he bought a big pot of meal when he was craving for food in the New Year etc.We might not notice the impact of these sayings, but the comforting words and the relaxed topics can display a caring and friendly image of Ma.

Last but not least, Ma played his stunt – taking selfies with the reporters. It is of course exciting to take selfies with celebrities. And it is more exciting to take selfies with the President. But, it would be much more exciting to take selfies with the President who treats you specially. When Ma was taking selfies with some reporters who are not tall enough, he squatted down. This impressed all people in that place.

Besides, a reporter was complained by others for taking selfies for too long. Ma immediately eased the atmosphere by making jokes. Before Ma left, he invited ETtoday to visit the Presidential Office as well. All these actions show that Ma is a caring person who is willing to listen and serve the public. And ETtoday described him as a gentleman.

But after all, the abovementioned about Ma’s behaviors is extracted from ETtoday (http://www.ettoday.net/news/20151025/585475.htm). Just look at the descriptions of Ma, we can clearly see the impact of what Ma did. Whether these actions were naturally behaved or strategically planned, we don’t know. But Ma surely built a good image and good relationship with this media, which have favourable impact on his political life.

Written by YAU Patricia Vivian

Comedian Jimmy Morales is the next Guatemalan President (This isn’t a joke): Celebrities and Politics.

Full disclosure, this post will eventually turn into a semi opinion piece/discussion for anyone who has anything to say on the subject matter. This story just kind of started a chain reaction of interests and article searching that I think is worth exploring and commenting on as we wind down the course.

This last Sunday, Guatemala had a run off election after the resignation of former president Otto Perez Molina, who was also arrested and charged with corruption for bribery, racketeering and customs fraud.  He, along with his vice president, are still awaiting trial.

Morales in fact won the original post resignation election results after Molina’s resignation, but didn’t have the over 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid the current run-off election. He still came out of this recent election victoriously with a whopping 70% of the vote. Winning against former first lady Sandra Torres.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares “You’re fired!” at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. Reuters

I don’t know Jimmy Morales’ politics at all and they weren’t detailed in the Aljazeera or BBC articles that reported on the election results. Yet, this win got me interested in celebrity appeal/power within elections. Especially due to the fact my home country of the U.S. has an election coming up with its own celebrity candidate in the ring, Donald Trump.

Trump (pictured left, hilariously) is a real estate mogul, former celebrity apprentice host and incredibly iconic personality. He is leading the Republican nomination with his incredibly bombastic presence, controversial yet non scripted speaking style and political “outsider” image. It is incredibly unique to see a candidate who is very admonished within the political community and his own political party  and still have an incredible amount of support for the election. Although, his popularity will arguably be short lived.

For more analysis, I looked for more  insights into celebrities who are in politics and just how a celebrity can influence politics.  The Guardian reports that the first Republican Presidential Debate had ratings higher than World Series or the NBA finals (whether this is due to Trump or not is up to you, but his presence definitely helped). According from the same article, Trump is incomparable in his populist view/appeal and especially when compared to other celebrities turned politicians (Reagan, Ventura and Schwarzenegger), he is reaching incredibly high with someone who has no real experience in political office.

Professor and author of “Celebrity Politicians: Popular Culture and Political Representation” John Street conducted an interview giving even more reason to contemplate celebrities getting involved in politics and specifically Trump’s current popularity. He warns that Populist celebrity candidates don’t “answer to no party or electorate. This is one danger. Another is that they may lack expertise, and so they can offer inadequate or misguided solutions to complex problems. And finally, celebrity politicians have mixed motives: they want to solve a problem, but they also want to be successful as performers. They may therefore shy away from difficult problems/solutions, and they may put career before cause.” He does want to note however, that these candidates tend to embody a general sentiment since they are so anti-establishment and anti-politics.

This brings me back to Jimmy Morales, who ran as the anti-corruption candidate during this Guatemalan election. He also does seem to be using the populist sentiment that celebrity’s accrue to his advantage when it comes to winning elections. It is not for me to say whether or not a celebrity can make a good politician, yet the fact of the matter is for me is that celebrity’s tend to overreach when they want to join in politics. It is sadly poetic and metaphorical  how classist democracy can be when celebrity’s decide to run for political office due to their own wealth and incredibly advantageous network connections for fundraising and endorsements. Especially with the lack of real political experience most have when they decide to run. Although Trump isn’t even in my opinion the worst candidate of the twenty or so running for the Republican nomination, he has one of the best chances of winning and that concerns me. So if anyone has any good examples or bad examples of celebrity politicians or opinions on celebrities getting involved in politics please feel free to comment!

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