Critical analysis of the media: manipulative & hegemonic

Critical analysis of the media: manipulative & hegemonic

2.3 Critical analysis of the media

The critical analysis of the media approach is concerned with the way the mass media and the social structure go hand in hand. It puts emphasis on how the messages transmitted by the media are being received and how they were produced.

The prior aim is not to understand these produced images or to locate the effect of the media but rather to look at the mass media through certain critical ideologies. Critical studies see the mass media as part of the processes of control and as reproducing the present situation through the constant reassertion of dominant ideology.

The critical analysis focus on the media content to look to what extend there is bias in what is being presented. It can be used to indicate the presence of a racist massages, for example in some TV programs the image of black people is represented negatively as trouble makers.

Harvard and MacDonald (1993) explained the situation saying aBlack people are usually treated as a problem by the press and much reporting has focused on incidents or racial conflict or portrayed cultural difference in negative termsa (P.46). If the audience looks at the mass media with a critical eye rather than just passive receivers, they would get the right meaning that will allow them to neither be affected by what they see, nor to be influenced by it.

Hence, the critical analysis of media provides individuals with power to resist and enhance their abilities of understanding the messages transmitted properly vis- A – vis media, and even helps them in understanding better their own cultures.

Kellner writes aLearning how to read, criticize, and resist media manipulation can help individuals empower themselves in relation to dominant media and culturea (Kellner, 1995, p.2).The power to analyse and look critically at the mass media are the key terms concerning the critical analysis of media.

2.3.1 Manipulative theory

The manipulative theory of the media argues that the powerful and the wealthy are the ones to control the media and use it to maintain the existing social structure. In this respect, this theory shows the audience as powerless, with no resistance at all to avoid being influenced.

The traditional view of media looks at the audiences as passive as it is claimed by Gillespie (2005) aAudiences are seen as mindless, ignorant, defenceless, naA vc and as manipulated or exploited by the amass mediaaa (p.10). However, Gillespie seems to fall in the trap of generalization and to ignore that not all audience are alike, there are those who are very much critical.

It worth saying that in the past audience used to mean face to face audience according to the traditional view about them, not like nowadays where audience means any receivers; they can be readers, watchers or listeners.

The following citation gives a clear idea about the traditional audiences as they were considered: aThroughout most of history, the idea of audience has meant a face-to-face audience in the presence of a communicator or entertainer, whether at a political meeting, the theatre or a concerta (Gillespie, 2005, p.15). This theory has ignored some of the audience like for example those who listen to radio and those who read the print materials as well.

It seems that there is a paradox when it comes to media and the audience. They serve as one of the most important elements in this held, hence media organizations should have an idea about their importance as there are no media without an audience, and, yet, they are seen sometimes as naA w and passive.

It is also a fact that there is a distance between media producers and their audiences; which prevents them from knowing the way they are perceived by these audiences. This is well clarified by Toynbee in aThe mediaas view of the audiencea

Media audiences are large and their members are often shut away behind the closed doors of the household. As a result, producers of media messages tend to be unsure about how they are being perceived, or even whether anyone is paying attention at all. (Hesmondhagh, 2006, p. 92)

When talking about gendered audiences, soap opera was claimed to be watched more by women whereas news were believed to be a male domain, alf soaps are regarded as archetypal womenasa genre, then news and current affairs are seen as of almost exclusive interest to mena (Byerly Ross, 2006, p.77).

Moreover, women have proved to be more interested in local news than the national ones in a British study as it is clear in what follows aHowever, in one early British study that did describe findings in gender terms (Wober 1981), women appeared to be less interested in national news than men, but more interested in local newsa (Byerly Ross, 2006, p.78). This tells of the gendered use of the mass media.

This critical approach appeared first in Germany during the years of the World War II and it was used by the Nazis to manipulate the masses. aThe effective use by the mass media by Nazi propagandists led to a pessimistic view of the manipulative power of the mediaa (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.43).

The manipulative view asserts that media injects ideas and the audience respond to them, in other words the audience is powerless in the face of a manipulative tool. They are just passive viewers manipulated to meet the demands of a specific group of people who are normally in control.

One of the hottest debates about media and power is whether media itself has a power over the audience or vice versa. The answer to this question was provided by Gauntlett (2002) in his book Media, Gender and Identity introducing two opposite views concerning such an issue.

He writes aln one corner, then, we have Theodor Adorno, who felt that the power of mass media over the population was enormous and very damaginga (p.19). He continues the counter thought saying aAnd in the other opposite corner we have John Fiske, who argues that it is the audience, not the media, which has the most powera (p.20). So the equation is still far from being solved.

The second version of this theory is even more sophisticated. It says that the mass media are manipulative since they produced a dimensional world which had created a culture of its own. This theory argues that the media is controlled by a certain group of people who transmit the messages that suits them. This is explained in what to follow:

The argument is that ownership and control of the major elements of the mass media is in the hands of conservative white men and that their views are reproduced by the media, most noticeably in the case of newspapers. These owners committed capitalists and, although giving journalists and editors a degree of independence, except to see their views expressed in the newspapers they own. (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.43)

According to aMedia Images and the Social Construction of Realitya (2005), the ownership of media has a number of quiet harmful consequences since the aConcentrated ownership of media inevitably narrows the range of information and imagery that is disseminateda (Gamson, 1992, p. 376).

This is because what is transmitted is not transparent; on the contrary it is manipulative and it serves a group of people who are the owners. This is more explained in the following citation in relation to business aContrary to the diversity that comes with a large number of small, diverse, media competitors under the true free enterprise, dominant giant firms that commend the nature of the business produce an increasingly similar outputa (Gamson, 1992, p.376)

2.3.2 Hegemonic theory

The hegemonic theory is one of the most recent approaches to media analysis which holds that mass media does not manipulate people on purpose; it is just a reflection of the world and what is happening around us. It makes a link between ideology and hegemony.

According to this theory the media can be considered as a production of a dominant ideology aThe media reassert a dominant view of the world and legitimate existing forms of social oppression, ownership of wealth, civil liberties and so ona (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p. 44)

The early form of this approach asserts that the audience is passive receivers of the ideology messages. They just take for granted what is being presented to them without questioning it. This view claims that aAudiences were seen as powerless recipients of the dominant ideological messages.

Having received the messages, the audience simply recirculated thema (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.44). This means that under this approach audiences are believed to be passive when receiving the mediated messages; they do not take part in the interpretation, hence they just contribute to the taken for granted ideologies.

The role of the critical media analysis is to uncover the hidden meanings and thus bring to the surface the real ones. This cannot be done unless the person is equipped with a huge theoretical background and an academic thinking in order to achieve such a goal.

The recent version of the hegemonic approach states that the audience is not passive when receiving media messages as some might think; on the contrary, they are very much active in their critical analysis which varies from one person to another.

According to this theory there must be a dominant group with a certain interpretation which is referred to as preferred meaning: aThe preferred meanings are those of the dominant groups. They are ideological and derive from the social structure, particularly from class, race and gender relationsa (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.44).

Now after having dealt with theories of media it will be useful to move the focus to the second chapter to see them in practice. It worth saying that besides the former theories of media, perhaps the most used and quoted ones in media held are the manipulative theory as well as the reception theory first to unveil the aim of certain images or portrayals as financial ideological and the latter to give an the person the opportunity to states his or her understanding of what he or she sees, and this is going to be clear in the application of the theories in the following sections.

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