April 03, 2003

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It ocurred to me that if I'm going to attempt to do some metaphorical content analysis, that I should first give a little overview of cognitive metaphor theory. Then it ocurred to me that I'm really lazy and that doesn't sound like a fun entry to make. So, in the interest of reducing the amount of time I have to spend going over basics so you don't say at some future date, "What the heck is she talking about," I'm going to reuse/recycle this lovely thingy I wrote on metaphor and (Bush's) propaganda tactics for some Mass Comm. class hella days ago (a little over 2 years ago). Of course, you'll still wonder what the hell I'm going on about sometimes, but this may help a little. I could have just included the cog.sci. overview, but I think the tax metaphor discussion is kinda interesting too, especially since a lot of these same metaphors (since they are major conservative morality metaphors) are being used currently by the Bush "regime". The links in the biblio still work, too. So without further ado, I present my recycling of laziness:

Conceptual Metaphor as Propaganda

With the emergence of mass media and mass audiences “at the end of the 19th century”, “one major concern that emerged… was the future of the democratic process in the face of new possibilities of manipulation of public opinion through increasingly skillful propaganda techniques (2, 104).” This concern centered around the negative consequences of “a greatly expanded franchise [and] its corollary of the need to base authority on the support of public opinion,” namely, “the cold-blooded manipulation of popular impulse and thought by professional politicians (2, 104).” Since then, mass media has become more advanced, able to reach both immense mainstream and niche audiences at nearly every turn with a staggering variety of channels and publications. It seems hardly possible that the propaganda of political forces could manipulate the opinions of such a large and fragmented public so as to endanger the democratic process. However, the propaganda of professional politicians has come to dictate media messages about countless issues, enabling political propaganda to both reach the public and have a significant impact on public opinion. A fresh and formidable case of this is President George W. Bush’s use of White House Press Releases in his campaign for tax cuts, and specifically, the elimination of the estate tax, or the “death tax,” as he and other conservatives call it.

1) $paginate_current_page = 1; $paginate_sections = array( 0 , 1); $paginate_top_section = $paginate_sections[$paginate_current_page-1]+1; $paginate_bottom_section = $paginate_sections[$paginate_current_page]; } else { $paginate_top_section = 1; $paginate_bottom_section = 1; } $paginate_self = '&' . $_SERVER['QUERY_STRING'] . '&'; $paginate_self = preg_replace("/&page=[^&]*&/", "&", $paginate_self); $paginate_self = substr($paginate_self, 1, strlen($paginate_self) - 1); if($paginate_self == '&') $paginate_self = ''; else $paginate_self = htmlentities($paginate_self); $paginate_self = basename($_SERVER['PHP_SELF']) . "?${paginate_self}page"; ?> Posted by Kristina at April 3, 2003 10:08 PM

shit. is this what i missed out on by not majoring in mass comm? you mean i could have been hanging out with sorority girls AND writing stuff like this? crap! crap crap crappity crap crap!

seriously. i regret not having at least some exposure to the mass comm world in college. wretched physics.

Posted by: holohan at April 3, 2003 10:27 PM

An interesting read. I had a whole devil's-advocate rebuttal written, but just as I was about to hit "Post", I realized that you're probably not interested in having this comment forum be filled with my arguments. So that's gone now, and I replace it with.....
a beautiful flower.

Posted by: Jacob at April 3, 2003 10:37 PM

Mat, I got a not-so-good grade on this paper because my TA said that it was "off topic," which it totally is since it was supposed to be about propaganda techniques as discussed in the Propaganda and Persuasion book. Sadly, the book was rife with terribly out-dated, psychologically B.S., kinda condescending theories about mass message reception... you'd think it was written in the 1970's at the very latest, not in 1999. This is a good example of the kind of stuff that isn't accepted by fairly new and supposedly hip fields like Mass Comm, let alone deeply entrenched fields such as philosophy, psychology, political science and, yes, law. I know that when I start lawschool, I will face setbacks like this, but I am termined to find a way to use these theoretical tools to make sense of what I learn in lawschool my way. Perhaps that's a pipe dream, but, oh well. Oh, and, don't feel sad about not being in Mass Comm classes; finding a girlfriend-worthy girl in there would have been just as hard as finding sound theories of the mind in the course material. I think even other MC majors would agree with me there... and, if not. oh well to that, too.

Jacob, please post your comments/arguments if you got 'em... I'm down for discussion. Thanks for the flower though, it's lovely.

Posted by: Kristina at April 4, 2003 12:06 AM

ah, out-dated material. i wrote a paper on nuclear fusion once, and one of my sources was a 1970s DOE pamphlet which was very much in the style of "By the year 1995, all of our energy will come from FUSION!"

as for the mass comm classes, girlfriend-shmirlfriend. i just didn't have enough casual sex in college.

Posted by: holohan at April 4, 2003 07:56 AM

Believe me, it's highly over-rated.

Posted by: Kristina at April 4, 2003 09:56 AM

I remember this paper! And it still packs a punch.

It got me wondering: we've come to refer to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers using the briefest euphemism "911." What would a Mass Comm interpretation of this be?

I can't help thinking that it's come to be used as a justification for radicalism...like everything is different after 911 (when patently the world continues as it always has) so things thought impossible previously are now commonplace occurances, e.g. big brother style surveillance, pre-emptive attacks, utter disregard for domestic economic conditions.

Posted by: cbsisco at April 5, 2003 12:45 AM

As for the Mass Comm interpretation of the term "911", I'm sure that just about every media theorist that you could ask would give you a different answer. But it'd probably be something along the lines of: some agent (whether it be the media, the government or some elaborate interplay between the two) consistently using an easy-to-remember, easy-to-say key word or sound-bite that focuses "audience" attention on the aspect of the event(s) that the agent wishes to stress the most. In the case of "911", the fact that the key-word is just the date of the events seems to stress that it is an extremely pivotal point in time, as you've heard time and again from various news and political sources. I'm sure there are other media/gov't message production and audience reception theoretical applications that I'm missing, but that's because I just want to move on to what *I* think is the real meaning of "911".

Since MC (in its current form) doesn't really have any psychologically or cognitive realistic theoretical tools at it's disposal, I don't believe MC can really answer your question. From a Cog.Sci. perspective "911" is a simple case of DATE OF EVENTS FOR EVENTS metonymy . This is an extremely common linguistic device that enables people to talk about and refer to things easily. Since the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 happened in two different places and also involved the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, people were not able to use the city/place of the event to refer to it, as with Pearl Harbor or Oklahoma City. The media intially referred to the attacks as "the events that ocurred on September 11th" (or some variation thereof), but as (in my opinion) journalists tend to be lazy and try to pack more into their ever-shrinking articles, this was shortened to September 11, then to just plain ol' 911.

Booya, how you like that!

Posted by: Kristina at April 5, 2003 04:31 PM

I wrote a paper investigating the same policy for a different class. Just thought I'd weigh in a little bit. First off, any conception of Moral Fairness is going to use the Moral Accounting metaphor. Under this system, one accrues various moral "credits" and "debts" which can be collected or paid back via revenge, retribution, reciprocation, restitution, etc. Once we're in this system we notice that there are different ways of adding everything up. This from Philosophy in the Flesh:

"According to the Moral Accounting metaphor, justice is the settling of accounts, which results in the balancing of the moral books. Justice is understood as fairness, in which people get what they deserve, that is, when they get their just deserts.

"However, there are several different conceptions of what the basis should be for tallying up the moral books in a fair way. From the time we are toddlers we learn what is and isn't fair. It's fair when the cookies are divided equally, when everybody gets a chance to play, when following the rules gives everyone an equal chance at winning, and when everybody does his or her job and gets paid equally for the work."

As you can see from the above excerpt, there are many different models for determining Moral Fairness and the book goes on to list many of them:

Equality of distribution (one person, one "object")
Equality of opportunity
Procedural distribution (playing by the rules determines what you get)
Rights-based fairness (playing by the rules determines what you get)
Need-based fairness (the more you need, the more you have a right to)
Scalar distribution (the more you work, the more you get)
Contractual distribution (you get what you agree to)
Equal distribution of responsibility (we share the burden equally)
Scalar distribution of responsibility (the greater your abilities, the greater your responsibilities)
Equal distribution of Power

When Bush speaks of the estate tax being "burdensome" or of double-taxation he's invoking the "equal distribution of responsibility" model. Note that once you're thinking in terms of equal distribution of responsibility you're completely ignoring the possibility of a scalar distribution of responsibility where people that can carry a bigger burden do so. It's important to understand that by picking a specific metaphor you're locking yourself out of any number of other ones, all equally valid. There's nothing that says that any one of these particular models for Moral Fairness are any better than the other ones. It's simply up to you to pick whatever one works best for the given situation.

Posted by: dr v at April 8, 2003 08:41 AM

well said dr. v... it's so sexy when you clarify my muddled arguments ;)

Posted by: Kristina at April 8, 2003 11:26 AM

Damn, I wonder if there's a metaphor for the equal distribution of gettin' it on. Shit, I'd settle for a smile.

Posted by: sean at April 8, 2003 01:06 PM

"simile," not "smile."

Posted by: sean at April 8, 2003 02:36 PM

There is. It's called LOVE IS AN OBJECT, that is the metaphorical basis for the term so widely used in the 1960's and in certain Berkeley co-ops, "free love." This entails that love should be free and available to everyone by mapping those attributes onto the object being likened to love. Sadly, however, America is too puritanical to embrace this not-so-novel case of LOVE IS AN OBJECT and chooses to, instead, focus on the LOVE IS A COMMODITY or LOVE IS A GIFT cases of the main metaphor. This makes love something that must either be earned, usually by proper behavior as judged by the "seller/giver" of the lovin' or given as a reward/present. What's sad about this is that, a hidden entailment of these commodity/gift metaphors is that love can be bought or witheld and it gives ultimate power to the seller/giver, leaving the buyer/recipient only with the power to try to suck up enough to the seller/giver until s/he has "paid his/her dues," or "proven him/herself." This is BS, I know, but one can't really go around given' the lovin' away for free... cuz then one (but only if female) would be labeled a whore.

Posted by: Kristina at April 8, 2003 05:08 PM

i liked it better when i thought you meant 'smile.' there was less whoring then. =)

Posted by: michele at April 8, 2003 09:02 PM

...not that I condone calling people the "w" word for practicing free love. I'm just saying that our society looks very badly upon it, especially for women.

Posted by: Kristina at April 9, 2003 12:49 PM

not just our society but pretty much every society. women giving it away for free weakens the sexual stranglehold that women have over men.

Posted by: dr v at April 9, 2003 04:37 PM

You know it, baby! (whatever that means...)

Posted by: Kristina at April 9, 2003 11:03 PM