Size Is Not Destiny, Regionalism Is by Indira Rampersad

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Size Is Not Destiny, Regionalism Is

by Indira Rampersad
Sep 27, 2007

 

This article was originally published in the Trinidad Guardian and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

Was it sheer coincidence that an alleged plot to blow up a fuel supply to JFK airport by some geriatric Caribbean terrorists had dramatically unfolded before our incredulous eyes just over a week before seventeen Caribbean leaders flocked to Washington D.C. in a combustive burst of tropical exuberance to participate in the Conference on the Caribbean a 20/20 Vision (June 19th-21st, 2007)?

Organized with near-military precision, the conference was the product of the collaborative efforts of the caucus of Caribbean Ambassadors to Washington, the Caricom Secretariat, the IDB, the World Bank, the OAS and the U.S. government. The title 20/20 Vision was appended for two reasons: first, the organizers hoped to assess the issues of the region with the clarity of perfect vision and second, they are determined to have them resolved by the year 2020. The three-fold Expert, Diaspora and Private Sector forums collectively and critically addressed anything and everything that are of concern to the region including, trade, investment, finance, energy, education, crime, security, diaspora and deeper, thicker, faster and denser integration through the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

In the U.S., we frequently hear that all politics are domestic. The bombshell terrorist plot exploded in timely fashion to be a convenient diversion from the doldrums into which the current Bush administration has sunk itself. That same week of alleged Caribbean terrorism, the U.S. media was having a field day with the minority AG Alberto Gonzaless catastrophic dismissal of three minority judges. Then came allegations of the U.S. decision to fund Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Not surprisingly, Bushs approval rating continues to slide to an all time low. It is rather curious though, how quickly the analysts were able to prepare their media speeches on Caribbean terrorism and make the link to Islamic fundamentalism. The message is clear. Whether in the Middle East or in our tropical paradise in Americas backyard, the issue of the day is American Insecurity.

Seemingly oblivious to Americas grand designs, our leaders and professionals from the region and the U.S. diaspora embraced the conference with passion, zeal and true Caribbean fervor. Even with the monumental Washington obelisk towering over our heads like a giant phallus, Jamaicas Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, insisted that Size is not Destiny, Regionalism Is. But the call for a new Ship Rider agreement in the interest of regional security, this time on Caribbean terms and conditions, gave credence to the age-old adage that its not the size of the ship, but the motion in the ocean that really matters. The Titanic may have sunk, but our incessant navigation for regional security has not.

So far, the Caribbean conference has received virtually no attention from the mainstream American media. Our seventeen Caribbean leaders could not compete with Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, for Georgies and the medias attention. United in their deep and abiding commitment to eradicate those extremists and radicals who use violence and murder as a tool to achieve objectives, the unholy alliance between Bush and Olmert is reinforced by Americas unrelenting support of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

But it gets curiouser and curiouser. Clearly, Olmerts visit was well-timed. The 2008 election drums are rolling in the U.S. Hilary and Obama have already raised millions for their respective Democratic campaigns. And though money has never been a major problem for the Conservatives, the enormous contributions of the powerful Jewish-American lobby to the Democratic Party is no secret. Indeed, it is larger than the financial contributions from any other ethnic Political Action Committee in the U.S. Yes, all politics are domestic.

It was clear that American insecurity rather than regional security was the issue of the day when our leaders met with Bush on Wednesday, June 20th. Hoping to repeat at least some of the gains of Reagans Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), their reasonable demands for more aid, trade, preferential treatment and investment from Uncle Sam, more than likely fell on deaf ears. Bush was more preoccupied with the Caribbeans relations with Venezuelan firebrand, Hugo Chavez and Cubas indomitable Comandante, Fidel Castro. Why?

Recently, at the meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association in Bahia, Brazil (May 28th-June 1st), I attempted to explain the Logistics Behind the Illogical U.S. Cuba Policy in the geopolitical context of both U.S. domestic politics; Manifest Destiny which justifies American expansionism; and the 1823 Monroe Doctrine the historic mission of the U.S. to ward-off European powers and protect what it considers its sphere of influence in the region. In a post-Cold War era, it seems that Americas worst fears are justified. The capitalist superpower has failed to castrate Castro for forty-six years and is now forced to confront an unenviable leftist political milieu in its own backyard. Ironically, it is taking place in the absence of a Soviet Union and 17 years after the Cold War has ended. A neo-Monroe Doctrine targeting the socialist ideology, rather than European powers, is not only timely but an imperative for the U.S. Cubas Fidel Castro, Venezuelas Hugo Chavez, Bolivias Evo Morales, Brazils Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Argentinas Nestor Kirchner, Ecuadors Rafael Correa, Uruguays Tabare Vasquez, Chiles Michelle Bachelet and Nicaraguas Daniel Ortega, all veer toward the left. Some such as Chavez, Kirchner, Ortega, Morales and Correa have overtly expressed anti-imperialist sentiments and resentment for the Washington Consensus. Vasquezs first announcement upon election victory in 2004 was the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. Correa quipped that Chavez calling Bush the devil, offends the devil.

Yes, all politics are domestic. Strong anti-Castro Republican representation by hardline, right-winged Cuban-Americans in South Florida has facilitated the perpetual tightening of the ridiculous embargo on Cuba, particularly in election years. They constitute the second most important campaign financiers in the U.S., superseded only by that of the Jewish-American lobby. The latest 2004 and 2006 Reports of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, detail the tenets of the draconian policies which currently govern American foreign policy to the island. Their objectives closely mirror those of Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and its later Amendment in 1904 in the form of the Roosevelt Corollary.

Fortunately, the cojones of some of our regional leaders, are still intact. It is the fearless and dynamic Guyanese and Soviet trained Bharat Jagdeo, who took the Bush by the horns in his defense of the Caribbeans relations with Chavez and Castro for which Bush expressed open concern. It is in our national interest to have relations with Venezuela and Cuba, he explained to the distraught Bush. Just as it is in your interest to have relations with un-democratic Saudi Arabia. He should have added and socialist China which incidentally, is the largest trading partner of the United States.

The astute Jagdeo must have long realized that despite the myriad of issues on the Caribbean agenda at the Conference, the only real concern of the U.S. with regards to the region is the formidable expansion of the leftist Castro-led Axis in Latin America to other Caribbean countries. After all, Jamaicas Michael Manley (1976-1980), Grenadas Maurice Bishop (1979-1983) and Jagdeos predecessor, Cheddi Jagan (1957-1964, 1992-1998), have all flirted outrageously with socialism in the past. Jagdeo must also be acutely aware that herein lie the Caribbeans trump card for invaluable aid, trade security and preferential treatment from the United States.

But even without an expansion of the Castro-led Axis into Caribbean waters, a U.S. accord with regional governments which affords the superpower easy access to the region under the guise of Caribbean terrorism would fulfill the historical objectives of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. It would also divert from the catastrophe in Middle East in a desperate bid to win invaluable electoral votes in the 2008 elections. Yes, all politics are domestic.

Sadly, American paranoia has reached such mammoth proportions that it seems to have been transmitted even to the Caribbean Diaspora in the U.S. I was privileged to be sponsored to present a paper at the Diaspora Forum of the Caribbean Conference on Crime as an Obstacle to Diaspora Investment. The paper necessitated a series of unstructured and semi-structured interviews with members of the Caribbean business diaspora in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and New York. My findings reflect a highly successful but suspicious, traumatized, disappointed, cynical and angry Caribbean-American business disapora which has not fully assimilated into the mainstream American cultural and political milieu. At the same time, the majority are not prepared to return or invest in the region mainly because of the spiraling crime rate, inadequate returns on investment due to the currency exchange rate and lack of well-paid and professional job opportunities. Yet, paradoxically, they harbor a lingering nostalgia to return to the tropical homeland.

If anything, our leaders three-day dedication to regional issues in Washington has heightened awareness of their seeming commitment to improving the quality of life in the region. They assured and reassured us that the DC Conference is not just shop talk. So, even in the absence of any real American interest in developing the region, if at least two of the proposals on the regional agenda should indeed come to fruition in the short or medium-term, we can concur unhesitatingly, that the Conference has been a resounding success. By now, Caribbean leaders should know that the onus is on them to collectively take the initiative for the regions development. For Size is not Destiny, but Regionalism is. And as far as the United States is concerned, all politics are domestic.


 

Dr Indira Rampersad is a fellow at the Department of Political Science, University of Florida.
 

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Mass Communication trends, traits and theories by Debanjan Banerjee

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Mass Communication trends, traits and theories

by Debanjan Banerjee
June 14, 2007

This is an original Podium article.

 

The term mass communication is a term used in a variety of ways, which, despite the potential for confusion, are usually clear from the context. These include a) reference to the various activities of the mass media as a group, b) the use of criteria of a concept, massiveness, to differentiate among media and their activities, and c) the construction of questions about communication as applied to the activities of the mass media. Significantly only the third of these uses do not take the actual process of communication for granted.

Mass Communication is often used incorrectly to refer to the distribution of entertainment, arts, information, and messages by television, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies, recorded music, and associated media. This general use of the term is only appropriate as designating the most commonly shared features of such otherwise disparate phenomena as broadcast television, cable, video playback, theater projection, recorded song, radio talk, advertising, the front page, editorial page, sports section, and comics page of the newspaper. In this usage mass communication refers to the activities of the media as a whole and fails to distinguish among specific media, modes of communication, genres of text or artifact, production or reception situations, or any questions of actual communication. The only analytic purpose of the term serves is to distinguish mass communication from interpersonal, small-group, and other face-to-face communication situations. Another use of the term involves the various criteria of massiveness, which can be brought to bear in analyses of media and mass communication situations.

These criteria may include size and differentiation of audience, anonymity, simultaneity, and the nature of influences among audience members and between the audience and the media.

Live television spectators of recent decades may be the epitome of mass communication. These may include such serious events as the funerals of Indias Late Prime Ministers Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., and such entertainment spectaculars as the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer, and the Academy or Grammy Awards. These transmissions are distributed simultaneously and regardless of individual or group differences to audience members numbering in several tens or even a few hundreds of millions. Outside of their own local groups, these audience members know nothing of each other. They have no real opportunities to influence the television representation of the events or the interpretation of those representations by other audience members.

By contrast the spectator for most cable television channels is much smaller and more differentiated from other audience groups. The target audience for newspapers, magazines, and movies is less simultaneous, again smaller and more differentiated, and there is the potential for a flow of local influences as people talk about articles, features and recommend movies. But compared to a letter, phone call, conversation, group discussions, or public lecture all of these media produce communication immensely more massive on every criterion.

All of the criteria used in defining mass communication are potentially confused when one is engaged in a specific research project or critical examination. The most confounding problem is encountered when determining the level of analysis. Should the concern be with a single communication event or with multiple events but a single communication channel? Should the focus be upon multiple channels but a single medium? Does the central question concern a moment in time or an era, a community, nation, or the world?

Here Radio provides an excellent example of the importance of these choices. Before television, network radio was the epitome of mass communication; it was national, live, available and listened to everywhere especially in a country like ours. Today it is difficult to think of radio this way because the industry no longer works in the same manner. Commercial radio stations depend on local and regional sources of advertising income. Essentially all radio stations are programmed to attract a special segment of a local or a regional audience, and even when programming national entertainment materials such as popular songs, stations emphasize local events, personalities, weather, news, and traffic in their broadcast talk. Radio is an industry characterized by specialized channels each attracting relatively small, relatively differentiated audiences. But the average home in the developed nation like US and its developing counterpart India have at least one and even more than that in compare to television sets. Cumulatively the US and Indian audience for radio is just as big, undifferentiated, and anonymous as that for television. Is radio today, then a purveyor of mass communication? It depends on whether the concern is with the industry as a whole or with the programming and audience of a particular station.

Most uses of the term mass communication fall into one of these first two categories, either to refer to the activities of the mass media as a whole, or to refer to the massiveness of certain kinds of communication. Both uses have in common that they take issues of communication for granted and instead place emphasis on the massiveness of the distribution system and the audience. Attention is given to what are called the mass media because they are the institutional and technological systems capable of producing mass audiences for mass distributed communications. Communication, then, ends up implicitly defined as a kind of object (message, text, and artifact) that is reproduced and transported by these media. For some purposes this may be exactly the right definition. But it diminishes our ability to treat communication as a social accomplishment, as something people do rather than as an object that gets moved from one location to another. If communication is people something do, then it may or may not be successful, may or may not be healthy and happy. If communication means, to share for example rather than to transmit then what, if anything of importance is shared when people watch a television programme.

Scholars of mass communication are often more interested in communication as a social accomplishment than they are in the media as mass distribution systems. This interest is based on an intellectual independence from both existing habits of terminology, and most importantly, from media institutions as they exist.

What is communication theory?

Communication is a tricky concept, and while we may casually use the word with some frequency, it is difficult to arrive at a precise definition that is agreeable to most of those who consider themselves communication scholars. Communication is so immensely rooted in human behaviors and the structures of society that it is difficult to think of social or behavioral events that are absent communication.

We might state that communication consists of transmitting information from one person to another. In fact, many scholars of communication take this as a working definition, and use Lasswells maxim (who says what to whom to what effect) as a means of circumscribing the field of communication. Others suggest that there is a ritual process of communication that cannot be artificially abstracted from a particular historical and social context. As a relatively young field of inquiry, it is probably premature to expect a conceptualization of communication that is shared among all or most of those who work in the area. Furthermore, communication theory itself is, in many ways, an attempt to describe and explain precisely what communication is.

Indeed, a theory is some form of explanation of a class of observed phenomena. Karl Popper colorfully described theory as the net, which we throw out in order to catch the world to rationalize, explain, and dominate it. The idea of a theory lies at the heart of any scholarly process, and while those in the social sciences tend to adopt the tests of a good theory from the natural sciences, many who study communication adhere to an idea of theory that is akin to that found in other academic fields. Nonetheless, when evaluating the strength of a theory, the criteria commonly found in the sciences, and derived from the scientific method are often broadly applicable.

Evaluating theory

What makes a theory good? Six criteria might be said to be properties of a scientific and authentic theory. The terminology presented here for the students is drawn from Littlejohn, Theories of Human Communication, but a similar set of criteria are widely accepted both within and outside the field of communication.

  1. Theoretical Scope: How general is the theory? That is, how widely applicable is it? In most cases, a theory that may only be applied within a fairly narrow set of circumstances is not considered as useful as a theory that encompasses a very wide range of communicative interactions. The ideal, of course, is a theory that succinctly explains the nature of human communication as a whole.
  2. ppropriateness: Theories are often evaluated based upon how well their epistemological, ontological, and axiological assumptions relate to the issue or question being explained. If a theory recapitulates its assumptions (if it is tautological), it is not an effective theory.
  3. Heuristic Value: Some theories suggest the ways in which further research may be conducted. By presenting an explanatory model, the theory generates questions or hypotheses that can be operational zed relatively easily.
  4. Validity: It may seem obvious that for a theory to be good, it must also be valid. Validity refers to the degree to which the theory accurately represents the true state of the world.
  5. Parsimony: The law of parsimony (Occams razor) dictates that a theory should provide the simplest possible (viable) explanation for a phenomenon. Others suggest that good theory exhibits an aesthetic quality, that a good theory is beautiful or natural.
  6. Openness: Theories, perhaps paradoxically, should not exist to the absolute exclusion of other theories. Theory should no be dogma: it should encourage and provide both for skepticism and should to whatever degree possible be compatible with other accepted theory.

Moreover in the context of social sciences, we may find different theories that each explains a phenomenon in useful ways. There is value in being able to use theories as lenses through which one can understand the world together with other scholars. So let us discuss in nutshell the most rational and relevant communication theories in this regard.

1. Agenda Setting Theory

The Agenda-Setting Theory says the media (specially the news media) arent always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about.

Theorists: Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw
Date: 1972/1973

2. Cultivation Theory

Gerbners cultivation theory says that television has become the main source of storytelling in todays society. Those who watch four or more hours a day are labeled heavy television viewers and those who view less than four hours per day, according to Gerbner are light viewers. Heavy viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are affected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse than it actually is. According to Gerbner, the overuse of television is creating a homogeneous and fearful populace.

Theorist: George Gerbner
Date: 1976

3. Cultural Imperialism Theory

Cultural Imperialism Theory states that Western nations dominate the media around the world, which in return has a powerful effect on Third World Cultures by imposing them Western views and therefore destroying their native cultures.

Theorist: Herb Schiller
Date: 1973

4. Diffusion of Innovation Theory

In the Diffusion Innovation theory, communicators in society with a message influence/encourage people that have strong opinions through the media to influence the masses.

Theorists: P. Lazarsfeld, B. Berelson, and H. Gaudet
Date: 1944

5. Media Dependency Theory

This theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having his or her needs fulfilled, the more important the media will be to that person.

Theorists: Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur
Date: 1976

6. Media Equation Theory

This theory predicts why people respond unconsciously and automatically to communication media as if it were human.

Theorists: Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass
Date: 1996.

7. Spiral of Silence Theory

The Spiral of Silence Theory explains why people often feel the need to conceal their opinions/preferences/views/etc. when they fall within the minority group.

Theorist: Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann
Date: 1984

8. Technological Determinism Theory

Technological Determinism state that media technology shapes how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how are society operates as we move from one technological age to another (Tribal- Literate- Print- Electronic etc.,)

Theorist: Marshall Mcluhan
Date: 1962

9. Functional Approach To Mass Communication Theory

There are five functional approaches the media serves users: surveillance, correlation, transmission, entertainment, and mobilization.

Theorists: Harold Laswell and Charles Wright
Date: 1948, 1960

10. Human Action Theory

Human behavior can be predicted because people make choices with a purpose about their actions. Behavior is chosen by individuals to reach certain goals.

Theorist: P. Winch
Date: 1958

Apart from these there are many more important theories such as Uses and Gratification Theory, Cognitive Dissonance Theory, Communication Accommodation Theory, Expectancy Violation Theory, Face-Negotiation Theory etc, needed to be discussed. Rest assured, I will keep my promise in my next article provided you grab the given one first. Please do not cram better to conceptualize. Happy reading

REFERENCES AND SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHIES

Beniger, James R. Toward an Old New Paradigm: The Half-Century Flirtation with Mass Society. Public Opinion Quarterly (New York), 1987

Blum, Eleanor. Basic Books in the Mass Media. Urbar Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1980.

Curan, James, and Michael Gurevitch, editors. Mass Media and Society. London; New York: Edward Arnold, 1991

Jensen, Joli. Redeeming Modernity: American Media Criticism as Social Criticism. Newbury Park, California Sage, 1990

Katz, Elihu. Communication Research since Lazersfeld. Public Opinion Quarterly (New York)

Mass Communication Review Yearbook. Newbury, Park, California, Sage.

McQuail, Denis. Mass Communication Theory: An introduction. London; Newbury Park, California, Sage, 1987.

Schramm, Wilber Lang. Mass Communication: A Book of Readings. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1960

Turow, Joseph. Media Systems in Society: Understanding Industries, Strategies, and Power. New York: Longman, 1992.

An introduction to Mass Communication and Mass Media, Prof. Manohar R. Wadhwani,

Sheth Publishers, Mumbai. India


 

Debanjan Banerjee is Senior Lecturer of Media Studies, West Bengal University of Technology, Calcutta, INDIA, and is pursing his PhD. in Mass Communication. He has an extensive experience as a Columnist and a Journalist, and is a regular contributor of features and articles to leading Indian dailies and magazines.

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The Politicization of Science

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science

The Politicization of Science

by Raywat Deonandan
May 17, 2007

This is an original Podium article that was reprinted in India Currents Magazine in March of 2008.

Many years ago I interviewed for a job with a Washington-based law firm that was interested in me, an epidemiologist, for my skills in science research design. Their intent was that I would attack the science underlying the claims being brought against their major clients –mostly tobacco companies being sued for health damages caused by cigarette smoke. Continue reading

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