Monday, April 5, 2010

Essay on Ethnic Notions

When a person is given the microphone at a podium, the attention of the audience is customarily afforded to that person so that they may convey their message(s) clearly. In the past fifty years, advancements in technology and the ability to transmit information have transformed the world into a global stage for any individual or group who wish to broadcast their agendas. The more modernized and stable countries, namely western European nations and the United States of America, have a strangle hold on the microphone to this global stage and are reluctant to release it. The major problems inherent in the effort to emphasize global instead of discreet national histories of mass communication rest within the mentalities of these western powers. A country, like America, whose mindset fosters ideals such as media imperialism, capitalism, and cultural dominance will have supreme reign in a society that can be easily influenced by the various tools of the media.

With the exception of the Persian Gulf War in the early 90’s, the Vietnam War is the last major conflict that the Unites States has been involved in. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, which effectively ended the Cold War and automatically allowed America to become the front running nuclear power, the U.S. needed a new objective to conquer other than communism. Since the U.S. armed forces cannot thoroughly flex its military muscles in the absence of a war, an acceptable alternative is to inundate other developing countries with the thoughts of “democracy and freedom” through the media. However, the validity of America’s true intentions are often questioned when it begins to preach that all humans are entitled to have the freedom of choice. What exactly, do these freedoms entail? Normally, for American businesses and industries, this suggests that people are free to choose to consume American made goods and products.

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Although it may have been inadvertent at first, an imperial power such as America will expand in its blundering efforts to do good or protect its borders (Herman 1992). After a certain amount of time, this expansion is no longer by chance but by purpose because those who control the channels of media begin to promote imperialistic views, which eventually lead to the domination of a market, be it newspaper, radio, or television. The American dominance in the television market for example, can be aptly characterized by a silly show about lifeguards working on a Los Angeles beach. Even though Baywatch recently ended nine years of international syndication, in its heyday, this was the most watched show in the world as it was viewed in over 100 countries (Associated Press 2001). The cause of Baywatch’s popularity is often attributed to brilliant marketing by the show’s producers, but in hindsight, the show was nothing more than a tool that Hollywood utilized to advance media imperialism. With the exception of some Islamic countries, which challenged the flood of half-naked blondes into their airwaves, the rest of the world embraced the sexual onslaught of bikini-clad bimbos and thoroughly enjoyed it as evidenced by the show’s rating numbers.

It is almost undeniable that the United States became involved in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait because of the abundance of oil in the latter country. In order to fuel this capitalistic society, some Americans felt the need to protect their interests in a quarrel that they had no business in. Television as a medium is a relatively new invention, but arguably the most influential of the three named due to its visual images, which enable viewers to see propaganda-laden messages that influence their daily lives. During the conflict in the Persian Gulf, Iraqi forces were portrayed in American news broadcasts as rag-tag armies that were soundly defeated by American forces. Capitalism is based on a free market economy that allows for the survival of the fittest. The underlying message that America established by “winning” the Persian Gulf War is that this country is a superpower, it is the most fit, and it can beat anybody when it comes to pushing buttons to drop a bomb. By claiming victory for the American people, the U.S. government led many to believe that that there is nothing wrong with killing to protect one’s personal interests.

In recent decades, the production of goods has shifted from American factories to those overseas in Asia and the Middle East where labor is cheap and can be easily exploited. Even with the enormous amounts of land and resources, The United States has become a consumer culture rather than a producing one (Folkerts and Lacy 1998). The culture created by the mass of consumers has translated into big revenues for the entertainment and food industries. This spread of cultural dominance, or more specifically westernization, is demonstrated by the dramatic increase in the number of American fast food restaurants that are now in operation outside of the United States. In the 1950’s no one could have envisioned that what was once a small hamburger stand in southern California could escalate into the multi-billion dollar corporation that McDonald’s.

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