Media–a tool for ideological control or a contributor of nation building?

One of the main reasons that for those people who are against globalization, it is they believe that globalization will undermine the nation states’ central status as political, economic and cultural power. They believe that globalization will take government out and let the free markets control all kinds of human activities such as international capital transaction, human migration and so on. Nevertheless, Nationalism is still viewed as very important, because it identifies who we are and where we belong to.

In Waisbord’s article, he regards nation states as “culturally coordinated” communities. He also points out how important the political centralization played in the development of modern nations. But as history moves on, the media, especially the mass media has emerged as an important role to establish cultural boundaries. The history of mass media could be traced back to the first decade of 19th century. While the penny newspaper in US and cheap daily newspaper in Europe, had widen people’s horizon to the world. The grassroots people were eager to participate, and contribute to the formation of public polices of their countries. They wanted to express their ideas, and even criticize the misbehaviors of their governments. (summarized from Waisbord’s article)

One of the most influential scholars about the media contribution to nation building is Benedict Anderson. Waisbord cites some of Anderson’s theory and gives examples about how some governments use media to instill national sentiments. As a Chinese, even though I hate to admit it, I have to say our government still use the national media as a tool to shape people’s world value. The censorship of Chinese government is still condemned by many Western countries by pointing out “No human rights, no country should control the information flow” and so on. But from my point of view, I might say from the ancient China, all emperors were very cautious about the creation and dissemination of knowledge and tried to control people’s mind in order to protect the dominant social class’s interests. And Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, who had very strong opinions about how government’s action by build consent by ideological control of cultural production and distribution.

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One Response to Media–a tool for ideological control or a contributor of nation building?

  1. Faizullah Jan says:

    You have rightly quoted Anderson in your post. Governments in the past–and most even presently–have used media for national media. Just like China, Pakistan had a similar case till the dawn of the 21st century. Electronic media, both radio and television, were state-controlled. The government through these media tried to build a nation that communicate in a common language i.e. Urdu, which is national language. When Pakistan came into being, Urdu was the language of 2% people, but now it is understood in every nook and corner of the country. Almost all people, irrespective of their educational background and their ethnic background, can communicate in Urdu. I think this is the success of the government to promote a common language of communication in a multi-lingual society.
    However, with the advent of private TV in 2002, many language televisions started beaming is sharpening the sense of ethnic languages. Though Sinclair & Harrision (quoted by Sinclair in Globalization, Supranational Institutions, and Media) opine that the speakers of [ethnic] languages now escape the former hegemony of [a common language] which undermines the traditional “nation-building” role of television … and fosters a degree of cultural pluralism that the nation-state would never have wanted. But the fact is that there are many layers of cultural identities. Pluralism in mass media certainly promote individual local cultures, but they remain tied to each other at national level.

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