How far we are from cosmopolitan publics?

As Chouliararki addresses the symbolic power of transnational media, which could potentially promote the visibility of distant suffering, I am not sure whether I am optimistic or skeptical about her hypothesis. But I do see our everyday lives are being transformed and shaped by the transnational media.

“Symbolic power refers to the capacity of the media to selectively combine resources of language and image in order to present distant suffering as a cause of emotion, reflection and action for Western media audiences.” (Chouliararki) So from her definition of “symbolic power”, we can see sources such as languages and images can convey meaning to distant people. It seems so obvious. The 24/7 satellite reporting can make us–the ordinary people, care not only what happens within our nation, but what is going on in the world. For example, with the satellite communication technologies, people around the world can watch “World Cup” in real-time. So it does not matter whether you are in U.S. 2 P.M., or I am in China 2 A.M. morning, or he is in Japan 3 A.M. Just like Castelles says before that we are in the “timeless time”, which from my point of view, we are moving towards cosmopolitan era.Or at least, people are realizing something called invisible hand–“globalization” is changing their way of living. For example, because of me, my whole family pay more attention to the the local news in U.S. They also care more about the relationship between China and U.S. So in their mental system, they have two clocks.

I also think the satellite reporting can make the distant suffering more visible and related to people who are used to be called “observers” or “speculators”. I remembered the time when 9/11 happened, I was in the boarding high school. Just heard the radio was broadcasting the World Trade Center of New York, and the Pentagon City in Washington D.C. were attacked by Taliban. I was just shocked and thought that must be a joke. It could not be real.

But I am in between the optimistic and skeptical view of satellite reporting. On the one hand, I do believe that it could bring with greater proximity with vulnerable others. For example, the Tsunami in Indonesia did draw the global attention.due to the huge amount of death toll and many victims are Westerns as well.  But on the other hand, I also agree with the skepticism view about the suffering on the news is not necessarily accordance to its political or humanitarian magnitude, but it is more related to whether the news are relevant to the Western publics.

First, we have to admit the majority transnational media corporations are from Western world such as BBC, CNN, News Corps. They broadcast 24/7  in various languages to reach the global audiences. Second, I am just giving one example to demonstrate my point about the skepticism view. As we all know, America is one of the major supporter for the Haiti earthquake, not only the US government provides a series of financial, medical and humanitarian assistance to Haiti. But many grassroots people fly to Haiti to become volunteers to help Haitian to rebuild their home, and many Americans adopt the homeless Haitian children. To be honest, I am very moved by American people’s humanitarian behaviors. But on the other side, I am just doubt how many Americans know about the Wenchuan Earthquake in China, 2008. The earthquake is 7.9 magnitude, more than 200.000 Chinese people died during the earthquake.

Of course, there are so many other reasons cause people have different motions, reflections about similar natural disaster. From the geopolitical view,  Haiti is so close to US. while for many Americans, China is so far away. Also US keeps helping Haiti to reduce poverty and there are so many news covering Haiti, so ordinary US people know what is going on in Haiti. But I do not think the US local channels will report the earthquake in China that often.

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One Response to How far we are from cosmopolitan publics?

  1. Claire says:

    For anyone who attended the Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30, I thought that Jon Stewart’s final speech was actually relevant to some of the issues we spoke about in class this semester. He states: “The country’s 24 hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictonator did not cause our problems, but its existence make solving them that much harder. …If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

    Granted, Stewart does add some comic relief into this subject. However, the message is, the media is not the cause of our problems today, but, with the amount of information being fed to us hour after hour, day after day, the 24/7 news cycle can either move us or overload us with too much information. This is because the media holds “symbolic power”, as Chouliararki calls it. As they report to excite us, the media begins to influence our views, as in the case of Haiti. Or this means a more extreme left or right lean to their politics. For others, it is more of a turn off to politics as a whole. Either way, the “amplifying” as Stewart calls it, leads to conflict as now both sides are unwilling to listen to the other side, or people have become so apathetic they drown out any point of view. This is now the problem we are left to resolve. The question is, how can we restore polite conversation in politics, as Stewart proposes we do. I believe that the media influence could actually help us in this endeavor; however, I also believe the news channels have determined that moderation is not as profitable, so we are left to our favorite fake news team to assemble a rally promoting these values.

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