Ideology necessarily reflect the reality accurately but can
Ideology is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of beliefs depending on the context in which it is used, ideology can be understood from a political, cultural, economic and social stance but not from the absolute truth. When speaking of ideology in the context of mass media this refers to the broader meaning or underlying images depicted in the different media forms and texts. Theorists have defined ideology as-“…a system of meaning that helps define and explain the world and that makes value judgements about that world which do not necessarily reflect the reality accurately but can represent a distorted view.” (Croteau, Hoynes & Milan, 2012: 53)The question that most theorist are concerned with is- what are the hidden messages within the media content and who greatly benefits from it? In this essay I will be considering how the media can be ideological in some nature by conveying how the role of mass media shapes our ‘collective consciousness’ (Durkheim,1983) beliefs and value system. I will use various media sources to present an ideological analysis and the different ways ideology is understood within structuralists frameworks.Many theorists argue that the context of mass media is ideological because the way in which this communication is presented, received and the groups who control it. Mass Media is a form of communication that is intended to reach a mass audience, this can come in different platforms such as television, magazine, the internet and radio etc. The general public depend on mass media to communicate with family and friends, provide social and political issues and entertainment. The media dependency model developed by Ball-Rokeach and Defleur (1976) show the importance of media and how this can lead to behavioural consequences.. As an example, a women may watch a documentary about sexism in the workplace and receiving this media message can negatively impact her emotional state, which may encourage her to join a women rights march or raise the issue with local authorities.Marxists theorist describe ideology as a belief and value system that support the ruling class to re-represent and distort reality. Marx (1845) theory of ideology is derived from relationship between the base and superstructure. Marxist interprets and understand the structure of human society as two parts; the ‘economic base’ and the ‘ideological superstructure’. The economic base functions as the essential platform that is made up of the different components of the economic structure of society. As such, the economic base is composed of productive forces and social relations. Whereas, the superstructure is the set of ideas and relations that are in morality, politics, religion media etc. Marxists claim that ideology represents class in an illusory form in the media and these ideas do not accurately portray the nature and relative positions of the classes concerned; rather this ideology misrepresent these relations to produce the dominant ideology.For Marxists the content of mass media is ideological because it maintains the control of the ruling class while producing a state of ‘false consciousness’. Ideology in the media acts as a form of social control so the ruling class can impose their value and belief system upon society (ruling class ideology). The subordinate classes (proletariat) are in a state of ‘false consciousness’ because the media infrastructure is controlled by the dominant groups in society that largely represent their interests. Engels (1893) noted “Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but it’s with a false consciousness”.One of the most apparent examples of false consciousness is advertisements, the Apple commercial of Macintosh made in 1984 that featured Anya Major the English athlete.This depicts a liberated and fierce women running as a personification of the Macintosh computer without actually revealing the product in the commercial. The feature of a well known respected women is a tool to distort our reality to convince the audience that we will feel this liberated when purchasing the computer. However, in reality advertisements serve the economic interest of the dominant class by using media influence tool of persuasion, the ruling class exploit this advertising and consumer culture.The way the media operates is evident in the writings of Gramsci (1891-1937), he describes the consumers eagerness to purchase the product through advertisements as hegemony because the ideology has an affect on our trail on consciousness and it exploits it. Gramsci (1891-1937) built upon the works of Marxism and posed that the ideology of the media is ‘hegemonic ideological process’. He conceptualised hegemony focusing on the autonomy of ‘superstructure’ and excluding the relationship that Marx (1845) claims it has with the ‘economic base’. Hegemony is the process of negotiation or compromise on behalf of the ruling elites, it involves control through coercion and consent. The media encourages people to consent and support the power structures such a government, cooperations and patriarchy. Gramsci (1891-1937) emphasised on the notion of consent and argued that the ruling class maintained and transmitted their dominant ideological message by presenting them as normal and obvious (common sense) so their view predominates. Therefore, oppressive regimes are able to stay in power through coercion and taught to consent to everyday life behaviours.The media are central in actively engaging ideological in the function of hegemony.Hegemony in action was shown through the media during the formation of the Cameron-Clegg coalition Government from 2010-2015.The coalition Government proposed that they will cut the benefits to eliminate ‘scroungers’ or the culture of ‘welfare dependency'(Murray, 1996). British newspapers particularly the right-wing and liberal press such as Daily express and The sun featured headlines on benefits ‘scroungers’, this scapegoated and demonised those who are on social security.For example, the disabled, unemployed, single mothers and so on.This evidently shown how the media has fallen in line with the hegemonic debate about scroungers. Malcolm X (1964) noted: “If you are not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”What is particularly interesting is that the British newspapers failed to criticise those who are defrauding the system and claiming benefits rather they are blinded by the this ‘smokescreen’ notion of hegemony that everyone on benefits is a ‘scrounger’. The huge headline moral panic stories present these stories as common sense to public to gain their consent. As an example, a headline published in The Guardian (2012) ” ‘Scrounger’ stigma puts poor people off for applying for essential benefits.” Also, the opinion polls show the hegemony in action; The Financial Times (2015) reported that “75% of voters think too much money is wasted on paying benefits.” As a result, this message becomes the dominant hegemonic view.However, hegemony ideology by dominant power structures can always be challenged and resisted, no society can be completely hegemonic. Sociologist Hall described this as “counter-hegemonic” culture it refers to the attempt to go against the hegemonic power, whereby opposing to the status quo. Sociologist Stuart Hall provided an analysis on how mass media functions in hegemony. He argued that media text simply do not represent the world view. But rather they re-represent and reconstruct “reality” of the world. Hall argued some may accept, negotiate or reject the underlying images in the media. While Gramsci (1971) argues messages in the media are imposed from the ruling elites. Hall observed resistance that undermined the dominant media narratives.Hall argued that this is found on youth subcultures such as punks, emos, and Rastafarians that can provide a different reality that the mainstream one.Another example of ‘counter-hegemony’ is when The Blair government (1997-2001) led the UK to war in Iraq on the premise of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq apparently had which needed to be eradicated. The government declaring a war was supported by all the main media platforms, such as The Guardian and Daily Express.The media feel into the notion of hegemony without challenging any of their preconceptions. However, the public went against and demonstrated resistance. This led to the UK biggest march over 750,000 people marched the streets of London to voice their opposition against military action against Iraq (BBC, 2003). Although it didn’t stop the war from happening it proved that the dominant power structures cannot always encourage people to consent.Furthermore, the hegemony theory can be criticised because the media is diverse, with a wide range of available choices for consumers rather than the media influencing society’s consensus. The media may just simply reflect the consensus values and stereotypes held by society. If particular representations is dominant in the media this may be the popularity amongst the audience, not the powerful institutions that are imposing a particular ideology.The media try and please the audience and provide representations that meet audience expectations. For example, many companies encourage the audience to post a feedback online form to meet the needs of their target audience.Feminists are also concerned with how the Mass Media uses its ideological tool to misrepresent women in the media. According to feminism, the media are instruments in presenting the patriarchal dominant ideology as the natural order. Similar to Marxism, Feminists also argue that we are in a state of ‘false consciousness’ because we believe that the division of labour and the different perceptions in roles are the true nature of reality and the media plays a role in exploiting our consciousness to believe this is true. This is evident in society today when we observe that those who control our society are male and in rare occasions female.For instance, Theresa May is the second female prime minster since Margaret Thatcher steeped down over 25 years ago.Advertising is a form of mass media that is an inescapable path of everyday life it is constantly featured in our surroundings even if we do not watch television or use the internet. Between the 1900 and 1960, advertising was a principle tool of consumerism and ‘mass deception’ (Ardono and Horkheimer, 1944). After WW2 advertising represented the countries desire to continue as normal. Therefore, it would encourage people to rebuild a family centred society by presenting a gender scripted role whilst imposing the patriarchal ideology. Adverts would encourage women to carry out the the emotionally expressive and nurturing role including household duties to appear as ‘busy working mothers’. While men were shown to be authoritative figures through breadwinning activities.Gunther (2002) studied the gender representation of women in television advertisements during the 1900’s and found that failed to show women in paid work, but rather presented them carrying out the ‘expressive role’ (Parsons, 1951).Dormeyer (1984) kitchen appliances advert released in 1966 stated ” Wives are desperate for home appliances and will cry to get them”. This coveys how advertisements portrayed women as suffering from an obsessive cleaning habit and if the household duties were not done they would fall into an emotional state. The constant portrayal of women as housewives was also a consumer ideology to encourage husband to purchase the household appliances for their wives. On the other hand, Liberal feminists adopt the “march of progress” view of gender, and argue that there has been change the ideologies of women in the media, for example, “Sex and the city” shows women success and financial independence. Furthermore, according to The Guardian (2017) The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has toughened rules on adverts that seem to be sexist.Over the years, television has become one of the most popular forms of mass media. Television is a popular form of entertainment that can easily impose ideological persuasion. One of the reasons for this popularity is because of British Television soap operas. Soap operas often present the gender dominant ideological messages which are absorbed into mainstream culture. Although soap operas feature a high percentage of women, it still remains a predominately male industry. What concerns feminists is the representation of femininity in television. Popular soap operas such as Hollyoaks and Eastenders often present the the female characters as seeking romance and feminist argue this romance leads to women being subservient to men. The media often sells this version of women life’s that lead to domestic drudgery due to the media construction of patriarchy narratives on gender. Advertising is indeed ideological in some nature because it promotes and constructs the materialism and consumerism culture. As previously stated, we are constantly bombarded with adverts whether this may be the mail, transport, television, the internet and so on; adverts can be found anywhere. In Zizek ” Pervert’s Guide to ideology” (2015) video he sophisticatedly explains how the very notion of experience is ideological from analysing the narration of the film ‘They Live’ (1988). He argues that we are bombarded with adverts that puts us in an ideological mode as soon as we step out of this mode we will ultimately see the truth. Adverts are so embedded in us the audience can view a logo and identify the brand because we are blinded by the propaganda and pleasurable messages. Advertising is responsible for a materialistic society and feeding the consumers needs. It tells us that happiness, pleasure and satisfaction can be purchased making the consumers ‘a unit of consumption’. The consumption culture has been normalised when indeed it is a social construct perpetuated by the media. Zizek showed how ad agencies manipulate and mislead humans for economic interest. We are not informed on the truth behind the product and advertising denies the child labour, poor working condition, mass production etc. Despite the diverse range of advertising messages and symbols it still prevents us from being market conscious and recognising the truth behind it.To conclude, from analysing various theoretical perspectives and applying it to modern day media forms and texts, the content of the mass media can be ideological in some nature. As my examples shows they are various ideologies that can be applied to mass media. However, the issue of the media being ideological in some nature is debatable, independent films, documenters, journals and local newspaper may provide news that differ to the dominant values in the media. Despite that, they may fail to reach masses of people because of lack of funds. The debating topic of whether media is ideological is controversial because some may believe ideology does not exist when in reality we may simply be indoctrinated by the ‘smokescreen’ dominant ideology.