Get Off My Blog, I Need to Pray

Hi all,

This week’s topic covers the influence of the media (or lack thereof) on moral panics in our

Moral Panics "captured" by the Media
Are moral panics instigated by the media? Or simply captured and reflected?

society. A moral panic describes a panic or stress induced throughout a large group of people. Although it is fairly common and has happened regularly throughout history, it rarely yields good results.

The media has many times been socially convicted of causing these panics, but does it instigate them, or does it reflect them?

This post will introduce you to two individuals, and how their stories provoked intense media attention on the moral panic of terrorism.

Firstly, meet Arunas Raulynaitis – a Muslim bus driver. In March 2008, The Sun published a story in Britain which portrayed him as a Muslim fanatic. The story claimed he ordered the passengers off his bus so that he could pray. The passengers allegedly feared he was an extremist due to his backpack, and the story went viral, with the tagline

“Get off my bus, I need to pray”. 

It appeared online, especially on Islamiphobic websites, and private footage of the man praying was posted on YouTube within hours. The video didn’t take long to reach viewers in the thousands globally, which sparked outrage globally, and a general fear of the Muslim community surfaced yet again.

As it turned out, Raulynaitis was found to have been on his break at the time, and the events outlined in the above paragraph were false – to the extent that The Sun published an apology to the man, who lost his job and livelihood over the false claims.

  This an example of the media instigating a moral panic.

Or is it?

  The second person I’ll be talking about is Tessa Kum, tessakuma TV content editor from Sydney. She witnessed (via social media) Rachael Jacobs’ “act of kindness” in persuading a Muslim woman, who had removed her hijab in embarrassmesirtessant of the actions of the fanatics who shared her religion, to replace it. Inspired, she tweeted her support and acceptance of Australian Muslims and began the hash-tag that was to make headlines all over the country, #illridewithyou.

So is the media instigating moral panic, or overcoming it?

illride The #illridewithyou twitter feed became active fast, with 890 tweets each minute on the same day Tessa Kum tweeted the above. People all over the globe opted to social media to send their support, and sadness that a Muslim person should feel so ashamed of their religion they should remove their hijab or burqa. 


 Instead of blaming the media for instigating moral panics, we need to flip our thoughts inside out and start to think of the media as a method, and not an ingredient. This isn’t so much an issue of what the media does to society, it’s about what society does with the media. The media does not spark these unrests in the community, we do that ourselves, with the media as a platform to get these ideas across. In terms of terrorism, the media works both ways. Now that we’ve established it reflects our attitudes as a society, we can safely say that terrorism in the media reflects terrorism in the coffee house (see my post: The Clock that Struck 13 is Bugged). When social attitudes fear terrorism, cases such as that of Arunas Raulynaitis are more prone to have a headline in the news. Conversely, when social attitudes support anti-terrorist action, that is reflected in the media too.

Claire X

Surveillance Strikes Thirteen

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. But

it wasn’t 1984, it was 2015, and a young university student had just sat down at her desk and begun to write her BCM110 blog post on the public sphere. In the course of the writing of this blog, her online whereabouts will be tracked and recorded. The scan of her rewards card at the grocery store will be being tabulated and analysed. Advertising companies will be scheming to use this data to draw money from her. But unlike George Orwell, who begins his tale of the public sphere in the future, she begins hers in the past, with a man named Habermas.
Jurgen Habermas (

Jurgen Habermas is a German sociologist who came up with the notion of the public sphere in the 1960’s. He addressed questions regarding the definition of “the public” and the power they have in a democracy, and how public opinion can shape a democratic society. The public sphere is a concept; not an existing element. It is a metaphorical space which acts as an arena for debating and deliberating contemporary issues and is, by definition, a separate entity from the vested interests of the state, the church and home life.
A Coffee House (

The most common example used to illustrate the idea of the public sphere is the coffee house. The idea was that unique varieties of people could meet here and discuss and debate modern events, thus creating some sort of democratic equality. But does the public sphere enhance democratic equality, or degrade it?

Philosopher Stephen Hicks – in his study of English coffee houses – writes that they brought “businessmen, artists and scientists together for drinking and socialising“. This touches on the big issue with the public sphere; so many voices remain unheard. Going back to the coffee house idea, it was mainly the educated and wealthy who spent their time there – the working class, historically, could not afford to use these establishments. Already we lose the voices of a massive percentage of society. Therefore the public sphere can be seen as a very capitalist movement, where the working class, and women to an extent, were not a part. Therefore the concept of the public is automatically void, with so few having access to take part.

Today, Australian society has a much flatter democratic structure, with class division playing little part in its organisation. The public sphere has moved away from just coffee houses, with the integration of the internet into out everyday lives, so we all have access. Women have all the voting rights that men have, so the public sphere is equal and free for all, right?

No. Although we believe we are in an equal, free and democratic society, this world’s public sphere – especially the media – is heavily mediated in disguise. For example, the TV show Q and A is a model of Habermas’ public sphere. Citizens from all walks of life unite to debate the issues of the day; it screams equality, right? Wrong. Let me list the problems:

1) The ABC, the channel that produces the show, is owned by the Government #bias

2) The show generally caters to an educated, older audience #noninclusive

3) Not everybody in the audience gets to share their opinion, or add value to the conversation #noninclusiveagain

4) For those who do get to speak, it’s not freely. Q and A highly regulates what is said; the audience have to submit their questions earlier for review

by the production team, who then choose who will get to speak #censorship

5) Unequal representation of gender equality – usually one woman and five men on the panel #inequality.

So you can see that although Q and A is, at first glance, a democratic public sphere, its pseudo representation of debate and high levels of regulation and control make it a poor-functioning public sphere. In essence, nothing has changed here since the old English coffee houses.

However, the media can also enhance the public sphere through sparking debate. For example, the representation of same-sex relationships in the media in recent years has sparked much debate, particularly about what is appropriate on childrens’ channels. Below is a short discussion on a scene from the Disney show Good Luck Charlie, where Amy and Bob Duncan discover their daughter’s friend has “two mommies”.

Of further interest is the comments section of the video, if you go onto – this demonstrates how the media can provoke debate on current issues and therefore enhance and contribute to the public sphere. It’s interesting that a children’s Disney show contributes more to the public sphere than an academic show like Q and A, but there you have it.

George Orwell ends his tale at Corrupt Public Sphere:1/Resistance:0. But the university student ends hers with a quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

This quote demonstrates the immense power of the public sphere; how it can be used and what it can do – if it is inclusive of all levels of social status, gender, age, academic prowess and so on. When a legitimate public sphere is at play, particularly in the media, society evolves; such as with the more widespread acceptance of same-sex relationships. However, when a public sphere is used artificially, it has the potential to degrade a society. Unfortunately, in many public spheres (even in the media), censorship and illegitimate representation occurs, so information is not truly free.


Claire X

Murdoch Makes Headlines – For Real

Hi all,

This week, my topic covers the ownership of the media, and why it is (or isn’t) an issue. There’s plenty of Murdoch hate going around, so I’m instead going to focus more on why the idea of media consolidation worries us so much in comparison to other high-concentrated ownerships in society.

But first, what is media consolidation? It is the way in which fewer and fewer people are owning (controlling) the media and

thus those who do control it are gaining exponential power. The video at the top of the page states that the world’s media supply is being controlled by five or six main companies that help each other out and share board directors. The woman talking also made the point that the media uses our space and therefore owes us the provision of “diversity of opinion” and should give us unobstructed, unbiased truth. I’m not saying the media is corrupt or feeds us lies and deceit, but with so few holding so much power, the possibilities for those injustices to occur are too great for comfort.  Some people support media consolidation, reasoning that it enhances quality, however others resist it because it can be seen as a danger to democracy.

Rupert Murdoch, for example, is the owner of News Limited, which includes:

* The Telegraph

* The Australian


* And more.

Murdoch is not the only media-guzzler. Kerry Stokes has financial interest in Prime, Sky News and several WA newspapers. Gina Rinehart is one of the biggest shareholders in Channel Ten and until recently, the biggest shareholder in Fairfax Media.

In 2011, News Limited accounted for 65% of circulation. The closest competitor, Fairfax Media, accounted for just 25% in comparison. Here’s where the issues begin. One man – no matter how big, rich or powerful – is the equivalent of one ideology; one way of thinking. And when this one man is feeding 65% of a population with information backed by his ideals and

Taken from

opinions, making the headlines, so to speak – well, let’s look at it in reverse. Picture a society with one hundred different newspapers in circulation. Each paper is owned by a different person, with a different religious, cultural and ideological background, with different beliefs, knowledge and life experiences.

The people in that society are exposed to so many new ideas and different ways of looking at an issue. They process information rather than drink it. Conversely, in a media-consolidated universe (in which Australia has one of the highest media concentrations globally), we as consumers are less exposed to new ideas. The effect of this on society could be compared (loosely!) to the scene in Divergent where the Dauntless population

are transformed into mindless soldiers, unable to think for themselves and only doing the bidding of those who hide behind power. And we don’t have the science yet to build up a divergent population, so we’ve got to stay proactive on this one. Media consolidation is dangerous because of its limitations on, and potential to corrupt society. Anytime a large portion of something is owned by a small number, there’s trouble – right?

But high concentrated ownership occurs in other ways in society. Telstra had a market share of 53% in November 2014, compared to 31% for the next competitor, Optus. Coca Cola

owns more than half of all soft drinks sold worldwide. Microsoft Windows runs an estimated 80% of the world’s computer systems (year unknown). This is a danger because those in power have the means to raise prices and lower quality standards, as seen in the above diagram on the quality of stocks. However, consolidation can be a convenience in that a consumer can potentially have a phone, internet and television service all one one bill. This pyramid on global wealth distribution demonstrates how in 2011, 8.7% of the world

taken from

population owned 82.1% of the world’s wealth. Concentrated ownership is nothing new – it can be found in all forms. Is it always bad? Kind of . . . obviously the wealth distribution is a massive injustice – it gives us, as residents of a developed country, unwarranted power against those in less fortunate nations. As for Telstra, Microsoft  and Coca Cola, there’s no huge problem yet (though Microsoft is unnervingly close), but if the gap in market share in those industries continues to grow, we face the danger of a monopoly; one business having absolute power in a particular industry. But we aren’t there yet – nor are we there with the ownership of media.

So obviously the saturation of media ownership is not a positive thing, but it happens in other areas of society too, so I guess we’ll just deal with it. What else can we do, turn to communism? In saying that, if media consolidation continues to grow, Australia faces the possibility of a monopoly media, and that’s a really terrifying thought. So if it comes to vote, don’t privatise the ABC!! It’s important for consumers to know where their news is coming from. Once they realise the potential of the media to corrupt and manipulate their views, I think people will be less harmed by the effects of a consolidated media.


Lettuce be Hilarious: Side-Splitting Semiotics

Hi all 🙂

You’ve probably all seen various versions of this meme – it’s all over Facebook,

Taken from

Twitter, Instagram – the works. But how did it start? Someone woke up one day and decided it would be a good idea to take a salad advertisement out of context – or removed its connotation, and simply look at the message the picture alone sent to its audience – and the result is quite hilarious. But there’s more to this ideology than meme creation.

Semiotics is defined as “the study of symbols and how they are used”. In my understanding, it’s to do with the way a sign or image is conveyed to the world versus the ideas and messages we take away from it. There are two parts to a sign: firstly, what you see or hear (the signifier, or denotation), and secondly, what meaning you take away from that (the signified,  or connotation). The key word in that sentence is “you”. This post will look at how signs are used to evoke responses from us, and why we get the signified responses that we do.

Our interpretations of the signs exposed to us depend heavily on our ideologies – our culture, beliefs and general knowledge. For example, if we take one very common sign, one found near public toilets, we can ask ourselves the following sing1question: In what way does this signifier of two figures, one in a dress and one in pants, tell us there is a bathroom nearby? The answer is simple: it doesn’t. If we remove our cultural/acquired recognition from this image, our signified response, or interpretation, of this image could be anything from it’s night time  to there’s one bathroom for people wearing skirts and one for those wearing pants – regardless of gender, or is there a cafe selling gingerbread men ahead?  We rarely stop to think about the origins of the signals we interpret.

I’m going to take you back to the salad meme. It was taken from a salad advertisement. Do you think anyone would have noticed how happy the salad-eater was? Picture the Subway advertisements. They also contain images of people laughing and smiling at their salad, an advertising technique to draw us, the weak-minded consumers, in. It’s not particularly manipulative or anything – do any of you eat salad because you think it will make you as happy as the woman in the ad; do you think it will make you laugh?

No. But looking at the flip side – if an advertising company used an image like this one to sell their salad, do you think it would be as effective? I doubt it – and the salad is not that different and the woman is just as stereo typically beautiful as those used in the  advertisements; the product just isn’t as exciting.sad salad In terms of the denotations provided for us by advertising companies, the range of positive connotations we take away from that are limited by the persona’s lack of enthusiasm.

So the happy salad snaps don’t fool us into thinking we’ll break out into a laughing fit at the first bite of a cucumber, they just give us a larger range of positive connotations more so than the image above. When we see a smiling face, we tend to relax, we tend to be drawn to that person and some of that happiness somehow transfers into ourselves. But we have different signified responses. In the same way a person who had never been exposed to this signsign could think it denotes Harry Potter accessing Platform 93/4, a poor soul like me, who sat through HSC English, would look at a salad advertisement and notice how the model is positioned, the vector created by her eyes and the use of colour, all as advertising techniques, while some others would view the same sign with amusement, and wonder what her salad has said that is just so damn hilarious. Somebody who has not studied the media might merely wander past the advertisement and notice nothing but the salad – and after all, that is the advertiser’s intention.

So it’s safe to say that the same sign can be viewed an infinite number of ways, depending on a person’s system of ideals.

Please comment, I would be interested to hear your views. Do any of you actually laugh when you eat salad? 😉


Consumerism = Corruption?

Consumerism can be defined as the creation of material needs in order to swipe mediamoney off the unsuspecting consumer. It blurs the line between a need and a want, and companies all around the globe use it, via the media (TV, radio, print media etc.), to manipulate us into thinking we need their products. We will be happier, smarter, more beautiful, more popular . . . you get the picture. But do you want to know the really sad part? It nearly always works. That’s the common perception, anyway.

But is it that simple?

Consumerism is a current anxiety trend regarding contemporary media practices. And rightfully so – media practices  promoting consumerism do have detrimental effects on society. Think of all the photo-shopped models in magazines. This is done to convince a person they need to be of equal beauty or social status as the model, and to do this they must purchase the goods being advertised. This can be seen as good for the economy – sales are boosted, more money goes back into society, more jobs become available and so on.

But what about society? We are no longer in a time where people believe everything they see and hear, we are shifting into an era where we we trust nothing and no one. I suppose that’s because businesses have realised they can more successful if they lure consumers in through deceit and artificial needs, not on the basis of their actual needs. Now, every signal the media sends us we judge as fake and a hoax . . . we teach our children to be critical of everything they see. I remember my year nine commerce teacher impressing upon us “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t (true)”. Which version represents a healthier society? Currently, I believe we are somewhere in between. Should we end up in a world where we disbelieve everything we see by definition, where businesses are seen to be greedy and manipulative? Or do we go back in time to the 20th century, a time including two world wars, among others, and the Great Depression, where consumerism was not seen as such as issue and the economy struggled, but the idea of artificial needs had not corrupted society?

Let’s go back to that person viewing the ad. What do you think happens to theirphotoshop self-esteem when they see a person, airbrushed and edited to perfection, portrayed as normal? Will any of you argue with me when I say it will sink as surely as the Titanic (Have any of  you ever looked at a picture of a photo-shopped model and felt good about yourself? No, I didn’t think so.)? Multiply that by the number of times that person will be exposed to advertisements of that kind in their lifetime, and multiply that by the number of people in the world, and you will notice this becomes an issue.

“Half of young women between 16 and 21 say they would consider cosmetic surgery, and we’ve seen eating disorders more than double in the last 15 years”

– Jo Swinson, Scottish member of Parliament (A campaigner against misleading advertising)

But is the media really to blame? Yes,women all over the planet are trying to live up to someone they are not, but if that wasn’t a body on a magazine, it would surely be the head cheerleader, that skinny girl from work or even someone whom you pass on the street. It’s the same thing with the creation of needs; if a corporation isn’t convincing you that you need to eat nutrigrain to be an iron man, you will look out the window and see trendy Trudy from down the street driving a Mercedes – and you will go out and buy a Mercedes because that’s what you perceive as a stylish vehicle.

So yes, the media manipulates people into buying things they think they need to become someone they think they should be, but that is not the only way consumerism exists. We are just as easily manipulated by other people and by what is “normal” for our class – or our perceived class – in society. And of course, we always have a choice. The magazine or TV advertisement doesn’t force you off the couch and to the bank to extend your credit card limit, and drag you mercilessly to the nearest mall to purchase that iPhone you need to live . . . so next time your credit card maxes out,  don’t be too quick to blame the media and advertising. It’s just as likely something (or someone) closer to home has planted and nourished that seed of consumerism inside you. And even that doesn’t have the final say, you do – so stop blaming the media and the rest of the world, and learn to budget, folks!

Please comment!

Claire 😀