the world according to John Fiske

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talkingturkey started the topic in Tuesday, 9 May 2017 at 1:33pm

Culture, Ideology, Interpellation

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Blowin Tuesday, 16 May 2017 at 3:26pm

Hey Turkey , are you going to pass that bong or what ? It's not a fucking microphone.

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talkingturkey Tuesday, 16 May 2017 at 3:54pm

Hailing is obviously crucial at the start of a "conversation," though its ideological
work continues throughout. Look, for instance, at the opening statements of the anchor
and reporter on a US network news report:

Anchor: There is growing concern tonight about the possible economic impact that a nationwide railroad strike set for midnight tonight poses. The unions and the railroads remain deadlocked. Wyatt Andrews brings us up to date on what President Bush and Congress may do about it.

Reporter: By morning 230,000 rail workers might not be working on the railroad
and the strike threatens millions of Americans. Just as thousands of commuters may find no train leaving the station beginning tonight at midnight.

The word strike hails us as anti-union, for "striking" is constructed as a negative action
by labor unions that "threatens" the nation. By ascribing responsibility to the unions, the
word hides the fact that management plays some role, possibly even a greater one, in the
dispute. The report opposes the unions not to management but to "the railroads" and thus
excludes the unions from them. This exclusion of the unions from the railroads allows
the unspoken management to become synonymous with them, and ideology continues its
work by constructing the railroads not as an industry but as a national resource and so uses them as a metonym for the nation and, by extension, of "us." Recognizing ourselves in the national "us" interpellated here, we participate in the work of ideology by adopting the anti-union subject position proposed for us.

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talkingturkey Tuesday, 16 May 2017 at 6:10pm

This subject-as-ideology is developed as the item progresses:

Passenger A: Gas, miles, time. The highways are going to be packed. Not much we can do, though.

Passenger B: I'm going to stay home. I've got an office in my home and I'm going
to just stay there and work.

Reporter: But the commuter inconvenience is nothing compared to the impact on freight trains. Up to half a million industrial jobs may be at stake. Whether it's cars in the heartland or chemicals in Kansas City, the railroads still carry more freight than either trucks or airplanes, meaning that the strike would threaten the heart of industrial America in the heart of this recession.

Railroad Official: If we don't get this strike settled quickly a lot more people are going
to be out of work, a lot more product is not going to be shipped and this economy's recovery is going to be set back immensely.

Reporter: Negotiations meanwhile seem to be at bedrock bottom, on wages, on health care, and the number of workers per train. Both sides even late today were on opposite tracks. The unions complain the railroads blocked raises and stonewalled the negotiations for three years. The railroads accuse the unions of protecting legions of workers who essentially do nothing.

Railroad Official: The issue with our union is between who works and who watches.
That's the issue of whether we have excess people in the cab who don't have anything to do.

The national "we" is constructed as hard-working producers at the personal level by the
passengers and at the industrial level by the reporter. The repeated use of the "heart"
metaphor not only makes "America" into a living, breathing body (like the one "we"
inhabit), but it constructs the unions as a potentially lethal disease, if not a stiletto wielding
assassin! The railroad official continues to conflate "the railroads" (by which he means "the management") with the national subject of the hardworking producer.

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talkingturkey Wednesday, 17 May 2017 at 1:19pm

So far, the dispute has been cast solely in terms of the bad effects the unions have
upon this national "us," and only in the reporter's next segment do we receive a hint that
there are causes of the dispute that may both justify it and implicate management in it.
These hints are left floating, so we have no way of assessing the reasonableness of the
wage claims, for instance. The generalized terms - "on wages, on health care, on the
number of workers per train" - contrast with the concrete realities of 230,000 unionists
not working and of the millions of Americans, thousands of commuters, and up to half a
million jobs that are threatened. We might like to think about the ideological practice of
not allowing the unions to speak for themselves "live," but of putting their case into the
words of the reporter management "us." Unionists would not, for instance, describe their
negotiating opponents as "the railroads," nor would they categorize their arguments as
mere "complaints" while according management's the stronger status of "accusations."

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talkingturkey Wednesday, 17 May 2017 at 5:55pm

The news item concludes by continuing the ideological practice that by now seems so
natural and familiar:

Reporter: What exactly happens in the morning? If you are a commuter, check locally. Some Amtrak and commuter trains will be operating and some of the unions say they will strike only freight lines and not passenger trains. In Washington, watch Capitol Hill. Tomorrow President Bush is likely to ask Congress to impose a solution: the move, the unions say, plays right into the railroads' hands. The unions have all along warned the railroads would stall the negotiations and force tonight's strike all in the snug belief that Congress would bail them out.

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talkingturkey Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:00am

This view of ideology as a process constantly at work, constructing people as subjects in an ideology that always serves the interests of the dominant classes, found powerful theoretical support in Gramsci's theory of hegemony. Originally, hegemony referred to the way that one nation could exert ideological and social, rather than military or coercive, power over another. However, cultural theorists tend to use the term to describe the process by which a dominant class wins the willing consent of the subordinate classes to the system that ensures their subordination. This consent must be constantly won and rewon, for people's material social experience constantly reminds them of the disadvantages of subordination and thus poses a constant threat to the dominant class.

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Blowin Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:04am

Bread and circuses.

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talkingturkey Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:19am

Like Althusser's theory of ideology, hegemony does not denote a static power relationship but a constant process of struggle in which the big guns belong to the side of those with social power, but in which victory does not necessarily go to the big guns - or, at least, in which that victory is not necessarily total. Indeed, the theory of hegemony foregrounds the notion of ideological struggle much more than does Althusser's ideological theory, which at times tends to imply that the power of ideology and the ISAs to form the subject in ways that suit the interests of the dominant class is almost irresistible. Hegemony, on the other hand, posits a constant contradiction between ideology and the social experience of the subordinate that makes this interface into an inevitable site of ideological struggle. In hegemonic theory, ideology is constantly up against forces of resistance. Consequently it is engaged in a constant struggle not just to extend its power but to hold on to the territory it has already colonized.

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Blowin Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:28am

Like every single power struggle in the history of existence you mean ?

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talkingturkey Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:59am

1. Stuart Hall, "The Narrative Construction of Reality," Southern Review 17 (1984), pp. 1-17.
2. Angela McRobbie, "Dance and Social Fantasy," in Angela McRobbie and Mica Nava, eds., Gender and Generation (London: Macmillan, 1984), pp. 130-61; Lisa Lewis, Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990).
3. Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London: New Left Books, 1971), pp. 127-86.