ideology in images

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negotiated, or opposing discourse, we always live in ideology. Ideology as ...... Eric Idle, in drag, at the end of Monty Python's Meaning of Life (1983):. “Nothing ...

Mikolaj Sobocinski

IDEOLOGY IN IMAGES

WE ARE BEING FRAMED

Mikolaj Sobocinski

IDEOLOGY IN IMAGES – WE ARE BEING FRAMED

(ANALYSIS OF PRESS PHOTOGRAPHY, FILM POSTERS AND

WW2 PROPAGANDA POSTERS)

~~ Ideology in Images ~~

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Contents Introduction..............................................................................................................................................3 Chapter 1 Sending a Message – Technological Implications .................................................................5 Chapter 1.1 Technology......................................................................................................................5 Chapter 1.2 The Human Factor and Media Power..............................................................................7 Chapter 1.3 A Few Words on Reading – Which Context is the Right One......................................11 Chapter 2 Press Photography.................................................................................................................13 Chapter 3 Meaning and Signs – “The Truth Is Out There”...................................................................24 Chapter 3.1 Ferdinand de Saussure and Claude Lévi-Strauss – Signifier, Signified, and Binary Opposition....................................................................................................................24 Chapter 3.2 Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, Stuart Hall – Codes, Myths, and Ideology..................26 Chapter 3.3 Louis Althusser, Gramsci – Marx Revisited................................................................31 Chapter 3.4 Conclusion.....................................................................................................................34 Chapter 4 War Propaganda and Film Posters.........................................................................................35 Chapter 5 Deconstructing the Information Chain..................................................................................43 Chapter 6 Ideology in Images – the Critical Approach and the Analysis of Examples.........................48 Chapter 6.1 Press Pictures: Ché Guevara, Youth, Margaret Thatcher, and IRA..............................48 Chapter 6.2 Ideology in Posters: Symbolic Clichés ........................................................................50 Chapter 7 Conclusion.............................................................................................................................54 Chapter 7.1 The Last Word...............................................................................................................55 References:.............................................................................................................................................58

“Representation is the production of the meaning of the concepts in our minds.”1 “[A]lways interrogate ‘the falsely obvious’, the what-goes-withoutsaying.”2 ”If mass communication is indeed communication, then it must communicate something.”3

INTRODUCTION Our world of the society of the 20th and 21st centuries is becoming the realm of pictorial representation. Modern technologies of recording images and mediating them enable the press, the television, and the Internet to base their messages on images. As images have dominated our communication, their impact on our cognition of the world has grown substantially. This thesis attempts at discovering methods in which technology and underlying culture specific features are built into pictorial messages used in the press and posters. It also describes factors unintentionally or deliberately influencing every act of mediating information. The thesis is divided into seven chapters corresponding to various approaches and analyses employed within them. The first chapter analyses technological implications of mediating messages. Technology is understood here as both the mechanical and physical features of mediating messages with ‘tools’. The chapter also describes the influence senders and mediators of (pictorial) information may exert on final messages that reach readers. The chapter’s concluding part describes the diversity of discourses present in every society. The nature of discourses and their codes, as well as the manipulation of those, are analysed in chapter 3, devoted to presenting various linguistic and culture studies theories. Various linguistic and cultural theories are employed in analysis of the act of mediating. The chapter begins with the analysis of signs and systems of communication (de Saussure and LéviStrauss). Later, theories of culture-specific codes and mythologies are introduced (Eco, Barthes, Hall). Finally, Marxist approach is employed in the analysis of the mediation of pictorial messages (Althusser, Gramsci). The ideas of scholars are interwoven with graphic examples analysed according to the theories presented. Chapter 5 draws a conclusion from the analyses of chapters 1 and 3. The conclusion is graphically presented in a few versions of information chain. The chain evolves with the development of the theories it attempts to encompass. The final chain is described as a means of reading messages thanks to which readers may sift out information about an event from ideological elements of a message. The theoretical conclusion of chapter 5 is employed in the analysis of a few examples in chapter 6. This chapter presents a few examples of images and posters as it tries to postulate some reading techniques that a reader may use. Finally, in chapter 7, a general conclusion is sketched out of analyses and conclusions of the 1 2 3

Hall. Representation. p. 17 Storey. p. 16. after Barthes Fiske and Hurtley. p. 80

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previous parts. The conclusion attempts to explain if and how ‘we readers’ are constantly manipulated. Chapters 2 and 4 are devoted to demonstrating a few representative examples of press photography, and war and film posters respectively. Images constitute a collection of press pictures from numerous newspapers (Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph) and of film and war posters from picture collections by Hudson, Yapp and Mayes. As in the case of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”, the chapters presenting only images constitute an indispensable reading for the evaluation of the analysis presented in the thesis.

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CHAPTER 1 SENDING A MESSAGE – TECHNOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS Every message is physical, and this physicality imposes inescapable changes information has to undergo before it reaches the audience. Those inevitable shifts in the structure of a message can be divided into three headings: technological, human, and contextual. Technological changes are those that reshape the message on the level of the medium it belongs to. The process of choosing media4, mediating, and receiving contribute to transforming an original message into something that can be presented to the mass audience. Human-based factors influence evaluation and propaganda in the wider meaning of ‘propaganda’. Those factors belong to evaluating, contextualising, retouching, and other sorts of manipulating information. Finally, there is the aspect of context. There are plenty of readings of messages and all of them depend on the context to which information is attributed. Recognising contexts depicts not only the message itself, but primarily the meaning attached to it in the act of reading. Press pictures, just as posters, whether propaganda or film, are messages and as such do undergo these processes as well. Images are pieces of information and are used as such by Media. Therefore, they should be analysed in the context of a message and mediating. All factors influencing sending and receiving information partake in the creation of pictures, even if in different degree than in the creation of a linguistic message. Whether pictorial or linguistic, messages are texts and may undergo deconstruction, which reveals factors that reshape original information. CHAPTER 1.1 TECHNOLOGY Messages, linguistic and pictorial ones, describe events chosen by senders. A sender, usually a journalist5, is the creator of the message, which depicts events in a way intended by the sender. However, quite often the sender is not present at the event himself and has to rely on information gathered from witnesses. Moreover, there are a number of steps between senders and receivers, which a message has to pass. During these steps a message is reshaped even before any ideological and political changes are added. Pure physical or technological factors of mediating come before and despite any message manipulation. Initially, there is nothing more than an event created by external factors (humans, animals, nature). More often than not, an event occurs in all media forms possible, especially when humans are involved: linguistic, auditory, visual. However, out of the actions constructing an event only some are perceived by a witness. It is rarely possible for a single person to observe any event in its multiplicity and complexity. Sometimes an event is stretched in time or in space. It becomes indiscernible because its physical features cannot be perceived by human senses. Altogether, an event is rarely perceived by a witness and fully understood in its complexity. Therefore, the sender of a message produces a message describing his

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In the thesis, ‘media’ is understood as a collection of means used during sending information; plural of ‘medium’. The capitalised word ‘Media’ refers to the press, the television, and the Internet. For the sake of argumentation, the origin of message is attributed to a (photo)journalist or an artist in the case of posters.

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percept6 rather than the event itself. Only such a description is put into words, sounds and images by a journalist; it is not the description of the “real” event itself. The next step for a message to go through, after being “recorded”, is SOURCE transmitter receiver DESTINATION message message being mediated. Mediation requires received some sort of recording and recording encode decode is done by machines. Today digital cameras and Internet enable using all signal signal received media at the same time. As a result the ideal mediation based on a continuous flow of sounds, images, and text noise source becomes possible. However, such situations rarely happen7 and usually a sender has either to choose media he prefers, or he is limited to only one medium available there and then. Therefore, a message created at the beginning of mediating process has to be altered to fit the medium it is going to use. Noise is the next factor altering E messages.8 Although, we tend to E1 M1 sb. (source) message sent believe that professional journalistic S|E equipment is nearly perfect, it is rarely (transmitter) M2 mech. SE1 capable of recording and sending a signal sent perfect copy of a message. The world S|SE is not a laboratory; hence, Murphy’s (receiver) M3 mech. SSE1 message received laws have their share in altering S|SSE messages. The noise, at the basic level, is caused by the imperfections (destination) M4 sb. SSSE1 of mechanical transmitters. Sound and image deteriorate, to the point when E - event messages become incomprehensible. E1 - percept of event The level of noise varies at times and places; however, no matter how SE - statement about event indistinguishable, it is always present. After an event is perceived, a M sb. - human agent message written down and sent, it has to be received. At this point a message M mech. - mechanical agent can become altered purely as a result of technological faults in the receiving S - the form of the message equipment. Usually, the reception of information is not hindered at all due to the high standard of technological awareness of television and press; however, it is possible and sometimes occurs. It is truer of the past though.9 Finally a message reaches its receiver after being “digested in its digital form” by the receiving machine. The final product can, therefore, be as similar to an 6

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As used by Price and defined by Webster’s Electronic Dictionary: “the mental result or product of perceiving”. Even the Gulf War during which media had its own testing ground did not see the continuous flow of information using all three features: sound, image, and linguistic messages. Moreover, this war is believed to be the best mediated war ever. American soldiers relied as much on television news as on the information provided by their commanders. Graphs presented in this chapter come from Price and from Fiske. The importance of this factor should not be neglected, as pictures tend to deteriorate with coping. A picture’s motif may easily become unrecognisable due to multiple ‘re-recording’ or coping.

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original message as it can be different from it solely due to technological factors: media availability and faulty operating machines. It is also worth remembering that, in the first place, an event can be described by a witness who relates his memories to a journalist. Psychology shows how incorrect memory becomes. This incorrect information is related to a journalist who “writes it down” using available media and sends it forward using the technology at hand. Such a message is transmitted to an editor who only then may allow its publication. This is a simplified chain, which any linguistic or pictorial message undergoes before it reaches the reader. There still can be a few other loops in the chain before the message can rest on editors’ desk such as publishing agencies buying photographs directly and indirectly from (free-lanced) photographers. As can be seen from the analysis of technological factors influencing mediation, any message is never the description of the proper percept of an event. It is obvious in case of linguistic messages and screenings from the place of action as we sometimes encounter low-quality messages delivered via television. Usually it is done due to the message impact and importance despite its technological limitations. The audience, however, rarely considers still images to be as influenced by technology and mediation as they consider sound and text. Therefore, it is worth remembering that a photographic camera is just a camera with its limitations, a photojournalist is just a journalist who deliberately limits his scope of media to one tool, and a picture undergoes a multitude of clippings, enhancings and retouchings. Moreover, there usually is a major choice of pictures presenting an event, while only a minor in articles describing it. Such an approach to press photography depicts its limitations and obvious alterations just as in the case of linguistic messages. Finally, the text approved by editors reaches the reader in its full splendour. Any image in newspapers may also lose some of its properties due to the low printing quality of press. Concluding, mediation of images is a complicated process during which an image may undergo, although does not have to, significant alterations. Those ‘technological’ and ‘editorial’ modifications should not be neglected as every press photograph is to some extent influenced by these factors. CHAPTER 1.2 THE HUMAN FACTOR AND MEDIA POWER The analysis of the mediation act of the previous chapter is based on the technological level. It describes which alterations to a message are prone to happen despite human effort. However, there are a number of reasons for which a message is reshaped, despite its undisturbed technological mediation. There are faulty operating machines, but generally information “enhancements” are caused by human incompatibility with operating systems and machines, and by mistakes, errors, and even by deliberate actions. Human factor in sending a message can be described twofold as that pertaining to news creation and to power influence. The creation of news is a deliberate act aiming at reshaping a story to make an event, and the message describing it, more interesting. The main purpose of news creation cannot be factuality itself. ”(...) news [story] is not concerned to provide information as authentically as possible than to provide it as attractively as possible without jettisoning its reputation for reliability, responsibility and probity. Authentic and important information may be ‘dull’, factual,

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difficult to summarise, undramatic and with little immediate appeal, and there will be an understandable desire to ‘spice’ it, and to package it as attractively and entertainingly as possible.”10 Surprisingly, people, who hypothetically can be objective and can try to relate messages in their original form, are the ones who make more significant modifications than technological factor. At the basic level of creating an image a photojournalist appears to be the sole creator of the message as ”simply to point the camera is to select”.11 However, real selection and evaluation occur at the editor’s desk. The choice of an editor is crude: if a message (both linguistic and pictorial) is not interesting or even enchanting, the reader will not heed it. Therefore some basic rules of news creation have to be applied. A photograph or a text becomes mediated only when it can be described by a few of the following points:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

After Masterman12, and Beth Edginton and Martin Montgomery13: Recency - newsworthy materials best consist of recent events that have a clearly bounded nature; Frequency - news prefers stories which occur within a daily period of time; Proximity or Ethnocentricity - the further away an event is from the experience of the viewer, the more cataclysmic it must be to become news; Inheritance - once something has hit the headlines and been defined as ”news”, then it will continue to be defined as news for some time; Elite - ”about the powerful”; Predictability - routine expectations sometimes help to confirm the newsworthiness of materials; Negativity - ”the best news is bad news”.

Or as John Fiske14 puts it bluntly: 1. Elite; 2. Negative; 3. Recent; 4. Surprising. However, many photojournalists themselves “operate by a set of what is newsworthy, what events they think the audience will find interesting”.15 Therefore, a sort of evaluation occurs before a message has been recorded. Editors, in addition to choosing the most interesting information, may change or choose between various media of sending the message, rather than confine themselves to the limitations posed by sender’s choice of media. In order to achieve the greatest influence on readers, editors commit themselves, therefore, to a few kinds of media manipulation. As described so far, the first of them is the choice based on newsworthiness. 10 11 12 13 14 15

Masterman. p. 106 Masterman. p. 99 Masterman. p. 94 Price. p. 88 Fiske. p. 96 Price. p. 399

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Another sort of manipulation is more culture specific and is based on the society’s system of codes. Newspapers as entities want to be read, and so they have to both attract and keep their readers. Newspapers, and images as their most visible artefacts, accomplish that in a few ways. Besides being a news-story a message has to comply, at least at the most visible level, with readers’ code system. Readers decode messages just like editors encode them combining various media, newsworthiness, and ideology. Editors choose the code system they believe to be the most acclaimed and influential.16 According to C. S. Pierce a sign ”creates in the mind of a person an equivalent sign, Sign or perhaps a more developed sign.”17 This created sing is the interpretant, which stands for some object. Therefore, any sign given in a message, which is later encoded in the same way by various viewers, can gather different meanings, because of the discrepancies in their interpretants. The issue of prime importance for Interpretant Object editors is to find and use those signs, which bring preferred interpretants. In a way “the audience is both the ‘source’ and the ‘receiver’ of the message.” 18 After choosing media and applying the rule of newsworthiness, this is the next level of manipulation of information, which is nothing else but propaganda. Propaganda is usually introduced for the advantage of and by the powerful. It is both the dominant code interwoven in the message and the ‘newsworthy’ choice of press photos which attempt to influence the way readers conceptualise the world. Such manipulation may ensure the dominance, as the ‘spiced’ messages seem to be unaltered and hence ‘true’. Therefore, many sociologists believe that ”the notion of truth and objectivity is an abstraction. Once an item of news has been selected for transmission to the public there is already bias, some selective principle, some value, quite apart from the part it is presented. (...) [T]he presentation of events through media (...) necessarily involves the manipulation of material.”19 In case of some newspapers it would be even possible to state that not only the powerful and media magnates, but also editors and journalists all partake in creation of propaganda. What they want to achieve, besides high sales, is manipulating cognition. In Poland a marvellous example of that would be the “beauty contest” held every four years during the parliamentary elections. What media and the powerful ‘perform’ at the time is ”the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”20 And rarely is there a better medium for achieving those aims than well-retouched press photography or a poster. Finally, press photography can be viewed as a part of a more complex set of messages constructed of articles and images. As stated earlier, messages are contextualised and evaluated according to some rules to make them newsworthy. The 16

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The analysis of this issue is continued according to cultural studies’ theories in chapter 3. Most important contributions are those written by Gramsci and Eco. Fiske. p. 42 Hall. “Encoding, Decoding”. p. 509 Masterman. p. 98 Price. p. 74

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same rule applies to images presented in newspapers. However, images are most striking when they have a particular motif rather than the selection of news story components. Here, again, editors choose what ‘furthers their intent’. A picture is usually a description of a main piece News Text of a story-message: headline, lead, source, place, or time. The picture can hardly ever describe all of them. Abstract Attribution Story Hence, any image is just a conscious selection of what a media producer Headline Lead Source Place Time wishes to show ‘the audience’. Usually, the element, which becomes News Journalist’s Episode 1 Episode 2 the most ideologically significant, Agency byline becomes presented in pictorial form. In case of Lead (, story itself), it is a Event 1 Event n complex task to present it in a still picture. Therefore, a sort of pictorial metonymy is preferred, when an image of a place of action stands for the event that occurred at that location. The same applies to presenting time. It is easily seen that an image is much more selective than main linguistic message. It usually describes only one element of an event, and that element is more often than not a place or a person in the centre scope of the news story and press articles. Therefore, a picture is more ‘thought-shaping’ than linguistic messages as it makes a direct, even if crude, reference to barely one central element. Due to our “believing what we see” we are much more prone to accept the editor’s choice and agree with the picture’s preferred reading. These are main ways of reshaping readers’ attitudes through image manipulation, whether done involuntarily by machines and technology, or by deliberate actions of the human factor. They can be described under following headings: noise, media choice, evaluation, contextualisation, misreading and misreporting, political influence, newsworthiness. Some of these, especially the technological issues, are generally accepted as intrinsic to the act of mediation and are not regarded as ‘wrong’. However, these limitations usually reshape the final message as much as deliberate political actions of editors. In addition, one should remember that mediated messages rarely originate at the same time and place as linguistic messages. It could be stated that many pictures are ‘white lies’ as they present the place, but not the situation, or that they depict the agent, but not the time. The full understanding of those ‘lies’ comes with understanding to what purpose ideological manipulation can further those ‘minor’ enhancements. Other ways of intentional reshaping our cognition of events is generally understood in terms of propaganda. However, it again should be realised how many of those slight retouchings, clippings, and selections are made ‘on the picture’ before it is published. As a result, a linguistic message is accompanied by highly specialised pictorial information, reshaped by technology and people, which on the very bases of its inherent characteristics can be employed as a perfect medium of propaganda. The better it becomes the less readers realise how ‘spiced’ it has to be before any image is printed in a paper. Similar rules apply in posters publishing; however, in the case of ordered and planned in advance images the technological factors play little importance. Generally, only human factor of evaluating and propaganda are of any importance during their creation. However, just as in the case of press photography, readers

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presumably become conscious of propaganda only in the event of war and political posters. It is more difficult to believe that a simple film poster combines as much of a ‘preferred’ ideology as any other pictorial message. In truth, posters are the best way of ‘furthering ones intent’ as they can be planned, verified in practice, retouched as many times as necessary and delivered to readers in press pictures or wall posters. They can be seen on television and in the cinema as well. Posters are placed indoors and outdoors, they are left at our house pathways, in our workplace. They have also another advantage over press – they cannot be switched off or turned over. A poster ‘is’ and therefore ‘has to be’ viewed. Again, as with the press picture, the better it serves the propagandist the less readers realise how ‘spiced’ it has to be before it is displayed. The less consciously we approach images, the more susceptible to their power we become. CHAPTER 1.3 A FEW WORDS ON READING – WHICH CONTEXT IS THE RIGHT ONE Any speech act, whether of a witness, a journalist, or a newsreader, can gather multiple meanings according to various levels of Available Discourse ‘reading’ the utterance. These acts of communication in case of press are as Immediate Context well pictorial; and hence, the rule of Event multiple readings should be applied to images as well. A picture, which is just a text, has its origin in a reported event. This event has its immediate context created by the people involved in it. However, the discourse, which can be applied in the analysis of an event, is usually a broader understanding of the affair without limiting oneself to its immediate judgement. Nevertheless, press rarely bases its discourse on the available codes and ideologies, as media is always political. What editors choose and propagate is usually propaganda, whether that of the dominant, negotiated or opposing discourse. However, a professional propaganda is aware that “meaning is always a social production, a practice [, and that] the world has to be made to mean.”21 Therefore, press attempts at combining social discourse into dominant one so that social context is at list partially reflected in the politicised message. Nevertheless, “meaning is determined by the social context in which it is attributed.”22 A well-produced picture may attribute meaning to ‘the only and correct context’. Multiplicity of discourses in the society is its physical feature. No nation voices its opinions in unison. There is plenty of codes, systems of beliefs, cultural myths, and ideologies. They constitute the society as an ever-changing and selfdeveloping entity. Physical and inherent as this feature may be it is of prime importance for deliberate manipulation of cognition. Presenting information, via choice of press photographs, may modify the context, hence, the reading and readers’ attitude towards individuals, subcultures, behaviours, or the event itself. In this way, pure physicality of communication and learning about the world can be put forward as a means of propaganda. The notion of codes, mythology, and propaganda is the Social Context Dominant Discourse

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Storey. p. 21. after Hall Storey after Volosinov. p. 20.

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base for the analysis of ideology in images in chapter 3. Manipulation springs from technological features of mediation as it attempts to remain invisible, as if a part of technological process of producing information.

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CHAPTER 2 PRESS PHOTOGRAPHY

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CHAPTER 3 MEANING AND SIGNS – “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE” Chapter 1 analysed the technological transformations a linguistic and pictorial message undergoes. These modifications of information are in part caused by the physicality of the act of mediation, which is based on (unintentionally faulty) machines. In part, the modifications are caused by people who re-write and reorganise original messages deliberately. Those changes are introduced for two main purposes. The first is ‘high sales’. Every newspaper wants to sell well and so it tries to attract readers with pictures that are easy to spot and to remember. The second reason is the attempt to ‘further a desired intent’ of the powerful and their dominant code. While chapter 1 deals with technological modifications of messages, chapter 3 analyses ideological changes. Those variations introduced to messages are based on the encoding and decoding of signs, which images undoubtedly are. Therefore, this chapter presents a handful of linguistic and cultural studies theories concerning sings, codes, and myths in order to expose how a (pictorial) message may be re-evaluated and retouched in the propaganda process. There are a number of theories concerning language, which can be readily applied in the analysis of images. Images, to a large extent, are read just as any linguistic message. One of the major differences is arbitrariness of images. The image of a dog is similar to a dog. However, a word dog like the word pies have nothing in common with the object described by them. “The linguistic sign (...) possesses none properties of the thing represented, whereas, the visual sign appears to possess some of those properties.”23 Images, however, only seem to be as arbitrary as we think. Culture specific perception constitutes a significant part of every act of reading an image. There is no picture of a dog in Plato’s understanding. There are only images of particular animals, but not of their idea or of the ideal form. A word is not specific but rather a general description, and may readily imply Plato’s idea of a dog; whereas, a picture will bring direct denotations and connotations according to the particular characteristics of a dog presented. There is also additional information describing place, time, and people. An image of a dog may seem to present just the animal, but in truth a picture is a collection of signs that create a pictorial message. Therefore, linguistic theories should be applied to reading images in order to uncover pictures’ constituents. CHAPTER 3.1 FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE AND CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS – SIGNIFIER, SIGNIFIED, AND

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BINARY OPPOSITION

Hall. “Encoding, Decoding”. p. 512

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De Saussure postulated the difference between langue and parole, between the system of communication and a particular utterance based on that system. This was a breakthrough approach to the analysis of texts as it set a new understanding of communication systems as consisting of langue, parole, and signs. He also devised a way of understanding linguistic signs SIGN used in parole. He divided every sign Saussure’s elements into its shape – signifier, and its of meaning meaning – signified. As trivial as it composed of may seem, that discovery enables a thorough analysis of messages as SIGNIFICATION constructed of their physical entity and signifier + signified external of their meaning in a reader’s mind. (physical (mental reality or He later developed that notion in his existence) concept) meaning postulate that “there is no natural or inevitable link between the signifier 24 and the signified.” The theory may be used for all systems of communication and does not limit itself to the language as de Saussure devised it. There is as much (if not more) meaning in a picture as in a word, as they are both signs in a system of communication (language cognition, and image perception respectively). The division of a sign into signifier and signified forwards the understanding of multiple readings. The sign may be one (an image of a dog), but it can have many culture specific meanings (fighting dogs, puppies, guarding dogs, friendship, a pack of wolves). As a result “signs do not possess a fixed or essential meaning.” 25 The idea of signified assumes readers’ own choice of the meaning they attach to the message received. A pictorial message may seem to give a much more specific meaning than a single word; however, this is due to the complex construction of an image built on multiple signs involved ‘in the frame’. Nevertheless, a picture can be read as a single sign with its signifier and reader-based signified. Claude Lévi-Strauss furthered the Saussurean understanding of language as a system of signs. He promoted the idea of binary oppositions. According to him, there is a structure of meanings, which are understood (and built) on the basis of opposition. Every sign and the meaning behind it have their oppositional sign and meaning. In other words signs “are members of a system and are defined in relation to other members of that system.”26 The idea is not as influential in the ‘writing’ of a message as it is in the cognitive reading of it. Lévi-Strauss claimed that our understanding and conceptualising are based on reading every sign only in categories + or -, day or night, good or evil, or other similar oppositions. He also postulated that people living in one culture use the same system of values and, hence, have a similar understanding of the world through using the same system of binary oppositions. As different cultures create various systems of binary oppositions constituting their system of cognitive perception the understanding of a message varies between cultures. Even though Lévi-Strauss’ idea is inherently wrong through oversimplification, it does to some extent reflect the processes used by everyday readers. Pictures are too often analysed in the same way as Westerns. Events presented in press pictures may be categorised, like in classical Hollywood cinema, according to Lévi-Strauss’ binary opposition of good and evil. Such reading can be explained in 24 25 26

Hall. Representation. p 31 Hall. Representation. p 31 Hall. Representation. p. 31

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two ways. Firstly, they are effortless. Attaching meaning to signs becomes uncomplicated, as a picture can be either positive or negative. It also helps readers in the swift organising of their conceptual image of the world. Secondly, a previously known sign and its meaning are applied as a reference point for the reading and understanding of a newly encountered sign. What is new can be quickly compared to the known and judged as possessing similar qualities or being in opposition to ‘the already-known’. In this way any message becomes readily categorised as positive or negative. Reading images and any text by using such a technique is an immense over-simplification; however, many readers do approach texts (whether linguistic or pictorial) in this way due to its simplicity and (even if faulty) effectiveness. CHAPTER 3.2 UMBERTO ECO, ROLAND BARTHES, STUART HALL – CODES, MYTHS,

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IDEOLOGY Eco challenged Lévi-Strauss’ assumption in a perfectly ordered reading based on a simplified binary opposition, which would apply to all ‘citizens’ of a culture. To the whole idea of signs, parole and langue, and binary opposition, he added the new idea of (sub)cultural codes.27 Eco brought together cultural studies and linguistics in order to describe the process of reading a message. He associated reading messages with cultural codes of various groups and classes within the society. The whole process of mediating information then requires encoding and decoding a message by using one of many systems omnipresent in the society. These systems are created and belong not to a culture but to a number of subcultures within that culture. These processes of subcultural reading are vital for the understanding of Eco’s influence on the theory of perception. This theory enlarges Lévi-Strauss’ belief in decoding as dependant on the binary opposition convention a viewer applies. Eco gives a reader a wider choice of subcultural codes than Lévi-Strauss would probably imagine. Eco envisages that we all use various kinds of subcultural codes in mediating information. We conceptualise the world and comprehend it not according to LéviStrauss’s binary oppositions, but according to codes we have been brought into, we choose, we meet with at work... Those codes can be cultural, national, traditional, hegemonic, and subcultural. Every person employs a different set of codes in the process of decoding messages; hence, there can be various interpretations of the same piece of information. Unfortunately for the press, this also means that “the codes of encoding and decoding cannot be perfectly symmetrical.”28 As a result, no message, whether linguistic or (allegedly more universal) pictorial, will be read in 27 28

After Strinati ch. 3 “Strukturalizm, semiologia i kultura popularna”. Hall. “Encoding, Decoding”. p. 510

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accordance with the ‘propagandist’s’ desire. Together with discoveries of Gramsci, Eco’s theory constitutes a core for ideological reading of signs and for discovering that ideology if hidden.29 Eco’s theory of subcultural variations in reading messages is usually presented on the example of a message informing about a strike. The dominant, negotiated, and opposing decodings attach their own meanings to the same information. The dominant code belongs to the powerful and rulers; negotiated to upper and middle classes often pejoratively called the bourgeoisie; the oppositional to the proletariat, lower classes, extremists, criminals, and terrorists. A strike is approached differently by various groups according to the code they apply. A press picture of a British policeman escorting a neo-fascist may therefore have negative and positive readings according to codes used by the readers of the image.30 Codes reflect their users’ system of beliefs as well as those beliefs are reflected in the codes. Therefore, a crafty image encoded according to particular subculture’s code may be used as a marvellous means of influencing specific groups of society. A message is more likely to influence readers when it is encoded in a similar code to that used by readers. Roland Barthes began his theories of perception as a structuralist. However, the more he studied codes and messages that used them, the more he surpassed the ideas of de Saussure and Lévi-Strauss. On top of langue, parole, sign (with its signifier and signified), and code, Barthes placed the notion of cultural myth. He believed that our cognition is governed by self re-establishing mythology of cultural beliefs.31 Everything we ‘take for granted’ as part of our culture is such a myth. We do not try to de-falsify or prove those myths right due to our (sub)conscious belief in culture as a pure and stable set of unquestionable values. However, there are many cultures and many culture-specific truths, and they are all based on particular mythologies.32 Thus, understanding the process of reading as the process of reading cultural myths makes every mediation culture specific.33 However, an attentive reading can also enable readers to reveal those myths and read the message and the 29

30

31 32

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Although Gramsci wrote his essay before Althusser and Eco, the adjourned publication and influence of his work may be analysed as belonging to the period of post-war studies. Another reading may be presented by Barthes’ mythological approach. The picture might be deconstructed into symbols of pre-war order and peace vs. post-war disruption brought by youth cultures. The hidden ideological message of the picture-sign would then be ‘nostalgia for the lost England and the golden age’. Barthes. Mythologies. Polish culture, for examples, thrives on the myth of a lonely Polish soldier defending the whole world against all evil powers. Another myth propagated by literature classes in schools is the martyrology of the whole Polish nation throughout the history. The idea of cultural myths re-establishing themselves, which are subconsciously used by readers may be also ascribed to Jung. His archetypes illustrate a similar issue of psychological recurrent concepts throughout cultures.

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myths on their own. Barthes allowed us to see a message for what it is and to sift out myths from what only seems to be unbreakable and coherent information. According to Barthes, it is a mythology that we base our understanding of the world on. A collection of myths used by a society or a subculture “is the turning point of the cultural and the historical into the natural, the taken-for-granted.” 34 Mythology helps readers in the swift comprehension of the world just as binary opposition does. Nevertheless, the over-generalisation that encompasses a binary oppositional reading can never be as influential as a deliberate manipulation of mythology. Myths are set of meanings and beliefs and as such influences the whole process of cognition and not only that of the elements of external reality. What should be understood as an improper use of mythology is both over-interpretation on the part of the reader, and the deliberate use of myths in constructing messages in order to ‘further one’s intent’.35 Myths are usually used by members of a culture to communicate information in a coherent and succinct way without time-consuming questioning of the myth or the information. The strength of a myth lies, therefore, in its widespread acclaim. Any use of mythology other than in an efficient act of communication may be understood as propaganda, whether in a positive or negative form.36 The notion of cultural beliefs shaping our cognition is much older than Barthes’ theory and it finds one of its best explanations in Francis Bacon’s essays. Although, Bacon’s theories have been developed or even surpassed in the following centuries e.g. by Barthes, the clarity of his writings is remarkable. The improper interpretation of the world by a false usage of mythology finds its origin in Bacon’s description of what he calls “idols”. Francis Bacon differentiated four idols, basic mistakes, we are prone to make, because of which we misinterpret reality and the signs describing it. 37 These idols are still at work. We tend to believe in what is implied by messages (and the powers behind them) without thinking about what an article or an image really (re)presents. We also neglect basic principles of conscious perception by ‘taking things for granted’ - we assume that the truths we are told and shown in press are our truths. “Seeing is believing” finds a crude critic in Bacon. Francis Bacon’s description of Idols: 1. idols of the tribe - internal attributes, which are founded in human nature itself, and which therefore cannot be avoided nor altered; 5. idols of the cave - internal factors but peculiar to an individual, which include his/her character, education, personality, etc; 6. idols of the market-place - external influences which refer to the fact that people enter into conversation or discourse, learning the linguistic signs for things before they come to know them through their own experience; 34 35

36

37

Storey. p. 16. after Barthes In chapters 2 and 4 there are numerous examples of press pictures as well as war and film posters, the deconstruction of which demonstrates the deliberate use of myths as a means of influence. A positive propaganda occurs when information is not mediated due to its context exciding generally accepted moral or aesthetic values. Violent or sexually abusive messages are re-written or are not mediated at all with the consent of the majority. Such contextualising, evaluating, and clipping are regarded as positive despite obvious similarities to ‘furthering one’s intent’ via Media. The following passage and the description of Bacon’s idols after Price. p. 59

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7. idols of the theatre - external in character, referring to the dependence of human beings on the systems of beliefs, on ways of interpreting the world, which they have inherited from previous generations (what fairly accurately agrees with Barthes’ description of cultural myths). Bacon’s judgement of oversimplified reading and accepting every single aspect of mythology we live in is powerful and obtrusive. A similar conclusion is reached by Barthes, who states that information should first be falsified or proved, understood in its mythological context and only then accepted. Otherwise, as both Bacon and Barthes conclude, what we read is not only information, but also “pure and unadulterated bias”38. Moreover, Barthes developed further the notion of a sign. Besides its components - signifier and signified - Barthes developed the idea of denotation and connotation. These may be SIGN connotation associated with the natural and obvious reading, and the more composed of subjective reading respectively. ideology Combining Eco’s idea of mythology (sub)cultural codes and discourses, every sign gains a new depth in signifier + signified external Barthes’ theory. From now on, signs SIGNIFICATION (physical (mental reality or can be written according to readers’ existence) concept) meaning codes and myths by using a of the sign) particular (sub)cultural system of values. This enables the press to influence readers on a new ideological level – mythology. However, it is virtually impossible to encompass all codes of a society within one message; hence, some aberrant decoding will always be present. The greater the variety of codes in society, the more misreadings a message will suffer. In one of his essays Barthes described this phenomenon as “the birth of the reader [which] must be at the cost of the death of the Author”39. Inevitably, the number of codes in modern society becomes so complex that the best thing readers can do is to read a message according to their individual codes and myths. As a result, no one can any longer tell which meaning is the correct meaning. Signs from arbitrary messages become polysemous signifiers. The signified, denoted and connoted belong to readers themselves just as de Saussure prophesised a century earlier. However, as in the case of Eco’s subcultural codes, a canny usage of Mythology while creating a message may direct readers towards preferred conclusions. The war posters presented in chapter 4 are a collection of this kind of propaganda. Film posters are often created according to similar principles and this can be seen in the collection in chapter 4. Before concluding the chapter with the theories of ‘ideology’ and ‘hegemony’ devised by Louis Althusser and Gramsci it is worth noting how reading has changed through the theories of the writers presented. Stuart Hall describes the shift in understanding the process of mediating according to three approaches: reflective, intentional, and constructivist. With the introduction of theories by de Saussure, Lévi-Strauss, Eco, and Barthes the act of reading came to be increasingly based on the individual receiver of a message. Thus, any information has to be encoded according to readers’ systems of decoding rather than according to senders’ codes if the sender desires to influence or manipulate readers effectively. Only then is 38 39

Goodwin and Whannel. p. 42 Barthes. Image Music Text. p. 148

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manipulation of information enabled when the encoding of text may further preferred decoding and meaning. However, to allow such action, theories of reading messages had to evolve from a reflective to a constructive approach. The reflective (or mimetic) approach, as Stuart Hall describes it, 40 occurs when meaning is thought to “lie in the object, person, idea or event in the real world”. In such a case signs and codes ‘mirror or reflect the true meaning as it already exists in the world’. At a basic level of reading pictures, they seem to “reflect” the world. The intentional approach assumes that speakers or authors impose their unique meaning on the world through language. Thus, at a deeper level of reading pictures, it becomes obvious that even ‘objective’ pictures apply to the rule that “simply to point the camera is to choose.”41 Words mean what the author intends them to mean. Finally, this reasoning was challenged by Barthes, who brought inevitable ‘death’ to authors. As a result, the constructivist approach that relies completely on the reader evolved. The meaning is supplied by readers, by their knowledge of the world and the codes they use while comprehending (pictorial) messages. In spite of readers’ importance this approach allows the greatest hidden manipulation. As Stuart Hall writes “neither things in themselves nor the individual users of language can fix meaning in language. Things do not mean: we construct meaning, using representational system – concepts and signs42. (...) We must not confuse the material world, where things and people exist, and the symbolic practices and processes through which representation, meaning, and language operate. (...) It is not the material world which conveys meaning: it is the language system or whatever system we are using to represent concepts. (...) The meaning depends not on the material quality of signs, but on its symbolic function.” 43 A professional manipulation of codes and mythologies may, therefore, direct readers towards particular conclusions. Readers who believe they reached particular conclusion on their own will defend their values more fiercely than if the conclusions were simply given to them. “The meaning is not in object or person or thing, nor it is in the word. It is we who fix the meaning so firmly that, after a while, it comes to seem natural and inevitable. The meaning is constructed by the system of representation.”44 The constructivist approach, based on Barthes’ cultural mythology, forwards propagandistic manipulation despite the independence with which the theory bestows readers. Our understanding of the world, our cognitive approach to reality may be hindered by the mythological misinterpretation devised by a propagandist. As a result ‘we’ can be ‘framed’ into a particular trait of reasoning, and hence particular connotations and conclusions. This is where ideology and mythology may manipulate readers with the greatest efficiency while remaining invisible. Ideas, mainly springing from linguistics, varying from such diverse scholars as de Saussure or Stuart Hall, explain the method of reading and misreading of signs and messages. The analysis of images with the use of these theories depicts where manipulation can hinder readers’ usage of codes, myths, or ideologies. The ideological reading constitutes the theoretical factor present in reading signs (i.e. messages) existing side by side with technical factors (described in chapter 1). Together, those two factors may cause misreadings and allow manipulation. 40 41 42 43 44

The following paragraph is based on Stuart Hall, Representation, pp. 24-25 Masterman. p. 99 underlining mine Hall. Representation. p.25 Hall. Representation. p. 21

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However, the analysis of those factors still does not include the actual usage of ideology and myths in ‘furthering one’s intent’, nor does it describe how propaganda works. Those issues, based on earlier theories of reading signs, are dealt with in the next part of the thesis. CHAPTER 3.3 LOUIS ALTHUSSER, GRAMSCI – MARX REVISITED Although Marx is believed to be a social philosopher, many of his ideas concern the very act of mediating the will of the powerful, spread of ideology. His ideas concentrate on the belief that the powerful choose their system of values (code) as the only right one and implement it by socio-economic pressure on other groups of society. In this way they create the dominant and oppositional codes of those who govern and of those who are governed (and oppressed). Eco expanded on this rather simplified division by describing the negotiated code, the hegemonic idea of hypodermic needle45, and subcultural variations of all major codes (dominant, negotiated, oppositional). The following development of Marx’s theories belongs to Althusser’s theory of ideology at work. Althusser defined the struggle between the codes (and their users) in terms of ideology. His idea finally comprises earlier theories of signs, mythologies, and codes in one theory describing practical usage of these. As Althusser describes it, a system of beliefs is introduced in every society arbitrarily and is mediated in schools, in the press, and in everyday language. However, it is created, according to Althusser, only to subdue working classes to the power and will of the few that govern the masses. The whole system of codes, ‘proper’ encoding and decoding, mythology, and desired connotations together build up something that Althusser generally defines as ‘ideology’. According to Althusser, ideology is not only a set of values, but primarily it is a process of implementing them. It is also the actions (mental and physical) we take to impose it on others. This understanding of ideology can be easily found in the behaviour of various twentieth-century tyrants such as Stalin or Hitler. They devised and used a system of codes and readings of particular signs together with actions promoting those systems in order to banish all other ideologies and gain ultimate power. Here, Marx returns, as he was the first to postulate so clearly in modern times that ideology is power if used without hesitation. This power and influence can be achieved solely through promoting a ‘proper’ ideology, which later re-establishes itself within the society. Surprisingly, ideology does not require an impressive spectacle to promote itself as it can be conveyed piece by piece in every sign (i.e. message) in our surroundings. ”Messages are socially produced in particular circumstances and made culturally available as shared explanations of how the world works. In other words, they are ‘ideologies’, explanatory systems of belief.” 46 As Althusser explains it, a message is ideology in itself! There does not have to be some outside or external myth. An image can convey or create its own desired readings, and hence, preferred meanings. According to the constructivist approach a reader is the only source of meaning in the message. However, readers’ understanding is governed by myths and ideologies. If a sign can convey its own or dominant 45

46

Eco’s hypodermic needle describes a situation, which requires a perfect symmetry between encoding and decoding as only such an ideal situation would allow perfect communication and perfect manipulation. Goodwin and Whannel. p. 60

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ideology, it promotes a preferred reading, which in time can manipulate readers. There is a long process between creating a message and ideological reading; however, in the case of the reading as described by Althusser, the final control gained over ideologically shaped readers is immense. Again, twentieth-century history proves such analysis right. According to Althusser, Barthes, and Eco, we are born into a particular ideology from which we cannot escape. It can only be shaken off with great effort from a conscious and reflective mind. This seems to be the only way of freeing oneself from manipulation – the conscious analysis of informational ‘input’. However, opposing dominant ideology does not mean being free from any ideology. Althusser concludes that we simply choose between sets of values and their ideographic representations. We always live in some sort of ideology and through it we conceptualise the world and its messages. Whether we belong to dominant, negotiated, or opposing discourse, we always live in ideology. Ideology as part of cultured cognition is inescapable for a thinking being. However, it is one’s own choice of ideology that defines individual cognitive abilities. One of the basic examples of ideology at work evolving from Althusser’s theory is the analysis of advertisements.47 As he postulates, advertisements cannot promote ‘products’ in the first place. To be efficient they cannot even promote ‘buying products’. Primarily, advertisements have to promote ‘buying’; they have to offer ‘consumerism’. Only after believing that ‘to live a good life’ means to ‘live a consumer’s life’ is it possible for an advert to promote a product. In this manner, advertisements do not promote products themselves, but rather they promote a system of beliefs from which producers gain profit. The same theory applies to analysing schools and universities where we are taught how to live in society and how to obediently follow somebody else’s orders. Only later do educational institutions spread knowledge after placing our traits of thought and behaviour in a socially acceptable frame. At least, that is what Althusser describes in his theory. At that point a question arises: what ideology, if any, is forced into messages we receive via Media? A source of the answer is the ‘information chain’ and its application as described in chapter 5. Gramsci like Eco discussed ideology in terms of opposing powers and class struggle. He divided the society according to codes used by particular groups: dominant, negotiated, and opposing. However, Gramsci presented the feature of class/group tensions in a new way. After Marx, He claimed that all groups struggle to gain power and that they use their ideologies to those ends. However, according to Gramsci, codes are negotiated between groups and the ideology that is capable of comprising in itself most of the powerful codes of the society prevails in the community and becomes the code of the ruling group. Moreover, in contrast to Althusser’s theory, the dominant ideology of the ruling classes does not have to be negative in the understanding of other ideologies. The dominant ideology becomes hegemonic in the sense that it reshapes itself as the most influential and acceptable of all other ideologies. The ideology re-establishes itself all over again in order to maintain power through consensus. To a certain extent, it is also accepted even by those who comprehend the world according to opposing codes. Dominant and hegemonic ideology does not oppose other ideologies but rather tries to comprise them or their parts in order to further its own influence, in order to prevail. In that situation consensus is reached and that is the power of hegemony in Gramsci’s 47

Strinati. p. 126

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theory. The dominant ideology does not have to oppress as Marx and Althusser supposed. Gramsci’s theory, combined with the writings of Eco, presents a new world of codes and ideologies working side by side despite their inherent differences. The vision of ideologies at work is reshaped, as codes used by dominant, negotiating and opposing groups are mediated between them. After mingling all of them, a group ‘wins’ in the quest for power by being the most versatile and acceptable and not only powerful or threatening. Dominant and hegemonic is not, therefore, the ideology of the oppressor but that of the ruler accepted, even if not chosen, by a general consensus in society. All other codes still exist and are used by subcultures or other classes; however, they do not necessarily combat one another openly. Hegemony is achieved by consensus and not oppression. Gramsci’s theory of ‘peaceful’ hegemony finds its confirmation in film posters. Surprisingly, this medium of communication uses a number of myths and ideologies of the society, and re-establishes them to assure citizens that the world is still ‘safe’, is still ‘the same’. They also promote products in Althusser’s understanding. At the first level they advertise films, while at deeper levels they promote ‘the only and proper ideology’ of the ruling classes. Such an approach to film posters is presented in one of the analysis in chapter 6. Similar traits can be found in some press photographs, which also attempt to further hegemony before all other society’s ideologies. The last important issue postulated by Gramsci and Althusser alike is the distribution of ideology. They agree with Marx’s idea of school indoctrination. We are born into ideology in our homes and later we are brought up ideologically at nurseries, schools, and universities. Marx added religion-ideology as a means of subduing working classes by encompassing within the opposing ideology (of the working class) the belief of being weaker and rightfully outwitted by the dominant ideology and the powerful. Gramsci and Althusser find another tool of indoctrination, namely media. Nothing is so prevailing in our society as the overwhelming omnipresence of press and television. Radio has lost its leading role in that contest; however, it is still an important factor in putting forward ‘the only right way of thinking’. Gramsci and Althusser, and Eco to a considerable extent as well, agree that pop culture becomes the most influential power in re-shaping ideologies as well as in maintaining the division of powers between three main codes. Pop culture becomes the most influential in promoting ideologies for a number of reasons. One of them is over-national and over-subcultural range of pop receivers. Another may be Western culture consumerism. Generally, pop culture belongs to Western culture, which complies with the stereotype of the ‘good buyer’. Consumption becomes essential for pop and ideology behind it. Western Europe and North America have thrived only thanks to continuous growth and unceasing selling. Hence, pop is the best mean of re-establishing hegemony as it not only promotes it but also becomes equal with it. CHAPTER 3.4 CONCLUSION “Things in themselves rarely if ever have any more single, fixed and unchanging meaning. (...) It is by our use of things, and what we say, think and feel about them – how we represent them – that we give them a meaning. In part, we give objects, people and events meaning by the

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framework or interpretation which we bring them. (...) In part we give things meaning by how we represent them.”48 This passage by Stuart Hall arrives at a versatile conclusion of such diverse approaches to reading and mediating as those presented in the whole of chapter 4. After all, as Hall concludes, it is ‘we’, readers, who frame signs into particular meanings. However, due to the widespread acclaim of cultural myths and ideological indoctrination, we are prone to become framed ourselves into particular beliefs and behaviour. Paraphrasing Hall, ‘we give things meanings by how they are presented to us’. Propaganda is “the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist”.49 It is not only the polite ‘asking to take part in a war’ as in the case of (some) war posters. Propaganda is and can be found in our omnipresent pop culture, in media, in schools, or even in the workplace as Althusser and Gramsci declare. Chapter 5 attempts to describe and analyse the process of mediation to discover where in the information chain manipulation actually takes place. The methods which propaganda may use find their base in the choice and application of codes, myths, discourses, and ideologies (chapter 3). Just like images, they are nothing more but the ways of representing, hence, shaping the world.

48 49

Hall. Representation. p. 3 Price. p. 74

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CHAPTER 4 WAR PROPAGANDA AND FILM POSTERS

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3

3

3

3

3

3

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CHAPTER 5 DECONSTRUCTING THE INFORMATION CHAIN This chapter of the thesis aims at discovering methods in which underlying culture specific features may be built into pictorial messages. Those methods are represented by various levels of the information chain a message passes on its way from a sender to a reader. It also attempts at postulating a particular chain of ideological relations present in reading those messages. As analysed in previous chapters, any message is influenced by three main factors: technical, human, and ideological. Every message is sent via a medium, which through its imperfection imposes some misreporting, or even errors in the process of mediating. The following factor of human involvement in reshaping information, however, is of even greater impact. Unfortunately, Western Culture citizens are driven by money and power, and struggle for these is reflected both in messages and in re-writing messages. The powerful want to prolong their supremacy and enhance income (which in itself is just an ideology) brings those ‘desperate’ leaders to the verge of propaganda or event much further beyond the good taste of any manipulation. They do it using mythologised propaganda, which is based on cultural manipulation of information. From the advent of photography and the emerging of pictorial representation of the world in press50, images have become a perfect tool in the propaganda machine. Finally, although ‘we’ as readers are the sole source of the meaning attached to a message, ‘we’ become bereft of freedom of thought through propagandists’ use of manipulation of cultural mythologies. Readers only ‘believe’ their reading is independent while in reality it is substantially directed towards ‘proper’ conclusions. The description and graphic representation of that process is the core idea of this chapter. At the basic level the audience believes that what is presented in media is truth or directly relates to that truth. Often, that is the case; however, the truth has many faces and more often than readers expect manipulation takes place. The simplest informational chain, in perfect conditions, would be a simple act of mediating an event by a sender of a message directly to the receiver. EVENT

SENDER / MESSAGE

RECEIVER

However, rarely does it happen that a sender of the message is present when the event occurs. Most of the events are not planned like parliamentary discussions or organised demonstrations. As a result, the sender usually comes to the front when an event has already taken place: outbreak of violence, overthrowing of governments, floods, fires, and accidents. In case of press photographs, images usually present effects of an event rather than its causes or the event itself. EVENT

SENDER / MESSAGE

RECEIVER

TIME GAP

The time gap causes some serious limitations to mediating messages (generally characterised in chapter 1). Those limitations can be referred to as technological. Because of the time gap the sender (, usually a journalist,) is limited to 50

It is only the 20th century, which saw evolution of press from linguistic medium to textual medium (based on written language, press photography, pictures, posters, pictorial advertisements, and on attached olfactory messages). The beginning years of 1920s experienced first “big” press advertising campaigns - some as much as eight pages long! Before, papers relied solely on written word only vaguely supported by rudimentary pictures. (after Williams: 418)

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particular sources of information; he cannot use the most preferable media (technology). If there is nothing left to photograph, the message will have to be purely linguistic. If there is no witness, the whole relation of an event will be based on the sender’s assumptions and conclusions rather than the real event’s incidents. To some extent the notion of noise (chapter 1.1) can influence a message even before it is ‘written down’. In case of press photography the time gap results in presenting images in newspapers, which only partially ‘describe’ an event. For instance, they may depict the place or the person but at another time. A slight ‘white lie’, however, it is EVENT

MEDIA AVAILABLE

SENDER

already some sort of manipulation of information.

A sender builds his message out of sources and media available, not those desired or essential for a particular event. Hence, his message is limited by environment he does not control. Therefore, if the event due to ‘technological factors’ and time gap becomes unattainable, the message cannot reflect what really took place. Next, a sender forwards the message; however, information is never mediated directly to the receiver, but rather to the editor. The sender has to choose what media or how many of them to use in creating a message for the editor. Senders’ actions may be again influenced by their ideological beliefs and by the technological factor. SENDER MEDIA AVAILABLE

text (written) text (spoken) image (still) image (moving) sound some or all of the above combined

EDITOR

Later, at the editor’s desk the message undergoes further changes. Those are done due to the nature of newsworthiness. Any event has to posses specific features in order to become a message worthy of mediating (chapter 1.2). It has to become a news story. Editor’s job is to create such an atmosphere around any message he receives even if in itself it does not possess news’ traits. If a message is not interesting and engrossing the audience will not heed it eventually. Moreover, the message has to comply with ‘political correctness’ of the editor’s and dominant group’s codes. In its messages press ”communicates meanings, values, and beliefs” 51 preferred by information manipulator – the powerful52. Therefore, editors change or choose between various media of sending the message rather than confine 51 52

Goodwin and Whannel. p. 60 Or as Goodwin and Whannel put it, mass communication presents nothing but pure and unadulterated bias (paraphrase from p. 42)

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themselves to the limitations posed by sender’s choice of media. Final image corresponding to an article may originate in an entirely different source from that of the article (chapter 1.2). It is often the case of press photographs, which come from archives and are attached to newly written articles. EDITOR EDITING

choosing out of senders message clipping adding evaluating text (written) contextualising text (spoken) image (still) image (moving) sound some or all of the above combined

MEDIA AVAILABLE MESSAGE

Eventually, such a worked-on message, what possible hardly describing the event itself, reaches the receiver. However, it is vital to remember Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” as due to its postulations the mediating chain event-senderreceiver is prolonged by one more link. It is readers, who after receiving a message decode it on their own according to individual sets of ‘beliefs’. Readers use the general knowledge of the world to comprehend what the message attempts to mediate. Their knowledge and cognition are based on Eco’s, Althusser’s, Gramsci’s, and Barthes’ codes, ideologies, and myths. Readers may read information according to what editor wants them to; however, ‘perfect symmetry between encoding and decoding’ is challenged by Eco’s description of hypodermic needle. A more realistic view accepts at least partial freedom of thought of readers and gives them some choice between codes, myths, and ideologies they wish to apply. MESSAGE IDEOLOGY RECEIVER

dominant code negotiated code oppositional code hegemonic code subcultural code hypodermic needle

Therefore, a following chain of relations present in mediating a message should be considered more applicable to the simplified event-sender-receiver chain. It attempts to comprise all the factors influencing mediating, manipulating, and (mythologised) reading. As analysed in chapter 1, pictorial messages may be as much manipulated during mediation as any linguistic sign. Therefore, this chain should apply to ‘sending’ press photographs and creating of posters, whether propaganda or film placards.

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EVENT TIME GAP MEDIA AVAILABLE 1 SENDER = MESSAGE WRITTEN DOWN MEDIA AVAILABLE 2 EDITOR = MESSAGE PREPARED EDITING MEDIA AVAILABLE 3 IDEOLOGY RECEIVER = MESSAGE RECEIVED AND READ

Nevertheless, this chain still follows the same mistake as the basic eventsender-receiver pattern. It assumes that each factor works only at one link of the chain. It also continuous to neglect the significance of the audience’s act of reading, only in which a message becomes decoded and understood according to individual and constructive approach (chapter 3.2). Moreover, it is clearly visible that e.g. ‘media available’ factor, although different each time, is at work all the time and not only in one loop of the chain. The same rule applies to other factors. Every person in the middle of the chain is both a sender (message originator) and a receiver (message interpreter); hence, the whole chain multiplies itself at least threefold. An event is experienced by a sender1 and mediated to a journalist-receiver1. Receiver1-sender2 mediates the message to the editor-receiver2. Receiver2-sender3 contextualises the message for final receiver3-audience.53 However, if the event occurs “unattended” and there is no witness, or if there are a few links sender-receiver before the chain reaches the journalist and editor, the whole process of mediating becomes even more prone to misinterpretations and misreadings at the final link. As a result, some cases of misreporting in the information chain may be intentional and deliberate manipulation of technology, codes, sings, and discourses as these are the base on which bias and propaganda operates.

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The chain also applies to creation of posters as there powers influencing the final choice and shape of the placard work in a similar way. There is a film, which requires a poster. The poster is ordered and a company usually consisting of or employing a few artists discusses the best pictorial representation of a main thought of the film – a thought chosen by ‘the powerful’. Finally, out of many offers one or two posters are chosen, re-touched and finally displayed. This chain may only be more influenced by external powers than the process of mediating a press photography. Only propaganda posters are more strictly ‘censored’ and re-constructed than film posters. Nevertheless, the implications and the shape of the information chain remain similar if not the same.

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EVENT

SENDER

EDITOR

message formulated

message encoded

factors (+noise) and their intensity: technology technology editing editing ideology ideology

RECEIVER

technology editing ideology

ACT OF READING message decoded

technology editing ideology + denotation + connotation

Therefore, another pattern of the chain can be drawn to comprise and reflect those features of omnipresent factors influencing mediation in a more accurate way. The factors are present all the time, only their intensity and influence shifts. This graph attempts at depicting most of those relations. Describing such a chain is not a purely academic act. Its main value is for the reader of a message who happens to be subdued by manipulation or propaganda. When a piece of information (whatever media constitutes it) is presented to the audience, receivers may attempt to decipher what the original message and event were. However what becomes of prime importance in the comprehension and application of the chain is that it enables the receiver to reveal ideologies and codes at work. It becomes possible to sift out not the information/message itself, but to disclose propaganda influencing our cognition of reality. In that sense, it becomes possible for a reader, to become (at least partly) immune to endeavours of those who try to subdue us by deceitful usage of ideologies, codes, and myths. The value of understanding how that chain works enables freedom of thought, which no longer is manipulated by ‘editor’s’ into the frame of ‘the only proper’ cognition of the world. Reading every message, even such a simple one as a press picture or a poster, is similar Althusser’s to reading of advertisements. The main issue propagated by adverts is consumerism and not the product itself. Exactly the same approach applies to reading images. They do not inform about events or advertise a film, but primarily they propagate ideologies, mystify reality, and simplify our cognition. It takes a conscious reader to sift out such information from the depths of a message. However, it is vital for the reader to understand what is mediated to him if he wants to remain a man of his own realm. Rules of reading advocated in this thesis, like all others, cannot be adopted in the analysis of every picture – no theory is perfect. Nevertheless, more often than not, the information chain developed in this chapter appears applicable in many cases. It seems that manipulation of information, though on different levels of information chain, occurs all the time. The most threatening issue is ‘framing’ our trait of thinking into particular cognition of the world based on somebody else’s beliefs and desires. Culture specific conceptualising of the reality and mythological reading of messages (which in case of images happens semiconsciously!) may further ideological influence of the mediator on the reader. As readers, we should find a way out of the frame into which we are being entangled.

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CHAPTER 6 IDEOLOGY IN IMAGES – THE CRITICAL APPROACH AND THE

ANALYSIS OF EXAMPLES

Previous chapters of this thesis aimed at analysing technological and ideological factors re-shaping messages. General conclusion inferred from ‘judging’ these factors presents a bizarre world of independent readers, who despite their alleged freedom of interpretation are influenced by social discourses, cultural myths, and subcultural codes. On the part of the message creator, these features of cultured mediation can be used as a means of ‘furthering one’s intent’, of introducing propaganda. It becomes obvious within the analysis of chapter 3 that propaganda works as nearly invisible when it attempts to disguise itself within codes and myths of the reader. This chapter is devoted to presenting a few examples of press photographs, war posters, and film placards in order to depict propaganda at work. However, the analysis of examples is abridged for a few purposes. Firstly, pictures should “speak for themselves”. Any reading, so also presented in the thesis, is cultured and, therefore, to some extant manipulates cognition. Secondly, this thesis attempts to present the general issue of propaganda in pictorial messages in our surrounding rather than describe in only a few examples manipulation media exerts on readers. Chapters 2 and 4 give a brief account of ideologies into which images are ‘framed’ due to mythological manipulation. These few examples of reading images presented in this chapter are designed as a stimuli for conscious reading of pictorial messages a source of which are chapters 2 and 4, and everyday life. The examples also attempt at depicting recurring motifs rendering the distinction between press, posters, and propaganda images obsolete. CHAPTER 6.1 PRESS PICTURES: CHÉ GUEVARA, YOUTH, MARGARET THATCHER, AND IRA Ché Guevara is one of the icons of the 20th century. For a brief time his face belonged to the best known ‘images’ around the world (after faces of Muhammad Ali, Jesus Christ, and Ghandi – in that order!). Nearly no person can walk past Ché’s picture unmoved. The ideological weight of his portraits is tremendous. However, what ideology and what meaning are there inherently in his portraits? Who does the picture present? A freedom fighter or a lost cause defender? A murderer? A communist or a supporter of antiAmericanism?54 Maybe the picture presents a Castro’s friend who betrayed Cuba for other countries? Or perhaps the picture shows no one else but an unshaven man? Every other description, if historical knowledge left aside, becomes inapplicable. However, history of the 20th century is strongly ideologically loaded and mythologised. Any reading leading towards a more accurate description has to be grounded in an ideology and, hence, has to mystify reality. The 54

Whence today half of Europe would probably call itself partially anti-American estranged by USA foreign policy, pop, crime, or self-centred economy.

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aim of this paragraph is depicting that we do read in an ideology-based manner. The same applies to creating messages. A properly used picture of Ché will bring preferred readings as the picture is overwhelmed with mythologies. The picture of young people shouting and behaving in a seemingly offensive way gives a similar example. They look young, hippie-like, and appear to be a group of protesting anarchists or even ‘junkies’55. However, as opposing to what readers may imagine, those young people are students loudly, though peacefully, demonstrating against racist National Front manifestation in London, 1974. Although the manner of their actions will probably be judged as improper, their beliefs are those of the ‘civilised’, of the ‘masses’, and of the dominant code. As in case of Ché Guevara, historical knowledge may provide a completely different reading from the expected after a glimpse. A ‘proper’ evaluation provided by press articles will direct readers towards ‘proper’ decodings of those pictures. In themselves they are capable of being both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in their ideological depth. Readers have to decide themselves if they want to be directed by biased press or if they prefer to engross themselves in a difficult act of individual decoding. Another picture that no British56 can indifferently walk by is that of Margaret Thatcher. The reading of that image may be highly unfavourable for the Iron Lady. She may seem as much out of place in a tank with something ‘big’ covering her face, as out of place many thought her as the party leader in the parliament. And after all, where is her little handbag? Of course, British flag is dragged after Ms Thatcher just as she vigorously drawn the country towards the bitter unknown of her own choice. As seen in the example, ideological reading may be not only one-sided but also very overpowering. Another sore and ideological issue in the UK is the Trouble. Nature of questions relating to Ché Guevara comes to the front once more. Do the pictures present disruptive youth, juvenile delinquency of industrial poor districts, or maybe teenage freedom fighters objecting the oppression? And whom are they fighting with: 55 56

It is an exemplary reading. What ever this word may mean today...

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soldiers – is it a war then; police – is it just another demonstration. Are the forces Irish or British. Or maybe the whole protest is organised by protestant citizens of Ulster who do not wish becoming part of the Republic? Whatever the answer, myths used by opposing groups of readers will be strongly attached to the decoding of that image. Picture based debate between the opponents may be intensified when presenting the time of peace. However, how questionable peace as the next picture presents the IRA taking over Dublin in 1922. Heroes bringing freedom or terrorists within the state? Again, a proper manipulation of information may use the picture as propaganda either for or against the IRA. CHAPTER 6.2 IDEOLOGY IN POSTERS: SYMBOLIC CLICHÉS As mentioned in chapters 3 and 5, ideological manipulation of images reaches its limits in production of posters, especially war posters. Those images are clearly propaganda and their sole aim is to maintain the dominant ideology as the main discourse in the society. Propaganda posters usually work with the most obvious and most widely acclaimed myths. In case of US WW2 poster “The M-1 does MY talking” ideological weight seems evident. The poster re-establishes myths according to Barthes’ theory. In the USA sheriff is the traditional icon of peace and order. A sheriff has specific attributes like his gun, a shiny badge, a hat covering his eyes, and (especially after Clint Eastwood films) an unshaven face. His behaviour and methods may be questionable; however, his statements leave no doubt about his effectiveness (Eastwood comes to the front again, although, it was John Wayne who created that style in Western). The poster uses and re-establishes the myth of American law enforcer. The soldier figure, a civilised defender of “our families” and the world, comprises all the attributes connected with a sheriff. There is a gun, a pack of shiny ammunition as his badge representing “the American law”, a modernised hat – a helmet, and a rigid face. The myth is applied to present the American Dream that has to be defended and that it is defended. The duty of those Americans who are not at the front is to provide the soldier with more law enforcing ‘equipment’. The poster also leaves no doubt as to the only right and possible way of discussion between ‘us Americans’ and ‘them the Axis invaders’.

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In such a companion the German poster from the same period appears to possess similar qualities. Its premiss is as similar and as clear as of its US counterpart. The only difference is in the myth applied by Germans. Their hero belongs to the everyman sort of citizen becoming a knight figure with obvious emblems of his affiliation and ranks. The myth may be different but the adoption of ideology in both cases is exactly the same. The belief that only Germans manipulated information is an infantile and idealised vision of the world. The next paragraph presents how much the stereotypes (myths) applied by war posters are also used by cinema in film advertisements. “He is watching you” poster belongs to a very profound school of propaganda. It is simple in its colours (using just two contrasting hints), in the usage of symbolical icon of Evil (German helmet and “those little evil eyes”), and in the choice of fonts and the linguistic message itself. The reading ‘is’ obvious. In time, the image of German helmet lurking somewhere in the background or as an elementary motif has become associated with negative meaning. Anything, even slightly resembling the curvy line of German gear may be used to further negative connotations. The painters of Star Wars’ posters were aware of this obvious connection and based the whole series of advertisements on the symbolic figure of Darth Vader. There, the Dark Lord’s helmet so much resembling that of the Germans constitutes the background of nearly all posters. As in the war propaganda poster the helmeted figure is always behind beholding and almost certainly controlling all events. The ‘black figure’ itself is read as negative even before watching the film and learning about the Lord of the Dark Side. The negative element in both posters is a driving force requiring a particular behaviour opposing the (Nazi) threat. This conceptualising of the German helmet as an icon of evil is used in numerous posters for the same purpose – drawing attention. Images become clichés, as today virtually any thing resembling the shapes is directly read as negative. In this way, propaganda of engrossing readers into particular understanding and manipulating them into specific actions becomes relatively effortless. Moreover, the myth of ‘German helmet = evil’ re-establishes itself according to Barthes’ theory.

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Another of the basic motifs of WW2 propaganda posters is that of a human figure, usually equipped with a gun or a national emblem, towering over all average people. The background is constituted of the forces supporting the hero(ine) or villains that shall fall under the almighty crush of his/her hand. “Buy War Bonds” proclaiming the inexhaustible power of Uncle Sam is just an example of the pattern. This reading encoded in the message which mythology relies on the central figure has been repeated a number of times. Posters advertising “Escape from N.Y.” or “Star Wars” are just a few of hundreds following the pattern. All elements of “Buy War Bonds” are recreated in the “Escape”. This poster also applies the myths of American individuality and independence, American strength, American-type hero, American pragmatism, and American rags-to-riches stories. All those myths, in case of both propaganda and film poster, are re-established and applied only for the reason of manipulating reading. Spectators have to agree with the message (, ideological information and national myths,) if they want themselves included in the ‘big picture’ of the most powerful nation in the world. The message is simplified in case of a “Star Wars” poster presenting Luke Skywalker. However, the hero still has his law-enforcing attribute – a laser gun, the space behind him has to be defended from evil, and the petty enemies await the crushing might of his power. This poster employs only basic symbolic language of cultural myths and the dominant ideology of the victorious. Therefore, it becomes interesting to compere the most basic of the film-propaganda posters with a placard that renders the mythologised pattern ironic. Posters to films like “Army of Darkness” in an obvious way relate to earlier examples. They are based on the same ideology, myths, and codes. However, here the poster does not pretend to be neutral nor does it claim as much as propaganda-like influence on viewers. It exaggerates all myths and ideologies. The weapon is not a usual gun but a chain saw! The enemy is nothing more but minute goblin-like figures. Understandably, the hero will defend the city behind him; however, all his fight is driven by pleasure of adventures and voluptuous female bodies. Nevertheless, the pattern of earlier propaganda posters is retained due to which the poster seems knowable and ideologically meaningful. The examples of the analysis based on the application of information chain may be verified against possible deconstructions of press photographs and posters presented in chapters 2 and 4. However, the outcome of any analysis should be similar and should prove the information chain right. Deconstructing images, while

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applying the information chain, reveals what changes or enhancements have been employed. The knowledge of these manipulations may also display at what stage of mediation or image creation they were implemented. Hence, discovering how, when, and with what tool (myth) images attempt to manipulate readers becomes possible. The next chapter gives further explanation on why readers are “framed” into particular cognition of the world, and how to withstand manipulation of the propagandist.

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CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION “By the word reading we mean not only the capacity to identify and decode a certain number of signs, but also the subjective capacity to put them into a creative relation between themselves and with other signs: a capacity which is, by itself, the condition for a complete awareness of one’s total environment.”57 The scope of examples in chapters 2, 4, and 6, though scarce, present recurrent questions and readings around war propaganda posters, press pictures and film placards. The analysis of similarities advances towards an obvious conclusion. Earlier chapters tried to prove that technological and ideological factors shaping pictorial messages and their reading are strongly rooted in the subjective approach of the audience. However, due to the mythological cognition of the world, readers are prone to become subdued by propaganda. Examples presented and briefly analysed in chapter 6 uncover similarities and relations between all kinds of pictorial images. No matter which sort of image is examined, the notion of mythologising it and turning it into propaganda finally seems inevitable. Propaganda may be subtle and positive (as in case of health promoting posters of WW2), but it may be more dangerous and numbing. Surprisingly, it is film posters and press pictures that may have a supreme impact on readers. As they are not analysed as propaganda, the myths they apply re-establish themselves “in a natural way”. However, myths are not natural but cultural, and they evolve and change in time and space. Myths are naturalised beliefs that pictures use as a means of conveying desired meanings. If readers do not attempt to read the image for what it is, with all its mythology, they are going to become manipulated. They are manipulated. The knowledge of information chain and the ways in which myths and ideologies work releases readers from the enslavement of propaganda and the frame of cognition it advocates. “We Are Being Framed” from the title of the thesis is a direct comment of propaganda behaviour of media we are surrounded by. Pictorial messages, more than others, re-establish myths and enforce cognition of the world in particular frames desired by the powerful. “Being framed” as a reader, in such a context, has a threefold meaning: 1. We are being framed into living in a world that (we do not even realise) we do not want to inhabit. The world is created by someone else and for someone else. This ‘else’ is the propagandist, the powerful, who enslaves us into the relationship so bitterly described by Marx. This time, however, ideological interpretation of our state is not that of “rightfully outwitted”, but that of “those who even do not know they are outwitted”. As readers do not realise that they are being framed, they do not object. 8. We are being framed into particular conceptualisation of the world. Individual beliefs become unimportant in reading messages from afar and near as there is ‘the only proper’ frame of cognition which we ‘have to’ employ every time. The national ideologies and myths are repeated so often that they are considered natural. However, myths are culture specific and messages from different discourses should be analysed according to all available codes and not only according to 57

Hall. “Encoding, Decoding”. p. 514

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the frame of dominant system. As a result, readers adopt the frame of hegemonic discourse to images that are not even presented to them yet. As readers do not realise that they are being framed, they do not object. 9. We are being framed not only into false reading of images, because of overpowering influence of dominant code, but primarily we are left to believe that this frame of conceptualising the world according to cultural myths is our own and natural frame of thought. Without realising that there are bonds around us, without realising that they are enforced we will not be capable of shaking them off. As we do not realise that we are being framed, we do not object. Hopefully, readers of articles will also start reading images accompanying the linguistic message. After all, image is also a text and may be interpreted according to particular signs, codes, myths, and discourses. If pictorial messages are left aside, they may only slip through our cognitive (culture specific) filters and influence us, manipulating our understanding of the world and finally our behaviours. On its part, Media will be framing us as it is in their business. However, the choice is left to the reader with an opened mind what Barthes proclaimed in his essays.

CHAPTER 7.1 THE LAST WORD The analysis and reasoning on which this thesis is based relates to a few scholars and Greek philosophers. Their ideas, although rewritten a number of times, are still influential even in the conclusion of this work. Humans are social and cultural creatures. We are capable of perceiving the world in its complexity and beauty. As Stachura wrote, we are all poets and everything around us is poetry. However, as Stachura continuous to muse over the poetry of life, he concludes that not every one is grown enough to read the poetry of the world. The reasoning on which this thesis is based relates, as Stachura’s thought, to a few scholars and philosophers, namely: to Socrates, Plato, and their followers like Bacon, Barthes, and others. Socrates asks why? What? Where? How do you know, how come you are so certain? Why are you afraid? Why are you happy? This method of doubting and believing in ultimate truth is in part the guidance of this thesis and its reasoning. After Socrates, Barthes concluded that to communicate consciously we have to read and verify every piece of information. Nothing should be ‘taken for granted’. Only then, we can reach reality described by a message, and only then we can reach the cultural myths and codes applied in encoding and decoding information. It is an essential act, as only by knowing codes and culture specific myths it becomes

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possible to both communicate efficiently and to free ourselves from stereotypes, superstitions, and manipulation. As Plato would describe it, there is a better and ideal world behind our manipulated lives. An open mind may try to reach that other world. Therefore, a final question and a final answer appear inevitable. What should we do? What should we, readers and senders of messages, do with this manipulation around us? At first we should follow Kipling’s “If...”: “(...) If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. Your is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Or to state the same idea in even a more British way, it seems that David Jarrett’s choice of conclusion becomes most relevant. So what should we do? “One of the most satisfactory conclusions rising from asking big questions is provided by Eric Idle, in drag, at the end of Monty Python's Meaning of Life (1983): “Nothing very special. Try to be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and again. Get some walking in. And try and live in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And finally here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to offend the censors.”58

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Jarrett. p. 64

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