Hello Colleagues, one great advantage – the only one, in fact – to sending my responses late is that I have the benefit of each of your responses and analysis. Many fascinating points! The themes and issues that gripped me are as follows:
The most prevalent theme of Thussu’s first chapter, The Historical Context of International Communication, presented itself to me as the State, Nation-State, and Empire’s grasp for dominance and power via communication technologies. ‘Control,’ ‘dominate,’ ‘colonize,’ ‘take power over’ – these words were used every time a State-actor made use of new communication technologies. Concerning the study of international communication from the perspective of U.S. Foreign Policy, it would be interesting to search for declassified statements on this theme; exploring the existence of records which may indicate how self-aware an acting U.S. administration was, internally, to what it communicated, and how the administration expected that to further U.S. political or ideological dominance. Can we discover what internal or even private/secret goals an administration holds? And how can we reliably confer this if it is not overtly stated? What about other nations, especially nation-states which employ non-democratic regimes, where such governments are not traditionally held accountable for actions and there is little to no expectation from the public to receive reliable, current information from their government about what actions their government takes?
In the United States, classified material is usually declassified 30 years post-writing. These newly-made-public documents are assembled into volumes dealing with eras and subjects by the Department of State Office of the Historian. (http://history.state.gov/) Incidentally, as much of the reading addressed the Cold War, almost two weeks ago The Office of the Historian published a new volume chronicling the Carter, Nixon-Ford, and Regan era Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I, 1969, and SALT II 1979 – not ratified due to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) which took place between the U.S. and USSR regarding nuclear armament.
Related to the theme of State dominance, the chapter gave me the implicit impression that the Associated Press (AP) in the United States was (and perhaps is) used by the U.S. Government to disseminate information, and held a de facto monopoly on news, especially in acting as a (perhaps the) news source for smaller regional publications. According to Wikipedia, the AP was always a news co-operative. So rather than one localized juggernaut with local writers, many contributing writers across the continental U.S. composed its make-up. While the AP maintains a relative monopoly in news media today (see quote below), I found no published indication that the AP had ever been a propagandist tool of the United States Government.
“As of 2005[update], the news collected by the AP is published and republished by more than 1,700 newspapers, in addition to more than 5,001 television and radio broadcasters. The photograph library of the AP consists of over 10 million images. The Associated Press operates 243 news bureaus and it serves at least 120 countries, with an international staff located worldwide.”
On the other side of the pond, the account of Reuters selling news space to the British Empire during World War I to disseminate speeches made by Empire officials led me to question what U.S. laws, if any, exist regulating ties between press reporting and the government. How would these associations be monitored and quantified, and how could their effects be qualified? In Reuters’ case during WWI, the sale of information dissemination services to the controlling body bought the British Empire support for their military campaign from otherwise neutral colonies and members of the Commonwealth. I wondered if CNN, MSNBC and others do more or less the same thing when they live-stream speeches by the U.S. president and cabinet members – though of course, our government does not pay them directly, so far as the public is aware.
According to TheFreeDicitonary.com, the legal meaning of “freedom of speech, or of the press” as excerpted from the First Amendment to the Constitution draws no perceivable difference between civilians and the press, from a legal standpoint. (See First National Bank of Boston vs. Bellotti, 1978. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Freedom+of+the+Press) That is to say – relations between ‘the press’ or any ‘member of the press’ and a member of government cannot be regulated any more than the relationship between a non-press civilian and member of government. In 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that the rights of the freedom of press are inseparable from the rights of the freedom of speech, and that no special rights can be assigned to the press, because the court cannot define precisely who ‘the press’ is and are.
“Because the First Amendment was meant to guarantee freedom to express and communicate ideas, I can see no difference between the right of those who seek to disseminate ideas by way of a newspaper and those who give lectures or speeches and seek to enlarge the audience by publication and wide dissemination.” Chief Justice Warren E. Burger
Though this line of investigation did not really address the spirit of State-control and propaganda in my original question, I found this precedent set over 30 years ago fascinating in its implication – that no media source has any more right to disseminate information “in good faith” than any sole civilian. Like others this week who reflected on the advent of social media and iReporter in mainstream news, I note that this new form of information gathering/’broadcast’ signifies what could be a cultural shift; or a natural evolution pushed by technology, and the democratic approach to hearing all voices.
If the last seminal moment in communication technology was the advent of the printing press, the advent of the internet, it seems, has become the next.
Tamikka M Forbes