The P/ump TR/ope: Media Mash-Ups and the Downfall of Civil Engagement

RADio568 will be featuring Ted Talks Mash-Ups by the students of the Self, Media, and Society class at JJAY College–Media Studies.  Broadcast: February 24 – 26 @ 11am

The following is an editorial on the mash-up idea resonating in today’s mediated politics and forming our social imagination.


This is not news. Trump is a political blowhard — there are many examples of self-proclaiming, self-aggrandizing, oversized leaders of men throughout history — Idi Amin – Benito Mussolini – heck, I am sure Genghis Khan was a blowhard–it comes with the job of the tyrant. Trump has established his Presidential candidacy not on being outspoken, but on being outrageous. Of all his stances–he has no consistent policy stance –it is the “I am great” trope that fills his speeches and pumps his well of support. Why?

On the other hand–Pope Francis is a Christian thinker—examples include Ghandi and King. In this world values have validity and longevity; ideas can be ranked as not only effective but moral, and human interaction is complex. Both Trump and Francis address the issue of fear of the other and the world listens. Both swim in a mass media sea. But Francis and the other Republican Presidential candidates dog paddle while Trump’s “no holds barred” media-style cuts through the waves. Why is that? Analysis must begin with descriptions of the post-Nine-Eleven Western media milieu in which very different “voices” get mashed and what emerges is a new way of seeing the world and each other.

There is something about the Trump style blowhard that resonates in this “mashed-up” world. In part, his rhetoric is a product of an Islamic extremism that stirs a rawness of feeling–of fear of other. This is not new. Humans have always been afraid of each other.   Rather, Isis and Trump engage a mashed media style of communication. South Carolina—and probably Nevada–Republican voters “Liked” Trump because he resonates within the 21st century, media-formed American milieu. Trump is a natural shape-shifter, constantly melding forms based on the news-entertainment cycle. Trump is a talented equal-opportunity user of images and generalities that reflect the social values created by corporate, American, news and entertainment media. And the goal is not winning anything or espousing social ideals; all is for the purpose of getting more media coverage. Trump is especially well-suited for this; he naturally fills this cultural field of power, probably, a result of his upbringing.   Pierre Bourdieu might describe Trump as holding the habitus of this media-distracted society. He seems so real because in this context he is what some of us see as real and important, and it is why certain Americans feel comfortable with the Trump Mash-Up.

In their day, Mussolini and Hitler held the top-dog media position but not as mashers of ideas; rather, the 1930s news media–film and newspapers–were felt and received as tools of the powerful, those who formed mass opinion. We no longer see ourselves as unthinking “massesTrump-mussolini5” readily controlled by the messages of the powerful. We are now free thinking individuals able to decide for ourselves. Well-heeled slogans of American Democracy re-assert that we know what we want and make up our own minds on the issues. At the same time, we are distracted by a capitalist, corporate media that mashes news and entertainment in a 24-hour cycle in which all ideas are equal–equal and therefore meaningless—but fun.

Media mashing happens when complex social ideas and cultural feelings are summarized in mediated brevity–catch-phrases, verbal explosions, mis-statements, Tweets, re-Tweets, emoticons, emojis, memes, photo-bombing, selfies, YouTube videos of cats or men drinking helium infused beer, and Photoshopped images [such as the one I am using here**]. All emphasize feeling and the simple idea that fun must be served and brevity is everything: ‘Hey, we get it. Nuff said. Period. Let’s get on with it.’   Within this context, developing C. W. Mills complex “social imagination” becomes silly, a waste of time. So we text and catch-up on our Facebook pages and Instagram, and Pintrest, and we are pulled to this other new app and what is trending … and … . Within this milieu, easy-to feel-surface similarities crush complex distinctions.

The mashing of media product is evident in the most recent “spat” between Francis and Trump—between the Catholic Pope and builder of casinos. Following the Pontiff’s critique of Trump’s wall-building politics, the U.S. Presidential front-runner pointed out that the Pope will need him when Isis attacks the Vatican, mashing terrorist imagery with Trump-as-power imagery and maybe Trump-as-builder-of-big-buildings imagery.* Taking a different tack, the candidate’s supporters criticized the Pope for living behind the Vatican City wall, and called for Francis to “take down that wall” mashing Regan rhetoric on the Berlin Wall with Francis’s critique–very different senses of “walls” separating groups of people.  Mashing dissimilar ideas is a quality of 21st Century media with its emphasis on the individual, on feelings, on the need for “Likes” rather than the difficulties of F2F talk and thoughtful analysis. Within this milieu ideas are simplified, condensed, emotionalized and easily melded into sameness. As a distracted public scans through the posts and trends and pushes and tweets, buzzes and pop-ups, all demanding immediate attention, Trump flourishes.

Some may be thinking that this cannot be true because the demographics of those that support Trump are not the quick-thumbed, iPhone-mad Millennials but the uneducated and old.  It may be, though, that it is those groups who are going to be most influenced by media mash-ups. Millennials have grown up in this mass media atmosphere and are capable of seeing their time in more complex ways, can distinguish the nuances of media products. Many Millennials have gone to college and have discussed media influences in Sociology 101. But we all use smart devices and are “hooked into” this media landscape, so that some Americans are unconsciously—hegemonically–sutured into mashed-up media messages that seem to say something, but just feel good.

Trump’s success is a result of a postmodern world. Ideas and feelings are mashed into a souffle of equal un-importance.  In this a mashable universe, feelings rule and the imagination can create fantastic combinations that in other times would seem bizarre. For Republican supporters, Trump seems to be saying what they are feeling. They are right.

* “In Defense of Trump, Some Point to Vatican Walls”

**See “Mussolini was Donald Trumps Grandfather”

Other images of Trump as Mussolini:

Media Memes from Fall 2015

chloe-d-wonka-fall2015From Chloe D. – Willy Wonka meme: I made this one because news corporations that are biased toward a certain party or candidate (or supporter) will often say things that will reflect positively upon said candidate or party. It goes the other way as well, where they will say negative things toward the opponents.


Contributed by Ini from First Year Student fall semester media class.  Of course the skeleton would be me — kinda cute.__________________

meme for SMJFrom First Year Student – Xhoana: The meme displays a reaction many students probably had during the beginning of the semester learning about not all media is real. What is being portrayed on the media is being controlled by several organizations and people who chose what they want to be said and shown. Before this class several people as well as myself believed many things from movies, news channels, shows and more and it was heart breaking and stressful to find out they most likely are not real. We began to experiment through this idea of media portraying the whole real by creating our own mashups where we picked and choose what we wanted to show as well as all our broadcast where we selected a few things to be said and left many things out which is what all media does. ______

Comment to Xhoana: Thank you for your meme and statement.  I want to push back a bit against the impression that I gave about media being unreal.  Present day mass media — in other words what we get from the Internet and cable TV — is a form of representation of reality but as you point out it is not a full reflection of human experience.  It is not a lie if you are able to look at it and observe it for what it is. Analysis of mass media products can help discern what is valuable and what is dross.

screenshot-meme-fall2015From First Year Student – Danielle: If you get into a fight with someone and they deny  everything you said , you can pull up your previous conversation between the person through screenshots and prove them wrong. If there wasn’t social media there would be no other way to prove it unless other people were around to hear. So screenshots can call a person out when they try to get themselves out of a situation they put themselves in.

Comment: This could also apply to the ideas put out on news media.  A politician must be careful about changing positions or being inconsistent about her comments as it is all recorded and searchable — except of you are the Donald — news media gives you a pass.

Gump=-radio-meme-fall2015I know you only said one but I found this one funnier. This can relate to the students in the class a lot.  The first reaction for many of us who get nervous over new things  is to run away from the problem.  Forest is known for the famous quote “Run Forest Run.”  So when people hear that they are going to be on  a live radio broadcast their mind is running all over the place thinking of things they are going to be saying or doing.

Comment:  Running to thoughts about what you want to say — I like that. _________________________________

trump-ent-meme-fall2015This is just a meme about how Politicians e.g Donald Trump have turned something so important into a comedy and a  reality tv show. As we learnt in class, the news has lost its value of reporting serious news, but news that entertains us.

COMMENT: Of if this were the only truth to the Trump phenom  — I sense it is getting more serious then what Ini–a first year JJAY student–indicates with this meme.  Even Clinton has stopped smiling.  Trump is
serious because many Republican voters are listening to him and they “like” what he is saying._________________________________

image1In this specific episode, Spongebob Squarepants believes that looking a certain way will finally make him belong, and make him feel normal. We had a discussion in the class about whites being the “norm” in today’s society. This is what this meme is trying to show. If you are not white, you cannot be a part of the “norm.”


LEFT:RIGHT: MIDDLE. My media meme is about how many people assume that mainstream, right-wing, media is the only media source that is biased. This goes back to our class lesson with doctoring media to create our own audio files, and how it showcased that practically every form of media is doctored to only show the message the author wants to be shown. In this meme, I reference the example of how many subscribers of left wing Media outlets are regularly exposed to stories of unjustified police brutality, but rarely- and in some cases never- exposed to positive portrayals of police officers, giving them a very biased perspective of cops (whether in good intention or not); and yet, these viewers regularly criticize right wing Media and it’s viewers, throwing around words like “sheep” and “brainwashed”.

COMMENT:  Thanks Marcus A for this insightful view of the left and the right.  We must examine all extreme views and find the middle ground — where something more truthful lies.  Also — am I the only one who is seeing a lot of Wonka.  Why does that little smile of actor Gene Wilder really mean so much???______________________________

IMG_0376This meme expresses my opinion on how media overtakes people’s opinions in society on various subjects, for example politics. Political opinions are always going to be one-sided in media whether its through television or social media. When people rely on social media and T.V. every single day to get more information about what is going on politically in this country, their own opinion begins to fade in their mind as they adapt and learn from media, making them feel that there is no need to generate their own opinion. Media’s opinion has such a large influence on this factor in peoples lives because people associate news and social media with “what everyone else is doing”, and this makes them drop whatever beliefs they had and go with the flow of society and make their own lives easier.
COMMENT: I like this meme and Homer Simpson in almost any format and so I included it.  But I do not agree with this student’s absolutist attitude about media as a control on social imaginations.  It is an important force but it (1) is not a conscious single unifying influence and (2) people have agency and the ability to form opinions that are influenced from a variety of sources.________________________________


Whose smarter than a college freshman? Not D.Trump

One College Freshman’s concern with a Trump Presidency — Chloe Dervin

Whether you like or dislike or agree or disagree with Trump, his name is in your mouth and on every media every day. Trump is an entertainer, and unfortunately we’ve given him another outlet to entertain. Politics should not be about entertainment, but especially since JFK and Clinton, we’ve allowed media and the entertainment industry to capitalize on politics. I find it terrifying that there’s a majority of the American population that is supporting Trump, because a president’s main job is to represent the United States. Their job deals with not only the insides of the country, but outside into the rest of the world as well. The Internet has meme’d the stupid faces he’s made and the ridiculous remarks he’s claimed about other candidates and groups of people because it’s THAT easy to make a joke of what he says. How can such a large group of people allow this unprofessional, immature man the opportunity to run a country? How can we allow him to continue to yell absurd things in demeaning ways in front of the country and the world? We’ve witnessed the racist, sexist, disgusting things he is willing to openly say, and we’re rewarding him with attention, praise and support. How can we allow such a person to represent us as a country? Where is our pride?

I pay very close attention to the presidential elections, and the horse racing has made it very hard for me to get the information I want from media. I find that every time I watch a debate, or read a clearly biased article on Huffington Post, or see something about a candidate on a news channel, I end up with more questions than answers. I’ve had to take time out of my life to seek out the information I want in order to be properly politically involved. Though I’ll go out of my way to do this, many people won’t. Whether it be because they don’t have time, or aren’t interested enough, people simply won’t go out of their way to find what they need. Instead, the majority will turn to these media outlets to spoon feed information. The majority is more likely to ingest blindly than to seek out, and because of this, we are going to be in a lot of trouble if we continue to turn a blind eye to media’s influence.

Ambiguity Cubed

Trump-NO-POINT copyPiling on ambiguous statements.  A facade of leadership.  And .. it works!

Trump at a 9/17/15 town hall meeting responding to a statement identifying President Obama as a Muslim: “We need this question. … We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”

Programming Notes for Sept 21 – 25

RADio568 continues to present a review of WJJCRH broadcasts — talk from JJAY students during Community Hour about ideas and events that concern them.
2015-09-10_10-37-26We are adding “Political Talk” to the stream in the morning — a variety of media coverage of the 2016 Presidential Race. This week we feature interviews and speeches by Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Hilary Clinton, and Donald Trump with commentary by Bill Maher, Al Franken and Sarah Palin. Our Democracy is soooooo interesting.

The ‘Cultured’ Mind

I am waiting on W. 30th and 7th Avenue for a Vamoose bus to Bethesda, Maryland. A disheveled, somewhat stained, fat, middle-aged man displaying a $5 bill in one hand, the wire from ear buds dangling across his chest, warns those of us on the bus line to not pay attention to the Vamoose bus attendant in his official green shirt who is “bullying” us to keep our line straight and on the curb.

The disheveled man catches my eye. “Where you going today?”

“Washington.” I lie.

“You got one of those things?” He gestures, clearly referring to a smart phone or tablet.   Neither I, nor the young man behind me, who a moment before had been texting, respond.

“You need one of those things on a long trip … watch a movie, do some email. Gotta keep busy – right?” The young man and I do not move or look at him–directly.carey-wolverine

“Hear about the new movie coming out? September. Superman versus Wolverine. How about that?” No response.  “Who’s gonna win?” We do not engage. “Not Superman!!!  No way.” I look through him.  He moves up the line. “Where you going today?”

“Crazy.” I think.

Images of Superman tearing apart Hugh Jackman flit within.

Disneyland = Mass Media, Past and Present

Proposal for article: Disneyland viewed via mass media approaches. The theme park created in 1955 by the Walt Disney organization which up to that time had focussed on making documentaries, cartoons, and feature films, has in the ensuing decades became a media phenomenon.  The first major theme park — Disneyland — continues to draw tens of thousand of visitors everyday.  It is argued here that Disneyland reflects a contemporary American capitalist social and economic structure–with its emphasis on commodification.  Simultaneously, it encompasses an ersatz sense of Habermas’s “public space” and Raymond Williams’s traditional early 20th century insular community.   Disneyland is a manufactured place that attempts to do more than represent American society via fantasy and imagination.  But it is more than mere manufactured product for it has become something that is socially organic, in that it is a “felt” community of like-minded Disneyland “citizens.”  As such it is a social phenomenon that is similar to other fan-based organically felt communities–examples??? —  With the Disneyland phenomenon, though, inclusion is cross generational.  Other theme parks have followed the Disneyland scheme, but this one continues within the same–or at least very similar–“social feeling” with which it began in the post World War II era.This article suggests several mass media observations that can be made in seeing Disneyland as mass communication and social structure.

Work in progress >>>

BIASED Newspapers. Less newsworthy?

Newspapers were not always “unbiased.” [For this writer — all journalism is biased, that is every newspaper and news feed and news website hold an unspoken ideology.]   Examine this example of an early 20th century newspaper — The New York Call with a primary focus on labor and union news rather than business news.   making-public-opinion copySuch journalism was the norm in the 19th C.  but became financially unsupportable as commercial concerns took over local and national presses.  Arguments can be made that the notion of an unbiased journalism is impossible as all reporters base their choices on certain ideologies – beliefs – values – attitudes.  The “filtering” of what stories are told is part of this process as business news out paces stories about workers and their experiences and ideas.

Various studies examine this question.  For instance, see Herbert Gans’ Democracy and the News, 2003; Jay Rosen’s What Are Journalists For? 1999 – who argues for a public-based journalism.