The ideology of Individualised Coronavirus Coping Strategies

Lockdown coping strategies have suddenly become a major theme in the mainstream media. Both ITV and Channel Four have rushed out new daily lunchtime shows which focus solely on how to cope with lockdown.

The Steph Show on Channel 4 is the most overt example of this. Presented by Steph McGovern the show aims to ‘provide us with information to help us navigate these unique times’.

The show consists mainly ‘heroes and heart warmers’ – visits to people who have been raising money for our key workers, interviews with celebrities, typically in their enormous, plush houses, and tips to keep the kids entertained during lockdown.

NB – please don’t miss how PERFECT the choice of Steph McGovern is as a presenter for this particular type of show at this particular time – she’s got a well-documented history of having had to overcome prejudice in the media as a working class woman, but she’s just cracked on anyway and made a success of her career despite adversity – cracking on, staying chirpy, bravely facing up to adversity… just what we need to ‘cope’ with coronavirus! And that working-class Northern accent, how very approachable….  

Over on BBC 1 at the same time we have ‘Daily Kitchen Live’ – which as the title suggests is more focussed on recipes which can help you make the most of what you’ve got in the cupboard or with what food is available.

This programme features a ‘war chest’ of crucial spices such as chilli powder, cumin etc. and guest features Jack Monroe, famous for her budget cooking.

Both programmes are littered with references to ‘staying safe’ and ‘staying at home’, and feature very little focus on the public space outside of people’s own living rooms.

The ideology of ‘coping strategies’

Personally I see this mainstream lunchtime focus on ‘coping’ as ideological – it distracts us away from the shameful misreporting of the actual number of people dying of Coronavirus (rather than merely ‘with’ it), the overzealous use of emergency lockdown measures, and the normalisation of medicalised control strategies for the mass population.  

All of the ‘coping strategies’ – e.g. the recipes and the tips for keeping your kids entertained are (obviously?) individualised – they come from individuals and are suggestions to individuals, and it necessarily has to be this way because of the lockdown.

This fits our society very well, which has been on a trend towards privatised solutions to social problems for at least two generations, but it normalises this. Suddenly, staying in, and ‘coping’ are normal, while we leave the ‘difficult health problems’ to the experts (read global pharmaceutical industry).

Putting a ‘chirpy face’ on these privatised control strategies and ‘sharing our private lives together’ makes this all bearable.

Meanwhile completely absent from these shows is any discussion of how little we know of Covid-19, whether these lockdown measures are necessary, how we’re going to come out of this, basically anything even vaguely critical is off the agenda.

Then there’s the whole discourse of ‘coping’ – Ulrich Beck pointed out in Risk Society that since at least the 1980s politics has been about promising that things won’t get any worse, rather than making promises about making progress.

The idea of staying in ‘to stop the virus spreading and making the effects worse’ fit this discourse perfectly – in fact too perfectly, which is why I think we should be investigating whether this virus was engineered and released deliberately.

Meanwhile one thing which isn’t off the agenda on C4 is the adverts – and what do we see featured….. life insurance, pizza, DIY and broadband deals – all the consumer essentials for life on lockdown.

So these shows are basically telling you to forget about asking critical questions about Covid-19, be happy making the best of the lockdown because ‘coping’ rather than ‘striving for a better society’ are as good as you can get, and spend more money on your home entertainment to make the whole situation more bearable.

Hive.io – My Kind of Social Media (Decentralised ownership and governance)

You might have seen me sending out a few Tweets about ‘Hive’ recently, this is just a quick post about what Hive is all about. If yer bored in Lockdown, you might want to check it out!

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I’ve been on Hive for almost three years now, since August 2017, and I’ve come to regard it as my social media home.

I use WordPress to blog about sociology, and I use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for various professional and social reasons, but I put nearly all of my personal and more critical/ political material exclusively on Hive, because it’s the social media ecosystem which is most closely allied with my personal values.

What makes Hive different to social media as usual is that it’s a blockchain based ecosystem – which means that it’s decentralized – it’s run on several servers which are connected together, but each maintained by independent individuals in different countries all over the world, rather than it being run on one centralized server, controlled by one central Corporation.

The Hive ecosystem consists of multiple platforms and applications – the main platform I use is Peakd.com, a blogging platform, which allows you to post blogs and comment and vote (‘like’) other people’s content; but I also use 3Speak occasionally which is Hive’s equivalent of YouTube, except there is no de-platforming.

If you post content to Hive and people vote for (‘like’) it, you are rewarded in cryptocurrency – the HIVE token and you can use your HIVE in various ways within the Hive ecosystem, or cash it out and spend it (although you’ll need access to a cryptocurrency exchange to do this!).

I’ve posted a lot of content on Hive over the past three years and earned around 15 000 HIVE for my efforts, which is currently worth several thousand dollars (although the price does fluctuate, which is something to watch out for!

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Hive people

I’ve met some fantastically intelligent, interesting and diverse people on HIVE. Because of it’s decentralist principles, this social media platform tends to attract a lot of radical free thinkers such as anarchists and people living alternative, ecological and nomadic lifestyles. It also attracts a lot of ‘geeks’ – coders, data analysts, scientists, and creatives – artists and musicians.

I interact with dozens of people in the course of a typical week on Hive, and have met many of them IRL at the various social meet ups that are organised through the ecosystem.

Hive is naturally censorship resistant – once you post content to the Blockchain, it stays there, so unlike with Facebook there is no deplatforming – this invariably means there is a lot of differences of opinion on Hive, but that just come with free-speech.

Communities and ‘Smart Tokens’

There are several different communities centered around different interests on Hive – everything from Running to Beer and from Art to Coding.

Many of these communities have their own ‘secondary tokens’ and you can get rewarded in both Hive and these other tokens by being active within them.

Applications

There are lots of Applications built on Hive – Peakd.com is the most well used and probably the easiest to start off with, but I’ve included a few others below:

  • @3speak is the video platform, where you can upload videos, just like YouTube except you won’t get deplatformed – this is a pro free-speech application.
  • @actifit – through which you can get rewarded for being active, such as taking steps.
  • @splinterlands (*) – is a fantasy card playing game in which you ‘battle’ with other players. When you buy into Splinterlands, your cards are your assets, and you can sell them on to other players, unlike with ‘skins’ in regular games, for example.

I recommend you check out Splinterlands especially, one of the most popular blockchain games out there. Here’s a post I wrote about winning a battle with my favourite Death Summoner pictured below…Click here to see the battle.

I’m not really a gamer TBH, but by I’ve made about $500 over the last year or so just by investing in cards and playing this game for 15-20 minutes after dinner most evenings!

Decentralized Governance

As a Hive user you can vote for the people you want to run the servers (called ‘witnesses’). The top 20 (by stake weighted votes) have the power to determine the way the ecosystem changes (or not), but 17 out of those 20 need to come to a consensus about any changes that are going to be made. Literally anyone can set up a server and vie for one of these top 20 positions.

Find out More about Hive and Sign up to Hive

To get a Hive account and get started on Hive , click here.

NB there are numerous ways of signing up for an account, but they’re all giving you access to the same thing.

To find out more about Hive, you might like to click around the hive.io website.

Getting started on Hive

It can be difficult to find your feet on Hive at first – if you have any questions you can either leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter (@realsociology), or on Hive (of course!)

Alternatively you can try the Hive Discord Server.

One of the major communities on Hive is the Peace Abundance Liberty Network (PAL) (link to their discord server here) – their motto is ‘Do no harm, take no shit’. PAL run the Minnow Support Project (MSP), an initiative designed to help out new users on Hive, and a good way to connect with people in PAL/ MSP is to attend one of their many online radio shows.

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Notes

(*) technically Splinterlands is on the Steem blockchain, from which Hive was created, but it’s only a matter of time until it moves over!

NB – Hive used to be called Steem, but Steem got taken over in February 2020 by a crazy Chinese Billionnaire called Justin Sun. He centralised that chain, so the ‘real witnesses’ forked Steem and created Hive, which is just like Steem, but without Justin Sun – because his massive Steem stake was not airdropped to Hive.

NB the whole Steem-Hive thing is a very long story, BUT this is a very brief summary!

This post is NOT financial advice, if you are going to invest money in anything I’ve mentioned, you do so at your own risk, do your own due diligence first!

Even if yer not going to sign up, this whole blockchain based social media thing should be of interest as part of the Media module – it’s certainly alternative media!

I’m not so sure Stuart is the victim of someone playing the race card…

Alastair Stewart recently resigned his position as a news reader for ITV, following accusations that he’d made a racist comment towards someone on Twitter.

Stuart was having a twitter conversation with Martin Shapland about the relationship between the taxpayer and the crown, and in a reply to Shapland he used a Shakespear Quote:

“But manproud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d— His glassy essence—like an angry ape.

Shapland, who is black, picked up on the ‘ape’ part of the quote and accused Stuart of being racist, and trying to disguise a racial slur within a quote.

Stuart resign from his 40 year career as a news anchor before he was sacked – that tweet above which broke ITV’s guidelines on the use of social media.

NB Shapland has said that he didn’t want him to resigned/ be sacked, and that an apology would have done.

But is this an example of racism?

The first thing suggesting that the tweet had no racist intent is that Stuart has used that quote with other people, which suggests that the intention is to suggest someone’s opinion is invalid because it is not properly informed with all of the facts, rather than it referring to someone’s racial background.

The second thing in Stuart’s defence is his track record: I’ve never come across a sniff of him being Racist before? Obviously all is colleagues and friends say he isn’t, but then they would… but if one was racist, you’d expect something to have ‘come out’ after 40 years in the media spotlight?

Finally, there’s the background of Shapland – some of his previous tweets suggest he’s something of a ‘race warrior’, with some of his tweets calling out white privilege.

I’ve been looking around for an example of something that appears to be racist, but on slightly closer examination . almost certainly isn’t racist, and this seems to be a good example of that!

This feels like ‘trial by social media and political correctness’

As I understand it, in the eyes of the law (certainly where hate crime is concerned) if a victim perceives there to be racial intent, then there is racial intent, so in that sense, ITV had no choice to but to let Stuart go.

However, in this case, the objective truth seems more likely to be that there was any racial intent in that tweet:

It’s probably even the case that even Shapland himself didn’t really think Stuart was being racist: rather it feels like what happened is that Shapland sent off a terse reply ‘playing the race card’ without really thinking about it as part of a social media tiff.

And in the rapid world of social media, you might be able to delete those kind of tweets, but not before someone else has screen shotted and retweeted them!

Final thoughts

To my mind this is a very postmodern event – this kind of thing just couldn’t happen outside of social media.

I don’t think this has turned out too well for Shapland either – he’s getting a lot of actual abuse on twitter now, Stuart has been a popular part of our media landscape for generations!

Also, careful how you use Twitter, it’s not a great case for ‘debates’!

Was the BBC’s coverage of the 2019 election biased?

Is the UK biased against the conservatives? How do we even measure this?

More conservatives complained to the BBC about anti-Tory bias in its 2019 election coverage than Labour supporters complained about there being an anti-Labour bias. (Source).

This trend is consistent with complaints about bias received by the BBC throughout 2019 – most complaints were from conservatives, complaining about the BBC being anti-Tory or anti-Boris – especially The Today Progamme, Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight.

However, the above analysis is based on formal written complaints, which is not a valid indicator of the nature or extent of bias in the media – there may have been more complaints on Twitter and Facebook about the BBC being pro-Tory in its election coverage, but these aren’t ‘formal’ complaints and so don’t need to be dealt with by the BBC.

Hence we need to treat the above figures with caution, especially when Tory voters tend to be older, and Labour voters tend to be younger – the former are more likely to make formal written complaints, the later more likely to take to social media.

Writing in the Observer, Peter Oborne calls out the BBC for being biased towards to Tories and against Labour, so there is definitely a difference in subjective opinions over what counts as bias.

NB – sociologically speaking, all of the above should be dismissed as subjective value judgments – there is nothing factual about the nature or extent of bias in the BBC in any of this!

Is it possible to measure political bias in the BBC objectively?

For the BBC as a whole, probably not, because it’s so difficult to measure agenda setting – what’s kept out of the news, which is itself ideological.

Where the narrow news agenda is concerned I guess any attempt to objectively measure bias would need to focus on specific programmes – say Newsnight, where one could count the air time given to different guests, and the kind of interaction between the presenter and the guests too, and the amount of time given to pro-Tory and pro-Labour issues.

However, the later is tricky – although inequality is more of a Labour issue, is devoting half a Newsnight programme to it biased towards Labour? It’s still something the Tories have to deal with.

Also, how do decide whether a presenter ‘asking hard questions’ is biased against an interviewee or just doing their job?

In short, it’s difficult to measure bias on Live T.V. shows, much easier in News Papers.

Not sure what the solution is TBH!

Political bias in the media 2019

Examples of right wing media bias from the filthy Daily Mail, from the 2019 general election.

There’s nothing quite like a General Election to reveal the bias in mainstream newspapers, which is a major topic within the media option for A-level sociology.

I mean, we all know that the mainstream news is biased, but during elections, any attempt to report political events in a fair or neutral way just seems to disappear altogether.

In the case of the the UK’s most widely circulated, and most offensive, newspaper, The Daily Mail, even the most cursory discourse analysis reveals a very strong pro Tory and anti Labour stance, often framed as ‘pro-Bexit and anti-Brexit, and also often personablised as pro Boris and anti Corbyn.

Below are a few examples from the filth that is the Daily Mail.

‘Vote Boris’

I mean could the pro Tory bias be any clearer?!?

Corbyn in the Dock

Corbyn on trial – implies he’s done something so wrong as to be accused of being a criminal. And next to it an assertion by Boris presented as truth.

Labour’s Brexit Portrayal

So here the headline moves away from the personal attacks, but we’re back to it underneath – with a ‘sneering’ Corbyn, implying he’s somehow evil and arrogant, not caring about the people.

Corbyn’s Two Fingers to Leavers…

This is probably the most disgusting headline of all: as if Jeremy Corbyn is that flippant about how leavers feel, and as if the issue is that simple.

And finally: how to help the Torys win…

Conclusions

Mainstream newspapers may be less well circulated than ever, but they do offer a very easy insight into just how biased they can be. And if this bias is in the print version, you can be it’s in the online versions, and not just at election times, although at less fraught times, the bias will be a lot subtler!

Representations of men in the media

This post focuses on traditional representations of men as reinforcing aspects of hegemonic masculinity before considering some of the changes to male representations in more recent years.

Traditional representations of men reinforce hegemonic masculinity

Traditional representations of men have ascribed certain attributes to male characters such as strength, power, control, authority, rationality and lack of emotion. In other words, media representations of men have reinforced hegemonic masculinity.

Gilmore has summarised this even more simply, arguing that the media stereotype men into ‘the provider, the protector and the impregnator’.

Violence as a normal part of masculinity  

According to Earp and Katz (1999) the media have provided us with a steady stream of images which define violence as an ordinary or normal part of masculinity, or in their own words….

“The media help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm. Media discourse reveals the assumption that violence is not so much a deviation but an accepted part of masculinity”.

Wider representations of men and masculinity

Children Now (1999) conducted research in the late 1990s and found that there were six common types of representation of men in the media

  • The joker – uses laughter to avoid displaying seriousness or emotion
  • The jock – demonstrates his power and strength to win the approval of other men and women
  • The strong silent type (James Bond) – being in charge, acting decisively, controlling emotion and succeeding with women.
  • The big shot – power comes from professional status
  • The action hero – strong and shows extreme aggression and violence
  • The Buffoon – a bungling father figure, well intentioned and light hearted. (Homer). Hopeless at domestic affairs.

(Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity, Children Now 1999).

The Crisis of Masculinity, the New Man and changing representations of masculinity

As with women, the changing roles of men in society are reflected in changing representations of men in the media.

Representations of men are moving away from absolute toughness, stubborn self-reliance and emotional silence with more male characters being comfortable with showing emotions and seeking advice about how to deal with the problems of masculinity.

There are also an increasing amount of images within advertising which encourage men to be concerned with body image and appearance as well as a sexualisation of male bodies, in which they are presented as sex objects for female viewing pleasure, much in the same way as female bodies have been traditionally been used by the media.

Evaluate the pluralist view of the ownership and control of the media.

Read Item N below and answer the question that follows.

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Applying material from Item N and your knowledge, evaluate the pluralist view of the ownership and control of the media.

Commentary on the Question

This seems to be a standard question, with the item picking up on the fact that the media are democratic and provide equality of opportunity and that they respond to the needs of the audience.

 Answer (plan)

Intro – outline Pluralism

  • content of the media broadly reflects the diverse range of opinions found in any democratic society.
  • audiences control media content as media professionals and owners produce what audiences demand because they are motivated primarily by profit.
  • media companies are in competition and if a media company doesn’t produce what audiences want, another company will and will attract more viewers.
  • In this essay I will evaluate the two points brought up in the item, using Marxist theories to develop my evaluation points.

Media are part of the democratic process

  • media are an important part of the democratic process: give different interest groups the opportunity to put forward their views (in item!)
  • Elections/ Brexit – media play a crucial role. no way that parties can get their views across to millions of voters without access to the Media.
  • The news has commentators from different political parties, suggesting that the people are well represented.
  • Social media the above seems especially true –political leaders and parties use Twitter and other outlets to voice their opinions, Donald Trump/ Momentum.
  • However, Marxists argue that there is a subtle bias in news broadcasting which favours right wing views because media owners and journalists are themselves part of the elite.
  • Gatekeeping used to keep issues damaging to the right out of the news agenda
  • Agenda setting skews debates in favour of right-wing arguments – the Green Party gets hardly any air time compared to the Brexit Party.
  • Fiona Bruce is notorious – sides with the right and is barely able to hide her sneering contempt for those on the left (e.g. Dianne Abbot). Perpetuates Dominant Ideology.
  • Some radical thinkers have been censored by social media platforms – Tommy Robinson is one example of this.
  • Advertising in political campaigns costs money – so the more money a party can spend, the more of a voice it has – the Trump campaign spent a fortune on the last election for example. Supports the Instrumentalist Marxist view that those with money control media content.
  • Social media encourages ‘echo chambers’ – while most groups are free to express themselves, they are only ever preaching to the converted – Labour’s views probably won’t be reaching Brexit voters, for example. Thus the media isn’t quite working democratically – it isn’t encouraging debate.

Media respond to the demands of the audience

  • Advertising is used effectively in the media by a range of companies to advertise their products and provide people with information about what they want.
  • Amazon, with its cheap products and peer reviews of products provide people with access to consumer goods and useful information more efficiently than ever.
  • However, from a Marxist point of view, the internet is primarily about advertising, and it is used by companies such as Facebook to manipulate people into buying things they wouldn’t otherwise – creating false needs.
  • This isn’t helped by concentration of ownership – especially vertical integration and lateral explanation
  • The fact that advertising revenue accounts for so much profit of the big four tech companies suggest more support for Marxist theories rather than pluralism –most people do not advertise anything online.
  • Advertising even influences what search results one gets on Google – suggesting that the answer to any question you ask is influenced by money.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while there is some support for the fact that New Media do allow more freedom of expression than traditional media, so there is some support for Pluralism, the content of such media does appear to be biased and limited in subtle ways, so that in terms of what we actually see, there isn’t equality of opportunity, and we are not provided with the information we want or need, so I reject the Pluralist view of the media, it remains too simplistic!

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media portray women in a stereotypical way [20 marks]

An essay plan covering some of the knowledge and evaluation points you could use to answer this question for AQA A-level sociology paper two: the media option.

You might like to review this post on how women are represented in the media before going through the plan below.

The item refers to three main types of stereotypical representations

  • A limited range of roles (Symbolic annihilation)
  • Concern with appearance (The Beauty Myth)
  • Women needing a partner

Symbolic Annihilation

  • Symbolic Annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) =  under-representation/ narrow range of social roles, gender stereotypes – housework and motherhood
  • ‘Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux – Disney Films – Snow White.
  • Gauntlett – increase in the diversity of representations, reflects wider social changes.
  • films with ‘strong’ lead female characters – e.g. Alien, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.
  • However, lead female characters are slim and attractive
  • The Bechdel Test.
  • Global Media Monitoring group (2015) – women in news – the overall presence of women as sources was 28%. largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.

The Beauty Myth

  • media present unrealistic and unattainable images of women which encourages women to worry unnecessarily about their looks (Naomi Wolfe).
  • Tebbel (2000) body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.
  • Killborn – women presented as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.
  • Orbach – media associates slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity
  • Recent evidence challenges Beauty Myth…. Backlash to 2015 Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign
  • Since 2015 increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising: Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 , Sport England ‘ This Girl Can‘ campaign.
  • 2017 – Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising, banned ads 2019.
  • UN women’s Unstereotype Alliance‘.

Women needing a partner

  • Ferguson (1980) – content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980: cult of femininity: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.
  • Ferguson: teenage magazines aimed at girls offered broader range of female representations, but still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.
  • However, McRobbie – Cosmopolitan has featured positive representations of young women as seeking to control their own lives rather than being dependent on men.

 

The reception analysis model of audience effects

Reception analysis model states there three main types of ‘reading’ which audiences make of media content:

  • The dominant reading: which is the same as the media content creators.
  • The oppositional reading: which opposes the views expressed in the media
  • The Negotiated reading: where people interpret media content to fit in with their own lives.

The reception analysis model.png

The reception analysis model is an ‘active audience’ model associated with Morley (1980) who conducted research on how several different groups of people interpreted media messages.

Audiences are polysemic

According to Morley audiences came from many different cultures and thus there were many possible ‘negotiated’ readings. He further argued that individuals had many aspects to their identities, and they interpreted media content in a variety of ways, often chopping and changing their interpretations over time.

Morley thus believed that audiences were active rather than passive and their interpretations were not always easy to predict.

 

The selective filter model of audience effects

The selective filter model of audience effects (Klapper 1960) holds that media messages pass through three filters before they have an effect.

This is an active audience model which suggests that the audience do not just passively accept what they see in the media as ‘the truth’, as the hypodermic syringe model suggests.

According to this theory the three filters are:

  1. selective exposure
  2. selective perception
  3. selective retention

selective filter model.png

 

Selective exposure 

Different groups are exposed to different media content, which will influence the effect the media can have on them.

Audiences actively choose what to watch, which is influenced by their interests, age, gender, education etc.

Censorship may also deny some groups access to certain content, thus denying them exposure. An example of this is with age-graded media content which parents might prevent their children from watching.

Selective perception

Audiences may reject some of the content they are exposed to, for example because what they see does not fit in with their view of the world.

Festinger (1957) argued that people actively seek out media content which affirms their already existing views of the world.

Selective retention 

Finally, content has to stick for it to have an effect.

Audiences are more likely to remember content they agree with.

Sources 

Adapted from Chapman et al: Sociology AQA A-level Year 2 student book