Feb 6, 2018 in Communication

Journalism is impossible without stereotypes. From the appearance of the first newspaper and to the creation of a global system of mass communications, a firm understanding of good and evil, heroism and villainy, saviors of humanity and “enemies of the people” etc. was not only a key attribute of every message addressed to a wide audience, but it was a building block of any publication, radio or television.

Stereotypes tend to change over time as they may reflect political interests and ideology of a particular state, national or international groups and parties, and provide common sense and characteristics of a particular period. They reflect the mood, attitudes and prejudices of an information carrier - a journalist.

The concept of “stereotype” was first introduced by a well known American journalist Walter Lippmann in 1922 in his book Public Opinion, in which he defines stereotype as a simplistic, preconceived idea which does not follow from one’s own human experience. It occurs on the basis of indirect perception of the object: “We are told about the world before we understand it from experience”. Stereotypes, according to Walter Lippmann, initially occur spontaneously due to the “imminent need of attention in the economy”. They contribute to the formation of traditions and habits. Although the degree of adequacy is extremely changeable, stereotypes present mostly inadequately objective reality based on a “human error, the habit of taking a biased view”. “The stereotype is unequivocal: it divides the world into two categories – the “known” and “unknown”. The familiar becomes a synonym for “good” and the unfamiliar - a synonym for “bad” (McGarry, 1972).

A stereotype contains an evaluative element. Lippmann believed that a stereotype is neutral. The evaluative element appears in the form of installation, emotional communication. A stereotype is not just a simplification. It involves “highly charged emotions”. The evaluative element of stereotype (installation) is always consciously determined, because the stereotype, expressing sense of identity, its value system, is always correlated with group feelings and group actions. Hence, it can be concluded that there is a possible unity of stereotypes in various social institutions and social systems. A stereotype, according to Walter Lippmann, is inadequate. Stereotypes (“prejudice”) effectively manage the entire process of perception as benchmark assessments and, thus, protect an individual, a member of a group. Ultimately, stereotypes contribute to the interpretation of the social and political unity of the group (McGarry, 1972).

In the initial period, a stereotype was considered as an idea that is false, illogical and occurs from flawed education or preconceptions, “pictures in the head”, an “emotional symbol”, or a “fixed image”. Later, stereotyping has been regarded as a necessary and important cognitive process mediating human behavior and helping in orientation. A stereotype was seen as a real attribute of the human psyche, and a “stereotyped” concept, assessment, or category were viewed as repetitive properties and phenomena enshrined in the public consciousness “clusters” of social experience.

Most researchers are unanimous in their opinion that stereotypes can be imposed by the media. The formation of the stereotype goes through three stages, resulting in a complex object that is reduced to the scheme and the well-known features (Ben-Zeev, Fein, & Inzlicht, 2005). In his book The means for millions of, R. O'Hara calls these three stages: the first – “leveling” (leveling), the second – “strengthening” (sharpening), and the third – “assimilation” (assimilation). Initially, the object which was difficult to differentiate is reduced to a few ready-made, well-known forms (sign), and then, the selected characteristic of the object is given special significance in comparison to the one that they had as the building blocks of the whole (Ben-Zeev, Fein, & Inzlicht, 2005). Finally, the “aligned” and “enhanced” features are chosen for the construction of the image of the object, close and meaningful to the individual. People who are used to the situation react automatically. According to O'Hara, the intensity of the reaction will depend on the intensity of the emotional impact on the art of manipulating stereotypes (as cited in Ben-Zeev, Fein, & Inzlicht, 2005).

In the early 60's, in the context of a new wave of research, new problems in studying of stereotypes were generated. The impact of individual psychological characteristics and personal characteristics of the mechanisms of stereotyping are examined. The main structural and dynamic features of social stereotypes of objects and situations and ways of stereotyping are analyzed.

The researchers do not have a clear view of the nature and essence of a stereotype. Some found that the stereotype of social consciousness is always specially organized and operated on the basis of a certain social order. It depends on the task of socialization and not on the elements of sensual perception. Others attach importance to sensual experience in the formation of stereotypes. There are also those, who, while agreeing that stereotypical thinking was formed spontaneously, emphasize that stereotypes is deliberately supported by priori judgments specifically and historically implemented in everyday consciousness. They gradually permeate all areas of life, including politics and the arts, and eventually acquire the force of the moral law, which has historical significance (Straubhaar & LaRose, 2004).

Despite the “vitality,” a stereotype is not eternal. It is influenced by two factors: the collective unconscious processing and an individual social and cultural environment as well as by the media. Among the conditions of the first order are the level of education and intelligence, personal experiences as well as norms, habits, roles, and environment.

Considering the social functions of the stereotype, D. Tedzhfel notes a number of points (Straubhaar & LaRose, 2004). First, people are willing to easily give a broad group of people (or social categories) undifferentiated, rude, and biased estimates. Second, these characteristics are stable over time. Third, social attitudes vary according to the social and political changes, but the process is extremely slow. Fourth, a social stereotype becomes more distinct and hostile, when there is animosity between the groups. Lastly, social stereotypes are established very early and are used by children long before they have a clear idea about the groups to which they belong.

Most researchers indicate a relationship of stereotypes in people's minds with the mass media, which shape attitudes towards the world, influence the behavior of people and have an impact on the binding of certain principles of behavior to the places of human activity.

Studying the ways of promotion and advertising in the Western media, we can find effective methods of mass media influence on the people, which helps to form stereotypes. The appeal to common interests, similar in appearance to the suggestion of events, is linking the new stereotypes with the old, receiving substitution patterns, shifting the focus of attention, bringing sense in individual groups, and stimulating encounters.

In general, the task of specialists in the field of propaganda is not limited to winning of new consumers, but they aim at adapting to the mood of the masses as well. Some researchers believe that the media should simplify reality. Because of the limitations of time and space, much of the information must be reduced to its simplest elements. The audience also did not have enough time and energy to “digest” all in the details, so it requires a simplified version (R. Hiebert, J. Angarayt, I. Born). A simple solution to a daily problem lies in standard, executable actions, designed with a “key” to the resulting social learning, especially through the media (Struken & Cartwright, 2003).

The authors believe that, in today's world, people are becoming greatly dependent on the means of mass communication. This is especially true for getting information and knowledge of what is happening in society. The type and level of this dependence is determined by a number of structural conditions. The influence of mass communication is huge especially if a society is in a state of change, conflict, and instability.

A conceptual model, proposed by well-known specialists Ball-Rokeach and De Flyuer in 1976, deals with the structural conditions of society, which have implemented the effects of mass communication. Here, the means of mass communication are treated as information systems, deeply involved in the process of formation of stability, changes, and conflicts at the level of society as a whole as well as at the inter-group and individual levels.

In the mass consciousness, the public opinion that the representatives of different nations (ethnic groups) are different from each other, that every ethnic group has its certain traits, behaviors, lifestyles, habits, traditions, and customs is deeply rooted. The French, for example, are considered to be a bit frivolous, British - stiff and cold, Germans - pedantic, etc. However, hetero-stereotypes and autostereotypes, generalized representations of particular community or ethnic group, are prevalent in the mass consciousness and they may be either positive or negative.

It is known that the long-prevailing or specially distributed ethnic stereotypes can be, and often are, a major regulator of inter-ethnic relations. In an inter-ethnic situation, widespread schematic characteristics of ethnic groups can be relegated to the periphery of the memory or may be taken with humor and play virtually no significant role in the relations between the people. However, the updated or mobilized stereotypes, especially negative ones, can significantly exacerbate the conflict between the people of different religion or ethnic group (the “we” and “they”), causing resentment and increasing confrontation. Negative stereotypes, according to the observations of scientists, are quickly “animated” and spread in an ethno-political crisis or a social confrontation (McQuail, 1972).

In the twentieth century, when the media is so popular, the creation and distribution of ethnic stereotypes through the press, radio, and television has become one of the most important aspects of the activities of politicians. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, due to the abrupt actualization of an ethnic component in public life, the media interest in the creation and dissemination of targeted ethnic stereotyping in the mass consciousness dramatically increased.

This could be confirmed by the survey conducted among 50 respondents from the UK. This survey is a part of a study about the impact of media on the public opinion by creating ethnic stereotypes or treating already established ideas about Russia and Russians (“What is Russia”, n.d.). As shown by the survey, 80% of respondents prefer to receive information from television news. The next most popular medium of communication is the Internet and newspapers. They are regularly used by 65% of the respondents. Thus, we see that the Internet and newspapers are very powerful resources of information for the British. Also, from this we can conclude that, in response to the questionnaire, the respondents used the information obtained from the media, as most of them have not been in Russia and did not communicate with the Russian people. Only 6 people of the respondents were in Russia and 2 were visited by friends or relatives from Russia. The most common first association with Russia was vodka (47%). Also, many believe that Russia is a permanent feature of the cold (31%). The country was also associated with “communism”, “war,” and “poverty”.

As can be seen, these associations have a negative connotation. The last of them is directly related to the perception of the political and economic situation in Russia by the English-speaking townsfolk. Only 30% of respondents believe that the economy will stabilize in Russia. 77% of respondents say that Russia has become a less democratic and more corrupted country with unstable, frightening economic environment. Also, this category of respondents expresses the view that Russia is a visible contrast between wealth and poverty.

Obviously, the British respondents’ stereotypes about Russia are negative. This confirms the view of many scholars who assert that ethnic heterostereotypes, i.e. understanding of other ethnic groups, are often negative. As we said, the media play an important role in shaping public opinion. One of the means of achieving this goal is to appeal to stereotypes. Stereotypes make it possible to influence an audience, because the audience has a common conceptual view of the world. In many ways, a stereotype is its main component. Consequently, the appeal to the stereotypes attracts the attention of many people. “Media stereotypes are inevitable, especially in the advertising, entertainment and news industries, which need as wide an audience as possible to quickly understand information” (“Media Stereotyping”, n.d.).

The appeal to stereotypes in general and in particular to etnostereotypes incorporates such linguistic means as ethnonyms. The term “ethnonym” means the name of an ethnic group. However, this is not just a token with its value; it is an appeal to our mental images, ideas about this or that group, obtained from the previously encountered context of its use. A retrospective of intertextuality is the main function of ethnonym. This function can cause the ethnonym, which is already firmly entrenched in our mind, and stereotypes about a particular ethnic group arise.

The following statements with ethnonyms directly correlate with those associations of the respondents in the abovementioned survey: “The economy is destructed and Russia is a poor country with no future. Russians are drinking much, too much” (“What is Russia”, n.d.). The first statement contains ethnonym “Russia”, which, in essence, is a symbol of the country, but the surrounding lexical items “destructed”, “poor” have a negative connotation. The second statement draws attention through repetition. A repeated adverb “much” focuses on the predicate, which is represented by the verb “drink” - one that has a very negative connotation. The presence of such features is a sign that negative heterosterotypes about Russia perpetuated the minds of the recipients. Ethnonyms like “Russia”, “Russian”, and “Russians” cause in their minds already existing mental images of this country. Yet, along with the use of the ethnonym, we must also take into account the importance of the context of its use. The kind of a stereotype that arises in the mind of the recipient through the use of the ethnonym largely depends on the connotations of existing ethnonym tokens and sometimes stylistic devices.

Mediatization of American politics is not new for the modern process of introducing of knowledge and understanding of the norms, values and stereotypes that exist in society in general and in individual strata into the mass consciousness. The increasing complexity and constant changes naturally limit the ability to reach around the world directly. It is too vast, contradictory, volatile, and convoluted. Studying of relevant policies is not for everyone. Therefore, stereotyping greatly helps to reconstruct reality in the form of a simplified socio-political options menu.

The above stereotypes serve as a basis for the formation of first social and later electoral habits. Americans find themselves in a situation of repetitive and relatively standard patterns of leisure and community, commodity, economic, and political behavior. It turns out that political advertising is almost obliged to offer a mass audience the same model of the political activity. The same are methods of change. The same is the social and political reality. Goals are achieved through socialization by familiarizing citizens to stimulate the desire to maintain a constructed national policy.

Accelerated marketing and political advertising help to achieve the faster turnover of funds in all phases of the movement of “product” to the consumer. However, a consumer is becoming more and more informed, critical and demanding. His/her increasing intelligibility is becoming one of the most powerful incentives for the development of innovative directions in the political process. The system of mass consumption is evolving in the direction of non-support of mass marketing. Actual targeting takes place only at extremely personalized message-handling. Thus, without taking into account the geographic, socio-demographic, behavioral, and temporal aspects into consideration, (micro)-targeting is not and cannot be an effective political advertising. Stereotypes are stereotypes, but impersonal images and slogans are not effective.

American policy itself - and this is largely due to the political advertising in the new media – is transferring to a set of political narratives. Media measurement of a presidential campaign is so important that a focus on the cliché images is inevitable.

In the campaign of 2008, the manipulative media technologies were first interpreted as a movement “after the consumer and for his/her desires”. Images are not imposed, they are just shown. Yet, a simple talk about the campaign or promotion is no longer accepted. On the agenda are nuance clarifications, attentive support, and precise finishing. –There is a new policy - the policy of the image. Intrusive images and manipulation of public consciousness have reached a level that allows creating views and political preferences.

Cultural and religious institutions form the myths that constitute “a system that models the minds of individuals in the group, the world and its fragments” (Ball-Rokeach & DeFluer, 1976). The audience already has a vision of reality. A myth completes and sends it back on track or simplifies and transforms. The myth must be based on specific traditions of a society. It is impossible to introduce completely new and different values that contrast with the traditional.

A myth creates a “political fairy tale” in the human mind (McLuhan, 1994). This fairy tale people want to believe; they work and live for the benefit of someone else. Myth-making can forge political events, mythologizing politicians. The state anniversaries, anniversaries of historic events, honoring the outstanding figures of our time, etc. are also a way of mythologizing the public consciousness. Experts say that the potential of the emergence and spread of a mass social myth as well as abuse by the means of mass communication is not diminished, but increased in the modern society (Montgomery& Edington, 1996). A myth can be embedded in the consciousness by means of stereotyping. However, presenting of information in the form of stereotyping is also a separate mechanism of social and psychological impact on the audience.

The mechanism of image formation in the process of mass communication is widely used in election campaigns. It allows the media to reproduce an image in the mind of the audience which is much different from the real person. It is not important who the candidate is in reality; what the audience perceives relates to the image and not to the person. Impressions and later choices of the audience depend more on the media representation of a particular candidate than the candidate himself. A British psychologist Lazersfeld researched the technology of creating an image that is used by Western image makers (Donohue, Tichenor & Olien, 1975). It lies in the fact that, at some point, all media run problematic topics, for example, the environmental condition of the region. Subsequently, a specific candidate with serious and balanced statements is presented and competitors are not prepared to discuss this topic. In particular, this technology has been applied in the United States during the pre-election marathon of Reagan-Carter in 1980. The foreign policy of Jimmy Carter suited almost everyone. According to the agency Gallup, the opponents' ratings differed by 1.5-2%. When a group of American diplomats were taken hostage in Iran, Reagan was harshly criticized for his foreign policy. Rating of Carter has grown significantly.

The most effective in creating the image is television, because the visual perception has a big impact on the opinion of the audience. An example of this is the case from the 1960 election campaign in the U.S., when Kennedy won Nixon. Kennedy then took a full advantage of the then new television. The culmination of the debate came when the collusion of Kennedy's team raised the temperature in the studio. Grim Nixon flowed and he looked like a man perspiring from the issues. According to the polls, Nixon lost outright. Interestingly, however, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought that Nixon won both times (Mendelsohn, 1993).

According to the methodology of Lieberman, the results of the elections to the authorities can be predicted without surveys. The formula is N = n / k + 1 (%), where N is the number of votes received (%), n is number of negative posts (items), and k is the activity coefficient of the election campaign. To determine the total number of the last campaign messages during the period, it should be divided by 1000 (the normalizing factor). For example, during the last month of presidential elections, four major TV channels transferred about 1,700 election-related reports, respectively, the activity coefficient was 1.7.

Thus, according to this formula, the greatest influence on the number of votes received in the election has not the amount of positive messages about the candidate (which they usually try to transfer), but the number of negative messages. The effectiveness of this formula was demonstrated in the federal elections in recent years.

At a time when the media lost their monopoly on information, communication devalued, which undermined the confidence in the information space as a whole. Political advertising has consistently devalued as well. However, it does not mean that all of it will come to an end. It just has to be a rational and useful. Ideally, the ads should be describing the quality of justice. “Advertising on request” should be practiced. Consumers specify themselves what format would be preferable, where and when. They are exclusive, obedient, and highly manageable.

Thus, based on the above, we see that the media play an important role in the spreading of political information and forming the public opinion on political matters. However, the effectiveness of the mechanisms used is directly linked to the state of society at the time, whether it resides in a state of stability or vice versa. Mechanisms differ in quality and the time of impact. Stereotyping is designed for a short period of time. Creation of myths has a lasting impact on the audience. However, all the mechanisms are common as all of them form a political culture and public consciousness. Formation of images and rumors is used for an immediate action (e.g. during the election campaign). With the help of the media, the public consciousness is embedded with a myth of nationality and traditions. People start believing in the policy of the state not noticing the environmental disaster or other serious problems. However, without vision formed by the media, the society will not be able to exist in the information stage of development. The only question is who and with what intentions controls the flow of information. This will be determined in the future.

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