Discussion questions for tonight…

As I will be leading the discussion of part II of PR, I figured I post the questions that I will be using to guide that discussion tonight.

Looking forward to the conversation!

1. Three concepts are central to Part II of PR!, the public, public opinion, and publicity.  Unpacking these concepts further, could it be argued that there is a hierarchical relationship between each concept (e.g. where each concept represents a phase to where the next concept comes into existence)? Or, is there instead, a reciprocal relationship between the three where each work in tandem for the existence of the other?

2. I would like to juxtapose the concept of the public with C. Wright Mills formulation of the mass as he explains in The Power Elite. According to Mills, in the mass:

(1) Far fewer people express opinions than receive them (2) The communications that prevail are so organized that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realization of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organize and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorized institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion.

Given this, could we make the argument that there was no public to begin with, much more, any semblance of a public or publics today?

3. One can make the argument that the slave narratives, as publicity, were ineffective. First, given our conversation on the public, how can we define what is effective and ineffective publicity? Once defined, do we agree that the slave narratives were ineffective? If so, why were they ineffective? What does this mean as we try to characterize the public and public opinion?

Steve Grimes


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