“…the audience must be exercised by the image”

It is my hope to use these blog postings to start to articulate the issues that I will engage in my term paper. Presently, I am in a nascent stage of unpacking the idea of publics and hegemonic vs non-hegemonic public opinion. Contrasting the narratives, both visual and textual, between the Facebook group Police State USA and the mainstream media in how each represented the Boston Bombings should provide light on that dynamic. Lippman notes that culture is the filter to which individuals read the world. As the stories of our world are increasingly told through images Lippman argues that “the audience must be exercised by the image” and they are effective “when the public fiction enmeshes itself with a private urgency”.

This is a good starting point to begin to characterize the Police State USA group. These are individuals who feel very little connection to the symbols disseminated by the mainstream media as an institution when painting law enforcement in a positive light. They position themselves as counter to a public that is “still in the dark” to the “militarization of law enforcement” and the “systematic corruption & abuse” of these agencies (quotes taken from their page). This characterization of the group is important because it sheds light on their use of images in solidifying that narrative.

Take the case of the following image. It is a screen cap from a promotional video used by the Yonkers police department to show new recruits. The group characterizes the video and image in the following manner:

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 10-7-13 10.39.19 AM

“Check out this recruitment video from the Yonkers Police Department, where the department shows off some of its toys to impress the new recruits. An aggressive dog, a speedboat, a $250,000 Lenco Bearcat, cars speeding through parking lots, woo-hoo! All good reasons to choose a career, right?”

Here, the poster of this post takes a screen cap, that is likely to be deemed innocuous to anyone that doesn’t connect to the group, and uses it as justification for the group’s purpose. The idea that this is a recruitment video used to show the factual nature of law enforcement justifies why the group believes the public is in the dark and thus justifies their existence. In using this images such as these and this video, the group centers on a core belief with very little heterogeneity amongst them. The point here is that the poster did not use other images to make their sarcastic point about police work. In doing so there is a visual language reinforced in the group in the use of images such as these. This visual language does the job of being the “surest way of conveying an idea” as Lippman puts it.

This seems straightforward enough. But other questions remain as I move forward. One in particular comes to mind as I pay attention to the conversation had in regards to this posting throughout the comments in Facebook group. How much does reason play into how individuals in group make sense of their narratives? Can we classify a group such as this an ideal public or just another crowd? We know how the group sees the general public, as one that is unable to see the reason (or the truth) they put forth, thus characterizing the general public as a crowd. But how would the general public then characterize this group? Are they viewed by the general public as a group working mainly off of emotions? What are the implications of this when analyzing how each (the general public and this group) visually represents its narratives? As I move onto with these blog postings I would like to continue to answer these questions.

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