Framing = Propaganda?

This week’s readings, especially Benford/Snow, provide us with a structure to understand the flow of information/communication arising from social movements. Benford & Snow, however, are engaged in an effort to determine whether, a) the basic concepts arise from coherent theory or schema, b) the concept(s) enhances our understanding of social movements; and, the general utility of the concepts or theories. Their conclusion is a qualified, “yes”, but. They provide a brief insight concerning other views, citing literature from the mid 1990s.

Throughout the article and the Framework Institute weak attempt to explain the basics of framing, and the remaining articles, is the theme or implication of the “true believer”. References to the underlying effects of the “message” are present throughout: “making people smarter”, “improving the discourse”, “advancing social change”. The Framework Institute attempts to distinguish the framing approach from, “branding” and “marketing”. Indeed the Institute’s approach appears to be little more than client recruitment, wrapped up in a not for profit, “true believer” format: less expensive for the non-profit community.

In the 1960s to the 1980s, this was simply “advertising” or “propaganda.” Every NYC advertising firm lives/dies on campaign effectiveness. It simply is much more expensive for the non-profit organization. Yet, framing, as a communication concept is understandable and a medium for designing campaigns as explained by Benford/Snow and Framework Institute clients.

The cigarette campaign’s of the 1940s to 1960s, exemplified a counter framework to argue against anti-smoking advocates. As the Framework Institute notes, there are frequently issues outside the framing process: housing, income, health, etc. Cigarette advertising spoke to more than the act of smoking. It created an aura or atmosphere to which smokers could aspire. These campaigns were not developed by “true believers”. Rather, they were conducted to willfully lie to the public. They were propaganda to enhance the image of smokers and actively ignore the fatal health consequences. After such campaigns were banned in the USA, they were continued throughout Asia. Thus, in hindsight, we now conclude that these efforts were undesirable and socially harmful: bad, evil, now illegal. Thus, we see them as socially undesirable on a massive scale: propaganda.

The term, “Propaganda” also embodies the notion of political objectives, as does framing. Given the nature of the campaigns, we now understand that these programs had highly defined political and policy objectives as well. Indeed, they did embody the use of intentionally “false” information. Here, we now know the enormity of the misinformation that these campaigns contained.

What none of the articles address is the polemic nature of such campaigns which have such highly defined boundaries: abortion, education, employment, etc. Given the sometime radical differences, one campaign might consider the “opposition” as a source of misinformation as a way to discredit. We also find such efforts on the part of political campaigns.

The Benford/Snow reference to the term “schema”, may also be understood as a relational reference where process inputs have defined outcomes. Clearly, this is the case with the Idef1X framework for relational data bases advanced by NTIS. Indeed, it gives us a convenient way to map out the relationships in a “schema” format and track process results.

In summary, Benford/Snow provide a convenient framework in which to understand social movement communications. The Frameworks Institute simply wants non-profit business.

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About dpales

MIT Graduate Fellow. Research interest in cognitive studies, focused on mapping group and linguistic relationships in a causal environment -- i.e., does lingustic expression (i.e., language processing) permit a causal inference in real time.

One thought on “Framing = Propaganda?

  1. Pingback: Week 4 Megablog: Framing & Standing | Networked Social Movements

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