50 Shades of Grey – A Reflection on the Black and White.

I guess this post is a reflection of what i have learnt over the past weeks.

If I were more cynical I would sum this up with a few points:

  • You can’t blame the media first without looking at the issue/individual.
  • That advertisers know you better than you know yourself.
  • The media is owned by the mootable Murdoch so don’t believe what you read.
  • And the public overreacts over every issue.

In some sense these arguments bare some form of truth. But as I said, that is put very very pessimistically.

In terms of the media, our world changes by the second. One example of this is how “In today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense budget, a member of the committee read an unclassified passage in a classified report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities” but then retracted the statement stating “it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.”

This could, of course, be true. But having learnt about the public sphere – one could consider that the original statement had the potential to cause fear in the public, and to counteract this fear the US government retracted the statement. But that just sounds like a weird conspiracy.


On the issue of Media Ownership which had the greatest impact on me, I highlighted how nearly all of our (Australian) newspapers are own by Murdoch or Fairfax. It would be ‘silly’ to claim that either media mogul strictly outlines what is allowed to be printed by ‘their’ journalists. But when “127 newspapers around the world, with a combined circulation of 40 million a week, supported the Iraq war“, It pays to be skeptical of what you read.

And this certainly proves the point.

Ultimately, what this course has taught me is to be skeptical. Be careful what you read and their agenda. Things aren’t ever just black and white – there is always grey.


Graph – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq_War_Media_Sources_Opinion_Percentage.svg

Graph Research – http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/amplifying-officials,-squelching-dissent/


The Public’s Reaction to to Hollywood’s Slavery

The Public Sphere is essentially how issues and the news is  discussed in public. This week we were asked to look at a media text that contributes to debate in the public sphere. I thought a good example would be to have a look at two of the biggest pictures of 2012/13.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained




Both movies were Box Office hits grossing $680,200,000 and 17 Oscar nominations collectively. However it is the issue of African-American slavery that really made controversy in the Public sphere.

Lincoln, directed by the respected Spielberg, explores the political history surrounding the passing of the thirteenth amendment to secure the freedom of African-Americans. Django Unchained, directed by the less publicly respected Tarantino  explores the violent history of the slave trade in the Southern states of America and closely follows the actions of Django to secure the freedom of his African -American wife.

Django Unchained subsequently garnered a large amount of controversy in the public sphere. The film can be considered an ‘exploitation film’. An ‘exploitation’ film is defined as ‘a type of cinema, often cheaply produced, that is designed to create a fast profit by referring to, or exploiting, contemporary cultural anxieties.’ Firstly, Django Unchained was not produced cheaply with a budget in excess of 100 million. The movie, however, does portray slavery in a poignant yet black-humor manner. Whether this is through branding, fight-to-the-deaths, eaten to death by dogs or ‘hot boxing’; these abhorrent images certainly brand your memory. The movie was heavily criticised, including that of Cecil Brown who claimed it was “a howling, empty N*gger joke played on Black people.” and director Spike Lee, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.

Lincoln historically portrayed the issue of slavery by demonstrating the white Congressman’s inner struggle on whether African-Americans can be considered people too. The movie played on this ignorance, illustrating examples of slavery, racism and the slow progression of how (spoiler alert) the thirteenth amendment was passed. The movie had little to no academic criticism for its portrayal of slavery. Most likely because very minimal slavery was actually portrayed on screen.

So which one made a bigger impact in the public sphere? Personally I believe it was Django Unchained. Despite Lincoln hitting all the right buttons in Hollywood, but it was Django that confronted the history of slavery in the public sphere.


Django Unchained: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMjIyNTQ5NjQ1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg1MDU4OA@@._V1_SX214_.jpg

Lincoln: http://www.vtcommons.org/sites/default/files/images/blog-images/lincoln-movie.jpeg

Duct-Taped Silence

The concept of Freedom of the Press is one that strictly relates to the state and requires a complete abolition of governmental media regulation and censorship. It is, however, widely unknown how such an unregulated media in Australia would achieve the exact opposite. There was a large outcry in the media recently as the Labor government imposed a new media reform to restrict ownership of the media. Senator Stephen Conroy was heavily criticised for his failed attempt at media reform. The bill of course can be considered to be heavily flawed, as Margaret Simons of Melbourne University states “If they were passed in their current form, the balance would be struck in the wrong place, with too much discretion given to a government-appointed statutory officer”.

This was further debated on ABC Insiders.

It however seems difficult for the Australian public to support such a reform when News Limited paper, The Daily Telegraph, portrays the senator as a dictator.

How Conroy could be conpared to the worst dictators of the 20th century

Conroy compared to the most controversial dictators of the 20th century.

It seems strangely coincidental that Murdoch, the owner of News Limited and the Daily Telegraph would want to halt the media reform that would essentially prevent the monopolisation of Australia’s media to a handful of businesses (or just one individual). Furthermore when 2.3m readers are subjected to a very persuasive front page comparing Senator Conroy to a ‘despot’, it is obvious how difficult attempts at media reform are. It would also shock many to know that their capital city papers such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Illawarra Mercury, The Australian financial Review, The Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, The Australian and the Herald Sun are all owned by either John Fairfax Holdings or Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited.

And that is just the Newspapers.

So why does media ownership matter? The more appropriate question is why is a Free Press important? Because democracy depends on an informed and balanced public. And unfortunately neither an extreme government regulation or massive media monopoly is going to achieve this.


Conroy – http://truthinmediaresourcecentre.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/dailytele.jpg

SEX!!!… and other methods of how ads are secretly appealing to you

The concept of semiotics is one that distinguishes what an image or ‘sign’ depicts and what it actually means. One example is the following video:

As psychologist Geoffrey Millers claims, ” all our acquisitions of personal goods… are motivated by the primal desire for procreation, pleasure or both.”

Essentially Miller argues that everything you own or desire comes from man’s (and women’s!) primal instinct: SEX

Yes it isn’t just men who desire sex, as seen in this Cherry Ripe ad

This concept of semiotics defines signs having both a denotation and connotation. Take for example this:

Advertisement for the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief

Advertisement for the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief

Here is an ad from 1957 presenting the Pontiac Star Chief!

Now the denotation of the image is a beautiful 1950s woman dressed in red sliding  into the backseat of the spacious and coincidentally red Pontiac Star Chief. The  colloquial phrase “Spread Your Legs” alludes to the “maximum leg-room” in the car.

The connotation, however, signifies a completely different story. The woman  dressed in red with bright red lipstick symbolises seduction. Next the very obvious  phrase “Spread Your Legs” combined with “maximum leg room” is a double entendre  for how spacious the car is to… well you know.

Nevertheless, the advertisement leaves the signified knowing three things:

  • That the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief has enough spacious room for you to spread your legs.
  • That the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief has enough spacious room for you to spread your legs.
  • That people had sex in the 1950s

Semiotics is used by advertisers as a clever way of subliminally signifying a message to their audience to convince their audience to buy their product. Yes, it is sneaky. But if your gullible enough to think that that deodorant, or that laptop, or that… burger, will help you to achieve your ultimate desire, then buy away.


Pontiac: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_SqhhJb_P3Kk/TN9eJ7gvcaI/AAAAAAAANBo/qRSLNJLB1K8/s400/spread+your+legs+ad.jpg

Shifting the Blame: An 8 Year Old’s Game

It is highlighted within David Gauntlett’s article that it is often the media that is blamed for the inherent violence within society. As noted in numerous psychological research studies such as American Psychology Association, it seems to be a simple solution to shift the blame to the media. However as Gauntlett details, many of these ‘experiments’ look at the media first, rather than the individual.  Essentially Gauntlett argues that the media effects model “comes at the problem backwards, by starting with the media and then trying to lasso connections from there on to social beings, rather than the other way around”.

Catcher in the Rye

If you have ever heard of Mark David Chapman, the man guilty of murdering John Lennon, then you would know he was supposedly “influenced” by the novel The Catcher in the Rye. This novel is, essentially of teen rebellion. The question is, how does a book about teen angst and rebellion result in the murder of one of the world’s greatest musicians?

From 1961 to 1981 the novel was the most censored book and the second-most taught book in the United States. The book is, however, also considered one of the greatest books of all time. Nevertheless the novel was heavily criticised for influencing Chapman’s assassination of Lennon.

If by taking into account Gauntlett’s argument, a quick google search will let you know that: 

“Following the murder, Chapman underwent dozens of assessments by different psychiatrists. He described his anger toward his father who had regularly abused his mother, his identification with Holden Caulfield and with Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and his conferences with the “Little People”, an imaginary set of people with whom he interacted and from whom he took guidance. He also provided a list of other celebrities he had thought about killing.”

Photo taken during arrest for murder.

Photo taken during arrest for murder.

It is therefore evident that, before identifying the novel Catcher in the Rye as a threat to society, that Chapman himself was hospitalised for mental-illness numerously. As such the immediate condemning speculation of the novel was irrelevant as evidence supports that Chapman was obviously mentally disturbed from his childhood.

Once again, to blame the novel you have to ask yourself this question: Would you kill John Lennon if a novel told you to?


text: http://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/chapman-mark.htm

Novel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rye_catcher.jpg

Chapman: http://static1.purepeople.com/articles/7/13/47/7/@/63476-mugshot-de-mark-chapman-l-assassin-de-637×0-1.jpg

The Introduction

Hey Guys,

I guess this is the compulsory introduction… so welcome to my Blog: Valid Issues No Tissues. 

My name is James Keogh and I am a BCMS/Arts student at UOW. I am hoping to complete the Journalism major whilst also studying Mandarin and Politics under my Arts Degree (Ni Hao to any Chinese peeps). The reason I am doing this course is because every opportunity from the BCMS course appeals to me, and I eventually hope to have a career in journalism one day.

If you haven’t noticed I despise tabloid news and hope to blog about Valid Issues within the media. I guess the No Tissues part of the title (apart from rhyming) represents the sensationalised or exaggerated aspect of tabloid news and I will hopefully achieve in presenting accurate, referenced information on the world of media and communications – in which case I am already better than fox.

Anyway I love movies (test me), TV, street art, discussing politics, Al Pacino, modern history, money, Freddie Mercury (anything queen related actually) and Coffee.

Zia Jian