Unifying or Disuniting? Media Interferences in Shaping Identities

  • Abstract:

    Affirming an identity is the result of a consensus, and media seem to be the most efficient keeper of today’s consensus. This paper will try to challenge some identitarian stereotypes that have been circulated lately in SE European countries. Media, as a mass purchaser and provider of stereotypes, have responded in most cases after 1989 as a spokesman and defender not of its receptors, but of the stereotyped imaginary providers from Western countries.

    Paradoxically, the autochthon press coverage reflected, in an accomplice manner, merely the position of the reference group. They borrowed and played the role of Otherness, of the reference group, to the detriment of the affiliation group. Markers of exclusion, difference and social distance between these groups were rather promoted, to the detriment of markers of affiliation, belonging and similarity. Since stereotypes fulfill an interpretative function, the Romanian citizenship is turning into a ‘killing identity’ (Maalouf, 1998) for minorities groups in countries like Italy, UK, Spain, Austria. Defined by Galisson (1995) as “cultural verbal palimpsest”, stereotypes create and maintain the sense of affiliation to a community, shaping a collective identity. Due to its direct relationship with the receiver, the journalistic discourse exploits (and often abuses of) the reflexive side of stereotype. While designating, notifying and explaining, stereotype acts as a social catalyst, facilitating receptors’ access to a global and simplified knowledge. But stereotype can also turn into a social interference field, a source of conflict, especially when ethnic and national items are involved. This paper fosters cultural, political and social stereotypes in terms of narrative techniques, redeemed speech in modified contexts and participant in shaping a collective imaginary. The proposed set of premises, ideas and challenges constituting the discussions framework argue that:

    • A less partisan media can offer a more balanced presentation of collective experiences without resorting to hierarchies, thus providing the public with a broader and more insightful picture when approaching the past or the present phenomena;
    • Media can become an interface between voices that are alike and can be, as well, a communication forum for identity discourses and accounts of traumatic events (such as communism);
    • Media should act more as an interpretative agent, providing patterns of integration instead of deconstructing the habitus of the out-group;

    The global society imposes a coordination effort in defining a collective imaginary – favoring reevaluation of metaphoric structures, psychological archetypes, narrative processes. Yet, this effort seems to be lacking in SE Europe. Nevertheless and despite current fragmentation and stratifications, it is possible to individuate within the present collective imaginary some invariants basically connoting the current “mass cultures”. Though the concept of collective imaginary is nowadays hugely criticized, the `advent` of the web, involving the ideation of something new, virtual and pluridimensional is likely to temper old tensions and lead towards a common direction.