After the recent claim by Malaysian leadership that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 allegedly crashed into the Indian Ocean, almost all of the families involved, along with the majority of Chinese residents, are blaming the leadership on how they handled every aspect of the disappearance. News reports from CNN, CBC News, and others are discussing the backlash and anger from the country of China, including their government, families involved, and residents who had nothing to do with the disappearance of the plane.
This case is interesting because it is displaying two different scenarios of what Lyons (2005) called the Spiral of Silence Theory. Within this theory, individuals will only publicly state their opinion if they believe that the majority of the public are going to agree with their opinion. On the other hand, they will stay silent if they believe that others will criticize or attack them for their perspective. In this particular case, one scenario is that residents are not going to publicly defend Malaysian Airlines or question the claims by residents who have families missing. It is understandable for individuals to feel concerned about sharing a differing opinion because we are dealing with the possible death of a large number of Chinese residents as well as residents from other countries. Therefore, we are not going to hear many arguments against the heated and emotional statements by the Chinese government and individuals who were personally affected by the disappearance.
However, there is also a different scenario that plays out in this case and it is the influence that social media plays on spreading the Spiral of Silence throughout the entire globe. These communication channels give all residents a voice to make statements and claims to strengthen the “popular” opinion against Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian government. It gives individuals who are not personally invested in the story an opportunity to make a statement that others will find credible. The individual may not be personally invested because they either don’t live in China or Malaysia or don’t know any of the details.
Social media also gives anyone an outlet to shed light and negatively harm any individual who might come to the defense of Malaysian Airlines and how they handled the situation. For example, individuals can “out” this person throughout various channels (i.e., Facebook, YouTube, news outlets) and others will jump in to attack him/her. This will cause fear in other individuals who might want to step up in defense but are scared of personal and public attacks by others. Therefore, the Spiral of Silence would spread from the communities affected to every side of the globe due to the extremely public shame that comes along with having a different opinion than the majority.
The current and constant coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is getting out of hands, per several news reports. This week, Salon discussed the issues with the coverage and the complaints made by MSNBC reporters and Boston.com reported on the Twitter backlash due to the coverage. Even CNN itself reported on the constant coverage that lacks on the revelation of new facts or any relevant information. At one point, CNN displayed a flight simulator every half hour and gave various theories into what could have happened if they actually had any relevant information.
To many individuals, this might seem like a news company trying too hard to win ratings and gain worldwide viewers. However, based on prior research, one can assume that CNN producers created this form of coverage to engage its audience and give them a sense of understanding. As stated by Wessels, Anderson, Durrant, and Ellis (2012), producers form messages in a way to will make an audience feel connected to the story (p. 203). Therefore, this gives us an understanding as to why CNN covered this particular story from several different angles. In doing so, the producers ensure that they can attract the attention of individuals who might not be personally connected to the story.
Along with this, CNN’s use of a flight simulator can be described as a way to place viewers within the flight so that they could feel connected to the passengers. As described by Wessels et al. (2012), producers use imaging to decrease the distance between the viewer and the story (p. 202). By decreasing the distance, the producers can create a relationship between the viewer and the victims, participants, etc. Once the relationship occurs, the viewer may become emotionally connected to the story and they will continue to watch the program. This is interesting because the relationship might occur even if the program does not provide any relevant information or facts to help clarify the story or help the viewer come to a conclusion.
Through the processes described above, CNN develops what Wessels et al. describes as a socio-narratology because they form meanings in the missing flight story that a viewer cannot find in other networks. Therefore, the viewer will only come to CNN to watch its coverage because they know the anchors will continue to shape the meaning that is relatable to them. With this in mind, one can argue that CNN is actually doing an effective job of communicating with its audience even though it is not providing facts, relevant updates, or useful information.
A recent NPR article discussed a small town in Spain that is living in their own united bubble while the rest of the country lives under a different set of rules and regulations. Marinaleda is a small town in the south of Spain with a population of 2,700 residents. The article highlights its Mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, and his efforts to decrease unemployment, fight capitalism, and the economic crisis affecting the region. Some of these efforts include, preventing multinational corporations from opening stores in the town, having residents take ownership in street cleaning procedures, and providing land and building materials for any resident who wants to build a house.
The article also discusses legal trouble for the mayor because he went into supermarkets and stole food to give to less fortunate residents. It goes on to discuss how the rest of the region has a higher unemployment rate, a higher level of general wealth inequality, and charges agricultural subsidies to other towns. These differences between the town and the rest of the region display two of Pries’ (2013) identities. The town of Marinaleda displays a micro-regional identity even though regions in and near Spain a structured in a macro-regional identity. As stated by Pries (2013), the micro-regional identity claims that some organizations display a shift to governmental structures autonomous from the State or regional government organizations.
The article also states that Mayor Sanchez Gordillo is facing possible jail time for stealing food from a big chain supermarket. This shows that the big food chain and the other leaders in the region might be putting pressure on the mayor to conform to the rules and regulations of the region. As stated by Kim (2008), the pressure is a stress that will force the mayor and residents to adapt to capitalism. This means that the town will lose its identity that has made it an ideal location for its residents. With that in mind, we are left to wonder if deculturation and acculturation are beneficial for the town and its residents.
Kim, Y. Y. (2008). Intercultural personhood: Globalization and a way of being. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32, 359-368.
Pries, L. (2013). Ambiguities of global and transnational collective identities. Global Networks, 13(1), 22-40.