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The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity

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par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010

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3. Impact of the Media Coverage of the Ethnic Composition of the Nation

In the previous section we saw that U.S ENGLISH has not truly been promoting immigration to the United States but instead has been aiming at empowering immigrants that were already in the country by inviting them to adopt the language and culture of the majority. In part one, it has been proved that an official language amendment as proposed by U.S

103 Official Website of 'Nudas Veritas' available at <>

ENGLISH went beyond the symbolic recognition of an official language and had clear political implications such as citizenship, naturalization or immigration. As their anti-immigration attitude and their connections with hate groups tended to show, U.S ENGLISH may be considered as a chauvinistic and cultural nationalist lobbying organization.

Our analysis will now demonstrate to what extent U.S ENGLISH re-imagined the American nation via the media.

As mentioned at the beginning of this part, advertising plays on the individual need for identity. The Professor of Politics Collin Seymoure-Ure explained in his book The Political Impact of Mass Media that mass media may have different effects on the viewer104. The information displayed through mass media may or may not modify or confirm individuals` attitudes towards an issue. He explained that if it does, change consists in the change in the relationship between the individual and some others individuals?. 105 According to Seymour- Ure, both the affected person and the receiver knowing more about the others, may feel differently about them and may even behave differently towards them as a result of the communication process?106.

As we now know, one of U.S ENGLISH communication strategy is to exaggerate the size of the Spanish-speaking community in the nation. In the light of Seymoure-Ure's conception of mass media effect, their different advertising campaigns may have influenced some individuals' perception of Hispanics. To a certain extent it may have invited some of them to act differently towards Hispanics and it may have invited some individuals to discriminate against them.

For Anderson, newspapers and other mass media helped to develop a national consciousness. He wrote about newspapers that:

Particular morning and evening editions will overwhelmingly be consumed between this hour and that, only on this day, no that. ... Hegel observed that newspapers serve modern man as a substitute for morning prayers (Anderson 35).

Benedict Anderson considered newspaper a mass ceremony? that allowed the different members of a nation to think about themselves and to relate to the others (Anderson 35). In the context of our analysis, the media have the power to show Americans? to one another. In a way, due to the rise of mass media, communities are imagined with more

104 SEYMOUR-URE, Collin, The Political Impact of Mass Media, London: Constable and Co LTD, 1974. Print. p. 21.

105 Ibid. p.21.

106 Ibid. p.21.

immediacy than ever because the interaction of the different members of the nation through TV programs or morning papers has never been so quick. Anderson explained that print-capitalism, the increase in geographical mobility and mass media helped to create a shared national experience.

According to Benedict Anderson the nation is an imagined political community because:

The fellow members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear from them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion. ... Communities are to be distinguished not by their falsity or genuineness, but in the style they are imagined(Anderson 15).

Overemphasizing the size of the Spanish-speaking community allowed U.S ENGLISH to re-imagine the way the American nation was invented in the first place. In the light of Anderson's definition, U.S ENGLISH strategy was to point at Hispanics in the nation so that people can imagine the nation in a different way: by making people aware of the presence of Hispanics in the nation, U.S ENGLISH re-imagined the ethnic composition of the nation turning what was perceived as diversity into domination.

Furthermore presenting America as a divided nation as U.S ENGLISH has been doing for more than twenty years was also a way of re-imagining the nation. Advertising being a form of mass media, U.S ENGLISH used it to create a reality. As we have seen, the way the media influence reality is still being debated over, but we can estimate that through the use of media, U.S ENGLISH re-imagined the American nation because they managed to create the impression of a division even for people who were not actually in contact with foreign language speakers. Advertising is a way to project a widespread impression of linguistic diversity in the nation.

Last but not least, Anderson explained that multilingual broadcasting can conjure up the imagined community to illiterates and populations with different mother tongues... nations can now be imagined without linguistic communality?(Anderson 135). In this light, it seems that multilingual publications facilitate the incorporation of foreign-language speakers in the nation. Moreover, with mass media it seems that nowadays, the nation does not necessarily need to be monolingual to be imagined and for its unity to be maintained.


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