The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010
Since its creation in the mid 1980s, U.S ENGLISH has been using advertising both to remind the public of the existence of their movement but also to leave a generally favorable image in the receiver's mind of the cause they have been defending. Advertising is a form of mass communication that consists in sending a homogeneous message to a large heterogeneous audience through the media. It is a one-way communication process because the receiver does not have the possibility to answer the message sent by the adman. U.S ENGLISH has been making a political use of advertising because they produced noncommercial type of advertisements and also because the lobbying character of this organization. Their aim is to introduce their name, promote their cause and solicit a vote or a contribution, not a purchase in the same way as commercial advertising.
Political advertising can be considered a form of propaganda because it promotes certain opinions and attitudes. Propaganda can be defined as the intentional control, manipulation and communication of information and imagery in order to achieve certain political objectives?65 . In the case of U.S ENGLISH, the aim is to pass an Official English Amendment to the US Constitution as we have seen in part one. Even though an English Language Amendment has a symbolic dimension, the lobbying of U.S ENGLISH has political objectives. Historically, propaganda is a specific form of mass persuasion (involving the product and transmission of specifically structured texts and messages) designed to produce or encourage certain responses in the mass audience?66. We will see in the next sub-section what U.S ENGLISH has been expecting from their audience when advertising.
Furthermore, advertising works on each reader's need for identity?67. It has been proved that each individual needs to expose himself to the lifestyles and values of the society he/she lives in order to make sense of the world and his/her place in it. It is a way of seeking confirmation of the validity of one's lifestyle in a given society.
65 O'SULIVAN, Tim; HARTLY, John; SAUNDERS, Danny, FISKE, John, Key Concepts in Communication, London, New York: Routledge, 5th edition, 1993. Print. p. 185.
67 VESTERGAARD, Torben ; SCHRODER, Kim, The language of advertising, Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1985. Print. p. 73.
First of all, in order to analyze the communication strategies of U.S ENGLISH, one needs to look at the different mediums to which they had recourse to in order to promote their cause. Thanks to the Director of Communication of U.S ENGLISH, Rob Toonkel, who searched the records of the organization on our request, the corpus on which this analysis will be about is fairly representative of all the publications made by the movement since its creation.
Before the 1990s, U.S ENGLISH used mainly fund raising brochures, mailing, advertisements, monographs, and public addresses. With the arrival of Mauro Mujica in 1993, the movement started to use more modern medium such as television, internet with Facebook and an official website but also bumper stickers. In 1993, they started to use photographs of the Honorary Chairman, Mauro Mujica, in their advertisements so that people could identify the representative of the movement. It was a way to give transparency to the movement and thus to appeal for more supporters. Before 1993, the movement used mainly pictures and drawings staging symbolic items standing for the American nation such as the flag, the country but also well-known American books, and even ballot boxes to recall the democratic ideals characterizing the nation.
As the communication strategies used in their television addresses are not very different from the ones they used for their other publications, our focus will be on the different printed-documents published by the movement since 1983 as well as their official website. We will analyze both the visual message and the title of their publications. When needed we will also analyze the script of those documents.
As advertisements are meant to be seen in different kinds of publications, we need to explain at what audience their publications are targeted. As far as their advertisements were concerned, according to the Director of Communication of U.S ENGLISH, they were published on a regular basis in both local and national newspapers according to their content. Joseph Devito, Professor Emeritus of Communication and author of several communication textbook, explained that the primary readers of newspapers are more likely to be educated and older people, and that only about fifty percent of the people between the age of twenty-one and thirty-five read newspaper regularly68. In this light, one has to bear in mind for the study of print-advertisements that the readership is more likely to be educated and middle-aged. Generally speaking their publications were made to appeal to a large audience even though, for instance, the monograph, published by Hayakawa in 1985, was for sale and mainly
68 DEVITO, Joseph. A, Human Communication, The Basic Course, (Fifth Edition), New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1991. Print. p. 454.
reserved for members of U.S ENGLISH as well as decision makers. Similarly, the movement has been using mail techniques to raise money for their cause and those documents were only addressed to their supporters, contrary to their fund raising brochure that was used both to promote the movement and raise money from the general public.
Before analyzing the different techniques used by U.S ENGLISH to foster their activity, our analysis will attempt to account for the part of the budget of U.S ENGLISH dedicated to advertising. Advertising is as much a social phenomenon as it is an economic one. In 2000, U.S ENGLISH declared to the U.S Department of Treasury that they devoted 63,110 $ of their annual budget to fundraising. 69 This sum represented around 20% of their total expenses in 2000. In 2006, they devoted 146,265 $ to fundraising, representing more than 30% of their total expenses. 70 Similarly, in 2007, they spent 145,609 $ for fund raising, representing 30% of their total expenses. 71 In this light, we can consider that advertising being part of their fund raising activities represented a large part of their annual budget.
At this point, one needs to recall the general characteristics of a good advertising campaign. According to Lund (1947), the task of the adman? can be described in five steps. 72 First of all, the adman has to attract the reader?73 in order to make sure that the advertisement is noticed. In order to achieve those ends, U.S ENGLISH used both catchy titles and images in their publications. For instance, in their 1996 advertising campaign, they used the picture of a stop sign translated into four different languages under which one can read Stop the madness? (Annex XIV). In this advertisement, U.S ENGLISH attracted the viewer's attention by using an unexpected picture and an appealing title. In this advert, U.S ENGLISH denounced the use of multilingual traffic signs in the United States by using the lexical field of war (under attack?, survive?, danger?, and fight?). All their publications were carefully made up to meet particular ends. In this advertisement, the use of the lexical field of war added to the symbolic dimension of a stop sign and emphasized by the word Madness? in the title, leaved a strong mental imprint, but also contributed to create fears in the receiver's mind. They have also been playing on the size of their advertisements as in October 1992 when they
69 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax?, U.S ENGLISH Foundation, 2000, Form 990, U.S Department of Treasury, Media Matters Action. Web. 1 May 2010.
70 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax?, U.S ENGLISH Foundation, 2006, Form 990, U.S Department of Treasury, Media Matters Action. Web. 1 May 2010
71 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax?, U.S ENGLISH Foundation, 2007, Form 990, U.S Department of Treasury, Media Matters Action. Web. 1 May 2010
72 VESTERGAARD, Torben ; SCHRODER, Kim. The Language of Advertising, Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1985. Print. p. 49.
73 Ibid. p. 49.
published a large-framed advertisement in USA Today (Annex X).
The second target of the adman is to arouse interest?74 in his advertisement. U.S ENGLISH has been using this technique in most of their publications. In their advertising campaign of 1997 staging the picture of a helpless child, U.S ENGLISH used an emotional appeal to arouse the interest of their viewers. Propaganda often uses emotional appeals to promote certain opinions and attitudes with regard to particular issues (Vestergaard and Schroder 186). In another advertising campaign, they used humor. One of their advertisements is entitled One more way the Federal government is making doctors sick? (Annex XX). This technique allowed them to stimulate the receiver who will certainly want to know more about the topic. Another technique has been to use bilingual advertisements such as their publication in the Albany Times-Union in 1989 (Annex IX). The use of a foreign language to promote the enactment of an official language has a double impact. First, it appealed to native speakers of this foreign language: it is a way to introduce the organization and explain their cause. It was also a way to comfort their supporters that official language legislation was needed in order to outlaw such publications. Those who support U.S ENGLISH are likely to consider that in the US, to speak English and that advertising in a foreign language is wasteful, useless, and provocative. This dimension can be found in the English title If you can't read this add don't feel badly. Our children can't read this book? (Annex IX).
The third target of the adman is to stimulate desire?75. U.S ENGLISH used several methods to achieve those ends. In January 1993, they published an advertisement entitled It is time to focus on what unites us as a people, as opposed to what divides us? (Annex XI). As we will see in the last part of this sub-section, U.S ENGLISH has been trying to foster a desire for unity in the receiver's mind. Similarly, U.S ENGLISH also used testimonies to stimulate desire. For instance, in 1995 they published an advertisement based on the testimony of a successful immigrant due to his knowledge of the English language (Annex XIII). This was a way among others to stimulate other immigrants' desire to learn the language of the majority and join their cause.
Then, the advertisers have to create conviction in the receiver's mind?76. To do so, U.S ENGLISH used statistics as in their advertising campaign of October 1992 when they justified the need for an English Language Amendment by affirming that 78% of Americans? and 14 members of Congress? supported their cause (Annex X). Another strategy was to use
74 VESTERGAARD & SCHRODER, Op. Cit. p. 49.
75 VESTERGAARD & SCHRODER, Op. Cit. p. 49.
76 Ibid. p.49.
hypothetical statements as in their advertising campaign of the late 1980s entitled it can't happen here (Or can it?)? staging a map of the United States on which some states seem to fall apart from the rest of the country (Annex VIII).
The last task of the adman is of course to get to action?.77 In most of their publication, U.S ENGLISH used sentences like Join us, support us, fight with us? (Annex XIV). Similarly, they used reply coupon for those who were willing to send some money or join the organization. They also invited people to contact their local representative and ask them to support their cause78. On their official website, people can find several ways to invite other people to join U.S ENGLISH : petitions, invitations to contact their local representatives or even sample letters to send to political candidates.
As we have seen previously, U.S ENGLISH has been using both verbal and non-verbal communication in order to persuade or influence their potential target audience. They have been using pictures in order to create a strong visual and mental imprint in their receiver's mind79.
But contrary to what we might expect, U.S ENGLISH did not necessarily want the reader to notice their advertisements. In fact, they sometimes used, what Leech called in 1966, a role borrowing technique? (Vestergaard and Schroder 95). It consists in publishing an advertisement that pretends to be part of the editorial material of the newspaper. This technique is used by advertisers both to give weight to their arguments and eventually to invite the reader to carefully read the script of their advertisement thinking that it is editorial material (Annex VII).
Once the general communication strategies of the movement have been explained, our analysis will turn to the way U.S ENGLISH has been promoting its cause through the promotion of some symbols of the American nation.