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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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2. Promoting the Movement by Celebrating National Symbols

According to Genevieve Cornu, French Professor of Communication, associating a brand or an organization to some of the fundamental values of society is a technique

77 VESTERGAARD & SCHRODER, Op. Cit. p. 49.

78 Section?Get involved? of U.S ENGLISH official website available at <>

79 CORNU, Geneviève. Sémiologie de l'image dans la publicité, Paris: Editions d' Organisation Université, 1992. Print. p. 76.

commonly used by advertisers. 80 In this part, we will see to what extent U.S ENGLISH used this technique to promote their organization. More particularly, it is interesting to analyze which symbols of the American nation the movement referred to in their different publications.

First of all, our focus will be on the name and the logo of the organization itself. At first sight, U.S ENGLISH? directly refers to the name and the language spoken in the country. This symbolic choice highlights the movement's willingness to stand for the American nation as well as their willingness to see the nation becoming officially English-speaking. U.S ENGLISH? may also echo the variety of English spoken in the U.S in opposition to the Australian, Canadian or British variety of English. Furthermore, their logo directly recalls the American nation as it delineates the shape of the United States, even though they choose not to represent the separations between the different States that compose the country. This choice is part of their strategy to project a unified image of the nation as we will see later on in this part. Similarly, the fact that their logo is underlined by a blue stripe followed by a red stripe, recalls the colors of the American flag. Considering that their logo is present on all their publications, the movement is straightaway linked to a pro-American organization in the receiver's mind.

The pro-American image associated with the movement also finds it origins in the way they have constantly been recalling the foundations and the symbols of the American nation. This communication strategy allowed U.S ENGLISH to present itself as a patriotic movement. Patriotism can be defined as the persistence of love and attachment to a country?81 or as the attachment of group members towards their group and the country in which they reside?.82 In the light of those definitions, we can consider that U.S ENGLISH is a patriotic movement as one of their communication strategies has been to constantly show their love and attachment to the nation and its values.

Ernest Renan said that the United States was the home of the cult of the flag?83 and as we will see, U.S ENGLISH used it on several occasions to introduce their image and promote their cause. In the corpus on which this analysis is based, several references to the symbols of the nation can be noted. First of all, in the background of their bumper sticker, the American flag is to be found. Michael Billig saw in flags banal reminders of nationhood'?84. According

80 Ibid. p. 76.

81 BILLIG, Michael. Banal Nationalism, London: Sage Publications, 1995. Print. p. 48.

82 Ibid. p.48.

83 Ibid. p. 39.

84 Ibid. p. 41.

to him, flags have a symbolic and a signalization function. The use of the flag on their promotional stickers implies two things. First, as we have seen before, U.S ENGLISH being a patriotic movement, it is predictable that they would pay tribute to some of the symbols of the nation and as we have seen the flag is a banal carrier of the nation's identity. On the other hand, using the U.S flag as the background of a bumper sticker can be a way to attract supporters because of the legitimacy this symbol gives to the movement. The U.S national flag is one of the nation's most widely recognized symbol. It refers both to the nation, the government and the ideals of the nation. It symbolizes both unity and independence as it was made of 50 stripes recalling the fifty States that compose the nation and thirteen stars recalling the thirteen colonies that rebelled against Britain.

One can also find direct references to the flag of the United States in other publications. U.S ENGLISH referred twice to the pledge of allegiance to the United States in their promotional material. A first reference to this oath can be found in the monograph published by Hayakawa in 1985 entitled One nation... Indivisible?? (Annex IV). On the original document this title was written in bold and capital letters. This title is a parody of the pledge of allegiance of the United States. Similarly, the pledge of allegiance to the United States has also been used by U.S ENGLISH in a more recent advertising campaign entitled Will it come to this?? (Annex XIX). This advertisement staged children with their right hand on their heart, looking up in front of the U.S flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance. Only the first two lines are in English, the following lines are respectively in Spanish and in German. The reasons for the use of parody will be explained further on when dealing with another communication strategy that consisted in preaching unity.

The pledge of allegiance85 was recognized the official national pledge of the United States in 1942 by Congress. More than just a way to catch the reader's attention, a reference to this oath has a strong symbolical value. This pledge that symbolizes national solidarity is an oath of loyalty to the nation. It is usually sworn by children at school and read at the opening of each Congressional session. It symbolizes the commitment to the flag and to the republic of the nation.

But U.S ENGLISH did not only use the symbol of the flag or the ceremony attached to it, they also referred to the Statue of Liberty with intent to prove that U.S ENGLISH is not isolationist or racist(Annex IV, l.439). Hayakawa choose to quote a passage of the poem from

85 I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all? from the U.S Flag Code composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892.

Emma Lazarur inscribed on it, on which one can read: the Mother of Exile? sent worldwide welcomes? and lift [her] lamp beside the golden door?(Annex IV, l. 440-449).

The Statue of Liberty, given by France in 1886, is a monument commemorating the centenary of the signing of the U.S Declaration of Independence. It is situated on Liberty Island in New York Harbor and it welcomes visitors, immigrants and returning Americans. It is one of the most recognizable icons of the United States. There are two strong symbols underlying this reference: the 100th anniversary of the signing of the U.S Declaration of Independence signaling the birth of the nation and American immigration history. One of the communication strategies of the movement being to present itself as patriotic and pro-American, a reference to this well-known symbol of the nation was another way to pay tribute to the nation but also to recall the welcoming tradition of the land and assimilate the movement with those views.

Another technique used by U.S ENGLISH was to pay tribute to the diversity of the nation by using symbolical pictures. In their advertising campaign of January 1993, they staged a huge variety of people from different backgrounds, both male and female, native born and immigrants, young and older people, and they managed to arrange them in order to delineate the shape of the country (Annex XI). The power of assimilation of the nation can also be considered as a symbol of the United States. The most striking element that symbolizes America's tolerance and assimilation power is concept of the melting-pot present in most of their publications. We will explain this concept when accounting for their nativist attitude later on in this analysis.

The technique used by U.S ENGLISH consisted in constantly reminding their audience of their nationality and thus of their national identity. This is what Michael Billig called banal nationalism?. M. Billig wrote that:

In the established nations there is a continual 'flagging' or reminding of nationhood. Nationhood provides a continual background for political discourses, for cultural products and even for structuring the newspapers. The citizenry are daily reminded of their national place in a world of nations. However this reminding is so familiar, so continual, that it is not consciously registered as reminding. The metonymic image of banal nationalism is not a flag which is being consciously waved with fervent passion; it is the flag hanging unnoticed on the public building. National Identity embraces all these forgotten reminders (Billig 8).

So considered, one of the communication strategies of U.S ENGLISH is to flag? the nation in order to remind their audience of their patriotic and nationalist feelings. For M.

Billig, this banal nationalism? can also be found in small words such as we?, our?, this? and here?, people?, nation?. Micheal Billig considered that small words, rather than grand memorable phrases, offer constant, but barely conscious, reminders of the homeland, making 'our' national identity unforgettable? (Billig 93). U.S ENGLISH used the mass media to daily bring the flags home to the citizenry? (Billig 93).This every day celebration of the nation is also an element of Ernest Renan's definition of the nation. He stated that a nation existence is a daily plebiscite? (Renan 41-55). Assimilating the nation to their cause was a way to present themselves as national heroes in order to enhance people's involvement in their organization. Implicitly, by showing their attachment to the values and symbols of the nation, U.S ENGLISH wanted people to express their love for the nation by joining them.

At this point, we can consider that more than just being a patriotic movement, U.S ENGLISH showed a nationalist attitude. Nationalism is both a sentiment and a movement. According to E. Gellner, nationalism is primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent?(Gellner 1). The constant flagging? of the nation in the publications of U.S ENGLISH aimed at unifying the national and the political unit. They wanted American citizens to feel American? so that they will want to fight to protect their country. For the sociologist and political scientist, Morris Janowitz, contrary to patriotism which is a positive attachment, nationalism is an aggressive feeling against out groups (Billig 51). Gellner considered that nationalism as a sentiment is the feeling of anger aroused by the violation of the principle, or the feeling of satisfaction aroused by its fulfillment? (Gellner 1). This aspect of the concept of nationalism will be associated with the ideology of the movement when accounting for their views about immigration and more particularly Hispanics.

As we have seen advertising is used by U.S ENGLISH as a way to awake nationalist and patriotic feelings. In the next part we will wonder whether the disuniting of America?86 is a fear or a reality and how U.S ENGLISH has been using division as a communication strategy to give weight to their cause.

86 Expression borrowed from SCHLESINGER,Arthur. i, L'Amérique Balkanisée: une société multiculturelle désunie, 2nd edition, Paris: Economica, 1999. Print.

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