Propaganda in the Public Sphere!

The public sphere is an area in our day-to-day life’s where people can come together and liberally discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. It is “a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment. (Hauser, Gerard (June 1998). “Vernacular Dialogue and the Rhetoricality of Public Opinion”. Communication Monographs 65 (2): 83–107 Page.)

Habermas argues that it is “a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed.” He says that most of the time when masses come together to talk and share opinions they no longer behave like a business or like any private individual, rather he argues that citizens start behaving as a public body and enjoy their freedom of speech to express and publish their opinions.

Habermas also brings out a very imperative argument about the Bourgeois society and points out various places like coffee shops and salons and how these places became a center location for the masses to come and discuss matters of interest that startled them. In French salons, as Habermas says, “opinion became emancipated from the bonds of economic dependence”. Any new work, or a book or a musical composition had to get its legitimacy in these places. It not only paved a forum for self-expression, but in fact had become a platform for airing one’s opinions and agendas for public discussion. (Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article) pp 141-250

On the other hand mapping public sphere with ideology happens to have a great impact on the changing cultural and social significance that generate the social formations of affluence today. For e.g. Monuments and landmarks in New York are scrutinized as crucibles for the formation, expression, symbolization and re-formation of the social orders of the city and the state. Here power of the state controls the order and image of capital challenging the state by arts of cityscape and architecture. The relation between public space and private space is questioned in locations such as Central Park, Times Square, Union Square, which symbolizes the social relations of the state, the market place and the people.

Looking at media today, it has become very thorny for a layman to raise his/her opinion and get heard in the world around us. As ‘mediasaucy’ outlines how blogs have change the face of communication between the layman and the world. Yes in today’s world we have got the freedom to write anything, comment on anything and also at times argue on anything we want thorugh blogs giving us the liberty to throw across a message in the public sphere. But as she says this might not work best for everyone restricting them to raise their views. No I don’t think looking at the new face of media the public sphere can escape the wounding effects of propaganda. For e.g. If you walk down Time Square you can just see how huge billboards throw messages at you all the time influencing you to buy things or go watch a movie you would have never been interested in. The argument remains uncovered whether or not the shortcomings of the public sphere can be met or not depending on the masses and the society they reside in.


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