Sunday, March 18, 2007

Media content as a switch of thought: nationalism and the media

This little entry is reflected upon the recent news of Taiwanese students forming up Nazi group. See details at link.

The fact that this group of Taiwanese students are forming a Nazi inspired association without much understanding of European history does not surprise me. In fact, if not for the strict control on forms of associations, I can pretty much anticipate the establishment of a (or several) similar student association(s) somewhere in mainland China. Had we observed a few rituals in those two states, much of the upsurging nationalist sentiments can be illuminated. A most matching comparative pair can be the September 18th aniverseries in mainland China and February 28th aniverseries in Taiwan. Both driven by great nationalist enthusiasims, each time generating great volume of people demonstrating with the assertion that the national disgrace should be remembered. It should be note that the initiatives to empahsise both days are anti-Nazi, anti-fascism. However, they are either highly radical with people asking the government to sever international relation conductions with the Japanese; or highly commercialised like in the Taiwanese February 28th rememberence day. The aftermath of both events are remarkable. Herein I do not mean that these days should not be remembered or even celebrated. What I am really questioning here is why national sovereignty is given the most importance in these events more enthusiatically than these other important elements like anti-fascism, anti-War? In some most sentimental moments on these days, we can even seen these other values overriden by violent nationalist slogans. And why are other days not given similar importance? It is of course, a great political agenda in gaining place on the political stage by those political players. Given the two states' (semi-)colonial histories/memories that the Western/Japanese agressions embedded, and the co-emphasis of nationalist slogans in mobilising the people during the Wars by most of the political parties at the time, it is always an easy option to just adopt the same means to earn more public credit in the present day. Not only so, though, nationalist sentiments are always in our daily encounterance of media contents that celebrates and accentuates such sense of national/collective unity. These contents are like a switch light for thoughts - the switch is normally embedded sutly in particular moments in visual, verbal forms, but once the sentiment is aroused in certain events, like the ones mentioned above, people can easily find those swithces and turn on the nationalist sentiments. Because these events themselves are highly exposed to the media, that naturally accumulated a second, thirth, fourth run of energies to the light, and in parts, mobilised the political agents to take importance of such sentiments in their next round of political campaign in the media. So here, with the metaphor that media content is a switch light, and media event as energy generator, we can see this cycle of media content appreciation:

nationalist sentiments (historical) -> rituals and celebrations as remberence (local and contemporary) -> media reports (first hand media events) -> (1) immediate responses and supervisions from political players (the significant speakers) (second round media events) -> (2) (in time) (second hand media contents)media products addressing the sentiments (catoons, posters, books etc. where nationalism is not directly quoted but existed as a banal assertion everywhere) -> appreciation by the audience (1) refer back to (1) political agents (2) less powerful agents, like the media agents (3) people who have more time and resources - more critical or more radical depending on the personal social background (4) people who have less time and (or) less resources - less critical or less radical depending on the personal social background -> energy generated, enhanced and awaited for the next round of event.

The second hand media contents are probably the most subtle but one of the most efficient nationalist energy generator. In those contents, nationalism is actually universal rather than distributed in terms of any particular 'nation'. The particular piece of work I am reflecting upon is the Japanese catoon Keroro Gunso: a big eyed, cute, silly, stubborn, green, militarism ailien. It is actually a nice parody and synthesis on Japanese catoon spheres with reference to many other renowned Japanese catoons. But maybe also due to its quirky presence, the prevalent nationalism and militarism in this character is often sidelined. Many would suggest that these elements are only served as parodies etc. they are also desected and deconstructed with the commercialist charateristics of such products and its merchandising. However, as I suggested before, this is not about a direct or immdiate effect, but rather, like the energy behind the switch of the light. Once the moment is right, the most subtle ones may contributes the most. Like the calling of Keroro for his dear commerades: powerful and determant. Nationalism is accumulated and acculturated, especially for children, in catoons, in daily news, we learn to be excited with these elements. Once the event is on, the national anthem plays, and you see a big deal of your compatriots, the commulation of nationalism is full on. I said this not excluding myself. And this is why we should take these elements with caution.