Empowerment in a Critical Discourse of Communication and Media

Vera Lynn Catan

“The problem of language has replaced the problem of consciousness”- Habermas



Society is built, shaped and influenced first by consciousness—understanding what is and what is not, or the conception of ideas and ideals of how a “society” should be. By mastering consciousness rises an internal or external force that put ideas into life—power. John B. Thompson classified powers into four (4) distinct types: economic power, political power, coercive power and symbolic power—the most powerful among the four and which binds these powers and the people who for the basis of all power systems.


The control however of these powers is dependent on the efficiency of reproduction and distribution or its reach to people. During this process (transmission of information), the communication channel or the Media plays a vital part of whether to simply pass the information or exert influence to challenge or support the information or power being convened. Choosing the latter means engaging into an interdisciplinary study called Critical Discourse.


Mass media has gone beyond “informing and educating” or being the channel of information, into shaping and influencing or reality construction.  The rapid spread of information by media allowed the rapid consolidation of power and growth of people under said power. Marshal McLuhan describes various forms of media used as such: book as an empire, the radio as fascist, and the television as agent of consumption, thereby suggesting, “media is the message.”


Pondering the question whether media constructs reality or media is a result of reality actually emphasizes the importance of critical discourse of media. As channel of information, the message actually lies between the gap “from the source to the receiver”—and how the message is received depends on the practitioner’s perception of the message.


Critical discourse in communication and media is necessary to understand that media creates culture, and society per se is the creation of media. Media may not hold any of the five-abovementioned powers, but how the people respond to the message gives the media power above the five.


For centuries, the power of communication has been employed both for dominion and resistance. In modern society, capitalists use the power dominating the market and the society in general. Most people are not even aware that they are under oppression.


For women, for example, the media through the manipulation of capitalists gives us the almost-impossible “perfect” face and body look. However women spend money on makeups and even to “undergo the knife,” yet the “perfect” face is still too far to reach. Significant population of women is anorexic to say the least while another group have resigned out of frustration into obesity.


Minority and cause-oriented groups over the decades were able to change the landscape of world governments using communication as mere weapons; gay marriages are now legal in 14 countries namely The Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2005), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Iceland (2010), Portugal (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), France (2013) and Brazil (2013), and the United States (2015).


In conclusion, communication is culture and communication creates culture. We cannot communicate nor choose to practice communication if we believe that we are merely channel of messages. An underpowered communicator is nothing but a manipulation of individual from any of the five above-mentioned powers for exploitation and personal agenda.


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