Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion theory is one of my guiding theories in my thesis. While discussing the impacts of ‘the real world’ vs. ‘the pictures in our heads’ on nation branding, I felt the urge to differentiate rhetoric explicitly from deception. Shortly speaking, Lippmann claims that we are too lazy, the world is too big, and the couch is too comfortable, so we will not have the opportunity to contact a huge part of the real world. We will hear about events happening in the other parts of the world. We will read newspapers, watch TV, follow tweets (no, Lippmann was not talking about tweeting), and then interpret the information we get in a personal way to create a picture of the world in our heads.
It is called a fictional reality, reported reality, mediated reality, and several other names. In short, we don’t witness events, we witness how they are reported by some others. When we add up our own perceptive criteria on top of this manufactured reality, we end up with ‘our world’ (a.k.a. the picture in our heads). Putnam argues for the decreasing levels of social interaction. In daily parlance, it means the couch is more comfortable than ever. So, less real world, more perceived world through reported information.
Nation branding, in this sense, is providing a narrative to this reported world. Many people don’t know the reality about your nation (see the video below). Nation branding can try to:
- make a nation relevant to people (first step into the picture)
- help people know more about a nation (maintaining your spot)
- tell something else about a nation (repositioning)
- diversity the arguments (creating more spots in the picture)
- keep some issues off-the radar (shifting the discussions)
Persuasiveness, or rhetoric, is important in creating and restoring images in people’s minds. All these communication processes in nation branding take place not in the real world but in the perceived reality. Given the complexity of the real world, and the decreasing levels of social interaction , ideas are formed with the help of the mediated reality. Now after talking about the same issue in my thesis, I felt the urge to say “This research does not, in any way, argue for defamation, deception, or manipulation of the reality. Because of the fact that people’s views about a nation are created in this mediated reality, the author argues that nations should be actively involved in providing their narratives.” Even in keeping issues off-the-radar, the main aim is to avoid being associated with an issue which does not reflect the reality of a nation (i.e. Greece might want to keep discussions over current financial situation off-the-radar by promoting another issue. In long term, Greece and financial crisis should not be associated. Similarly, US tries to divert the attention away from domestic political discussions). The main aim is not to lie, to manipulate reality but to provide your narrative for your own image.
Rhetoric is all about persuasion. Yet, first rule of communication, if you cannot support what you say, don’t say. Communication takes place in several platforms, so nation branding messages should be present in all these with the aims of increasing the relevance of a nation and putting pictures in the perception, not of deceiving people. Branding campaigns do not (should not) censor other news sources, but should compete with them in terms of credibility, legitimacy, and efficiency.
Now I pretty much understand why Dr. Nancy Snow insists on saying ‘persuasion with principle’ and ‘truth is the best propaganda’.
Here are the books I talked about:
Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion (1st ed.). New York: Free Press Paperbacks.
Putnam, R. (2001). Bowling alone : the collapse and revival of American community (1st ed.). New York: Touchstone.
Here is the video: (WordPress, why are you so difficult to use? Please click on the link below if you want to watch the video)
Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports
And my cross-posting announcement: