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Triggering the Great War of Us vs. Them

This post is an individual reflection on political exploitation of national identity and the influence intercultural communication can have on that

What is pivotal for every individual is their sense of identity; be that personal, religious or national identity; and the notion of freedom, individuality, and nationalism are an integral part of American culture. But can nationalism be used for fulfilling some political agenda, and does intercultural communication help eradicate that threat?

National identity seems to be a significant part of life in a society. As Piller(2017)excellently points out people are reminded of their national identity daily, through banal nationalism. The sense of belonging to a nation is created in school, by learning the national anthem, through TV, books, and Social Media. However, great thinkers like Dewey warned about the duality of nationalism; he saw nationalism as a way of overcoming the egregious despotism, but at the same time internal unity was achieved at the expense of international hostility.

Furthermore, calling on national identity and making the distinction between the in-group (one’s nation) and the out-group lays in the heart of collective mobilization. Boorstin(1959) explains this by saying that the easiest way to unite is to agree on a common enemy. An example of this type of manipulation would be McCarthyism in the 1950s which lead to chauvinistic hysteria. McCarthy used moralistic rhetoric to implement his political agenda since the notion of common morals and nationalism go hand-in-hand. As Boorstin (1959) implies that was an attempt “to protect what was truly American,” which in return deems the out-group “un-American.” Boorstin (1959) further points out that looking closely at the differences between different groups within the in-group and applying the principle of common morals is the policy of “the shrewdest prophets of American politics,” giving the example of the anti-slavery crusade in the North and the anti-abolition crusade in the South before the Civil War, and many more. Pressfield(2021)further elucidates this by alluding that members of a nation can be persuaded that other members are not authentic or as Pressfield(2021) puts it “real Americans” in the name of some political agenda.

Howbeit, as Howlett and Cohan(2018) point out, Dewey called for school programs that would combat militarism by teaching students about the establishment of a global community. And Neuliep(2017) similarly argues that even though technological advancement has created new opportunities for hostility, intercultural communication is the only salvation, giving the example of the U.S. apology to China. Neuliep(2017) argues that intercultural communication leads to greater tolerance to foreigners, as well as different groups within America, and in that way decreases the risk of deeming others unauthentic members of the in-group. On the other hand, Piller(2017) argues that international communication advice, reinforces banal nationalism, since it reinforces the notion of national belonging and fails to incorporate personal identity, and thus fails to engage people with diversity. Nevertheless, as Ratti and Claudel(2016) point out, McLuhan’s global village has come to fruition with the discovery of the Internet, which created ample opportunities for daily intercultural communication. And as Ratti and Claudel(2016) argue, this discovery is what brought humanity together as a real village, and created a cyber city in which the citizens are empowered to think; thus creating an environment which offers different perspectives on the same issue, and fosters freedom of thought by reducing the possibility of only one rhetoric being pushed.

Nonetheless, the Internet and the possibility of quick communication with others can also serve as a tool for political radicalization, as seen in the recent insurrection in the U.S. In this age Americans, and every other nation, are constantly bombarded with political rhetoric, pleading to their sense of national identity and morals. For that reason, it is crucial to understand the agenda behind those pleas, to ensure personal freedom, as well as stop the political exploitation of nationalism. One way to accomplish that is through mutual understanding and embracing of differences, which seems to be achievable through intercultural communication.

Declaration of Academic Integrity

I hereby confirm that this article is solely my own work and that if any text passages or diagrams from books, papers, the Web or other sources have been copied or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been acknowledged and fully cited.

-A.G.

References

  1. Boorstin, D. (1959), We, the people, in quest of ourselves, NYT. Online article. . https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/06/specials/boorstin-quest.html
  2. Cohan, Audrey Ed.D and Howlett, Charles F. Ph.D. (2018), Education as an Instrument for Peace and Democracy: Dewey’s Perspective on the Rise of Nationalism. Faculty Works: Education. 60. https://digitalcommons.molloy.edu/edu_fac/60
  3. Neuliep, J. (2017). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach. Sage Publications Inc., pp. 32-37. Online chapter. https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/11824_Chapter1.pdf
  4. Piller, I. (2017). The banal nationalism of intercultural communication advice. Online article. https://www.languageonthemove.com/the-banal-nationalism-of-intercultural-communication-advice/
  5. Ratti. C. and Claudel M. (2016, November 17). Mass Media and the Global Village. Yale University Press Blog. http://blog.yalebooks.com/2016/11/17/mass-media-global-village/
  6. Stanton, Z. (2021, January 15). The Internet Is a Crime Scene. POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/14/us-capitol-disinformation-online-qanon-trump-insurrection-459505
  7. Steven Pressfield. (2021, January 7). Writing Wednesdays: Resistance and Mass Hysteria. Steven Pressfield | Website of Author and Historian, Steven Pressfield. < https://stevenpressfield.com/2021/01/resistance-and-mass-hysteria/U

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