Masks Protecting Identities, but Hindering Resistance

This piece was written for my Visual Communications class taken in Third Year.

Masks Protecting Identities, but Hindering Resistance

Victoria Chiasson
20 November, 2013

People are driven to anonymity because they are scared of their government’s power over their futures. As a result, these protestors use masks to conceal their identities, in hopes to change the system without revealing who they are. Two noteworthy examples in today’s society are the Guy Fawkes mask associated with Anonymous, and the balaclava that is worn by Pussy Riot in Russia. Nevertheless, this paper proposes that these masks actually hinder the resistance movement both groups hope to achieve. In order to illustrate this thought, the masks will be discussed in two perspectives. First, this paper will use Karl Marx’s concept of the “Commodity Fetish” and how these masks – because of popularity – have become a trend within society. Next, the masks will be examined through Slavoj Žižek’s notion of how disguises are dangerous because they are embedded with an idea. However, since both groups have a variety of ideas, it is difficult to distinguish what central cause they are fighting for. Therefore, the de-individualization that stems from the use of masks is actually ineffective for protestors, because their activism is lost through the emergence of fads, overwhelming scope of ideas, and lack of humanization.

The Guy Fawkes mask and the balaclava were never initially created to become masks for protestors. They were appropriated by select individuals, and through their success in culture industries, have become a symbol of opposition and resistance. The origins of the Guy Fawkes mask derive from Alan Moore and David Lloyd in their graphic novel “V for Vendetta.” Continue reading

Bill C-51: A Construction of Fear by Conservatives

Bill C-51: A Construction of Fear by Conservatives
Written for “Risk Communication” course in 2015
(Conservative Party were in power at time)

Individuals navigate their lives through a world saturated by constant streams of news, often provided with narrow perspectives. Recently, Canadians have been surrounded with information of possible terrorist threats put forth by their government through official statements, political ads, and petitions sent to them online and through mail. As a result of the lack of information provided with these larger concepts, Canadians become fearful of the possible risk of an attack on their own nation. It is clear that the Conservative Party is constructing this state of fear within the nation in order to condition Canadians to align themselves with agreeing with the passing of Bill C-51. As such, this paper will discuss three strategies the Conservatives are employing to gain the trust of Canadians. The first aspect deals with the persuasive language used in speeches and advertisements, as well as the interchangeable use of the words “ISIS” and “Islam,” making the link that there is a risk regarding this religion. Next, it is difficult for civilians to find unbiased information regarding Bill C-51, and often any information provided by the government is incomplete leaving much to individual interpretation. Finally, Conservatives tie the use of language and lack of information with powerful imagery in their advertisements which is problematic for it creates certain connotations sparking specific intended outlooks. In order for this paper to provide a fair account of the legislation of Bill C-51, the viewpoints of the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP will be consulted to ensure the three main parties are represented. Nevertheless, it is ultimately clear that the Conservatives are utilizing persuasive language, incomplete information, and imagery to sway Canadians with the implementation of Bill C-51.

Foremost, it is important to acknowledge that this paper does not condone the actions of terrorist groups, but rather it is how the current Government of Canada is handling the situation. Mark Konty, Blythe Duell and Jeff Joireman explain how governments use times of war to pass legislation that serve more interests than public safety alone. In most cases, “the threat is overstated” so that civilians feel that there is an immediate and impending risk on their nation (Konty 95). Using this fear, governments are able to gain the trust of the civilians in passing certain legislation. This has been observed both before and after 9/11, as outlined by Noam Chomsky who writes that the creation of fear will pass the legislation but in turn only supports a business-dominated consensus, not public safety (Chomsky 7). It is clear that with Bill C-51, Conservatives are hoping to achieve more than the “public safety” it states it is addressing. Bill C-51 will introduce preventive detention which could indicate aggressive interrogation, “a new information-sharing regime” which changes how information is internally shared between governmental bodies, speech rights will also be affected – such as the use of “terrorism” in one’s personal conversation could place them under inspection – as well as the ability to censor the internet (Forcese 2015). In sum, Bill C-51 offers more power to law enforcement which could alter the landscape of protests in Canada.

The construction of fear is most notable through persuasive language employed by the Conservatives. Persuasive language scares individuals because it does not provide a complete picture when words such as “ISIS,” “Islam” and “niqab” are casually said in speeches. It is clear that the words are overused and are generally said interchangeably which is the main problem. This is first seen on the Conservatives website in a post written by Steven Blaney. The blogpost titled “Protecting Canadians from Terrorist Threats” is superimposed on an image of what appears to be terrorists holding AK47s into the air. Blaney’s article features many carefully chosen words creating the illusion that Canadians are under immediate suspected attack. For example, Blaney opens up his post with the phrase “the world is a dangerous place, and Canada is not immune to the global threat of terrorism” (Blaney 2015). This sets a certain tone for the remainder of the article, convincing the reader that Canada is under immediate danger and that everyone should be aware of this “potential risk.” It is what George Gerbner explains as the “mean world syndrome” (Dyson 2011). If talk of potential terrorist attacks are repeated endlessly, civilians will be convinced it is a great concern. Blaney continues to write: “Jihadist extremists are targeting Canada because of what we stand for. We are known around the world as a beacon of peace, democracy, and individual freedom. That stands in stark contrast to the totalitarian regime they seek to impose across the globe. We will never sacrifice those rights and freedoms that define us in our quest to improve public safety” (Blaney 2015). It is not accidental Blaney uses “targeting,” “beacon,” “stark contrast,” or “impose” in his write up. These words carry the connotation that terrorist groups are a risk to Canada because they do not agree with how Canada is run; it is something they wish to destroy. Blaney offers the solution of agreeing with the implementation of Bill C-51 and how this will only strengthen Canada’s chances against a terrorist attack. Continue reading

Boy Bands: Good for Masculinity, Bad for Femininity

The culture industry is one of the central areas in which genders are constructed, because of the influence popular culture has on all aspects of society (television, music, fashion and books). Within the music industry, boy bands have become a popular concept, since they can be extremely successful with girls and young women to earn quick money. Boy bands are typically appreciated for their vocal abilities and dancing capabilities which awe audience members. Nevertheless, this paper presents that the concept of “the boy band” is a site of gender reaffirmation for femininity, while it is a place to develop new forms of masculinity. This will be demonstrated through the analysis of three boy bands, over three decades: The Backstreet Boys (1990s), O-Town (2000s) and One Direction (2010s). To illustrate the replication of femininity and new wave of masculinity, three factors will be considered. First, this paper will survey lyrics from each of the three bands and how females are overtly sexualized in each of their songs. Next, fans (who are mostly girls and young women) are often characterized as hormonal in the media, which is used to devalue female sexuality. Lastly, all three of these bands perform in sexual manners reaffirming their heterosexuality to audience members and will often perform to females instead of with. Therefore, as a consequence of these boy bands’ lyrics, fan base representation and spectacle of concerts, patriarchal scripts of femininity are reiterated while hegemonic masculinity is able to be explored. Continue reading

Product Placement: An Opportunity for Canadianism

While capitalism continues to exist, audiences will find themselves subject to an increase in product placement, as it is an effective practice for television and movie industries to fund their projects. This paper will analyze product placement specifically in the Canadian television industry because there is little funding available for Canadian producers, hence why product placement is a better alternative in order to generate Canadian content for its citizens. Since product placement will not disappear in the near future, it is important in how it is interwoven into television and movies, so that users are not irritated by the images. To illustrate branding in television, two shows will be considered and the ways in which they address product placement by their use of overt “product integration.” Product integration takes product placement a step further by actually merging the brand into the story, where the product becomes separate from the background (Wenner 113). The first show that will be analyzed is Being Erica, which was unsuccessful at integrating the Ford Focus into one of their episodes which led to its decrease in weekly viewership. Contrasting that, Corner Gas has been successful at integrating products into each of their episodes since an environment was created that made it possible. Therefore, Being Erica and Corner Gas will demonstrate the need for product placement in Canadian television to ensure that there is subsidizing available to keep these shows on the air, as well as identify when product placement is effective and when it is not. Continue reading