Angela Nelson during the symposium on the American Values at Angelo State University failed to differentiate between popular culture and other forms of culture and stated that popular culture reflects the belief, myths and the values of people and simultaneously manipulates the same beliefs. Giving the example of movies like Air Force One and Rambo reflected the myths of America being a special nation and further manipulated the beliefs of the audience like the stereotypes regarding the various racial groups for example. With respect to this, we can ask ourselves whether our beliefs and values in society is a result of pop culture and media or else pop culture is a result of our beliefs and values. Therefore, we can only say that popular culture reflects our values and beliefs, but it also manipulates those values to turn into new beliefs. We, therefore, find ourselves trapped in a loop where the pop culture feeds us in a stream of beliefs and values for pondering while feeding off all the beliefs that the people are currently holding. This manipulation will finally lead us to think about the current beliefs if any in error and using illogical and irrational justification for applying slight modifications of various beliefs that we have at times.
Whereas according to John Stewart Mill, the popular culture is creating a moralistic dilemma within the people, and this dilemma focusses on Utilitarianism. In the present world, the term popular culture basically revolves around entertainment. The entertainment industry is built on the basic concept of utility and the greatest happiness for most of the people is an external and visible objective of entertainment along with the internal driving force being considered as the selling of that happiness.
We are living in a scenario where our values are sold and bought as commodities. We as the human should seek happiness in the society making it easier for us for accepting the discourse of the popular culture, in spite of the fact that the ultimate objective of the popular culture basically making up of profits with respect to our happiness.
Whereas in the article written by Birchmore, the biased samples and post hoc are used for proving the point. Our world has many cultures some of being musical, religious and traditional. Therefore, for defining this culture, the first step is to make a distinction using the process called differentiation. The problem with the views presented by Angela Nelson is that she is not able to differentiate the popular culture from other ones and states various types of popular culture. As per Nelson, media is the main element of popular culture existing locally, nationally, globally and even personally. There are not able to differentiate popular culture as they themselves are other forms of culture.
Nelson states six principles of the popular culture which must be used for distinguishing between different types of cultures. However, the six principles can be applied to all types of cultures. The very first of the six principles is the ‘reflection and manipulation' which states that popular culture can reflect all the values and beliefs of the people. This should be true to all types of culture as people are the ones who make culture and us therefore without paying much attention. The second principle states that popular culture usually attracts the part wishing to seek pleasure. This principle is also true for other kinds of culture as we require pleasure in everything we do and if we do not like pleasure we do not let it prevail in the community. The third principle is the pervasiveness of popular culture which is found to be everywhere in almost every other culture. The next principle states that through repetition and formula, the popular culture is able to evolve into the standards and tells the people regarding what is accepted and approved in society. This principle gives insights on how cultures are formed. The culture reinforces all the beliefs and values and reminds all the customary terms. The fifth principles state that all popular cultures often try to find the ultimate meaning by expressing beliefs and values. This will help to find the meaning of life and for this Nelson admits that she has taken ideas from the thoughts of Paul Tillich in general. The final principle lingers over the idea of whether the ideas regarding popular culture are good or evil. With respect to all the good and evil aspects, the cultures have imbibed all these aspects. The definitions given by Nelson are not clear however the six principles were true about the culture. Perhaps she should have written an essay on the general topic of the culture rather than claiming to be related to popular culture.
Whereas, the argument made by Terry Birchmore that media is one of the factors dumbing down the culture. She has defined popular culture, which has one of the main element as mass media and defines in a structural manner than Nelson’s. Birchmore explains that by focusing more on the mass media, our culture is becoming dumber and is, in turn, becoming less and less discriminatory. The major flaw of the argument made by Birchmore is that he has used post hoc reasoning along with biased samples. In the case when something happens after another, then it can be said that the second thing took place due to the first one. The post hoc conclusions by Birchmore include that people are less analytical in today's world, and therefore we have changed ourselves to be that way since the point of an outburst by media, and therefore media is the element causing it. By using specific examples like BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the author has claimed that BBC has become “increasingly diluted” owing to a decrease in theatrical performances, educational programs, and well-spoken English. The primary cause leading to these things is the quest for commercialism by the BBC. This is one of the possible post hoc reasoning, as there are many factors that have involved the alterations and changes in BBC.
Another deceptive tactic used by Birchmore is biased samples. He has failed to approach the cases which are not responsible for “dumbing down” our culture. One of the areas covered by Birchmore is the increasingly diminishing values of culture is films. It cannot be argued that all the films being produced have a good moral but according to Birchmore, not a single movie is coming up with a decent storyline. He throws in a post hoc and mentions that there is a lack of the plot of in movies and mainly because of the increase in special effects.
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Nelson, “Symposium on American Values, Popular Culture: What Everyone Needs to Know,” Angelo State University, http://www.angelo.edu/events/university_symposium/1998/Nelson.htm.
John Stewart Mill, Utilitarianism, (Indianapolis: Hacket, 2001), 7.
Birchmore, T. (2015). Dumbing Down: The Banalisation of Culture. [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279292564_Dumbing_Down_The_Banalisation_of_Culture [Accessed 26 May 2016].
Domosh, M., Neumann, R., Price, P. and Jordan-Bychkov, T. (n.d.). The human mosaic.