Media: a nation’s most powerful weapon in the political battlefield?

Uncharacteristically, I’ve procrastinated my blog entry for this week on a topic that happens to be one of my favorite: nationalism and national identity. It isn’t just a busy academic and professional schedule that left me surfing around the IC blog page; but rather, nationalism and cultural identity are topics that can only be addressed by digging up the existential bones that constitute these matters. In this week’s readings, the author whose argument best reflects my own viewpoints on nationalism and national identity is Karim’s article, “Through the Lens of Diaspora”.

Karim provides a lens through which one can view the nation and find answers to the pressing existential question of national identity. How does a nation come to be? According to Karim, “Every nation is imaginary, willed into existence by belief and action and [maintained through a mobilization of the masses to believe in the authenticity of a nation’s symbols through educational and mass communication systems]”(394). Wow. Am I just a philosophical nerd or is anyone else impressed by this powerful idea? Could it be true that our concept of countries’ borders and citizenship are merely a product of marketing on the world stage?
In viewing current affairs through this lens, one cannot help but think of the greatest, present day battle for national identity and petition for legitimacy world-wide: the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Both nations’ struggle for state-hood prove Karim’s argument of the “imagined community” to be extremely potent and reaffirm the role that mass media plays in marketing the respective countries’ shared values, ideas, practices and norms to the rest of the world. Palestinians and Israelis alike, both believe in their nation and their cause with equal force. The nations’ citizens and Diaspora communities are equally sold on the authenticity of their state. Using Karim’s perspective, one can understand why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at a bloody stalemate after more than a decade, without comprehending the multiple layers of complexities that muddle and make up the region’s history.

So here’s the gnawing question: If both nations WILL their nation into existence with equal intensity, what is it that will determine whose petition for state-hood is recognized as globally legitimate?

If you ask Karim and Waisboard, I think they’d suggest that how these nations’ have utilized and continue to harness their educational and mass communication mediums determine not only their global legitimacy, but national authenticity as well. Personally, I am neutral to both the Palestinian and Israeli views and only wish to find a solution that will put this matter to rest peacefully and humanly. However, one cannot help but note  that Israel has had the upper-hand on the world stage, dictating the terms of negotiation and receiving constant American  and European support for their cause since the late 40’s, early 50’s. How?

Waisboard might argue that Israel’s communication network has been stronger both historically and presently, in promoting and reinforcing nationalism among it’s citizens. According to him, nations are “culturally coordinated communities” that[ are created, maintained and transformed by the media]. (377) Under this notion, Israel is extremely powerful on a national level due to it’s ability to harness media to institute historical, linguistic, cultural and religious symbols that are then broadcast to both the national and international audience, including diaspora communities living abroad. As a result of the nation’s expansive reach, using it’s communication network to create and reinforce nationalism within it’s own borders, while effectively rallying for solidarity among it’s Diaspora populations, Israel has enjoyed an advantageous position in the battle for legitimacy.

To me, it is clear: all is fair in love and war; and quality communication networks are a nation’s most advantageous weapon in both of those realms.

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