Category Archives: BCM 110

R.I.P Blogger Tom (4th March – 14th April, 2014)

Thank you all for gathering here today, I’m sure Blogger Tom would have really appreciated you being here. I have wondered for the last 5mins or so how I might approach this daunting task, you see, I’ve never done anything like this before, a eulogy I mean. But then it hit me, why not just say it how he would have liked it: exactly how it is, and then dramatised tenfold. So here we go.

Blogger Tom may have only been with us for 6 weeks, but wasn’t it an action-packed 6 week! When he was born into this cyber world his first words may have been a bit forced and artificial, “My name is Thomas Fogarty. I am 18 years old”, but he would quickly learn to embrace this place and make the most of the short time that he would have here. And so soon he was dancing around the web, jumping from site to site and source to source in search of all kinds of weird and wonderful treasures. The dehumanisation of asylum seekers in Australia, the media effects model, the rise of neo-Nazism in the USA, semiotics and the different denotations and connotations in images and texts, the power of those who own and control media, moral panic in the media, the horrific popularity of online snuff films, the sexualisation of children, the influence of the media on children and the supposed cuteness of little, fluffy rabbit dicks were just some of the jewels that he discovered and learned about on this exploration into the deep and dark world of BCM 110.

However, it wasn’t all Nazi-decorated sunsets and treasure troves of overly political questions and debates on this expedition. No, Blogger Tom did face his fair share of adversity on his voyage into the belly of the media beast. There was the feared Writer’s Block that haunted his path along the way, the brooding Political Tom, a sort of Mr Hyde to the Dr Jekyll, who persevered in his attempt to steer the journey in his own hideous and tangental direction, and there was the puzzling Mediated Public Sphere, an opponent more ambiguous and perplexing than any other faced on this journey. But none of these even compared to Blogger Tom’s greatest enemy, the tyrannical Word Limit. With an absurdly small size of only 500 words, this monster would loom before Blogger Tom on each of his adventures, bleeding him of his freedom to romp in the content of BCM 110 like a glaucoma slowly diminishing the beautiful world before him and leaving him stranded in darkness.

But Blogger Tom always managed to overcome each of these enemies throughout his great quest for wealths of knowledge, and in doing so learned much more than he ever could have guessed about the media, its influence on him and all of its effects and impacts on society. And that leads me to how I am going to end this eulogy. Despite the fatal nature of this digital odyssey that Blogger Tom embarked on and despite the rocky and sceptical first steps of this journey, if he were here with us today I am certain that he would say for himself how much he enjoyed and learned from this experience and that if possible he would do it all over again. Thank you.


Youth and the Media: Is it really just child’s play?

The portrayal of children in the media and its impact upon young people has been a hot debate in the mediated public sphere for as long as it has been occurring. Whether its a book, film, tv show or video game, any text in the media that portrays young people or is watched and enjoyed by youth can have a profound impact on their ‘looking-glass self’ (Cooley, 1902: pp 152), their behaviour and their understanding of what is ethically right and wrong.

To begin, there is the oh so infamous case of Ms Miley Cyrus. Teenage Disney star turned whatever you’d prefer to call her now, Miley may have lost a lot in the way of respect and dignity but there is no denying her all-time high level of influence on her youthful audience because of the music video for her most recent single, Wrecking Ball (2013). As comical as it may seem, the effects of this music video on young people is far spread and indisputable. One simply has to look at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University in Michigan, USA for proof, where the 40 year old sculpture of a wrecking ball created by artist Dale Eldred (1973) was removed in 2013 for safety purposes following over 200 incidents of university students parodying the music video by stripping naked and mounting the statue whilst being filmed by peers (McKay, 2013).

The second case study I’m going to look at is that of the Chucky horror series, and in particular Child’s Play 3: Look Who’s Stalking, which has been plagued by accusations of inciting violence in children and as the direct “inspiration” for two murders, that of Suzanne Capper in December 1992 and James Bulger in February 1993. In the Suzanne Capper case, the 16-year-old was held prisoner for a week, brutally tortured and then set on fire and left to die by teenager Bernadette McNeilly. Throughout this time McNeilly “assumed the character of Chucky” by mimicking certain violent scenes from the film and continuously repeating the phrase “I’m Chucky, wanna play?” whilst torturing Capper. After McNeilly admitted in court to having repetitively watched several films from the Chucky series as a young child, one lawyer from the prosecution stated in an interview, “if you asked me whether this material in these minds had some effect on what happened, I would have to say yes” (Foster, 1993).

Despite the fact that it is impossible to ethically prove the link between the media and its effects on young people, the evidence is all there. No, watching a film or music video is not going to make every kid re-enact the scenes in those texts. But it would be heedless to say that the chances of a young person committing these acts before watching these texts were not lower than they were after watching them. I’m not suggesting that children should be completely protected from these subjects, because most kids know about these subjects from quite young ages and turn out just fine (myself included). But I do believe that the media should take this issue seriously because children’s over-exposure to certain subjects can have very real consequences and not every young person who views this content is going to turn out ‘just fine’. Take this video as another example, do you think what these children are doing is ok?

(On a quick side note, these effects can also be hilarious!)

Reference List:
1. Cooley, C.H. (1902), Human Nature and the Social Order, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, pp 152
2. Cyrus, M (2013), ‘Wrecking Ball’, in Bangerz, RCA, New York City
3. Eldred, D (1973), Untitled, Spencer Gallery of Art, Michigan
4. McKay, H (2013), GVSU forced to remove campus wrecking ball sculpture due to Miley Cyrus parodies, Fox News, New York City
5. Foster, J (1993), Horror fiction became reality, The Independent, London
6. Torres, A (2012), I’m Sexy & I Know It: Kid Parody, Youtube.com
7. Kardnyal, S (2013), Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball (Chatroulette Version), Youtube.com


A Pinch Of Snuff

The ‘mediated public sphere’ is defined by Jurgen Habermas as “a domain of our social life where such a thing as public opinion can be formed [where] citizens…deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion… [to] express and publicise their views” (1997: 105). An example of a ‘popular’ media medium that has provoked many controversial issues and debates in this public sphere is that of ‘snuff films’, and in particular 3 Guys 1 Hammer. A snuff film is defined as “a motion picture genre that depicts the actual murder of a person or people, without the aid of special effects, for the express purpose of distribution and entertainment or financial exploitation” (Mikkelson, 2006).

Since the launch of the first ever official snuff website, Rotten.com, in 1996, this urban legend of a medium has become increasingly real, prominent and accessible online. This rapid rise in snuff films online has resulted in widespread debate in the public sphere, mostly concerning whether these websites are legal or illegal, and their members innocent or guilty of ‘accessory after the fact’ for watching, distributing and failing to report to the authorities acts of murder and other violent crimes (Mikkelson, 2006).

Despite the obvious reasons that have led to the condemnation of this medium, there have also proven to be beneficial uses for the websites that stream snuff films. Such as in the case of two Ukrainian teenagers responsible for 21 murders throughout 2007, known as the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs. In this case, life-sentences for pre-meditated murder were delivered to both 19 year olds as a result of their snuff film depicting the murder of Sergei Yatzenko, called 3 Guys 1 Hammer, which was uploaded to numerous gore websites, went viral, was subsequently reported by one of the websites’ members and then used as key evidence in the prosecution (Olson, 2012).

One member of GoreGrish.com, known as Kingfate, stated in an interview concerning this snuff film and the debate over whether these websites should be criminalised or not, “we live in the developed world, and we don’t have exposure to how people actually treat each other… [gore sites] keep us rooted in reality”. Another member, known as Niki, also stated, “posting these videos doesn’t mean that we condone them, we’re just giving people a means to see what’s going on. When you hear a bomb has gone off in Moscow, we try to find those images and put them up for people who want to see. And why should we not see it?” (Anderson, 2012).

And so the debate in the public sphere rages on, are these websites illegal and their members criminally responsible for sponsoring the horrific crimes displayed in these websites’ content, or are we to accept the ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ argument concerning user-generated online content enforced by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and upheld by the members of these websites (Anderson, 2012)? Either way, I certainly don’t expect to see any less of these videos in my Facebook newsfeed in the years to come, and regardless of any given explanation or justification I find that more than just a little disturbing.

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Reference List:
1. Habermas, J 1997, A Berlin Republic, University of Nebraska, Nebraska, pp 105
2. McKee, A 2005, ‘Introduction’, in ‘Public Sphere: An Introduction‘, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1-31
3. Mikkelson, B, Mikkelson, DP 2006, A Pinch of Snuff, Snopes, California
4. Anderson, L 2012, Snuff: Murder and torture on the internet, and the people who watch it, The Verge, Manhattan
5. Olson, CV 2012, Serial Killer Spotlight: The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs, Crime Library


Consider yourself a puppet.

What do you believe to be real? Well depending on who you are, where you live and what your role in society is this question can be answered in many more ways than I think could ever be a good thing. According to Professor Keith Wilson’s study into the power of the media, approximately 75% of Americans believe almost everything that they read, whether that be in the newspaper, an online journal or simply scribbled on the wall of a public toilet (Wilson, 2006). This statistic is quite disconcerting when you think about what history has taught us in regard to the possible outcomes of mass media control, propaganda and censorship.

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A few examples that come to mind include a British newspaper headline referring to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in World War I, where 60,000 British soldiers were killed in 24 hours, which read “A very satisfactory first day – slight Allies losses” (Pitt, 2012), Rupert Murdoch’s the Sunday Telegraph’s blatant campaign ad entitled “Australia Needs Tony” that was published on their front page in the lead up to the 2013 Federal election (McMahon, 2013) and the Chinese government’s complete censorship of all media reports about the Tiananmen Square shootings in 1989 and any words or code terms used online that could relate to what Chinese Communist party officials only refer to as the “June 4th Incident” (Kaiman, 2013).

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The original photo of the “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square alongside various other appropriations and versions that have also been completely censored in China by the Communist government (Ref 4)

Many of us carry on with our lives believing that our thoughts are our own and that we are the masters of our own views and opinions. However, if you were to ask a Japanese high school student about their country’s involvement in World War 2, the war crimes that their government ordered, the 200,000 “comfort women” from territories occupied by Japan that were forced into being sex slaves for troops of the Japanese army and the two atomic bombs that reduced Nagasaki and Hiroshima to charred graveyards in August 1995 many of them would stare back in disbelief (Mariko, 2013). This demonstrates just how much control over the media can impact upon our views of the world that we live in, and how our seemingly ‘individual’ thoughts and opinions can be moulded like soft clay by the people, governments and organisations with monopolies over media ownership. So next time you read something in the newspaper, or from an online journal, or in the 7:30 news or simply on the wall next to the urinal try to stop and think about whether any kind of bias or censorship may be coming through in that text because of the owners of that media outlet and whether you will allow yourself to become just another puppet in the hands of those who control the media that you use.

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Reference List:
1. Wilson, K (2006), 75% of Americans Believe Everything They Read, Random Perspective, UK
2. Pitt, J (2012), ‘The Great War’, pp 13, Allen & Unwin, Sydney
3. McMahon, J (2013), Political front page causes a stir, Australian Broadcasting Company, Sydney
4. Kaiman, J (2013), Tiananmen Square online searches censored by Chinese authorities, The Guardian, London
5. Mariko, O (2013), What Japanese history lessons leave out, British Broadcasting Company, London
6. Sack, J (2011), Media Puppet Show, Corporate Watch Project, Northwich
7. Mort (2013), The Best Evidence You Have Ever Seen That Puppet Masters Script Mainstream News Reports, Before Its News, California


USA’s Next Election: The Good, The Bad and The Nazi?

In the United States, “freedom of speech” is a civil right protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. However, if this speech begins to “exert a corrupting and debasing impact leading to antisocial behavior” (Volokh, 2014) than it can be deemed unprotected by this law. So, where does the advocacy of neo-Nazism fit in with this? Is it the legal right of US citizens to express their political beliefs, even if it is in Nazism, or can this be deemed as “corrupting” and “debasing” towards society?

Within this controversial and complex text are three internationally recognised and conflicting symbols: the Nazi swastika, the American flag and the Confederate Flag of the South. The reason that these three symbols are being displayed by this group of protestors is that these are members of the American Nazi Party, a political group formed in 1959 that advocates for the insertion of their ideals into American politics and law in order to “secure the existence of our people and a future for White children” (2012). This demonstration occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2010 as a support rally for the ‘Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act’, a tough new anti-illegal immigration policy introduced in Arizona (Lakin, 2010). By investigating the meanings of these three symbols we can understand them in the context of this text and why they all contribute to this text’s controversy:

a) The Confederate Flag of the South – this symbol alludes to the race-based beliefs of the South’s forces in the American Civil War that held white Americans as superior to African-Americans. The large stone monument of the Treaty of Holston in the background of this photograph further reiterates this as this treaty established the legal dominance of white Americans over the indigenous Cherokee people in 1792, and the dawn of ‘white supremacy’ in America (Mastromarino, 2000).

b) The swastika symbol and Nazi salute, or “sieg heil” salute – these symbols are allusions to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, who are notoriously remembered for their pursuit of the “Aryan master race” (Fleming, 1984) and “systematic elimination” of 6 million Jewish people between 1933 and 1945 (USHM, 2013), known as the Holocaust.

c) The American flag – this image illustrates how this political party is advocating for the inauguration of the ideologies of the South during the American Civil War and the Nazi Party during WWII into contemporary US politics and law.

These symbols, despite being representative of enemies from two different wars, are shown to be harmonious in nature by these protestors. This is a highly controversial statement due to the fact that approximately 400,000 American soldiers were killed in World War II  and another 750,000 killed in the American Civil War (Chambers, 1999), and as a result could be interpreted by many as incredibly disrespectful. But after all, that is just part of their freedom of speech, isn’t it? Does it matter if some ancient war vet gets upset or some German immigrants feel ashamed when they see these people on the 7:30 news? But then again, is it right to criminalise a person’s basic right to political expression? And if so, what does that mean for the future? These are all questions that this seemingly simple text makes one consider.

Reference List:
1. Volokh, E (2014), Freedom of Speech in the USA, Britannica.com
2. American Nazi Party (2012), Advancing National-Socialism into the 21st Century, ANP.com
3. Lakin, M (2010), Three arrests, no violence at National Socialist Rally, Knoxville News Sentinal, Knoxville
4. Mastromarino, M.A (2000), The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, pp. 178–180
5. Gerald Fleming (1984), Hitler and the Final Solution, University of California Press, Berkley
6. United States Holocaust Museum (2013)
7. Chambers J.W (1999), The Oxford Companion to American Military History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 849
8. http://www.ozpolitic.com, 2014

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Can we blame the media for Australia’s attitude towards asylum seekers?

‘Asylum seekers’ – the two words that seem to have become their own cliche in modern Australian news and media. An issue that, according to a study by refugee advocate Professor Andrew Markus, is viewed by the general population as the second most significant issue in Australia behind economics (2007). An issue that has divided society to the point where 45% of Australians admit that they would be uncomfortable interacting with a refugee, 51% of Australians believe in negative stereotypes of asylum seekers relative to those they perceived as ‘native white Australians’ and 36% think that asylum seekers pose a threat to Australia’s resources and society (Nickerson, 2004).

So who is to blame for this? The government? With campaign slogans such as Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party’s “Stop the boats” and Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party’s promotion of the method of offshore processing that could seem very justified. What about the media? Well without the media campaigns such as Tony Abbott’s and Kevin Rudd’s never would have reached the living rooms of Australian homes as effectively as they did, and without the media I would not be turning on the tv of a night to be regularly greeted by the sight of scared, dirty and impoverished “boat people” seen to be attempting to ‘jump the queue’ and ‘cheat the system’ by getting on boats and illegally arriving in Australia, a representation that I believe has in fact facilitated the view held by 71% of Australians that we are not guilty of mistreating people who apparently are already trying to cheat us (Nickerson, 2004).

However, is the media entirely to blame for this, or is there also a cultural aspect to this issue? If we look back at Australia’s history and the dehumanisation of Aboriginal people that has occurred since the arrival of the First Fleet, the persecution of Chinese gold miners during the 1850s, the abuse of South Sea Islander ‘kanakas’ who worked in the banana plantations of Northern Queensland throughout the late 19th century, the White Australia Policy that was active throughout the early-mid 20th century, former Australian Prime Minister John Curtin’s statement during the Second World War, “this country shall remain forever the home of the descendants of those people who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race” (Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2012) and the current explosion of the ‘We can make it tougher’ competition between the Liberal and Labor parties in relation to federal policy concerning the treatment of asylum seekers, we can come to the conclusion that the despite the wrongdoing of much of the Australian media in its overtly conservative and racist portrayal of asylum seekers, the real issue of racial discrimination and intolerance, xenophobia and ethnocentrism is embedded in Australia’s very culture.

However, despite the fact that the issue itself may not be entirely a result of the media, I do believe that the media and government’s blatant dehumanisation and demonisation of asylum seekers and their facilitation of a national attitude that Human Rights Watch has dubbed “extremely harsh and egregious” (Millar, 2014) towards these people does justify the blame that they do receive from many Australian and international citizens and organisations.

Reference List:
1. Markus, A (2007), Asylum seekers and social cohesion, SBS World News, Melbourne
2. Nickerson, A (2004), Australians’ Attitudes to Asylum Seekers, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane
3. Department of Immigration and Border Protection (2012), Fact Sheet 8: Abolition of ‘White Australia’ Policy, Canberra
4. Millar, L (2014), Human Rights Watch annual report says Australia’s record damaged by treatment of asylum seekers, Australian Broadcasting Company, Ultimo
5. Jones, G, McPhedran, I (2012), Malaysia set to trade asylum seekers in detention centre deal with Australia, Herald Sun, Southbank

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About Me

My name is Thomas Fogarty.
I am 18 years old.
I have lived on my family’s dairy farm in Jamberoo for my entire life, which has led to me collecting some rather weird and unique stories, some a bit more believable than others.

My biggest passion is music. I first stumbled upon my godfather’s untuned acoustic guitar when I was 8 years old and quickly became obsessed, and now 10 years later barely a day goes by that I don’t find myself playing one my own guitars without any memory of even picking it up. My biggest love is metal and hard rock bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Alter Bridge, Slash, Bullet For My Valentine, A Day To Remember and Stone Sour amongst many others, but I also listen to heaps of acoustic and softer music like Bob Marley, Coldplay, The Beatles and Passenger (and the occasional dose of 80s pop forced upon me by my very loveable but somewhat cruel girlfriend). I’ve also been in a hardcore Illawarra band with a bunch of friends called Pariah since November 2012.
I’ve played a variety of different sports throughout my life and love pretty much anything, but most of all I’m one of the weirdos who can happily sit down and watch all five days of a cricket test match.
And finally, I have a horrible habit of typing in a really sophisticated (and maybe a little bit pretentious) register despite the fact that when I talk I sound like a bit of an idiot. I guess that’s probably why I’m doing an English-based course in the form of a double in Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Communication & Media Studies degree at UOW.
So yeah, that’s me.

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