And, yawn, it may be boring, but sure, life can't be all fun and games- something I just discovered recently! I promise some more decent material that doesn't consist of study coming soon.
Billig realised that there had to be a way to distinguish common daily nationalism from national extremism. A negative connotation has been associated with the word nationalism over time as much of the focus has been given to extreme nationalists and separatist movements within the last century. This means that nationalism in western societies has been met with certain ambiguities. Such a term has led to a disjointed misrepresented view of the power of nationalism by suggesting that it operates within an extreme set of principles. He notes (Billig 1995) the ‘hidden’ political discourse in the importance of nationhood referring to historical events such as the Gulf War in 1991 and the Falkland War in 1982 where calls were made to ‘protect and to serve’. In more recent times further examples of ‘hidden’ political discourse can be seen such as in relation to televised media discourse in relation to the War on Terror. Billig recognises the ‘veiling’ of nationalism, making it an authoritative ideology in which it can operate subconsciously in the minds of a nation, while remaining unopposed to opposition. This modern type of nationalism is the key for political movements, a way in which political goals can be achieved covertly without subjecting the masses to nationalist extremism. In earlier times ‘nationhood’ was not as important a concept as it is now, borders and boundaries were not clearly mapped out, ideas of ‘nation’ and ‘citizenry’ were dubious and other important issues such as religion and family would have been of more concern.
There are two views of nationalists, one is that they can be viewed as extremists who are driven by violence seeking irrational ends and then they can also be portrayed as patriots who battle against repressive colonists (Billig 1995). “Nationalism includes the patterns and belief practices which produce the world - ‘our’ world – as a world of nation states, in which we live as citizens of nation-states” (Billig 1995:15). “When talking of ‘our’ beliefs one might prefer other different words such as ‘patriotism’, ‘loyalty’, or ‘societal identification’. Such terms banish the word nation and with it the spectre of ‘nationalism’, at least in ‘our’ regard to attachment and identities. The problem is such terms overlook the object to which the ‘loyalty’ or ‘identification’ is being shown: the nation-state. Then present approach does not restrict the term ‘nationalism’ to the ideology of ‘others’. Nationalism is broadened as a concept to cover the ways that established nation-states are routinely reproduced. This frequently involves a ‘banal’ nationalism, in contrast with the overt, articulated and often fiercely expressed nationalism of those who battle to form new nations” (Billig 1995:16).
Every nation must have an account of its own history, its own identity –a shared remembrance. It’s in this remembering that a collective forgetting occurs, remembering is simultaneously a collective forgetting (Billig 1995). Renan points out, that a nation’s unity “is always affected by means of brutality” (Billig 1995:11). However, while nations are affected by means of brutality they soon forget the violence and extremism that brought the nation into existence. Once a nation is established, it depends for its continued existence upon a collective forgetfulness. Not only is there a collective forgetting of the past but so there is a corresponding forgetting of the present. National identity in established nations is remembered because it is embedded in everyday life continually reminding, or ‘flagging’, nationhood. However, these reminders or ‘flaggings’ are so frequent and such a common part of the social environment that they operate ‘mindlessly’ rather than mindfully (Langer, 1989). “The remembering, not being experienced as remembering, is, in effect, forgotten. The national flag hanging outside a public building illustrates this forgotten reminding. Thousands upon thousands of flags each day hang limply in public places. These reminders of nationhood hardly register in the flow of daily attention, as citizens rush past on their daily business” (Billig 1995:38). Nationalism is the ideology by which nations have come to view their everyday world. It is as if there couldn’t possibly be a world without nations” (Billig 1995). National identities of nation’s citizens may be strengthened due to these routine flaggings.
Banal nationalism is evident in everyday life and operates over a wide spectrum. Feeling a sense of pride and belonging is what human beings feel the need for, and being able to express one’s own identity in a more collective world. Citizenry allows for people to feel a collective worth that they can experience what others around them are experiencing. Sporting events are also a form of banal nationalism as it allows the individual to belong to a collective group and experience the joys of sharing in a collective experience. Representing a country’s team means that as a nation its citizens are having a shared experience and are subjected to small reminders of what it means to be a citizen. A collective understanding of heritage comes into play that citizens share in the knowledge of ones own past, a subconscious collection of knowledge that is shared with all. Other themes that are subjected to banal nationalism are national songs, language, popular euphemisms and national myths (Billig 1995). Many of these symbols are most effective because of their constant repetition, and almost subliminal nature.
It is argued that an identity contains a psychological element though it often difficult to explain what this constituents. Billig realises (1995) that identifying ‘identity’ remains ambiguous as it does not just contain one state or being. “An identity is not a thing; it is a short-hand description for ways of talking about the self and community” (Shotter and Gergen, 1989).
Whether we are aware or not we are continually reminded of our identity in our daily lives. This does not mean being reminded blatantly of our national identity, it is not enough to keep the concept of identity embedded into public thought it must be “flagged discursively” and repeatedly in “the ears of the citizens, or passing before their eyes” (Billig, 1995, 93). Billig (1995) notes that nationhood is near the surface of contemporary life and habits of language will continually be acting as reminders of nationhood. Everyday words that are often taken for granted are barely conscious at times but they serve to stamp out our national identity. The media operates constantly in our everyday lives and transcends boundaries, offering ways for banal nationalism to enter unobtrusively into homes across nations. Media is with us constantly from our waking lives we are constantly surrounded by media messages and we communicate to others what we think of the media content we consume. Media helps us to build both our own and collective identity. Media, such as television is seen to account in assisting to maintain identity and helps contribute to the “reflective project of the self” (Giddens 1992). With this in mind one can be aware that while certain media texts use nationalism in an obvious context they rely on more covert forms of nationalism.
Habits of language are continually acting as reminders of nationhood. Language is not confined to violent discourse but acts on everyday language that is taken for granted and which inhabit nations. Clichés, rhetoric types of speech offer barely conscious references to nationalism but act covertly seeping into the minds of nations (Billig, 1995). Not only are politicians responsible for helping to spread forms of banal nationalism with referring to ‘our’ country or ‘we the people’ the mass media daily bring the flags home to its citizenry, the media offers ways to communicate to the masses, enabling a streamlined approach to spread the nationalist ideal in a more covert way. From TV to newspapers we are daily flooded with rhetoric, with ideals of nationhood that we ignore or are not even aware exist. Not only does the media play a large role in forming opinions in the subconscious but the citizenry of a nation also help to spread the ideas of ‘nation’ by discourse and word of mouth daily. It is not overnight that ideas are formed that ideologies are built; it is through a slow, churning - a subconscious partaking.
Billig realises that if banal nationalism was only to be found in the words of politicians then it would be highly surprising if it was embedded in the ordinary lives of millions of people. Citizens can remain sceptical when it comes to politicians, they are aware of certain political rhetoric and distain such discourse. He looks at newspapers in particular examining the discourse and banal nationalism which is event in the media. A few examples of banal nationalism were noted in a British newspaper analysis, taken in 1993. In the Guardian, the prime minister in his campaign cited “the Kiwi spirit” claiming that “there’s a new mood, new optimism and New Zealanders are confident of their ability and their country’s future” (Billig 1995). This is an example of national clichés that politicians use to covertly spread a sense of pride and nationalism.
There are various ways that banal nationalism can be used within the media as discussed in brief previously. Billig remarks (1995) that politicians go to great lengths to touch on our nationalist pride, by addressing our past history and relating it to the present but citizens have become more aware of this sort of banal nationalism and for a large part ignore such rhetoric. Therefore for these daily ‘flaggings’ of nationalism to effectively inhabit the lives of the nation’s citizenry it must operate on different levels and dimensions. Billig notes (1995) that to get an idea of these daily flaggings one must look at ordinary days, days which are not cause for national celebration. He looks at flagging in the daily British press on
Other such stories related to heritage such as the Mirror on a Monday published a 16 page supplement titled, The Great British Pub. The title suggested that not only were pubs being displayed on the pages, but essentially they were presented as symbols of the British nation. Not only was it displayed British Pubs but ‘great’ British pubs, this word conjures images of pride, of heritage and nationhood. However, such nationalist rhetoric would have most certainly been lost in the nation’s “collective forgetfulness” (Billig 1995:114).
Billig refers (1995) to the Deictics of Homeland-Making, which is employed by the media. This is a complex deixis of ‘here’ and ‘now’. The ‘now’ relates to up-to-date news, whereas the ‘here’ is what is viewed on the page. From this the media plays a role in helping to speak for and to the nation, evoking a “national ‘we’ as well as a universal ‘we’” (Billig 1995:15). The Sun, in its editorial, complained that the European community had taken “our money”. The ‘our’ was in reference to the nation, to the collective ‘our’ that was somehow affecting everyone. This form of writing is not just reserved to tabloids; broadsheets also employ similar techniques representing a collective view of who we are. The Daily Telegraph in its Business News headlined an article: “Why our taxes need never to rise again”. The writer in this article suggested that “if our huge borrowing requirement can spawn even the slightest move in this direction, we will have cause to bless £1 billion a week spewing into the financial markets” (Billig 1995:15). Media helps us to form our sense of place as if our nation was the most important nation –the centre of the universe.
To be able to fully understand homeland-making deixis (Billig 1995) three examples were given to help one fully understand the role that media plays in daily flagging the lives of its citizens. When Billig researched the daily papers he noted the rhetoric of the newspapers that referred to the British ‘the nation’. The Mail wrote about “one of the nation’s most wanted men”, whilst in the Guardian a politician referred to “the nation’s interest and love of music”. Foreign news is specified, countries are addressed. A story headline reading: “Three American teenagers killed in shootout” published in
Nationalist pride can be reflected on its citizens through sport. In news print as well as news on television large segments and sections are given to sport. “Sport is merely not sport, as C.L.R. James stressed, it goes beyond the player and the spectator” (Billig 1995:120). The sport in the media allows for a repeat of the nation’s stereotypes “place and race as well as masculinity” (O’Donnell, 1994). Billig notes (1995) that sport is celebrating the nation’s achievements, allowing for the readers of the text to share in ‘our’ victories and to salute ‘our’ heroes. The feeling of pride that is felt and shared by all lifts the nation and celebration in relation to a win helps encourage a sense of national unity. Reference to masculinity and war is touched on in sport media, honour is at stake, the national side is battling a foreign team. Instead of partaking in real warfare western countries are now battling it out on the pitch for the gratification of the nation and the media builds on this pleasure. Bilig refers (1995) to sport as being “texts of pleasure” which is a phrase coined by Barthes (1975). Here pleasures echo past struggles and conflict of nationhood, such rhetoric has been instilled in our mind.
Banal nationalism is relevant to Ireland and the Irish media and can be seen working covertly on a daily basis while western nations such as America may display more obvious forms of banal nationalism it is still prevalent in Ireland today.
GAA is another extremely popular sport that is viewed and discussed in everyday life, while it is not considered an international sport there is a certain pride in the continued survival of such a national sport. GAA is a testament to ‘us’ and the world of
Banal nationalism instils within us ‘our’ characteristics though we may be unaware as to the issues represented and not concerned with the national connotations. We may view the news and see Concern workers assisting flood victims in other nations or we may see Bono speaking on behalf of third world nations to wipe out their debt. All these images may subconsciously work its way back to our sense of who ‘we’ are. We see humanitarian efforts or malevolent gestures as characteristics that ‘we’ portray. That ‘we’ are a generous nation, that ‘we’ are concerned about the state of the world, and that ‘we’ are ambassadors, though we may never step foot on the country in question ‘we’ see it. Use of rhetoric is evident, reference to Ireland being the forerunner, leading the way internationally, the ‘Irish people’ giving millions to a war torn nation are all apart of daily flagging that the media uses to appeal to the nation.
The way ‘we’ see ourselves internationally is also another form of banal nationalism. The way in which the media represents and promotes the nation of
The advertising world also uses rhetoric and banal nationalism to appeal subconsciously to the nation by using imagery and language to appeal to the Irish masses. By covertly suggesting through language of what it is to be Irish, national pride may come into question. Irish goods and products such as Perlico, a broadband service, offers a 100% Irish product. Images of ‘Irishness’ such as the shamrock, the Guinness logo or even the colour green that convey national pride are all examples of subconsciously tapping into the nation’s idea of identity.
Overall nationalism has received negative connotations, reflections of activism and violence echo throughout history. However, nationalism is still active in modern society on a ‘hidden’ subconscious level that relies largely on the media to banally convey to nations what it means to be ‘us’, what ‘our’ nation is and how the world views us. Irish media certainly operates covertly daily flagging a sense of a collective identity to the nation. Billig states (1995), in relation to sport, that such pleasures and inter-textual echoes of warfare cannot be innocent and that the do-or-die enthusiasm in sport may be translated into obligations to defend country and the idea of nationhood. So nationalism though clandestinely operating within banal nationalism may be less innocent than it purports to be and while many media ‘flaggings’ are ignored one might wonder what affect such rhetoric has on a nation.
Billig, M., 1995 Banal Nationalism,
Barthes, R., 1975, The Pleasure of the Text, Hill and Wang ; Reissue edition (January 1, 1975)
Giddens, A. (1992). The transformation of intimacy.
Shotter, J. and Gergen, K. 1989, Texts of Identity,
Langer, E. 1989, Mindfulness.
O’Donnell, 1994, Mapping the Mythical: A geopolitics of national sporting stereotypes. Discourse and Society. 5: 345-80
“The Great British Pub”, The Mirror