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Mississippi Burning, Research Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 947

Research Paper

Running

Movies as cinematic texts are often saturated with various mass communication theoretical frameworks intentionally or not, which enhances or elucidates certain meanings of them as a whole First proposed by Elisabeth Noelle Neuman, a German political scientist, in 1974, the Spiral of Silence refers to people’s propensity to remain silence in certain instances in which they believe their views oppose the majority opinion of a certain subject (Neuman, 1991). This theory argues that they remain silence because of an overriding fear of extreme isolation or reprisal , meaning that articulating one’s opinion might spawn adverse ramifications beyond just their own ostracization, such as losing their societal status or losing their job. This fear of isolation manifests when the group at-large discovers that a person embraces a diverging opinion from the status quo (Neuman, 1994). The 1964 film Mississippi Burning is a prime example of the Spiral of Silence as a film set in the 1960s and examines the disappearance of civil rights activists at the hands of the notorious white supremacist, vigilante group know as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). An FBI agent, a white male, goes through painstaking measures to ascertain who the leader of the Klan was because several black community members kept getting murdered at the leader’s behest.  Had this undercover cop been discovered by the community at large, he would have faced the prospect of getting murdered because white supremacy reigned in the inter cities in the South during that times period, which is why whites could murder blacks with impunity (). Thus, Mississippi Burning reveals how the spiral of silence takes place on a macro scale in the rural South because of deeply entrenched racism, which alienates an entire race of people and instills fear in all individuals both which and non-white how violence is used against all those who possess and promulgate a minority opinion

In order to apply the Spiral of Silence to Mississippi Burning, a further discussion of this theory is necessary, The plausibility of this theory derives from the premise that within any given situation people all possess the intuition to know what the hegemonic opinion is. A spiral is reinforces or germinates when an individual within the perceived opinion majority speaks up with confidence in a way that supports the majority, which is why those who are in the minority increasingly distance themselves in order to achieve comfort and homeostasis rather than mounting fear (Neuman, 1994). The spiral effect is acutely felt, and the downward spiral is activated as fears gradually build within those who hold a minority opinion, which is why a minority opinion I seldom hear or voiced. Not surprisingly, the mass media plays an integral role in the psychological process, especially in governing and perceptually dictating the hegemonic opinion. The closer one’s opinion conforms with the majority, the more likely they are to articulate it in public discourse (Neumann, 1991). It should be noted that this theory profoundly relies on the notion that an opinion is imbued with a moral component, such as the legalization of marjiuana or abortion, as it is obvious that mundane issues are rarely highly charged and/or divisive.  As with all theories, this one also has a litany of points of contention. The internet is one of the main weaknesses because it proffers a degree of anonymity in any dialogue that transpires over the web. A minority opinion will not be viewed as such by people and can easily be articulated in an online area. Another weakness is that some of those in the vocal minority harp on issues that are irrelevant, yet they persistently voice their opinions for some reason, which demonstrates that some people in the minority remain peripheral to the Spiral of Silence.

Mississippi Burning focuses on the murder of three civil rights workers—two white activists and one black one–who were arrested on ginned up speeding charges in Mississippi and were held by the police for over eight hours until they secured their release when it was pitch black dark outside. They were again stopped on an isolated road by members of the KKK, which had been coordinated by the Klan and the police. The civil rights workers were quickly and brutally murdered in cold blood and then taken to a dam nearby and were buried by a bulldozer.  Hundreds of FBI agents went to Neshoba County in order to investigate the disappearance of the civil rights workers. It took FBI agents forty four days until they successfully made inroads into the racist veil of silence that had been enveloped by the case, and the FBI officials were able to find the mutilated bodies. What is most disturbing is that one of the slain workers clutched a ball of clay in one of his hands, which suggests that he was still alive when the bulldozer ran the workers over into a shallow grave. Such heinous violence was ubiquitous in the South, and this film underscores how those who stray from the status quo endanger their own lives by doing so. White hegemony was supreme in the south, and white sympathizers with the civil rights cause lived with the specter that they may be murdered by those Klansmen for expressing their minority opinion by befriending blacks and fighting for their true emancipation in a deeply racist society.

References

Glynn, J.C., Hayes, F.A. & Shanahan, J. (1997). “Perceived support for ones opinions   and willingness to speak out: A meta-analysis of survey studies on the ‘spiral of silence’” Public Opinion Quarterly 61 (3):452-463.

Noelle-Neumann, E. (1984). The spiral of silence: Public opinion — Our social skin. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Noelle-Neumann, E. (1991). The theory of public opinion: The concept of the Spiral of Silence. In J. A. Anderson (Ed.),Communication Yearbook 14, 256-287. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

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