Friday, 30 March 2012

America in Decline: America and China Relations.

RT, formerly known as Russia Today, is a government-funded global news network based in Russia, and has news outlets all over the world including America, Britain and France. It was set up to provide an unbiased portrait of Russia, and the same can be seen amongst the other countries in which they have news outlets. The clip I found is from 2010 and discusses the military relations between China and America with Professor Michel Chossudovsky, who according to is one of Canada’s “nuttiest professors”, so some his comments should be taken in context.

The opening introduction to the segment highlights the relationship between China and America, comparing it to that of a relationship between brothers. The presenter opens with: “Remember that kid brother of yours that you always used to beat up?” This opening shows that America used to be the dominant country, as seen in the Cold War, their advancement of technology and their military might, and that they used to have the power to control countries. The presenter then goes on to say: “Then all of a sudden that kid brother hit a growth spurt and developed a longer reach so daily doses of knuckle sandwiches had to stop”, implying that America’s dominance was threatened because China developed as an NIC, developed their own nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and grew in terms of their technology and military power. The presenter ends with: “And as much as you wanted to cave it in his face, at times, you knew he was still your brother”, this being the epitome of the relationship between China and America today because America is reliant on China for financial support as well as industry (in terms of making toys and gadgets like iPods) and trade.

Chossudovsky claims that there are tensions between China and America that have been around for at least ten years and that China has been threatened since at least 1999 through a geo-political agenda, as opposed to the claim that tensions between China and America have recently started. This shows that neither nation wanted the world to know about their frictions. It could also be argued that America did not want to appear to have lost control of China, as it would have shown that America’s power in the world was declining, especially since the 9/11 attacks seemed to prove this. However, Chossudovsky has been criticized for his “wild-eyed theories”, so his claim that tensions have been there since 1999 could be doubted.

Michel Chossudovsky also claims that China has been threatened by America because of the Iran Sanctions Washington proposed that China did not want to go along with; stating that the regime was based on “double standards, fake data, and the presumption that Iran is a threat to global security”. This shows that the reasons behind the tensions between China and America are because of other countries, not necessarily between each other. Chossudovsky claims that China is threatened if Iran is threatened because they have agreements with each other, as well as China also having agreements with Russia; implying that America could be nervous about China’s relations with other countries and how it might affect it [America] in the future. Somewhat ironically, the Sino-Soviet Pact of the 1950’s did not work out, so it is interesting that China and Russia have relations with each other. In addition, the relationship between Russia and China was described as one of brothers, so again it is also interesting that the presenter at the beginning of the clip described China and America as brothers.

When asked how the Chinese are being threatened, Chossudovsky says that their diplomacy is polite and not an obvious or verbal threatened. Instead, America has set up military bases around the country as well as supporting insurgencies within the Chinese territory. He claims that from a strategic military perspective, China is considered a threat to America, despite officials like Premier Wen Jiabao stating that tensions are easing. This links back to Chossudovsky’s claims that tensions have been around for at least a decade, because it shows that the nations are putting on a positive portrayal of relations, or as Chossudovsky puts it “a gilded surface”, in spite of the supposed covert techniques for America to try and gain power of China. Chossudovsky believes that the fundamental issue is for the Obama administration to take a step back in military strategy in relation to China, in order for tensions between the two nations to properly cool. However, Chossudovsky fails to mention other ways in which tension would still remain, for example in terms of the economy.

America in Decline - American-Chinese Conflict

The web item I have chosen to analyse in reference to American-Chinese relations is article focuses primarily on the political side of the America-Chinese relations, and identifies this area as the main cause of conflict and disagreement between the two rival nations. This is evident as early as the title, which reads 'Politics Complicates China-US Relations'. The article is not completely one dimensional however. Within the area of Politics, the writer explores the complexities of the international relation in question. She talks about how, within the political conflict, areas such as finance and society are also analysed and explored. This is significant as it shows the depth of the issues surrounding the conflict.

One of the main focuses of Stephanie Ho is the issue of the potential change in power which might take place for both countries. She reveals her anxiousness regarding the possible election of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. His words regarding the American-Chinese relations state that “On day one, I will file, or I will, through an executive order, label China as a currency manipulator allowing us to put tariffs on Chinese goods that are coming into our country and killing American jobs in an unfair way”. This shows how, in the eyes of Ho, the situation is at danger of becoming worse as a result of new, Republican leadership. The fact that, earlier in the article, Ho identifies the problems with the way Obama leads in relation to the American relationship with China shows the extent of caution and worry that is being caused.

The words of Mitt Romney which have been used by Ho also link closely to the economy, which is something she identifies as important in this subject when she comments, 'Another area of friction between the two countries involves economic issues, and American political candidates have found that China bashing can win voter support'. This explains that, although economic issues do exist between the two countries, particularly in relation to the manufacturing and selling of new technological products, the political representation of these issues in America is the biggest problem. This shows how, in the eyes of Ho, the primary cause of American-Chinese conflict is the way Politics fabricates and over-emphasises problems that stem socially and economically.

Despite many of the ideas that are being expressed here seem sensible and understandable, we must take into consideration the fact that Stephanie Ho is, herself, Chinese. And although the overall publication is entitled 'Voice of America', it has been written by someone in Beijing. Through this we can't help but think that an element of bias is being exercised, in the same way that if an article with the same name was being written by an American journalist in New York, we would have to question its reliability. In summary, however, it is clear that there is a distinct conflict between China and America; an issue stemming from two nations constantly trying to better each other economically and politically. This is particularly identifiable with America, a nation which thrives on conflict and is determined to be the most powerful nation in the world. Judging from this article, and others of its kind, it is clear that the American-Chinese problem is only going to get worse.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

America Online

We now live in the digital age and the country who has led in the expansion of this is America. Without wanting to repeat what other people have said too much they have bought us the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc..... These digital creations have allowed the current generations of Americans to express themselves on so many different forms and instantly connect with each other. Before the internet worldwide communications were limited to letters or phone calls now you can instantaneously know and like and comment on where someone is (via social networks). Among the overwhelming positives there are some negatives to the online identity, it allows many to hide behind their computers and can create a thing known as "trolling" as you can see described at the bottom of the page on this link:

"yet, this social diversification and connection can be hampered by internet "trolls" who seek to degrade other users, depending on the genre of digital writing. Specifically targeted genres of digital writing are blogs, question forums, and discussions. Trolls are a genre of user unique to digital writing. Because of the ease of access, anonymity, and publicity that digital writing provides, as opposed to other forms of writing, trolls exist. Trolls are a growing sub-culture of digital media, which tend to breach accepted ideas of idioms of practice. They have gained notoriety as the delinquents of many online communities, and appear to be the "roadblock" of social expansion and self-identity expression that digital writing rhetorically enables."

This online identity is not however limited to Americans, with instances such as the Arab Spring using social networks to rise up against and criticize dictatorships. Something they would never have been able to do before.

I think the online identity in America will be a good thing for the future of identity in America as it allows people the freedom to express and share their experiences with the world.

Digital America - Social Networking

For the growing digital age in America it comes as no surprise that social networking is at the forefront of America. With sights such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Tumblr it makes it almost impossible to not keep up to date with what people are doing.

In finding this article it states that ‘Half of America is using Social Networking.’ This is such a large number of people for such a relatively new concept. The article begings by saying “For the first time, half of all adults in the United States said they used a social networking site” this statement is backed up by Pew Research Centre which found that “65% of adult internet users now say they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, up from 61% one year ago.” As this survey took place in 2011 we can only assume that the number has once again risen.

The article raises some interesting points in which to justify the growth in adult uses on social networking sites. “Parents use Facebook to vet nannies, carmakers to introduce new models, police to keep tabs on suspects. Federal government authorities are preparing this weekend to use social networking sites for hurricane preparation on the East Coast.” Social networking sites are no longer purely to keep in contact anymore. They allow privacy barriers to be broken as people use it as a way to check up and judge a person on what they post or do on these sites. In many aspects this seems like a reasonable thing if like the article you wanted to “vet nannies” but in reality not everything that goes online is a true reflection of a person good or bad. Online sites such as these allow people to control what they post and often allow them to take on a different persona or identity that they don’t have in the real world. The idea of advertising on these platforms has transformed social networking in to a money making forum for adverts. People are met with no doubt at least one advert whilst on social networking sites and by encouraging people to ‘Like’ certain things and products the sales people have successfully promoted there product to millions of people that will then ‘Share’ or ‘like’ them too. The media within social networking sites have become big on such sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The news no longer has to be watched or read from a newspaper, current events are constantly being updated through ‘Tweets’ and all articles can be read online through Facebook apps. By doing so people are more update and aware of what is going on and even ‘Trending’ on Twitter can bring any event to the attention of millions of people.

With every positive aspect of social networking there is however a negative and the article states that “One in five respondents, however, sounded less upbeat. They used words including “boring,” “time-consuming” and “overrated.”” With people spending so much time on social networking sites for more than just the casual check, it has lead the way for people to be ‘bored’ with something that it such a new concept. It is the boredom of people that leads the way to however new features of these sites so they are no longer just for contacting people, but an arena for endless possibilities of new updates and further time consuming ideas.

Digital Identity

With regards to such things as avatar icons on video games or social sites. people can create a very different personality to who they really are. This can be easily done by simply using a picture of either our favourite celebrity, our pet or even just some other random person.

This can be actually very dangerous as it can lead to stalkers or hackers. Social networking sites were created in the United States so its important to put the correct information online. Nowadays there are younger people joining sites like Facebook and even video game forums. Video game forums are highly dangerous too because there can be more information put online including conversations between each other.

The most popular social networking sites are MySpace created in 2003 and the Facebook in 2005. As soon as Facebook was created MySpace soon faded away, both sites were made my regular people one being a college student who decided to make Facebook a world known site. he said that,

Everyone has an identity that they want to express and friends and family that they wanna stay connected with. And it has grown from that original six-thousand-person student body to more than and friends and family that they wanna stay connected with. And it has grown from that original six-thousand-person student body to more than 250 million people across the world.” Online media like Facebook, with some 500 million active users, is an unprecedented opportunity for marketers. They help you engage with people in ways that was never thought possible before.
Going back to certain images and info placed on these sites, having a 'Fake account' on Facebook can be seen as unsafe and welcoming to unwanted people who can prey on younger users.

Facebook however can be useful and OK to use as long as it is used wisely and sensibly. Sites such as Facebook can be a great way of socialising for teenagers as long as they understand the dangers some of these sites hold. As far as American identity goes, this country is constantly changing its inventions and also how its used so maybe in the future places like Facebook find ways to become safer.

Digital America

America is a nation built on enterprise and development. Individuals have been constantly pushing the boundaries of technology, which is why the digital world is so present in modern American identity. Innovators such as Tom Anderson (Inventor of Myspace) and Mark Zuckerberg (Inventor of Facebook), amongst others, have helped to create an online universe; a place where you can communicate with people across America and the world with a click of a button. The convenience of this form of contact has meant that the online world has become extremely popular, and assuming an online identity has in turn become the preferred way of living for many people. There is huge debate as to whether this digital identity is positive or not, however. The amazing ability to communicate with people can become overshadowed by the complexities of identity online. The problem of false identity and anonymity has become all too common in recent years, and suggests that digital identity can be dangerous and flawed.

On the site, Alex Smolen highlights some of the problems with having a digital identity. In the blog he explains how social networking and online identities reflect a 'loss of control' and 'static, persistent' identity vulnerable to unwanted visitors. These ideas are far from rare, and the fear of the digital world is increasing. The rise in people assuming a digital identity has also led to a rise in people attempting to exploit the people in the digital world. Smolen puts this down to the fact that the wooden, impersonal nature of a digital identity can be 'easily fabricated'. This view suggests that the digital world is far more unreliable and dangerous than the real world, in which your identity is more honest and unable to be fabricated.

As well as the obvious example of social networking, we can also talk about how the likes of MMORPGs and sites such as Youtube play a part in a new, digital identity. MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, have become extremely popular in recent years and are undoubtedly one of the most intense and intimate ways of creating a digital identity different from your own. Unlike social networking sites where you are told to create a profile which accurately portrays yourself in the real world and contains information true to yourself, MMORPGs encourage the opposite. In one sense, this avoids many of the identity issues that Smolen talks about in relation to social networking, but there are other issues that surrouding this form of digital identity. The game-playing which involves MMORPGs means that the experience you have online is far more like real life than social networking sites. Instead of being an add on to your real world life, MMORPGs often replace the life people have. Addiction is common in this realm, and the way in which MMORPGs make you feel like the online avatar you create is more important than your real life shows how in many ways the digital identity is attributing to a decline in American real world identity.

YouTube is another very popular way of expressing yourself and creating an identity online. The site encourages users to post videos online for others to share, which sounds simple enough, but the popularity of the site has meant that the lives of individuals such as Rebecca Black and Keenan Cahill have changed dramatically. Rebecca shot to fame when the video of her singing 'Friday' became a youtube sensation. From this point onwards, without knowing anything about her, people began to aggressively criticise Rebecca on a personal level, simply because they didn't like her video. Keenan's story is similar, but the outcome was more positive. He became renowned for his lip-syncing of famous pop songs. Although not all of the feedback to his videos have been positive, he is now a celebrity. Both of these examples show that the digital world can have a huge effect on people, and that a digital identity means that ordinary people can become extremely well known without even leaving their house.

It is clear that having a digital identity is something which has its dangers, but if used sensibly, it can be something very positive and useful. It is explained on, by Donny Wibowo, that 'Virtual communities have become an important influence in the social development of teenagers in the modern world by allowing them to express their personalities.' Wibowo goes on to explain that the digital world represents the forward thinking values of America in a pioneering way, as well as maintaining the values that come with face to face interaction. With this in mind, perhaps we should just accept the fact that the digital world and online identities reflect the new American identity, whilst being aware of the potential dangers that we can come across by subscribing to it.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

America On-line.

Today there are many different digital identities available to Americans; from Twitter, to Facebook, to MySpace, as well as various blogs and forums. As well as being a way for people to show who they are, these forms of digital media also allows for millions of people to communicate and stay in contact with one another, which is a part of the human identity. It is a quick way to transmit and receive information; this is particularly made event by the fact that news outlets have twitter and Facebook accounts so people can “follow” or “friend” them in order to keep up with the latest happening.

Digital identities such as Facebook and Twitter tell us that in the future, identity will be important in America because so many people are a part of it, and when you first set up your accounts you’re asked to provide some detail about yourself. As well as this, after you’ve created your accounts, there are way to add your interests and to follow certain people and activities that you’re interested in. It also shows that identity will become more important because it allows people to belong to a wider community of people and allows people to reach others they would not necessarily have the means of reaching.

However, digital identities also show that the future of identity in America will not necessarily be important because people can manufacture who they want to be, and in some cases it doesn’t particularly matter who you are, just as long as you have an account on a website like Facebook or Twitter.

These digital identities also raise the question as to whether everyone is the same online. On the one hand, people are not the same online as they are in real life. This difference in persona sometimes leads to things such as cyber-bullying whereby people have the courage to say things to others online which they would not say face-to-face. This is similar to an online phrase, trolling, which is when online personas leave often nasty and vicious messages meant to hurt, humiliate and in some cases kill people. Therefore it can be argued that Facebook and Twitter allow people to reinvent themselves online as bullies.

However on the other hand people do use digital identities in order to create new positive identities for themselves. A prominent example of this is YouTube, which allows people to express themselves to a wider audience; in some cases these people become internationally famous. For example Justin Bieber, Tiffany Alvord and other young people. It’s easier to create new identities on outlets such as Twitter, which promotes anonymity, making it more discreet and impersonal, unlike outlets like Facebook where you upload pictures and openly like certain things. An anonymous person tweeted: "Facebook is where you lie to your friends. Twitter it where you're honest with complete strangers", and I think this epitomizes the differences between the various digital identities.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Class divide in America

My source comes from Rolling Stone website. The article is a blog by Matt Taibbi, and is entitled “Greed, Excess and Americas gaping class divide”

Taibbi draws on the article in the New York Times to further illustrate the growing class divide. The article explains the expesses and the money need to live a confortable life in America. As Taibbi says in his own article, “The piece was sort of meant to be taken half as a joke, but it is not hard to detect an element of demented earnestness.” If we are to take this article as a slight reference on the economical state of America, it would appear that the majority of American citizens would not be able to survive in New York, without making drastic changes. It is with this in mind that when a salary cap was proposed it immediately caused outrage with those it would affect. “Government should restrict the salaries of exactly the irresponsible greedheads who caused a global financial crisis” Taibbi is however for the salary restriction and his negative feelings towards the people is shown through the naming of them as “greedheads.”

An interesting point that Taibbi brings up in his article is that “It turns out that a great many of the people who make big six-figure incomes consider themselves middle class.” This i find to be quite shocking as to making that much money would be to assume that one is upper class. This therefore leads to a “cultural divide that exists in this country, where the poor and the rich seldom cross paths at all, and the rich, in particular, simply have no concept what being broke and poor really means.” Hear Taibbi tells the reality of ‘rich’ people’s ignorance to what it is to be in poverty.

The article states that the rich are “campaigning in congress to extract more revenue from elderly retirees and broke-ass students while simultaneously fighting to preserve a slew of tax loopholes for the rich, including the carried-interest tax break that allows hedge fund billionaires to pay about half the tax rate of most Americans.” By doing so further expanding the divide between the poor and as they would refer to themselves, the middle class.

If there are to be changes it would appear to have to be done through taxing of the rich, however when these notions are put forward they are met with such opposition. For instance when Barack Obama “considering rolling back his carried-interest exemption, which, again, allows him to pay 15% taxes” he was compared to “Hitler” and thus the divide continues as the rich selfishly refuse to make any changes that would result in them not making or retaining their money.

Class Lines and Struggle in the USA

For this Blog, I have chosen a website called, 'White Trash: The construction of an American scape Goat'.

First I want to mention that the phrase 'white trash' is occasionally used among some American minorities as a insult or defense.

The main thing I noticed when I first looked at this site is that they say equality is America's Biggest failure but also its greatest accomplishment. This has a big impact in America in the sense that it tries to treat its citizens with equality and respect but it doesn't always turn out like that.

On the front page it has various links to different areas of the sites such as, the history of the each of the races. From the title, it sounds like white Americans are the way to making America a better place to live for everyone.

The website, somehow manages to describe Americans as illiterate and ignorant. its says that some people have educational advantages over others due to 'their class'. This is explained by the following quote:

Yet, the facts of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance are hard to ignore and the reality is that some people have advantages over other people depending on which family they are born into. Therefore, when wealthy people confront the poor a sense of guilt and superiority merge into the reactionary fear that has manifested itself as racism and classism through the centuries.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Class Divide in America

The New York Times wrote a series about class in America in 2005, and the article I’ve found is an overview and introduction of what the series was about. The series aimed to show whether class influenced American society, where they think of “itself as a land of unbounded opportunity”. I found that the opening article had a mixed view on this; although The New York Times’ political stance has been debated, and it has been argued as to whether or not they are conservative or liberal. As well as this, the newspapers publishers, the Ochs-Sulzberger family, have owned the newspaper for generations and are said to be heavily involved in the newspaper, so this is also taken into consideration when reading the article.

The article starts by stating that the class lines in America used to be very defined: “The upper crust vacationed in Europe and worshiped an Episcopal God. The middle class drove Ford Fairlanes, settled the San Fernando Valley and enlisted as company men. The working class belonged to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., voted Democratic and did not take cruises to the Caribbean.” This suggests that it is now harder to see the difference of class between peoples in contemporary America because things are somewhat priced cheaper, credit is (or at least at the time the series was written) more readily available to lower income families, meaning it is easier for the class lines to become blurred. It also suggests that to some extent there is no longer a class struggle because most people can afford to live the lifestyles that “their grandparents could not live previously”. However, from the Panorama video we watched in Wednesday’s class, it is clear that this is not the case as many Americans, perhaps more than ever, cannot afford healthcare/ insurance or sufficient housing. This can also be supported by the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest that took place last year.

However the article does agree that class lines are still important in contemporary America, stating: “the proportion of students from upper-income families has grown, not shrunk”. This shows that despite the seemingly shrinking class divides, it is still in fact people of the same class bracket (i.e. the upper middle class and upper classes) that are going to college in America, thus giving them more opportunities to get better, higher paid jobs, allowing them to maintain their class position, whereas the people from the lower classes are not going to college, meaning that they cannot move up the class ladder. However colleges such as Amherst president Andrew Marx have adopted schemes in which to allow people from lower income families to attend college, in an attempt to close the class lines. Even still, this further exemplifies the importance of class because it shows that while the rich and upper classes can easily afford to pay for their education, it is the lower and poorer classes that cannot education, and somewhat implies that they do not work hard enough, especially because of the inherent beliefs of American society which are to work hard in order to achieve success.

The article also mentions other areas of importance for class; for instance in: residence, most affluent Americans live in the suburbs and have “exurban chateaus”, with the article even accusing the affluent of being isolated from the rest of America; family structure, affluent Americans are more likely to get married later and to have children when they are older, compared to less affluent Americans who tend to have children at twenty-two.

In retrospect, although the article appears to claim that class is no longer such an important factor in contemporary America, it seems to go against this. In particular, with regards to education the article does support the idea that class enables children of affluent standing to be educated than children from lower classes. The article also implies that just because it is now harder to tell the classes apart (or who belongs to which class), does not mean that class is no longer an important factor in contemporary American society, in fact class determines (in most cases) what kind of life a person will have; supported by economist Professor Levine at Berkley, California: “while it’s always been important, it’s probably a little more important now”, and this can be seen as true especially since the recession.

Awareness of the Class Divide in America

The site that I have chosen to analyse is The 'Class Matters' site is a small one, which has little information about the organisation and its main figures involved, but seems to be very popular. As well as including a small section about how the slightly mysterious group has been covered in the media, a great deal of the content on the site involves surveys and responses from the public. This immediately shows us the democratic nature of the group. There is something very calm about this politically and socially driven group, which differs from many of the groups supporting similar things. They don't try and drag you into their organisation or demand payments for further viewing of the page which is exclusive for "members". The ethos seems simply to educate people about the importance of the Class divide in America in a relax, informative way, through articles and interviews that relate the situation to ordinary people.

The idea that the organisation is there primarily to educate people continues as you take a closer look at the pages' content. After clicking a link on the sites' homepage connecting to an article written to a member of the organisation you can see how little emphasis they put on the organisation itself. In this example, Betsy Leondar-Wright uses her own experiences to tell stories about how the situation in the lower classes is plagued with poverty and unequal opportunity. By writing in this way, Betsy and the rest of the site contributors create a more personal and relevant atmosphere for the reasons, informing them about the controversial topic that is the Class System, particularly for those in the middle class whom many of the readers will belong to, without putting them under too much pressure in an impersonal tone.

The site is divided into 5 sections exploring the different areas displaying the issues and questions surrounding the Class System. Within each of these sections are articles, surveys, interviews and workshops, as well as other things, which give the reader an informed understanding of every area of the Class System. The range of different resources offer not only interpretations about how Class has affected and continues to affect America, but views on the subject from people outside of the organisation. This is extremely effective as the reader doesn't feel swarmed by the organisation and can gain a genuine, non-biased response to the situation, as well as that that they gain from Class Matters.

The section that caught my eye the most was 'Class & Other Identitites'. The true personal nature of the site is identifiable as early as the first sentance in the section, which reads 'How do you experience class differently because of your race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, or other identity? What class dynamics do you notice within your identity groups?' Following this are links to surveys and interviews from Class Matters website visitors on a variety of ethnic, racial, gender and social groups. This shows how the organisation is interested in seeing how class can affect every area of society, and not just in the Poor, Middle and Rich format. They are trying to understand the complexities of the class divide and seeing how experiences change according to a range of circumstances. The people who we recieve stories from come from a range of backgrounds; such as Julie, 'from a working class background' and Chuck from the 'broader middle class'. This diversity means that everyone is able to visit the website and find it relevant and helpful.

Economic Divide in America (Week 9/10)

This is an example of the blatant nature of economic and social divide in America. Where is it and why?
American inequality in living standards  - what does it say about America's dream? Can you find similar examples of "divided America"?

See you Monday,

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Mormons in America

The article I choose is on CBS News website, and is writing about the Mormon Religion in America. The article begins in stating that Americans know “very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” this being the official name for the teachings of the more commonly known religion Mormonism. The article informs the reader that “you may have a Mormon family living right down the block” this showing the identity of Mormonism is growing throughout America. This website offers us the statistical numbers on Mormons in America; it shows that Mormons make up 1.7% of the adult population, the third largest sub group of the Christian faith.

The article gives the story of a couple, Susan and Matt who converted to the religious teachings of the Mormon faith. They say that what attracted them partly to the religion was “the Book of Mormon, which the Church considers a companion to the Bible.” The book is integral to the Mormon religion in telling of the “ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421” in having the book alongside the bible it puts Americans at the centre of this religion and distinguishing their faiths identity in America as a key part of the Christian religion.

The founder of the Mormon religion is Joseph Smith and as the article says Smith believed that God and his Son Jesus “told him all existing churches were an abomination. [And that] He had been chosen to re-establish the one true Christian church.” It is this speaking to man which makes the religion so appealing to others as “Mormonism brings this promise that God is speaking to his people." Smith did not however just have the one visit from God he says that “God revealed to him that men should be allowed to marry more than one woman.” Here the religion is introduced to the ideas of polygamy causing controversy amongst many non-Mormons, as it goes against the tradition that a man should marry one woman.

The article tells of how “the Church's numbers grew, it took political control of towns and whole counties and also raised an army. Non-Mormons felt threatened and there was violence. The Mormons were forced out of New York, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois” Joseph Smith was killed and caused many Mormons to flee to Utah which is why we can see such a large number of Mormons who live in Utah (around 60%

As Mormons have established themselves as having strong family values it has attracted many people to the religion. They also believe that they need to spread the word of the Mormon religion as they “are taught in verse and song that they have a duty to spread the faith.” Thus growing the identity of Mormonism not only in America, but all over the world.

The article speaks very positively of Mormonism in reflecting the views of many that "It has brought nothing but goodness into my life."

Religion in America.... more maps!

For detail on locations and membership of religious groups, this website provides a good foundation for discussion. Worth studying and analysing some of the patterns.
See you Monday.

American Faith: Religion and Identity

OMS Holiness Church of North America

The American faith group I have found is based in various states around North America. Surprisingly, the website has a majority of Asian elements such as a list of biographies from what seems to be Japanese users. The Biography page talks about how the church and their religion first came about.

From reading the biography page I noticed that the church first started in 1874, this page gives an introduction to the church by saying:
In 1874, three young Japanese men met at an American Congregational church in San Francisco. It was the dawn of Christianity among the Japanese people in the United States. The first Japanese church, called The Gospel Society, was organized in 1877 with the enthusiastic assistance of Caucasian-American church members who had led these Japanese to salvation through English study sessions.

On the left of the home page, there is information about the location of the church and also its history, eg when the number of members attending increased etc. Now, they actually have more churches in the Whole of America Including Hawaii.

What I like most about this website and the thing last I think determines American Identity is the testimonials page, this is the paramount area where people can share their thoughts and feelings with others of their same race. At the moment there is one from Kimura Ren. They also have a mission in the middle of the home page this says
Our mission is to plant and nurture thriving communities of faith and love who will share the Good News of Jesus Christ with all in their world, with an abiding call to reach people of Japanese ancestry.

What I like about that quote is that even though it is from one ethnicity, the website shows a diverse group of people in the pictures at the top of the page.

Religion Task; Pentecostalism

For the religion and identity task I chose to look at the Pentecostalism religion and I found this website:

This is a website called United Pentecostal Church International and it claims that it is one of the fastest growing church organisations in the US. Pentecostalism is a newer extremer version of Christianity which came be similar to Evangelicals in that they believe in the Bible in its original language. The preachers or pastors within this group are often extremely charismatic and many have made lots of money out of their skills. Here is an example;

Another main feature of this religion is the "vocal gifts" or as many people call it speaking in tongue. Pentecostals believe that the noise made when speaking in tongue as that of a language unlearned by humans, as the Bible claims happens on the Day of Pentecost (hence where the name comes from) or that is a heavenly language.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Religion and Identity: Scientology

The web page I have decided to focus on and analyse is This is the official site to the notorious Religious group that is Scientology. There is a great deal we can learn about the ways in which American identity is defined and shaped by Religion and religious values by looking at the way in which religious organisations present themselves. The way in which Scientology does this is no exception. This group is obviously quite small and many people would think that it is insignificant, but it is growing very quickly and has the support of public figures such as Tom Cruise. Despite this, the ideas surrounding Scientology generally reflect many of the traditional ideas that define America today, and are less radical and "out there" than we might think.

The website is vast and is broken down into sub-sections which help guide you through Scientology. The section that I found most informative and relevant to the question at hand was 'Beliefs and Practices'. It gives you an insight into how Scientological beliefs relate to American identity today. What's interesting is that Scientologists claim that they 'actively use the insights and knowledge that Scientology gives them to make a real, positive difference in the lives of others.' This aim is very identifiable for an American. Self-improvement and making a consistently positive difference to your situation is an extremely popular and apparent element of American tradition. This shows that American identity is influenced by Religion, and Religion is influenced by American identity. we can contrast this however with the statement that 'Scientology has been the development of exact, precise methods to increase Man’s spiritual awareness and capabilities'. This idea contrasts the typical American idea that the positive difference is aimed, generally, at material wealth, not the spiritual wealth that Scientology preaches.

A general overview of the site suggests there is a distinct sense of selfishness apparent in Scientology. Scientology infers that the ideas of self-help and an awareness of yourself above everyone else should be part of American identity, but this isn't identifiable in American Religion. The ideas of family, community and caring for others are more prevalent, and they are certainly involved in American identity as a whole. This suggests that Scientology doesn't encapsulate all of the dimensions of American identity. The quote "What is true for you is what you have observed yourself. And when you lose that, you have lost everything" spoken by the creator of Scientology L Ron Hubbard tells us more about how far Scientology ties in with American identity. The quote strongly contrasts the insecurity which can be associated with much of American identity. When we think of a typical American, we think of either the sports/cheerleading star or the nerdy, vulnerable kid. This is very evident in American identity and represents how a hierarchy exists in American life and still dominates and shapes surface identity. This shows us how in many ways Scientology doesn't represent American identity and tells us little about it.

It is clear that arguments can be made for and against the relevance of this page to American identity. The traditional American views which contribute so much to American identity are both reflected and contradicted on this site, showing how Scientology only somewhat represents American identity. The turning factor, however, is the fact that although many of the ideas and beliefs on display relate to American identity, it is after all a very small religious group; one that is growing but still doesn't reach the kind of numbers that more mainstream religious groups and denominations do. For this reason, what we learn about identity and beliefs from Scientology cannot be associated with the whole of America.

Religion and Identity: The Brethren Church

The Brethren Church is a Christian denomination originating from Germany. Its teachings come from the New Testament and follows Jesus’ creed. The Brethren Church work to promote simplicity and an easier way of living. In 1882 the Brethren leader Henry Holsinger organized the Brethren Church in Dayton Ohio, and took control of Ashland College, which is still around today. The Brethren members are mainly in the Midwest in states such as: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana, which is not surprising as there was a large German immigrant population in these states.

The Brethren Church is located in Ashland Ohio, where the old leader first set up the church. This shows the continuing of ideas as they have kept the same location for so many centuries. It still appears to promote a simpler way of living, because their website is easily accessible and with a simple design.

All members of staff of the Brethren Church based in Ohio are all married with children and this promotes the idea of the nuclear family life in America, and shows that it is a prominent part of the American identity in terms of faith. It also shows that by leading by example, the staff can be looked up to as representations of what the Brethren Church believes. This links in to one of their five core value beliefs, relational, which is the value of loving god, each other and their neighbours. This in turn goes back to America’s identity of being an example to the rest of the world and a “city on a hill”.

Interestingly, the Brethren advocate working together, something that goes against the individualist nature of the American identity; and in some ways this notion of working together is a sign that the Brethren denomination derives from Europe and is not inherently American. Another interesting note is that the Brethren say they take their teachings from solely the New Testament, stating they have “no creed but the New Testament”, but then they use passages from the Old Testament to support their views on social issues such as homosexuality.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sexual identity in America

The video that i chose, is from the US news show “Fox News” the story being told is a debate between Mitchell Gold, “founder of Faith in America”, and “one of the most vitriolic voices within the anti-gay religious industry” the subject which is being discussed is the teaching of “cultural and societal achievement and contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals” in schools in the state of California. Without even seeing the video the question of American gay and lesbian identity is shown, in the fact that the topic of merely teaching homosexual history is seen as controversial.

The debate starts with Gold explaining why it is important to teach gay history, he states that it is the “Positive reinforcement they deserve” he says that people “are who they are” and therefore as an American nation they should embrace the differences that people have in sexuality. In introducing gay history he wants to show that sexuality doesn’t matter, and that there are plenty of people in America history that have done great things. Gold speaks of his past in saying he wishes he had something like this in the 60’s, this showing that sexual identity in America has changed and become more embracing of diversity.

Peter Sprigg starts is counter attack by drawing on other people who like Sprigg oppose the teaching of gay history like the Los Angeles times. He continues in saying it is “ridiculous to use history curriculum to boost a student’s self esteem” and that history is not the place for this. He goes on to say that in doing so it will be producing “pro homosexual propaganda” as it will be one sided, and not a “balanced history.”

The interviewer asks “What does it matter?” in relation to the sexuality of someone in history. Gold’s response is that America is “heterosexual supremacy society” this showing that sexual identity such as being gay is in the minority, and in teaching gay history a stronger less prejudice identity towards homosexual people can be created thus reducing bullying and discriminative behavior. Sprigg however says that bullying has nothing to do with history and that this movement is an “attack on religious liberty” as in many religions homosexuality is seen as being wrong. Sprigg concludes in saying we should not single out people, in doing so turning the tables on Gold in which he appears to be the unreasonable one, not being fair to the whole and just focusing on gay and lesbian people.

Overall the sexual identity and the teaching of gay and lesbian history in schools causes a lot of controversy amongst American society, as there are still a lot of anti-gay communities in America.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sexual Identity in America -Gay coming out day 2011

The video I have chosen in relation to Gay and Lesbian Identity in America is titled 'National Coming Out Day 2011'. First of all he says that National 'Coming Out day" in America is October 11.
This is a video blog by a YouTube user who is, gay himself. The whole video is expressing that "coming out" or "coming out of the closet" is nothing to be ashamed of- it is a day to celebrate who you are as a person. The guy in the video has reassuring tone of voice as well.
He says that the day is a day to come out to people and not to be forced to. He says it is for you to decide when you want to come out as Gay.

The guy in the video says that when he came out, it was a huge relief for him to do so.

Two things I especially like about the video is something that may not have any relation to the topic but when you watch the video, his t-shirt says "its get better", this could mean that once you come out to family and loved ones there is a huge weight lifted off you and you no longer have to worry about people judging you or especially having to keep it a secret.

The second thing I like about the video is how well the music fits it, the song is called "Proud' By Heather Small. The music represents how proud you should feel or be of who you are.

The main reason I have chosen to pick this video is because it shows you should be proud of who you are no matter what your sexuality is.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sexual Identity Task

The video I have chosen is of the homosexual comedian Ross Mathews interviewing people at Twin Cities Pride Festival. I think its a really interesting video as it shows a well known, famous and proud homosexual man, Ross, interviewing everyday Americans who have come out to the gay pride festival to show how proud they are of there sexuality or that they are there supporting someone they knows sexuality. It is also good because it shows all types of people of different race and gender. The festival is also an interesting component of the video as its origins go back to 1972 when it started as a gay rights march through the city.

Overall I think the video is useful to gain an understanding of Lesbian and Gay identity in contemporary America as it shows that a lot of people are obviously proud of who they are. Of course this dosent reflect Americas view as a nation on the issue of gay rights but as America is such a large and diverse country there will always be differences of opinions.

Contemporary American Sexual Identity

The Youtube clip I have decided to analyse is located at and is entitled 'Ellen DeGeneres stands up to one million mums. After a long search I came across this very simple video presenting popular Lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres identifying her 'haters' and talking about what she stands for. Although what she speaks about is important and worth listening to, it's the way in which Ellen speaks and acts which I find so revealing about contemporary gay American identity. The fact that Ellen is so popular and identifiable, arguably the most influential gay figure in America today, assured me that using her as an example of modern gay identity in America can be somewhat representative of the whole homosexual community.

Ellen's approach and attitude when presenting herself is very calm and controlled. This is very different to many gay and lesbian talk show hosts both in the US and in the UK, as they tend to assume a very extroverted, stereotypical homosexual nature. The fact that people find it so easy to associate with Ellen suggests that her natural approach reflects the true identity of many gay people in America. The overt superstar image that is also often distinguishable with gay and lesbian talk show hosts often gives a sense of detachment between the audience and presenter, but Ellen is very down to earth. This is evident through language like "if you don't know me well" and "if you're just getting to know me". Ellen's welcoming nature breaks down many images of gay identity created by tv personalities which are bitchy and contraversial. This offers us a more true and believable view of gay American identity.

The comedic elements to Ellen's personality gives us a further insight into why she is so influential, and this can be analysed closely with sexuality in mind. Ellen is seen joking that her new endorsement with JC Penny will give her much needed discount in the store. This approach shows how Ellen doesn't take herself too seriously, whilst maintaining a clear sense of optimism. This reveals a clear positive nature in American homosexual identity. Ellen spends the majority of the piece tlaking about one of her biggest critics 'One Million Mums', a group which are almost militant in their opposition of homosexuality, particularly in the media. The criticisms made against Ellen by this group are very harsh and frequent, but Ellen's cool reaction in this example stands out. This relaxed, calm nature, you would imagine, resonates with gay and lesbian people in America who watch Ellen and may well, therefore, reflect contemporary American gay and lesbian identity.

How far can Ellen DeGeneres's show and ideas reflect modern American gay and lesbian identity as a whole, however? There is no doubt that she is an influential figure for both hetro and homosexuals, with comments like "I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people how you would want to be treated and helping those in need". But it is impossible that this noble nature represents all American homosexuals, and as I have mentioned it is clear that many gay men and women in the media use their sexuality to create an over-emphatic character that displays homsexuality in a different way. And despite Ellen's influence, the influence of these characters, such as Perez Hilton, is also very strong, leading us to assume that in order to understand modern American homosexual identity, we must understand that it is very diverse.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Sexual Identity in Contemporary USA

The video that I found is a personal vlog (video blog) by Onision and shares his opinion about gay people. Onision is known for his strong opinions which not a lot of people agree with. Him being a young person, it could be argued that some of his views on issues such as homosexuality are mirrored in other young people. As well as this, being born and growing up in a more liberal time to that of our parents or grandparents, and where being gay will not have you lobotomised or imprisoned (in the western world), shows that younger people are more open and welcoming of others who may be different to them. However, the fact that he had to create this vlog in the first place also implies that America is not as liberal a place as it appears and that even in contemporary USA being gay is still a hot topic. Also this video was posted in 2009 after the Miss USA Beauty Pageant, where Miss California, Carrie Prejean, said she was opposed to same-sex marriage, so this video could also be seen as a response to that as well.

The basic message of his video is that being gay is not a choice. The setup of the video is asking a series of questions, at the beginning, which most of the viewers will respond with a certain answer, which then allows for Onision to make his point that being gay is not a choice, but that that’s okay. He compares this to liking ice cream, music and the dislike of burning. Here he is trying to show that you cannot help what you like and what you dislike, however, some choices are not necessarily as instantaneous as he suggests. He uses the example of music; “should I bob my head to this?” but I some cases it takes a while to decide whether or not you like something, and in terms of being gay, this could also mean that it takes a while for people to know for definite if they are attracted to others of the same sex. Although, in most cases, and from some of the other videos that I watched, such as interviews with directors: John Waters and Augusten Burroughs, many people knew they were always gay from a young age.

Onision says that if we can accept liking ice cream then we should just accept gay people for who they are. Against this point, there has been a stigma surrounding gay people, with videos from the 1950’s like the one we watched in Wednesday’s workshop, saying that gay people were ill and had a sickness “of the mind”. Due to this long standing prejudice, it is harder for gay people to become accepted by the majority of heterosexual people who still believe being gay is an illness or is wrong. However, Onision makes the point that we are not all the same, interestingly pointing out that if we were, then we would all be gay. He also makes the point that heterosexual people are not a perfect example of the human race, further exemplifying that there is nothing wrong with gay people. This links to Precious when Miss Rain explains to Precious that it’s the straight people that cause the problems in the world and that it was the straight people that hurt her [Precious]. It also links to the film Milk where during a live debate; Harvey Milk makes the point that gay people are being born to heterosexual people, thus implying that there is something wrong with straight people and not gay people. Onision supports this when he says that people can either become accepting or continue to be “the person that makes this world miserable to wake up to”.

Overall the video’s message to gay people is that they should not be ashamed of being who they are and should be proud of themselves. This message is paramount throughout the video and encourages gay people to not hide because they may not enjoy their lives. However, this video is an example of his strong opinions and to some extent it could be argued that it is the same as anti-gay videos, in terms of his way of speaking and imposing his beliefs on the watcher, although he says he does not do that; showing how being gay in contemporary USA is still a big issue.