This discourse analysis will focus on Immortal Technique’s song called ‘the 4th Branch’ published on his 2003-released CD ‘Revolutionary Vol. 2’. This paper will start by portraying the artist, focusing on his inspirations, followed by a brief description of discourse analysis and the definition of ‘content analysis’ which is used to study the lyrics. Finally, this work will regard the main concepts of the power of discourse, the media and Islamophobia together, by acknowledging the link in between these terms, building a critical approach towards American actions and values.
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Felipe Andres Coronel is a hip-hop artist known as Immortal Technique as well as a political activist, born in Peru. After immigrating to the United States at a young age due to a civil war in his native country, he was raised in Harlem, New York (viperrecords.com). The artist describes himself as a ‘revolutionary’ and ‘socialist guerrilla’, influenced by historical events and political figures such as Malcolm X, Che Guevara or Túpac Amaru (immortaltechnique.info). Mainly his raps involve critical issues such as global and local poverty, racism and religion (immortaltechnique.info). Turning down a deal by a major record label, and signing with a smaller label (Viper Records), he expressed his desire to remain in control over his music, avoiding the influence of mass production (immortaltechnique.info).
In the recent decades, discourse analysis affected social psychology research on not solely textual analysis, but also areas such as films, speeches or policy documents. Accordingly, it introduced new methods in order to explore objectively tendencies and pattern of meanings within documents and focus on the interaction between e.g. the speaker and addressee (Antaki, et al., 2003; Stemler, 2001; Fairclough, 1992, p.3). Researchers often use computer programs known as CAQDAS (Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software) to study qualitative analysis (MacMillan and Koenig, 2004, p.181-182). These computer-based methods for qualitative data analysis, help organizing and coding the data (Fielding and Lee, 1996, p.242).
This paper will use content analysis to study the artefact and is characterized as ‘a systematic, replicable technique for compressing many words of text into fewer content categories based on explicit rules of coding’ (Stemler, 2001). Weber determines category as ‘a group of words with similar meaning or connotations’ (Stemler, 2001). This study is defined as ‘any technique for making inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of messages’ by Holsti (Stemler, 2001). This evolves an inductive reasoning, in contrast to deductive approaches. Due to observations and measurements, regularities are explored, followed by the proposition of a hypothesis, out of which a theory or a general conclusion can be drawn (Trochim, 2006). The procedure of this analysis allows to describe the centre of individual or groups as well as institutional or social attention (Stemler, 2001). After having coded and categorizing the words or the families of terms into groups, underlining topics and issue become clearly visible. If applied properly, content analysis is an influential data reduction technique due to its ‘systematic, replicable technique for compressing many words of text into fewer content categories based on explicit rules of coding’ (Stemler, 2001).
Analysis of the artefact 1000 words
This discourse analysis focuses on the artefact of a song-text. Quantitative and qualitative key words in text give hint to main terms of soft power, religion and American actions and values. In order to receive the most objective result, this analysis was coded independently three times and the average result is considered. Furthermore, it only regards the first and second verse as well as considering the chorus only one time.
Discourse and American values, actions
This analysis starts by referencing to the ideas of discourse. Twenty-three times the families of words linked to American actions and values are found. When talking about discourse, Michael Foucault plays an important role. He claims that knowledge is interconnected with power. Discourse as the production of knowledge is linked to variety degrees of power; ‘how some ‘voices’ get heard whilst others are silenced’ (Pinkus, 1996). It explains the change of language and its construction, linked to the social and cultural process (Fairclough, 1992, p.1, 6). It uses the principle of ‘othering’ to establish ‘self’-identities, achieved by creating a language of dislike and fear in this case towards non-Americans and terrorists (Jackson, 2005, p.59-61). These binary categorizations are sufficient enough to capture the public’s support against ‘terrorists’ constructed as intolerable threats (Jackson, 2005, p.61, 72; Benjamin and Simon, 2003, p.385). Additionally, the U.S. are portrayed as ‘fighters for justice’, while the Middle East and its population is defined as ‘uncivilized’. Immortal Techniques asks: ‘fighting for freedom and fighting terror, but what’s reality?’, hence, it is important to acknowledge the standpoint out of which terms are illustrated (Sakamoto, 2003, p.39). In addition, America often acted in disregard to their moral values which partly destroyed their positive image. Iraq was invaded in 2003 after the U.S.’ failure to receive UN approval; self-interested military actions and its ignorance towards international law portrayed America’s unilateralism (Taylor, 2010, p.313; Sakamoto, 2003, p.35). ‘Human rights violations, we continue the saga’ is prove of this critique and is e.g. linked to America’s treatment of prisoner in Guantanamo Bay as well as in Abu Ghraib.
Media and soft power
The following section will develop this idea by looking at the notion of soft power and the use of media. The data refers twenty-two times to the families of words linked to factors such as manipulation, propaganda and representation. Due to the title and line ‘the fourth branch of the government AKA the media’, it is essential to explain the other three branches of the American government. The first branch is the executive one, responsible for implying the nation’s laws, while the second branch is concerned with judicial matters, followed by the third, legislative branch (USA, 2011). The artist refers to the media and its influential power as the forth branch, which eventually leads to soft power. Nye explains his as a method to reach diplomatic solutions and co-operations without coercion, emphasizing on shared political values, communication and understanding (Wagner, 2005; Ilgen, 2006, p.27). Moreover it is a sort of propaganda, capable of influencing and shaping behaviours and perceptions of others, deriving ‘from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies’ (Nye, 2004, p.x; Ilgen, 2006, p.75). This form of power is contrasted to hard power, defined as the employment of threats and coercion, enforcing national interests’ on to other actors (Nye, 2004, p.2; Wagner 2005).
Hence, the media is vital for American politics. Furthermore it plays a crucial role in constructing images and categories and helps to justify and explain American actions. It establishes an everyday and political language into the nation’s culture due to its role as channel between society and politics, while ‘the average citizen, made to be, blind to the reason’ through media censorship and manipulation (Jackson, 2005, p.59, 66, 164).
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Religion and Islamophobia
Nine lines are concerned with the topics of religion and difference between Western and Islamic traditions, such as ‘a fake church called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist’. This implies a critique of Christianity and refers to the notion of Islamophobia, which is defined as the mostly Western intolerance and fear of Muslims and Islamic ‘otherness’; it emphasis on its differences, defined as inferior to the West and unresponsive to change (Islamophobia Watch; Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.2). It is a form of religious discrimination based on prejudice other than race and ethnicity (Sheridan, 2006, p.317, 331).
After the events of 11/9, Islam and its followers are seen as violent and threatening, supporting terrorism and military advances towards to West (Islamophobia Watch). Due to the fact that the mainstream media does not inform about the nonviolent Muslim perspectives, this hatred is hardened and alienates Muslims from other communities (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.2). Muslims appear as executioners of violence, in the name of Islam, hence Americans conclude that all Muslims act out of religious reassignment and define the religion as dangerous (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.10). Additionally anti-Muslim hostility is justified as normal.
Christianity and Judaism are defined as ‘Western religious traditions’, alienating themselves from ‘Eastern religious tradition’ (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.6).
The way Muslim are portrayed in the West, creates tensions leading to anti-Americanism, conflicts, clashes, misunderstandings and injustices; seemingly they to do share any common interests or values (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.3, 10).
After having categorized the lyrics into three main divisions, this analysis builds its theory; the artist seeks to demonstrate the power of propaganda through the media and soft power, and the ideas indoctrinate in American minds about their nation’s values and actions. Due to discourse, the representation of Islam in the mainstream media and through political actions, hatred against Muslims was triggered, which led to the construction of the ‘War on Terror’, as well as anti-Americanism throughout the world. American actions were justified trough lies such as Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to implant fear among their citizens and gain their empathy (Gottschalk and Greenberg, 2008, p.7, 8). The song ends with the artist’s demand to his listeners, to ‘turn off the news and read’; hence to broaden one’s horizons, avoiding being influenced by certain (manipulated) ideas or deprived from the whole truth.
To conclude, this work uses content analysis to study the lyrics of the artist Immortal Technique. This research method focuses on use of the dominant families of words which in this artefact are discourse, false American values and actions, soft power, media, religion and Islamophobia. In addition, this approach endeavours to find the link between them, which is the power to alter representation and language in everyday life and hence, establishes a critical view towards American society, its politics and its media.