Politics As Symbolic Action. Mass Arousal and Quiescence by Murray Edelman

By Murray Edelman

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Unlike fresh or controversial content in speeches, the stylistic element does not raise questions of policy agreement or disagreement for debate and criti9 8 9 Jonathan Schell, The Military Half (New York: Knopf, 1968). Edelman, Symbolic Uses of Politics, pp. 73-84. Information and Cognition 39 cism. Where the content is banal, the very banality is taken as a signal of conformity to widely accepted values, further encouraging public support for the leader. By contrast, consider the modal response of audiences to p o litical speeches that are highly innovative and unexpected in both style and content.

Not one of our policemen would have come out alive. " A National Guardsman, believing he had heard shots from the front, fired a shot at the building. Reports of heavy sniper fire at particular locations poured into police headquarters, and officers were dispatched to rout out the snipers. General perceptions: Police and residents seemed apathetic and often aloof to the situation. 50 Politics as Symbolic Action Looting was becoming organized. " Perceptions of Cyrus Vance, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and presidential representative in Detroit, and Lt.

Dissonant cues apparently come from family or peers only where, as in the ghettos, Appalachia, or the communities of upper middle class college students in the late sixties, there is unambiguous evidence in everyday life that official policy hurts the group in question; protest movements and revolutionary parties can play on these cues. Even in these cases, the school continues to promote beliefs consonant with the governmentally cued cognitions. 12 13 14 THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF POLITICAL COGNITIONS Symbolization imposes some degree of structure upon a repertory of cognitive elements.

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