Cultural, social and political dysfunctions in religious communication: two case studies

TitleCultural, social and political dysfunctions in religious communication: two case studies
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Codina, M.
Affiliation (1st Author)School of Communication. University of Navarra
Section or WGMedia, Religion and Culture Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeMRCW3a
Slot Code (Keyword)MRCW3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleDiversity, Secularism, and Interfaith Dialogue
Submission ID5013

If the media have played a part in the secularisation process, today this also echoes the cultural, social and political dysfunctions found in the various comprehensive doctrines of the world. Globalisation means that media messages have an unlimited scope and can act with great political and cultural reach. The challenge is to find ways to articulate rational public communication through the media, providing an understanding of religious and cultural diversity. In this respect, public media-based communication is one of the areas in which different comprehensive doctrines can demonstrate their rationality. Media provides a semi-official public space in which it is possible to articulate a broader political discourse interwoven with a multiplicity of cultural and religious discourses. On this basis, it begins with the traditional doctrine that presents the right to free speech and free press as the public defence of the awareness of freedom (Locke, Milton, Cato's Letters, Blackstone, Heyman, Peters). Subsequently, it points out a number of difficulties public communication entails in presenting the rationality of religion due to both the nature of religion and the media. This is followed by a description of how media processes can change the nature of any speech by analysing two cases,, the Danish publication of a number of Mohammed cartoons and the speech delivered by Benedict XVI in Regensburg (Codina and Rodriguez-Virgili). Finally, attention will be drawn to how the emergence of political and cultural challenges calls for greater knowledge of the different comprehensive doctrines; furthermore, it implies that the models of rationality employed by public communication cannot focus exclusively on political rationality (Rawls, Habermas, Ratzinger). It shows that while the purpose underlying the freedom of the press is to ensure a place for diversity, it does not always achieve it. Public speech can come across differently to what the speaker originally intended should the target audience come from a different background or the media put a certain slant on the interpretation. The social dysfunction that occurred in both cases (the Mohammed cartoons and the Regensburg speech) highlights the need to reflect on public communication processes within a new global framework as well as the proper means of coordinating different human goods such as free speech and respect for the beliefs of others. Some of the practical problems involved in the public communication of diversity and religion may be pointed out such as the role of media professionals in the possible misinterpretation of public speeches, since the manner in which they are received is not unequivocal and may not even be understood in the way they were intended. Other issues concern how to overcome the difficulty of communicating subtle reasoning, and how to prevent the politicisation of communication. If the promotion of intercultural dialogue is a means of preventing future conflicts regarding culture, politics and society, some theories concerning the rationality of the public sphere will be discussed. This goal exceeds the limits of a merely political rationale (as Rawls proposes).

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