Spiral of Silence is a theory in Mass Communication…it’s simple.
My first encounter with this theory was during my first/second year in the university, under the module, Theories of Mass Communication.
It was my first point of call with the Hypodermic-Needle [media messages work on people like magic], Two-Step Flow [people depend on other people’s interpretation of media messages], Uses & Gratifications [people use the media to meet certain needs, it’s not just magic], Agenda-Setting [the media may tell us what to think about, but not what to think] theory etc.
I particularly liked the Spiral of Silence because it was really easy to remember, and didn’t have too many tenets that one had to cram and store in the brain for exam purposes… :P. This is how I helped myself remember what the Spiral of Silence theory stood for in pedestrian terms…
Basically, Spiral of Silence tells me that I mostly shut-up my mouth and keep my thoughts to myself in any discussion where my opinion falls into the minority.
That is, even when living under a system of government that is sold out to protecting people’s right to express opinions on the public questions of the day, there are still circumstances where people would be reluctant to do so, because of a built-in fear of isolation or exclusion.
This theory was put forth by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.
The flow goes: The majority thinks this is right| I don’t agree with them| But I better keep my mouth shut!
This theory crossed my path again while doing some reading for the research. Stephen Cooper in his book, Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers as Fifth Estate of the Realm, was trying to draw a critical comparison between Neumann’s theory and Habermas’ Public Sphere theory [my main theory]…but iDigress.
Coming in contact with this Spiral of Silence reminded me of AUNTY NGOZI’s loss of the World Bank seat and the mixed reactions I witnessed on Twitter yesterday.
Many TWITTER-INFLUENTIAL people on the social network were rejoicing (to put it mildly) that she lost the position – and naturally, I saw a lot of FOLLOWERS follow suit. They have a right to their opinion surely, and from my discussions with some of the anti-Ngozi elites, their position is founded in their dissatisfaction of how she has handled finance and politics in Nigeria thus far.
I am pro-Ngozi, and the Spiral of Silence did not keep me from declaring that I wanted her on the World Bank seat…However, I began to wonder about others – take for instance the Occupy Nigeria protest.
Could there have been people who felt the removal of the fuel subsidy was a worthy venture, but wouldn’t dare air their views?
I would like you to please comment and tell me if you have ever been in the situation where you refused to engage in public discussions (especially democratic ones) because it was obvious your views fell into the minority – if you could cite a real -life example, that would be fantastic!
Your responses would also feed back into my project – and I would be replying in the comment section.
Thank you in advance!!