Unpacking ‘Freedom's Safest Place' : A multimodal critical approach to ideology and identity in the NRA ad campaign

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Title: Unpacking ‘Freedom's Safest Place' : A multimodal critical approach to ideology and identity in the NRA ad campaign
Author: Tuniche Sepúlveda, Allison
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Helsingfors universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201806132579
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Magisterprogrammet i engelska språket och litteraturen
Englannin kielen ja kirjallisuuden maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in English Studies
Specialisation: Engelska
Abstract: This thesis examines a video advertising campaign by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), an active civil organization that prides itself on being the utmost protectors of gun rights in America. The ‘Freedom's Safest Place' campaign, which took place from 2015 until 2017, uses music, images, and captivating speeches by NRA members in an attempt to seek support and recruit new members. The main objective of this research is to uncover the discourses of identity and ideology underlying these ads, expose their content, and identify the multimodal means by which these are transmitted to the public. This research takes a multimodal critical discourse studies (MCDS) approach to the issue, looking at the materials at the levels of discursive content and multimodal means. The analysis of the 33 video ads from the campaign is performed using a micro-transcription matrix adapted from Baldry and Thibault (2006), a methodology for MCDS proposed in Wodak and Meyer (2016), and some theoretical tools from systemic functional linguistics. This qualitative analysis focuses on the modes of image, music, and language, the role they play in the construction of the message, and how they work in conjunction to create and replicate discourses of identity and ideology. The analysis reveals that, through their structure and links between language and images, the ads portray the NRA and its members as action-takers, fighters, and defenders of the country. The ads also repeatedly replicate the discourse of us versus them, separating the NRA and its opponents through the use of pronouns, color, and rhythm and presenting a discourse of absolutes in which everything is either black or white. Finally, by using violent language, dark images, and ominous music, the ads reveal the NRA's worldview to be one of a world at war in which innocent people are constantly under the threat of evil. More broadly, this thesis also reveals the relevance of modes other than the linguistic in the transmission of messages and the decisive role that an MCDS approach can play in the analysis of multimodal media.

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