As Ernest Gellner argued, “If nation-building projects entailed the synchronization of politics and culture… the media played a crucial role by bringing together disparate populations under the same cultural roof.”
At its inception, media not only centralized and unified primary languages, but also broadly distributed information across caste and class and brought populations together under a common set of cultural information. From advertisements and social media to movies and television, media continues to bring people together. However, nowadays, the individual has the capability of determining whether to unite under an umbrella of nationalism, cosmopolitanism, anarchism or almost any philosophy one could possibly desire.
Although individuals are capable of freethinking, advertising plays a huge role in the way people spend their money. People in the same area often buy the same products due to advertising targeted at a certain cultural or national values. A commercial is capable of essentially claiming that when a customer buys their product, he or she also supports the nation and it’s values. For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE
On the other hand, social media provides an avenue for research, conversation and debate with an expansive audience of a variety of thinkers. While social media platforms can act as a tool for educated thinkers to express their ideas, Facebook and Twitter primarily serve as a type of advertisement for products, cat videos and celebrity gossip. Another reality of social media is that the loudest voices are typically not the educated thinkers, but those without another platform to express their ideas. While many of the social media audience may promote nationalism, it is likely that for every nationalist voice in the social sphere, there is also a voice of anarchism and separatism.
Many television shows and movies also promote nationalism whether it’s through blatantly nationalistic plot lines, subtle dialogue or even symbols. One movie that promotes an overtly nationalistic theme is Independence Day. The movie sets up the United States to unite and save the world through a mission to combat and destroy evil invading aliens. While other nations might see the plot as a farce, many Americans may feel a sense of pride and unity watching the U.S. President fighter pilot save the entire world.
An example of a TV show that promotes nationalism through seemingly insignificant symbols and language is Boy Meets World. Although Boy Meets World is about a typical American teenager and his typical American family, there are moments that highlight nationalism. While an American audience may not even notice these nationalist cues, they would be quite obvious to a foreigner. Some of these moments include an American flag in a classroom or children saying the Pledge of Allegiance before the school day, merely re-enforcing the acceptable national American identity.
Media continues to bring people together as a nation through advertising, social media and entertainment. For better or worse, media promotes conversation and a sense of community. Those communities are often at the national level. Although media contributes to a variety of other types of communities, the media continues to sustain nationalism.
Waisbord, Silvio. “Media and the Reinvention of the Nation.” In The SAGE Handbook of Media Studies, edited by John D. H. Downing, Denis MsQuail, Philip Schlesinger and Ellen Wartella, 378. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2004.