Category Archives: Ideology


One way consent (hegemony) is manufactured and maintained is through particular uses of language. Here’s an example from the New York Times:

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Note the use of passive verb construction when the police originate violence and the use of active verb construction when ordinary people do.

American Roman Noir (225)

Both A Kiss Before Dying (KBD) and The Grifters are examples of what William Marling has called the American roman noir. Noir in this instance echoes another genre, film noir, and refers to a whole repertoire of narrative elements including settings, characters, plot devices, and diction. More generally it signifies a degraded moral condition and a pessimistic, even deterministic, view of the world. The noir universe is one where dark impulses drive action and appearances are often deceptive. Though romans noir often play out in the demimonde— cheap bars, casinos, shabby boardinghouses, etc.– moral darkness also pervades sun-struck suburban streets and opulent penthouses.

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The relative size of the text on this sign is a semiotic code. In other words it shapes our understanding of the message. The phrase “And Keeping Costs Down” has greater visual presence– and thus signifying power– than “helping to keep people healthier”.

Other codes include the color blue and the image of the woman. In terms of the latter, note that the model pictured is older and she has a pony tail, a sign connoting youthfulness and action. She’s apparently next to a weight rack, which by the principle of association “belongs” to her. So “helping to keep people healthier” (not healthy, healthier) has been relegated to the realm of personal exercise. “Healthier-ness” is asserted as the responsibility of the individual (“lifestyle”) rather than taking the form of collective, active intervention on the part of a health care system.