Players and Plays:
The Elements of a Game Model

In everyday life, people often act as if power and a positive public image are a form of wealth or currency that is in short supply and can be exchanged. They work to attain it and then use what they have both to gain more of the same and to get other goods. They use power and image to get jobs, win contracts and bed partners, and motivate others to sacrifice time and effort. They also use their own power and image to add to, and take away from, the image and power of other people under their control. Thus, managers may use their position to pass out praise and criticism the way they pass out bonuses, and teacher’s may compare one child to another, boosting one's self-esteem while deflating another's, in the political world of elementary school image wars.

The relationship between these two forms of wealth is a complex one, involving intricate interactions. Power can be used to shape how other people's and one’s own image is perceived; but power often also depends on image for its survival. Without a positive image, people can lose power and position. With a positive image, more power may be theirs for the taking. One might say that power and image can be used to "buy" all kinds of things, including each other.

We thus find that image and power are part of a complex market. Like all markets, it involves scarcity and competition; wealth and ruling classes; poverty and underclasses; profit and loss; thefts and donations, expenditures and exchanges. And like all forms of wealth, people know, even if they don't articulate it in words, that image and power are on loan, from other people and society. Neither is ever truly our own, much as we try to identify ourselves with power and position and how we are perceived by others.

But people don't only act as if image and power are forms of wealth and currency. They also act as if there is a battle going on over these two prized possessions, a symbolic war of all against all, in which many of those involved are fighting to come out on top, and in which alliances, secret and otherwise, can be used to strengthen one's side. People engage in combat, negotiate peace treaties, allow hostilities to break out, and make and break coalitions, as each side tries to enhance and protect its own power and image, and that of its allies, while robbing those it perceives as opponents of this form of wealth and victory.

Extending the metaphor of war further, we can see that there is a field of battle; weapons and means of combat, in which combatants can use or threaten violence against reputation. There are strengths and vulnerabilities, strategies; camouflage; peace treaties, violations, alliances, negotiations, defenses, stand-offs, victories and defeats; takeovers, and surrenders. Ultimately, there is also the prize both sides are seeking, which can be wealth, property, guilt or innocence, political position, audience, or the right to define situations.

These interactions, involving what can be described as the economics and warfare of image and power, aren't merely as old as humanity; they are undoubtedly older, emerging in a primitive form when groups of our animal ancestors became organized around status. They cross all cultures and, indeed, while we will find variation in cultures separated by time, space, physical barriers and language, we will also find the same patterns showing up again and again, making it obvious that we are dealing with phenomena that are as universal as language, cognition and kinship, and that are a result of the make-up of the human (and mammal) mind, and the limited possibilities for action provided by the world.

As in all human worlds, we find these patterns repeated in the world of news and politics. But, here, there is a difference because efforts to gain power and alter image, to help oneself and one's allies, while hurting and opposing one's opponents, have achieve a new degree of self-consciousness and a new kind of management. They have done so, first, because being in the game and attaining a valued position in it has enormous rewards of many kinds. It bequeaths status and admiration, the right to command people and be catered to, and the ability to shape the direction of society. And because the action in the realm of news and politics happens on a stage, with a vast audience, it is the image that is projected that, to a great degree, determines who will be in the game and what position they will hold.

Image also dominates because one set of players - namely the news media - interposes itself between the audiences that judge the players and all the other players. It is the news media that usually projects the final image that audiences will be exposed to, and this news media doesn't merely present the image it is presented with; it amplifies, alters and often challenges the image of the other players, as it probes for ways to attack their credibility and power. In a situation in which every permutation in image can have significant consequences and every player must vie for media approval or, at least, attention, and also defend him or herself against media attention, you have the loaded mix of contemporary public life in America.

Most of us know all of this, of course, whether consciously or tacitly, and we act on what we know all the time. Our knowledge is encoded in the cognitive schemas we use to understand the world and decide how to act in it. These schemas provide models that tell us what we are experiencing and what the actions of others likely mean; they provide recipes for how we can and should act, ourselves, and information about the effects we can expect from our actions and those of others. They are a stock of knowledge, largely unconscious -- a lattice of associations and categories, imbued with values and emotions, fears and desires -- that make up the cognitive-emotional substrate of conscious personality and action.

We use this stock of knowledge to recognize what other people do and to act ourselves. We know what we are doing, but often without symbolizing it to ourselves in words and almost never symbolizing it to ourselves in any organized fashion.

What follows is an effort to take what we all know about these interactions involving image and action (especially power), and both make it explicit and organize it into a model or system of ideas. If we can do so, we will take a step toward an empirical and systematic social science image and action -- and thus toward an empirical and systematic science of human interaction and motivation.

The model that is used here is a game model in the sense that it describes people who are in competition with each other for certain prizes in a field of action, and who use strategy to attain their goals.* But what will be described is a peculiar kind of game, an information game, in which people win and lose by how they use real people and events as the raw material for creating information – depictions, portrayals or images.

As in most games, this one includes players, moves, strategies and sequences of actions, all of it organized by players' efforts to come out on top in win-lose situations (although this doesn’t mean that if one player wins, another necessarily loses). It includes the contestants or competitors, in this case journalists, politicians and others on the stage of public life, all of whom are players in the game. Most are organized into teams of various sorts, which interact with each other in complex ways.

It includes an arena of play, a game board if you will, which, in the largest sense, is public life itself, and which includes, as Goffman would say, (to switch metaphors, here) its front stages, such as legislatures, press conferences and debates, and its backstages, such as newsrooms, news meetings and political strategy sessions. These arenas don't just exist, of course, as a pre-existing field of action. All the players participate in creating and shaping the arenas, creating settings that will favor themselves and their own construction of image, as much as possible. Efforts to shape the game board are, themselves, an essential part of the game.

The game described here includes two kinds of victories. First, players seek to be represented a certain way in communications. They seek after a certain image. Second, and not always easily separated from the first, there are the other goods that they hope a positive image will obtain for them -- to win office, win the contract, win the nomination, win the academy awards, win audience share, win a Pulitzer, get a promotion, be admired by other journalists, get to be on television, and so on. And there are judges of various sorts who decide which sides win or lose, such as voters, presidents who make appointments and juries in courtrooms, since, in this game, winning or losing is generally decided by other people. The goal is to get these judges to have a certain image or perception in their own minds, including an image of how others are responding and will respond to certain actions, and to then act accordingly.

As alluded to, the players are everyone in public life – journalists, politicians, celebrities, defendants, and so on. As in all games, they have various strategies; they can publicize things, write stories, videotape certain scenes, write letters, pass laws, make promises, turn their good side to the camera, file lawsuits, participate in demonstrations, threaten violence, appeal to voters, go to court. And they have strengths and weaknesses which have a lot to do with how other players act toward, and respond to, them. Thus, they have good looks, great heads of hair, charisma, arguments that are convincing to certain voters, eloquence that sounds convincing even when it shouldn't, blackmail material on enemies, the ability to get a good night’s sleep in the face of adversity, and on and on, through the repertoire of human possibilities.

Of course, games only provide the root metaphor and model for what is being described. Unlike most games, public life isn't a fictional world that re-creates and alters some of the conditions of life. The stakes are genuine, and most players take what they are doing very seriously.

With this in mind, lets start by defining the basic elements of the game of shaping image.

SUBJECT: The subject is anything portrayed in a story or other communication. People, institutions, events, objects, ideas, ideologies, places, styles, historical periods, and so on, can all be subjects, since we can depict any of them. The subject is the actual, concrete Bob Dole, as opposed to the transformation into the image of Bob Dole in news stories, interview questions, people's thoughts, and so on. The subject is the actual Bay of Pigs invasion, before the transformation into an image in news stories, history books, and political speeches.

Of course, it takes only a very slight shift of perspective to see that subject is often also a constructed image. Thus, the news media may construct an image of Bob Dole in a particular situation or event. But Bob Dole will have first, also constructed an image of himself in his public appearances, consciously and in ways that are outside of his awareness. That constructed image, along with whatever else he conveys, is the subject for the image that will be constructed of him in news stories. What is the raw material for the image he creates? Presumably, it is those aspects of himself that he is "portraying."

It should be noted that even when institutions, events, objects, and so on are the subject, the actual subject or one of the main subjects is often still people. It is, after all, people who make up the institutions, participate in events, and so on. And it is people who create many objects or make claims about objects that give those objects certain meanings.

Of course, the subject isn’t the only raw material that is used in the construction of image. In addition, images are constructed out of the repertoire of schemas, fantasies, knowledge of audience reactions, understanding of how to shape various media and so on.

IMAGE: The portrayal of something, embodied in a physical-sensory object or existing "in" the mind, which often places that something on the value grid as good or bad, in various ways. Images may all be embedded in stories or narratives, implicitly or in obvious ways, since all, at least presume ideas about settings, situations (plots) and people or other actors (characters). This is a truism, but it very likely has a great many consequences for how we perceive people and events, and how we relate them to each other.

This model focuses on interpreting and analyzing images in recorded communications, such as videos or newspaper articles. Since these persist over time and since different observers can get access to them, these can be analyzed by different parties to see if there is a consensus as to their meaning. But images ultimately appear as experiences and unconscious thoughts and perceptions in the minds of audiences.

MEDIA: Images are embodied in media or sensory and physical objects, including words, paintings, videos, tones of voice, and gestures and body language.

COMMUNICATIONS: The basic objects of study of this model are communications in which images appear. Communications are human (and other) creations that refer to something or portray something, telling a story and conveying a certain attitude about it, in short, that create an image of something. Communications take a subject and use it as a model or source, to create patterns of information that are supposed to depict it in some manner, although all kinds of other forms of raw material which may or may not be acknowledged go into the actual depiction.

Communications can be spoken sentences, a guilty verdict, a news story, a book, a speech, and so on.

This model focuses primarily on communications carried by mass media. Most are, or claim to be, nonfiction. Some, such as political humor, including many editorial cartoons, and the opening monologues of late-night programs, may refer to public life, taking what is claimed to be a factual core, and using it in a fictional way. One might refer to these as reality-based or fact-based communications, except, as we have already seen, they are permeated by fictionalization and fantasy.

The model can also be used to analyze more avowed forms of fiction. A television sitcom may show character A making a discrediting remark to and about character B, even as the creators of the program are "discrediting" fictional character A for making the remark, and discrediting actual people like A. The analysis of these forms of action in fiction, will reveal a good deal of information,

PLAYERS: Players are anyone who tries to shape the way something will be portrayed, or the image it will have, in a communication. What players are trying to shape are the actions in the communication -- the way it treats the image of themselves and others, and what the communication does as a result of that.

In one sense, we are all players almost all the time, since we are constantly behaving in ways that present an image of ourselves, other people, ideas and things. We even engage in a kind of self-play, in which we suppress and disguise warded off thoughts before they can be "displayed" in consciousness, thus manipulating the image of ourselves, to ourselves. Thus, to be conscious is to be a player, although much of our play may be unconsciously motivated. And to the extent that the mind censors information in dreams, because we are afraid to know about it, we are still players who are shaping a self-image, even if we appear to not be aware that we are perceiving the image.

But we are particularly concerned, here, with players who influence the shape of news products or some other communication. Players are constantly trying to influence the narratives that journalists will create and the actions they will take in news stories.. News stories are shaped by all the influences exerted by players, including pressure groups, politicians, other journalists, editors, and audiences. Many of the influences exerted by players are not discrete actions intended to shape one story, but behaviors intended to create a relationship with a reporter and shape his thoughts and feelings, that will be reflected in overall coverage or in important stories later. Thus, if a politician intimidates a reporter into leaving out unflattering details in a specific news story or if he invites the journalist to some event in the hopes the journalist will self-censor himself, the politician is counted as a player.

DIRECT AND INDIRECT PLAYERS: Direct players are the people who directly shape news products and other communications. These are the journalists and editors who write and alter the stories, directly. If the communication is a speech, then the direct players are the speech writers and the person who delivers the speech, shaping it with tone of voice, body language and so on. Everyone else is an indirect player, who exerts an influence on the direct players, so they will shape the communications a certain way.

RECIPIENT: The term "player" describes the active phase of shaping news products and other communications. Recipients are those on the receiving end of actions in these communications. In the case of the news media, politicians frequently find they are on the receiving end of efforts to enhance or defend or damage their image; to exert power over them, and so on. Players play to affect what recipients receive. Lets say a political consultant gives an off-the-record interview to a reporter, revealing damaging information about his politician-client's opponent. The consultant is an indirect player, who is influencing a reporter, a direct player, to write a discrediting news story. The opponent is a recipient of the discrediting action, engaged in by both consultant and reporter.

Players and recipients are often the same people. Indeed, one of the most important goals players have is to influence the actions that a news story will take toward them as recipients. The terms "player" and "recipient" can thus describe the active and passive phases of a strip of interaction. Players work their will on the journalist and his news story, and they then are recipients of whatever actions or moves are embodied in the news story. They affect the shape of the story before it is published and are affected by the story when it is published.

Let say politician, A, intimidates a reporter so the reporter will make the politician look less blameworthy for some act of corruption. He is an indirect player. As a result of his action, the journalist, B, inserts the following description in his story: "Politicians A, who many observers believe knew nothing about the pay-off before it took place…" Here, as a result of the act of intimidation, the journalist, a direct player, makes two moves or engages in two actions, in the story: he defends the image of the politician, as a way of submitting to him. Put in slightly more schematic terms: A defends B as a way of submitting to B. The politician, B, is on the receiving end of the image enhancement and the submission. He played, by intimidating, and then he was the recipient of two actions: image enhancement and submission or subordination.

Not infrequently, players will try to influence a news story one way and discover they are on the receiving end of very different actions than those they tried to evoke. They flatter, hoping their image will be enhanced, but are discredited, instead. They are players and recipients but the action they receive isn't the one that was intended by their play.

There are also individuals who make no attempt to influence the shape of particular news stories, but are still on the receiving end of an action embodied in a story. Such individuals are recipients but not players. Since we all present an image of ourselves in our everyday dealings, of course, there is a more limited sense in which that person is still a player.

Every journalist is surrounded by potential players and recipients, including advertisers, politicians, members of the audience, pressure groups, lobbyists, other reporters, editors, publishers, competitors, friends and so on. As noted, anything can be a recipient: a person, an animal, a machine, an experience, an idea, a way of governing, a group of people. If one says nice things about Marxism, for example, then the philosophy and practice of Marxism is a recipient of the image enhancement. In practice, once again, it is easy to demonstrate that such moves in relation to philosophies are also made in relation to people, such as those who support the idea or would use it as a guide for action.

BENEFICIARIES: Recipients whose image is enhanced or defended as a result of a move or action in a news story.

VICTIMS: Recipients whose image is attacked.

AUDIENCES: Intended and unintended observers of communications. The primary audience for media products is generally considered to be people in their capacity as audiences and voters. But all such communications may have numerous, often hidden, audiences, whose reaction to the communication is viewed by the players who shape the communication as being of some special importance. A reporter, for example, doesn't merely write his story about a politician for the paper's readers; he also particularly concerned about the reaction of a smaller audience consisting of the politician and his allies, and the politician's opponents, all of whom may be spurred to various kinds of action by the story, including actions to reward or punish the reporter or encourage or discourage similar stories in the future. Indirect players and recipients are, thus, often of special interest to direct players, in their capacity as audiences.

Official audiences are those who are publicly (more or less) defined by the communicators as the audience for the news product or communication. Hidden audiences are those whose reaction is of unacknowledged importance to the players. Communications have power because they affect audiences.

HIDDEN PLAYER/RECIPIENT: If all players and recipients were referred to in a news story, we would at least know who influences the story; what the story is about and what is its goal. But news stories are acted on by hidden players who influence the shape of news stories and who are then on the receiving end of its actions, but who aren't referred to in the story itself. They also have hidden recipients who may not have tried to shape the news story. To appreciate this essential point, consider the following: if politician A successfully intimidates reporter B into leaving unflattering details about himself out of a news story and adding some that are flattering, he is (1) a player, who influences the story, (2) a recipient of the submission and image enhancement from the reporter, and (3) a subject of the news story. But now lets say that the reporter holds back unflattering details about politician A because of a call from the publisher, C, who is a friend of politician A. The more important act of submission is to the publisher, who is a hidden player/recipient, receiving the act of submission but not appearing as a subject in the story. Direct player, A, the journalist, declines to discredit indirect player, B, as a way of submitting to indirect player and recipient C (the publisher.) Readers have no way to know that C is part of the process by reading the story.

Indirect players, and some direct ones, do much of their acting on direct players, in secret, and so they are frequently hidden. Even when they aren’t, many of their communications are hidden. If Newt Gingrich says on television that a reporter had no right to write what he wrote, he is a manifest player and the play is out in the open – his effort to influence what this journalist writes in the future is obvious. If he says this to the journalist in an off-the-record telephone call, he becomes a hidden player, for the purposes of this play.

Journalists are obviously the central players in shaping their own stories. But they often act as hidden players, as well. Lets say Journalist A interviews Politician B and, during the interview, Journalist A tells Politician B that his opponent engaged in a discrediting attack on him. Politician A then, as the reporter expects, defends himself and attacks his opponent. The journalist then quotes the self-defense and the attack in the story. He is thus a hidden player, shaping the quote from the politician, which he then uses, but failing to reveal his own role as instigator of the quote, although audience members may be aware that the reporter is the interviewer. He influences a politician’s communication as a way of shaping his own communication in a way he desires.

To be a hidden play is to engage in a hidden action. It means only that one is hidden in relation to that action. One need not disappear altogether to be a hidden player.

UNINTENDED PLAYERS: They influence the moves the journalist makes in news stories, without intending to.

IMAGOS: Individuals from the journalist's past can be indirect players and recipients. They are remembered in emotionally-laden images that are subject of fears and desires, all of which is then projected onto current subjects, players and recipients. To use a simple and clichéd example, a father may intimidate a daughter into not challenging male authority figures. Later, the daughter, as journalist, may shy away from including unflattering details in her news stories about a male politician, who she sees in terms of her father. Her behavior is partly shaped by her father as a player, and her submission and image-enhancing actions are partly directed toward her father as recipient. In other words, A, the journalist, declines to discredit B, the politician, as a way of declining to discredit C, her father, which is a form of submission to C.

Unless journalists are willing to be publicly psychoanalyzed, such internalized figures from the past are hidden from view, requiring that we analyze the journalist's productions and behavior for information on his or her mindset. We may not usually know his or her deeper motives, but we can often identify his patterns of action, which reveal the psychodynamic subtext of the journalist, although to do so will also raise questions about invasion of privacy.

MOVES, PLAYS or ACTIONS: So long as we view the image or depictions that communicators create only as part of a text, it does not involve action, at least not the kind of action described in this model. It is merely characterization, understood in the most reduced definition of that term possible. But the minute we view the image or depiction as being intended, consciously or outside of awareness, to affect recipients (including audiences), we have to view it as a form of action and interaction, or what is also referred to, here, as moves or plays.

This model focuses on actions or moves that fall into four basic and overlapping kinds. First, communicators try to attack or enhance or defend the image of recipients. In engaging in these acts of credit and discredit they are obviously attempting to affect the image audiences have of the recipient. This first kind of action has a privileged place in this scheme. (Whether it is an action like the other three, may be explored at a later time.)

The model is interested in the way these efforts to credit and discredit are efforts to engage in three other kinds of actions. These other kinds are:

Players seek to exert power over, or submit to, recipients (which can be themselves, other people or something else).

Players seek to hurt or help recipients.

Players seek to oppose or cooperate with recipients.

All these kinds of moves overlap and interact in complex ways. The latter two categories, involving harming versus helping and opposing versus cooperating, aren't necessarily identical. One can oppose someone to help them, not to harm them, as when one opposes a drug addict's efforts to get drugs, in order to help him escape addiction.

Every such effort is considered one move or action, which means that one sentence may have more than one move. A sentence in a news story that seeks to discredit someone in order to defend oneself from their discrediting attacks, will have two moves: a discrediting attack and a defense. It would be described this way: A discredits B to defend A from B's discrediting attack.

HIDDEN ACTIONS, MOVES or PLAYS: Many moves, perhaps most, are hidden from public view, as referred to earlier in the reference to hidden players. They may occur in a conversation that the audience is unaware of or they may be disguised in the story or other communication.

"UNCONSCIOUS" MOVES: All players can influence the shape of news stories in ways that are conscious, avowed and/or put into words or images, or in ways that are "unconscious," disavowed and/or not adequately symbolized in words or images, with all gradations in between. For the purposes of this model, these are just another kind of hidden move. Imagine that a reporter and politician have developed a good working relationship that each has good practical and emotional reasons to want to protect. But every time the reporter asks a question about a potentially discrediting subject, the politician experiences anxiety and becomes less friendly, but isn’t conscious of the change in tone. The politician has made at least two moves, which can more or less be described as one of opposition to defend image, and he or she has acted as a player without consciously recognizing that fact. Similarly, the reporter has made a number of moves in response, submitting by not asking the question, in the service of protecting the other's image and preserving the relationship.

In fact, a great many moves by all parties, like all actions in life, take place with varying degrees of conscious awareness and avowal. Players can be on "automatic pilot" or so absorbed in what they are doing, they fail to reflect on it. Or they can be in full denial, actively warding off the truth of what they are doing. These are truly hidden moves.

MOVES; RESPONSES; COUNTER-MOVES: Moves set in motion counter-moves, including complementary moves and defenses. They result in investigations, denunciations by official and semi-official spokespeople, social ascensions, increased profits, increased coverage, elections to office and enhanced influence over other players, which may, themselves, be covered in news stories, resulting in yet other responses.

Moves are generally intended to evoke other moves. That's what they are there for. A goes on television to accuse B of some misdeed because A wants other parties, C, to then investigate, charge, denounce, break off relations and so on, with B.

Moves also evoke counter-moves which may be expected but not desired. Generally, the initial player has already plotted out in his or her own mind, perhaps explicitly, what the possible consequent moves by others will likely be, and, in turn, planned counter-moves. In many instances, this knowledge remains implicit and the initial player who sets off a series of moves doesn't plot out in words what he expects to happen next. He simply knows intuitively, which is to say it is all there encoded in the mind in mental models of the situation, and vaguely attended to. When these new moves take place, the initial player recognizes them and also recognizes that he or she expected something like that, and then automatically produces his or her own responses. This is, of course, the way conversation takes place, as well.

If we understood the cognitive process that makes this possible, we would understand much of the workings of thought. Suffice to say that, for the most part, the processing goes on outside of conscious awareness and then becomes conscious or manifests as behavior. The player may feel a "premonitory" urge ahead of time, to do or say something, but there need be no conscious construction of an idea before it is said or acted on.

INVITATIONS AND COMMANDS: As noted, players generally engage in moves to evoke other moves. One obvious example are moves that are intended as invitations or commands to other players to engage in other moves.

Some invitations are more explicit than others. Reporters extend explicit invitations all the time; they ask questions that are invitations to provide answers; they invite people whose image has been subject to discrediting attack, to defend themselves; they invite politicians to attack other politicians. Indeed, extending explicit invitations is the primary method by which journalists gather their material. Yet, as alluded to earlier, they edit out many of the actual invitations and show audiences only the responses, turning their invitations into hidden moves and themselves into hidden or semi-hidden players.

Generally, invitations, when it comes to image, follow the same basic pattern of all such interactions. Player A can invite player B to enhance, defend or attack the image of player A, player B or some other player C, in order to engage in other actions. Invitations can be efforts to exert power or submit; to harm or help; oppose or cooperate.

Examples of invitations might be:

"What do you think of your campaign opponent's latest advertisements, claiming he never evaded the draft;" - an invitation for A to attack his opponent, B.

"What do you think of your campaign opponent's latest advertisements claiming you cheated on your taxes;" - an invitation for A to attack his opponent, B, and defend himself, A.

"How did you balance the budget?" - an invitation for A to enhance his own image.

PHONY INVITATIONS, TRAPS OR SET-UPS: Many actions, which masquerade as invitations for some kind of response, are also attacks or other direct actions in disguise.


The question, "How did you balance the budget?", from a reporter, sounds like an invitation for A to credit his own image. Then, after A takes the reporter up on the invitation, the reporter's makes his move: "But according to an independent audit, whose findings were not made public..." The invitation was really a set-up for an attack.

QUALIFIERS: One kind of defensive move is one in which someone qualifies something they say or do, to make clear that they know they might be subjected to a discrediting attack over what they are saying or doing, and are aware of how it may appear to others. These may also include explanations for why they are doing what they are doing. An example of a qualifier are the references to "sound bites" in the transcript to "This Week With David Brinkley," which takes up a separate chapter.

NETWORKS: Even relatively simple actions are embedded in, and responses to, complex networks, involving relationships, previous moves, anticipated moves, and so on.. A reporter, in asking one question of one player, for example, may be engaging in the following actions, involving a network of people: submitting to a command from an editor to do the story; submitting to professional rules for how questions are asked and to social rules that govern politeness in phrasing, as a way of submitting to editors and other audiences; submitting to the player's previous efforts at dominance by asking the question in a less direct way; submitting to his own primary caretakers who he wants revenge against; submitting to the publisher who he knows wants to see the recipient attacked; exerting dominance over the recipient by putting him on the spot; engaging in a discrediting attack by asking discrediting questions; and so on. If you now imagine the reporter, in the course of preparing and writing one story, interacting in actuality and imagination with numerous players, including subjects, peers, editors, imagoes, and so on, the complex network of moves and relationships that shape one story start to come into focus. In addition, each of these people also occupies a position in a network of relationships.

OFFICIAL DISCREDITORS: Some people are given special rights and obligations to discredit, under certain circumstances. This model is primarily concerned with one type of official discreditor, namely the news media, which discredits openly, in editorials, investigative stories, interviews, and, in regular news stories.

Some professions specialize in discredit, such as prosecuting attorneys and reporters for "60 Minutes". Their role is the creation of scapegoats, who embody negative qualities and are depicted as violating of the moral order of society.

OFFICIAL CREDITORS: There are also official creditors, such as the Nobel committee. Power and position give one certain rights to credit or discredit.

ABSOLVERS: Those with the power to forgive past slights and restore status. For example, spokespeople for various interest groups take upon themselves the right to accept or not accept apologies and accounts from those perceived to have wronged these groups.

MUTUAL BLACKMAIL SOCIETIES: A doesn’t discredit B so B won’t discredit A.


STRATEGY: plots and plans for winning.


TRANSFERENCE MOTIVES: Much of what television news and politicians do involves the instrumental manipulation of audience emotions and value judgments. They denounce and praise, express admiration or anger, not because they feel strongly that something that was done is right or wrong, good or bad, but merely to influence the audience’s reaction. A good example is the creation of villains and depictions of villainy on tabloid news shows, which exaggerate the depiction of evil to manipulate the audience. Another is political ads that falsely accuse opponents of violating morality in various ways.

The instrumental manipulation of values, emotions and psychological processes is a commonplace practice in contemporary media. It can involve a conscious effort at manipulation and/or the creation of depictions which the creator does not himself believe, in order to evoke a reaction. But the communicator may himself believe in the values and emotions being evoked. Perhaps the best description is one in which instrumental manipulation occurs to the extant a communicator evokes emotions, values and psychological to achieve certain goals. If you’re an anti-communist and you denounce a competitor as being a communist, you may believe it, but to the degree your prime purpose is to eliminate a competitor, you are involved in the instrumental manipulation of values and emotions.

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* Discussions of the work of Goffman have shown that there are two ideas or root metaphors one can have for the manipulation of image. In one, people are seen as much like con artists or game players, manipulating image to attain their goals at the expense of other players. In the other, they are profoundly social beings -- almost social altruists -- who manipulate image to make interaction and social life easier. Using the first idea, we might view someone as presenting an image of themselves as a team player in order to win some tangible benefit -- an appointment to a high position, say. Behind the smile, we would look for the knife. Using the second idea, we might see someone presenting themselves as a team player as a way of telling other people they are good interactants and moral beings like themselves and, so, other people don’t have to worry about them and can get down to other forms of business.

The first approach is more conducive to a conflict model of society; the second to a functionalist model, concerned with how society maintains itself. Both are obviously true and blend together, and both come from the same sources of motivation. The model of image and action, as presented here, emphasizes the first, but is relevant to both.

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