Exposing Political Manipulation and Bias in Mediatised Translations

The Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model

By Mátyás Bánhegyi (Károli Gáspár University, Hungary)

Abstract & Keywords

English:

The study explores political communication to uncover how the media, and within it the press, tries to manipulate its audience also using translation as a tool to this end. The paper discusses crucial aspects of mediatised communication including reality, the presentation of reality as well as political and party bias. It will be argued that these factors can be incorporated in a theoretical model to assess bias and reality-related aspects of mediatised texts and their translations. The study will conclude by introducing a purely theoretical model, the Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Analytical Model, which facilitates the analysis of source and target texts used in the context of political mass communication.

Keywords: mediatised texts, political bias, presentation of reality, translation-centred political mass communication model, teoria della traduzione, translation theory, translation and politics

©inTRAlinea & Mátyás Bánhegyi (2013).
"Exposing Political Manipulation and Bias in Mediatised Translations The Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model", inTRAlinea Vol. 15.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/1914

1. Introduction

Since Hungary’s accession to the EU, Hungarian political life has been increasingly characterised by the presence of international and transnational influence. It is also more and more common that even Hungarian domestic politics is fought on a European level, at times involving political actors of other countries. Concerning the involvement of non-Hungarian political players in Hungarian domestic political life, numerous examples can be mentioned from Hungary’s very recent past: both the Gyurcsány and the 2nd Orbán Governments have been exposed to international criticism for their deeds, actions or words (c.f. Lovas 2012, or concerning the New Hungarian Media Law of 2011: Népszabadság Online 2011).

A regular scenario when international criticism is targeted against a country is that an act, political deed or utterance provides basis for international criticism, which is then focalised by the actual opposition and some media in the given country. So that foreigners can learn about political events it is almost inevitable that translation be involved: such bi- and multilingual settings necessitate that the act, political deed or utterance in question be translated from a source language into a target language that is commonly used in international political debates (most often into English).

Concerning the translation of political texts, Baker (2006) very precisely points out that translation is a two-edged sword that can render the source text in a way that the resulting target text contains, or alternatively, does not contain political manipulation. Due to its vast number of readers and to its privileged position in today’s information age, the mass media is often a powerful vehicle to realise or combat political manipulation. It is this political manipulation that the present study seeks to describe by offering a theoretical model capable of pinpointing such manipulation.

How can we trace political manipulation in source and target texts with the help of text linguistic means? How can we figure out what is happening when these texts are construed or received? Is it possible to design a theoretical model that is capable of screening political manipulation in mediatised political texts? Our reply to the last question is in the affirmative and it is hoped that the theoretical model described in the present study will help uncovering the answers to these highly intriguing research questions.

The present study investigates political communication with special regard to how the media, and within it the press, can manipulate its audience. It will be examined in what ways the receivers of political texts are influenced by mediatised communication. Needless to say, since political texts are mostly communicated through the media, translation plays a part in informing and even influencing receivers, which deserves the attention of Translation Studies. This interest is also demonstrated by the literature, which extends to the investigation of the relationship between politics, power, ideology and translation, and to the issues related to news translation. Below, we will be returning to these questions in a brief literature review.

 The theoretical model described in the present paper was partly designed to interpret the findings of the Translation-centred Discourse-Society Interface Model (TDSI Model), which has been described in detail in Bánhegyi (2010, 2011a, 2011b). For lack of space, suffice it to say that the four-component TDSI Model reveals textual features with reference to the social-political context of source and target texts (component Context), social action hoped to be achieved by the texts (component Action) and the reproduction of power (component Power) and ideology (component Ideology). Nevertheless, the theoretical model introduced here can also be used on its own for the purpose of uncovering manipulation and bias in mediatised political texts. The theoretical model put forward does not claim itself to be the exclusive approach to the examination of mediatised political texts in Translation Studies: it is merely presented as a possible approach as is customary in the domain of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), in which the present study is contextualised. Nor is the theoretical model introduced in this study tested for validity or reliability, since it must be noted that CDA cannot be fully objective as it deals with the interpretation of “socially-based mental construct[s]” (van Dijk 1997: 16), which includes space for subjective interpretations on the part of the researcher due to the fact that researchers perceive context through their own minds.

Structure-wise this study will highlight the importance of translation in establishing or retaining power and transmitting ideology through the translation of political texts and will provide a thematic grouping of related Translation Studies research; it will briefly portray the relationship of political science and mass communication in general, and it will elaborate on the following communication-related issues: reality, the presentation of reality and bias. Reality and the presentation of reality will be described within the framework of Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatised Political Reality Theory and Mazzoleni’s (2002) classification of active audience. Bias will be approached using Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias. Connecting media theory and Translation Studies in one theoretical model, the study will conclude by introducing the Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Analytical Model, which has partly been designed for the interpretation of the findings of the Translation-centred Discourse−Society Interface Model (TDSI Model) in the context of source and target texts used in political mass communication. Centring on the issues of reality and bias, the current approach will reflect a constructivist approach to discursive political science (Szabó 2003) and investigates how political meanings are constructed by political texts.

With reference to the terminology used in the present paper, the work carried out by media text producers, the media and journalists (the latter depending on the context) also include the job of translation, which is most often done by the journalist him- or herself (Bielsa 2007). In fact, journalism is a mixture of both translation and editing (Stetting 1989 and Valdeón 2010) and in the present research context the separation of translation and editing does not yield any added value and has, therefore, been discarded.

2. Power, ideology and the translation of political texts

In international and sometimes, in the case of certain bilingual countries, even in national contexts, translation may play a prominent role in, and be a vital vehicle and means of, communication in publishing and publicising political agendas as well as maintaining political power. In this respect, translation itself may easily become a political tool. This is especially so since translation is in fact textual “rewriting” that publicly credits the author of the text for authorship, pretending that it is the author him- or herself who has created the translated text. At the same time, translation hides the translator, or the journalist as it may be, from the public eye, who actually does the job and who has the potential to effect textual changes. Translation in this respect can serve the purposes of gaining, maintaining and even abusing political power in the interests of certain political groups and can do so quite unnoticed. Probably this is the reason why Translation Studies started to show interest in investigating the translation of political texts.

In recent years, more precisely since the ‘cultural turn’ of the early 1990s (Dimitriu 2002:2, Hatim and Munday 2004:313), Translation Studies has shown intense interest in analysing the translation of political texts and the power relations involved in the translation of such texts. The main research areas in this general field include the following research directions, also represented by the scholars appearing in parentheses below:

  1. diverse purpose cross sections of discourse analysis, translation studies, ideology and/or politics (Hatim and Mason 1990, Hatim and Mason 1997 Chilton and Schäffner 2002, Schäffner 2004);
  2. the analysis of the social, cultural, ideological and political contexts of source and target texts and cultures (Pym 1992, Pym 2000, Schäffner 2003);
  3. text typology and textual functions of source and target political language texts (Nord 1997, Trosborg 1997);
  4. the role of translators as intercultural agents or cultural mediators (Venuti 1992, Katan 1999);
  5. translators being potential points of conflict during their work (Tymoczko and Gentzler 2002, Tymoczko 2003);
  6. translators’ purposeful manipulation of target texts and translators’ textual choices reflecting ideological and/or political commitment (Alvarez and Vidal 1996, Baker 2006); and, recently,
  7. translators’ political activism and social activism as part of translators’ professional work (Baker 2007).

A narrower research field in Translation Studies and text linguistics is one that incorporates diverse aspects of culture and society and provides an account of how these features influence political text production. In this research field, cultural and social psychological approaches dominate as demonstrated by the authors appearing in parentheses:

(a) the analysis of text production strategies (Chilton and Schäffner 1997, Schäffner and Adab 2001, Baker 2006);
(b) the interpretation of context, i.e. the effects of social and sociocultural factors on actual texts produced (van Dijk 1997, Munday 2007);
(c) the ideologies of given societies and the surfacing of such ideologies in texts (Tymoczko 2000, van Dijk 2002, van Dijk 2006);
(d) theories that deal with implicitly surfacing evaluative beliefs (van Dijk 1997, Schäffner and Kelly-Holmes 1996, Wodak and van Dijk 2000) and
(e) the interrelation of all the above research fields with the media industry (Fairclough and Wodak 1997, Bell and Garrett 1998).

Another research field constitutes text-centred approaches to political discourse and wishes to uncover in what ways politics and ideology surface in political texts. This field includes the following research areas:

(a) pragmatic-oriented approaches, in the scope of which text is viewed as the interaction of communication partners (Álvarez and Vidal 1996, Chilton and Schäffner 1997, Hatim and Mason 1997, Gutt 1998, Baker 2006);
(b) the research of quasi-correct text production (hybrid texts) evolving as a result of cultural and political differences in the source and target cultures (Schäffner and Adab 2001) and the use of hedges in the translation of political texts (Schäffner 1998); as well as
(c) Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which views communication as a battlefield of conflicting powers and ideologies taking place in the form of social interaction (van Dijk 1985, Kress 1985, Seidel 1985, van Dijk 1993, van Dijk 1997, Fairclough and Wodak 1997, van Dijk 2001, van Dijk 2003, van Dijk 2006, Valdeón 2007, Chan 2007).

Focusing specifically on the diverse roles translators may assume in the process of translating political texts, numerous research topics have evolved in Translation Studies. The topics, research fields and their representatives of interest for us now are the following:

  1. translators’ professional roles and politics: Palmer (2007), Dragovic-Drouet’s (2007), Gagnon (2006);
  2. translators acting as mediators in situations of political conflict: Tang (2007), Calzada Pérez (2007);
  3. translators’ professional responsibilities and the strategies they apply: Maier (2007), Schäffner (1998);
  4. the inference of translators’ own historical, social and cultural backgrounds in their work: Kuhiwczak (2007), Nikolaou (2007);
  5. manipulation in the translation of different text types: Foster (2007), Williams (2007), Chadwick (2007), Baker’s (2006);
  6. critical discourse awareness in translation: Valdeón (2007), Chan (2007), Schäffner (2004).

An even narrower and somewhat neglected research field deals with translation in the media and extends to the organisation, methods and the personnel of news translation. Concerning recent developments in this field, one can mention the following works: Puurtinen (2003), Brownlie (2010), Ciamotto (2010), Federici (2010), Gumul (2010), Hernández Guerrero (2010), Loupaki (2010) and Valdeón (2010). Narrowing down our interest to politics, media and translation, below we will describe how bias and reality surface in mediatised texts and their translation.

3. Political communication, the media and translation

The research of mediatised political communication began almost right after the emergence of mass media. Translation Studies, however, began to show interest in this area only in the past few years. Researchers agree that the reason for this is that it is very difficult to separate the work of the journalist and that of the translator in the production of translated mediatised texts. Recent research has dealt with the role of translators in an increasingly globalised world (Cronin 2003), discussed the organisation and work flow of global news agencies (Bielsa 2007), examined news translation as localisation (Bielsa 2010), explored the role of translation in the information society and studied related problems (Valdeón 2010). Media theory, nonetheless, has not been exploited in this research context. It is our belief that Translation Studies should rely more extensively on general media theory in the research of the effects translated media texts achieve in readers as media theory has developed sound theoretical basis on which Translation Studies oriented research of mediatised texts can build. For this reason, the study continues with the discussion of general media theory concerning bias and political reality, which issue, through the translation of mediatised political texts, bears relevance to translated texts as well.

Concerning the effect political texts achieve, it was established as early as at the end of the 1940s that the political message (shortest possible meaningful summary of a political text) and the gist of political texts (shortest meaningful summary of a political text containing all the topics and themes described in the text) play a very important role in political communication (cf. Bánhegyi 2011b and Tirkkonen-Condit 1985). According to Lasswell (1948), in terms of the content of journalists’ or politicians’ messages, the emphasis is laid on what the sender says and not on the linguistic characteristics of the message or the context in which the political communication takes place (qtd. in Mazzoleni 2002: 101). With a view to this, it was realised quite at an early stage of mediatised communication that politically it is crucial what the media communicates and that it is also decisive how the media communicates. Apart from the realisation that the communicated message must be interesting and argumentative for the receiver (Hovland et al. 1953), it was also established that the media has a crucial role in presenting the communicated messages and events. If a political message is broadcast in preference of a certain ideology, we talk about bias in the media in favour of one or more political parties (Marletti 1985, Gamson and Modigliani 1987, Semetko et al. 1991).

It is not an uncommon phenomenon that the media and political parties are closely or loosely affiliated. In terms of this connection between the media and political parties, Mazzoleni (2002) argues that the press has always shown more party bias than radio or television. Interestingly, articles published in the press make party bias more visible than other mediatised genres do. As for the possible reasons for the phenomenon of increased party bias in the press, Mazzoleni (2002) enumerates the following two causes. First, the press has always had the opportunity to reflect more extensively on different political opinions along the course of history due to its comprehensive and more exhaustive coverage of events. Second, traditionally certain papers were established to be the instruments of groups of people (e.g. parties) with a view to serving the economic and political interests of these groups. A third cause, in our opinion, may also be that, due to political and ideological reasons, certain moneyed groups will financially support newspapers airing certain ideologies even if such a venture does not produce (immediate) financial returns. Obviously, if that is the case, such a paper will have no other choice but to exhibit the political and ideological bias shared by its owner.

Discussing the relationship between the press and the political elite, Mazzoleni (2002) also adds that quality papers have always aimed at reflecting the opinions and the points of view of the cultural and political elite. It is also noteworthy, Mazzoleni (2002) claims, that the quality press is seeking a privileged position and connections with the political elite and profits from them. In terms of bias, this clearly means that a quality paper linked with the cultural and political elite that feeds it will lean, i.e. exhibit bias, towards it.

Concerning the relationships between the media and political parties, Semetko et al. (1991) point out that a close connection exists between the political parties and the media in Europe: the media is traditionally an ideological agent in society, therefore it is subordinated to parties and their leaders. In terms of bias, this suggests that, depending on the political party with which the given newspapers are linked overtly or covertly, the papers will communicate that party’s stance, will represent its interests in issues that are publicised and will reproduce its ideology. As a corollary to this, it can be stated that the newspapers which are linked with parties in government will tend towards advocacy journalism, while opposition related papers are likely to work along watchdog journalistic lines (Semetko et al. 1991). Advocacy journalism presents and defends the government’s standpoint, whereas watchdog journalism criticises and attacks the government. Most dailies are obviously no exception and seem to follow the same trend (cf. Szabó 2003).

If we accept that parties do influence the media, it seems practical to establish to what extent this happens or can happen. With reference to the party bias of the media, Blumler and Gurevitch (1990) distinguish the following four levels of party bias:

  1. High level of party bias: when parties exercise no direct control over information channels, but there is an indirect control through political-ideological cooperation with media experts;
  2. Medium level of party bias: when the media support a given party or a certain political position, yet this support depends on the critical evaluation of politicians’ actions or on the content of certain political stances;
  3. Low level of party bias: when media support by political parties is sporadic and unpredictable as the media is not dependent on the political events. This means that the events that take place in the given country and bear political significance do not necessarily surface in the media, that it no party or group has the power to arrange for the coverage of events in the media;
  4. No party bias: full political and editorial autonomy.

Even though it is Level 4 that would be desirable for objective journalism, seldom does a newspaper enjoy financial independence from decision-makers to an extent that full objectivism would be feasible. This is especially true in Hungary, where the newspaper market cannot in fact support all the daily papers and where non-party-biased central government support under certain political powers in government is virtually non-existent.

With respect to potential media bias in a given political environment, Mazzoleni (2002) claims that non-biased normative and ethical principles of journalism are a key factor that influences the level of media bias: the higher the level of keeping to the normative and ethical principles of journalism, the fewer instances of advocacy and watchdog journalism can be observed.

4. Political reality and translation

Political reality, its perception and interpretation have generated considerable interest among scholars of political science and news translation. Political science has established that several competing political realities may exist side by side. When researching the reporting and translation of these realities, Bielsa (2007) notes that journalists often write about a foreign reality that they may not fully understand and consequently they may construct a seeming reality for their readers. This seeming reality may not accurately reflect real political events, which bears consequences also on mediatised translation. So that we can understand the types of realities with reference to news translation, which Bielsa (2007) also discusses, and some of which concepts we are using in this study, we must turn our attention to political communication, which has developed the necessary concepts and terminology to address the issue of political reality and its presentation.

 The actual reality of political events, the presented reality in political texts and their relationship have long been in the focus of political communication. Actual reality here denotes the political events as they happen, while presented reality comprises all the ways and means political reality is communicated through different channels and the media. Certain political communication approaches to political reality and the presentation of actual reality centre around the ways political reality is reflected in the construction of news pieces (McQuail 1994) or in agenda setting (McCombs 1996), i.e. what political events are discussed in news pieces and what political events will be part of longer term political plans or agendas. Besides this, certain other approaches focus on the notion that the majority of receivers, who are not present when certain political events take place and do not personally experience the political event in question themselves, are provided only with a linguistic realisation of it (Corcoran 1990, Edelman 1987, Oakeshott 2001, Szabó 2003). This suggests that the linguistic realisation of a political event may give a different impression of the event than experiencing the event itself. This latter approach to political reality has fuelled research on the effects presented political reality in the context of mediatised politics exerts on the receivers of such mediatised reality and the society concerned.

Investigating the relationship of the media and political events, based on Crespi’s (1994) account of the research of the Chicago School, and especially the work of Mead (1934) and Gurevitch and Blumler (1990), Mazzoleni (2002) appoints forming the social structure of reality to be the central role of the media. This term refers to “the ability to structure the system of meanings characterizing and guiding individuals’ actions in society” (Mazzoleni 2002: 60, translation by the author); in other words, providing a mediatised interpretation of political events. Obviously, characterizing and guiding in such a social and political context cannot result in an unbiased presentation of political reality, especially that we are talking about the interpretation of political events by a person working for the media. Given the role of the media in political communication and the fact that the media interprets political events, the presentation of such events is seen as manipulative in the present context (cf. Szabó 2003).

In connection with manipulation, in accordance with the constructivist approach to discursive political science, Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatised Political Reality Theory differentiates between three categories of the actual political reality as it is presented by the media:

  1. objective reality, which denotes events, people, and activities related to a political event – e.g. a government and its decisions − without any orientation to presentation or distortion, i.e. exclusively the actual events, people and activities are presented;
  2. subjective reality, which relates to the same objective reality but this reality is perceived from the perspective of the participants and the audience of such political reality. Here participants basically means the people taking part in and/or being affected by the political events in questions, e.g. voters, families, journalists, etc.;
  3. constructed reality refers to those events that will be visible, perceivable and will make sense to non-insiders or non-professionals, i.e. to all others than politicians and politics scholars, only if the media, in its own interpretation, presents these events. Presentation encapsulates establishing connections between political events and providing an explanation thereof.

It follows from the above that the political reality presented by a journalist will fall into the category of either subjective or constructed reality (or both, as these may overlap). It is important to note here that argumentative texts such as newspaper articles are quite likely to be categorised in one of the categories above (portraying subjective or constructed reality) as these articles − due to their argumentative nature − describe political events and establish causal relationships between them, as well as present these events from the perspective of the author (and the translator) of the mediatised text. Argumentative texts, on the other hand, are most likely to offer explanations of political events as they describe political events and establish connections between such events as part of their argumentation.

Whatever is non-objective – let it be subjective reality as perceived by the journalist or constructed reality as a result of the journalist’s political explanations – is inevitably bias-prone, and nothing constructed can exist independent of its constructor(s). Such a non-objective scenario will without doubt result in a subjective and therefore biased presentation of events, people and political activities. Besides, objective reality in itself can never be presented as it is impossible to give an account of events “as they are”: in the case of the press, political events are always presented through the mind of journalists, who interpret the events in their articles.

Another important factor in the presentation of political reality on the part of political text producers, including journalists and translators of political texts, is active audience (Mazzoleni 2002). Active audience describes how the journalist and the translator as citizens relate to the political issues that are currently on the political agenda. Journalists and translators may observe differences in stance between the various parties and may well sympathise with the party that best represents their views (Mazzoleni 2002) and consequently express their sympathy in texts through their presentation of constructed reality. Similarly, when journalists and translators expose themselves to the effects of political texts, they may want to reinforce their own opinion on any given issue in any context: that is, it may well happen that journalists produce articles and translators produce translations that reflect their own political views through the presentation of constructed reality.

In connection with the presentation of political reality and the political potential that lies in it, Noelle-Neumann (1984) and Losito (1994) observe that through the media powerful groups with high interest representation potential are able to give voice to their political opinion repeatedly and markedly, as a result of which the receivers of such political texts assume that these opinions are decisive.

As noted above, it is almost impossible to present political reality or write about it in an objective manner. If this non-objective presentation often happens and is done in line with certain tendencies, we talk about bias, which is discussed in more detail below.

5. Types of bias

The media’s incapacity to provide receivers with objective reality seems to allow for the speculation that the media can even choose to deliberately present a certain subjective or constructed political reality and/or can depict political reality in a way that the resulting presentation is coherent with the political stances or world views of certain powerful groups (Gitlin 1990, Entman 1993, Mazzoleni 2002). If objective political reality is purposefully presented as subjective or constructed reality, relying on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, we talk about intentional bias. Should subjective or constructed reality be presented in order to achieve an ideological goal, manipulation is effected. Manipulation is in fact “the product/result of the partiality and one-sidedness of the media presenting messages in the interest of one or more parties of the political system” (Mazzoleni 2002: 27, translation by the author), which is an obvious realisation of intentional bias.

According to Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, apart from intentional bias, inadvertent bias also exists, in which case journalists are unaware of their subconscious tendencies of presenting subjective or constructed reality. We shall exclude such instances from the current investigations as the present study does not extend to the exploration of subconscious tendencies of text producers (including journalists and translators). As a consequence, we will presuppose that text production will reflect conscious tendencies including the possible application of intentional bias.

5.1 The creation or distortion of reality

With reference to the possible causes of intentional bias, it has been pointed out that journalists may have their own political preference: they may be affiliated with the members of a party or a government, and can therefore produce texts that are telling of these sympathies or bear the textual marks of the effects of these affiliations (Blumler and Gurevitch 1990: 275). On the part of journalists, personal political affiliations that realise as bias on a textual level will be termed personal political bias in the present theoretical context (political bias in Mazzoleni’s 2002 Theory of Bias to be precise). Translators may also exhibit personal political bias in their target texts. This practically means that journalists and translators reproduce their own political convictions in their articles or translations, respectively.

However, Mazzoleni (2002) also asserts that the professional norms and standards required by journalism in general and/or by a specific medium a given journalist works for equally play a dominant role in causing bias to appear in newspieces. If a journalist observes these professional norms and standards, the resulting text will show, according to Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, structural bias. That is, newspieces will reflect the professional norms and standards of the medium publishing the given piece. These norms and standards can prescribe a most objective or less objective presentation of political reality, the production of argumentative texts or sensational articles, as it may be, suited to the type and nature of the actual medium and so on. This also suggests that certain media, as dictated by their professional norms and standards, publish newspieces that exhibit left or right wing political bias, are argumentative or sensational in their nature, etc. Such features describe the structural bias of these articles.

With reference to the current study, the bias present in political mass communication links up with the TDSI Model as the bias in political communication “is the source of power: it is an instrument to exercise influence, it has a controlling and innovative role in society” (Mazzoleni 2002: 40, translation by the author). This suggests that bias and the presentation of reality, on the one hand, and society, context, power and ideology, on the other hand, are interrelated in the domain of political mass communication. Below, it will be clarified how the diverse forms of reality and bias present in source and target texts will be interpreted in the light of political mass communication through a two-component analytical model, the Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model (TPMC Model). It will also be described how the two components of reality and bias link up with the four components of the TDSI Model. In fact, the TPMC Model will be used for the interpretation of the findings obtained through the TDSI Model.

6. The Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model

The TPMC Model has partly been specifically designed for the interpretation of the findings obtained through the TDSI Model. Nonetheless, the TPMC Model can also be used independently. In fact, the TPMC Model accounts for and explains the results generated by the TDSI Model from a functional perspective and will allow for drawing conclusions in connection with journalist and translator behaviour as well as their critical awareness with reference to the translation of political texts.

The TPMC Model is made up of the following two components: Reality, based on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatised Political Reality Theory, and Bias, based on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias. As the TDSI Model reveals textual features connected to the social-political context of source and target texts as well as the reproduction of power and ideology in these texts, one can account for and explain these textual features by finding answers as to why the source texts are constructed the way they are and why the target texts are translated the way they are in relation to the political mass communication function of the texts in question. As the primary function of all political texts is to persuade receivers (Oakeshott 2001: 193), the presentation of reality and bias is crucial as through them a certain reality can be presented, explained and politically positioned for receivers in order to promote certain political interests.

In light of the above, the component of Reality of the TPMC Model focuses on the objective or non-objective presentation of political reality in newspieces and their translations. In the TPMC Model, Reality has two aspects: subjective reality and constructed reality. The term subjective reality denotes the reality perceived from the perspective of the participants of this political reality and the method of the presentation of this reality. In a Translation Studies-oriented research context, this implies that both the journalist and the translator will phrase their own subjective realities in the texts they produce as they are participants of the political events pictured in the source and target texts.

Constructed reality refers to those events that are presented through the interpretation of the media and describes the method of the presentation of this interpreted reality. In a Translation Studies-focused research context, this implies that the journalists will present certain political events through their own interpretation in their newspieces functioning as source texts, while translators in their target texts will also produce their respective interpretation of the political reality in question, naturally within the limits afforded by the source texts.

The other component of the TPMC Model, Bias extends to journalists’ and translators’ personal political convictions and to the professional norms and standards of journalism and of the translation of political texts. The component of Bias incorporates two aspects: personal political bias and structural bias. Personal political bias denotes personal political affiliations, which realise as bias on a textual level: such bias manifests on the part of the journalists and translators as personal political affiliation with traceable textual signs. In the context of the current study, this implies that the journalists will include their personal political views in the source texts as they most probably sympathise with the political side whose newspapers employ them, and likewise translators will have their own political convictions, which they may incorporate in their target texts.

The second aspect of Bias, structural bias, denotes professional norms and standards associated with text production. In the context of the present study, structural bias can function in the following way: journalists observe the professional norms and standards required by the journals that employ them, and they will be guided by the professional norms and standards of translation as perceived by them. It is likely that journalists will strive to produce texts that satisfy the editorial boards.

For the sake of clarity, Table 1 displays the aspects of the Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model broken down into the two components of the Model.

Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model Component:        Reality

Aspect

Description

subjective reality

reality perceived from the perspective of the participants of this reality (journalists and translators) and the presentation of this reality

constructed reality

events presented through the interpretation of the media or translation as well as the presentation of this interpretation

 

Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model Component:        Bias

Aspect

Description

personal political bias

journalists’ and translators’ personal political affiliations that realise as bias on a textual level

structural bias

the professional norms and standards of journalism and of the translation of political texts that realise as bias on a textual level

Table 1: The components and aspects of the Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model

As mentioned above, the TPMC Model can be used for the interpretation of the findings obtained through the four components of the TDSI Model: the two components of the TPMC Model will be linked to the four components of the TDSI Model. This in practice means that the output of the four components of the TDSI Model will serve as the input of the two components of TPMC Model in the theoretical model introduced here.

As it was pointed out above, the TDSI Model extends to the analysis of the social-political context of source and target texts (component Context), social action (component Action) and the reproduction of power (component Power) and ideology (component Ideology). The TPMC Model’s component of Reality centres on the presentation of political reality, while the component of Bias on personal political convictions and professional norms and standards of text production. In an attempt to interpret the findings of the TDSI Model with the help of TPMC Model, the findings obtained with the help of the components of Action and Ideology of the TDSI Model are explicated through the TPMC Model component of Bias, while the findings obtained with the help of the components of Context and Power of the TDSI Model will be explained through the TPMC Model component of Reality. This is justified by the following: the components of Action and Ideology of the TDSI Model reveal hoped-to-be-achieved social action and ideologically charged text production, which link up with person-specific political and professional attitudes to bias incorporated in the TPMC Model component of Bias. Person-specific political attitudes are observable on the part of the journalists and the translators, while professional attitudes are required by the newspapers publishing the source texts and the “art”, “trade” or market of translation. On the other hand, the components of Context and Power of the TDSI Model uncover social and political contexts and describe both the power that provides access for journalists and translators to produce texts about the actual political reality and the power such access guarantees in communication. These aspects relate to political reality incorporated in the TPMC Model component of Reality.

Figure 1 visually depicts the relation of the different components of the TDSI Model and the TPMC Model.

Figure 1: Visual representation of the relationship between the components of the TDSI and the TPMC Models

Looking at the figure, it becomes obvious that the outputs of which components of the TDSI model serve as inputs to which components of the TPMC model. It is also apparent that the two models are in a symmetrical relationship (2 components of the TDSI model link to one component each of the TPMC model). It can also be assumed that the same amount of data are generated along each component, which enables a balanced analysis using or producing roughly the same amount of data as input and output, respectively.

7.      Conclusion

To facilitate the research of mediatised political texts in Translation Studies, based on Mazzoleni’s (2002) Mediatised Political Reality Theory and Mazzoleni’s (2002) Theory of Bias, the TPMC Model has been established to more thoroughly account for bias and reality related source and target text features of mediatised political texts as well as to enable the analysis of the findings produced with the help of the TDSI Model in the context of mediatised political communication. The study has justified the concurrent application of the TDSI and TPMC Models and also clarified the relationship between the different components of the two Models. It is hoped that the application of the TPMC Model in Translation Studies will not only make the research of mediatised political texts easier and more transparent but will also facilitate an easier comparison of the findings of research produced through the use of the TPMC Model.

Finally, it must also be noted that the approach presented here moves away from the idealised concept of news translation as it appears in Translation Studies, where the purpose of translation is seen as transmitting information precisely while conforming to target text rules (Bielsa 2010). Our approach also takes into account Pym’s (2004: 55) notion that translations are “new texts designed to serve new purposes, without any necessary constraint by equivalence”, which notion may easily be extended to the political content of translated news pieces given that they may be purposefully manipulated to serve political interest groups. And as such, translation may not be content-wise equivalent with the source text. The TPMC Model intends to provide a useful analytical tool for assessing the political content of translated news against the concept of factual equivalence on a content level. 

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Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary

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©inTRAlinea & Mátyás Bánhegyi (2013).
"Exposing Political Manipulation and Bias in Mediatised Translations The Translation-centred Political Mass Communication Model", inTRAlinea Vol. 15.
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