Study: Flags Project Powerful Meme Magic, Increase Sense of Nationalism in Viewers

This study measured increases in nationalism/ethnic pride among white Americans when exposed to sight of American flags. It is only reasonable to presume that the same effect would be had in Dixians that view the CBF or SN Flag.

Now they defined patriotism and nationalism thus:

Patriotism refers to the noncompetitive love of and commitment to one’s country. As such, patriotism is primarily focused on promoting the welfare of one’s nation but is neutral with regard to the evaluation of others (e.g., Bar-Tal, 1993). Nationalism, on the other hand, is related to an ideology of superiority of the ingroup over outgroups and implies the exclusion or even domination of others (Blank & Schmidt, 2003; Feshbach, 1987, 1994; de Figueiredo & Elkins, 2003; Sidanius et al., 1997;

Their definition of nationalism basically translates to ethnic pride in my book. Of course the authors are worried that the sight of flags might increase in-group preferences, interethnic violence and such, but what should we expect them to say.

Here are some interesting snippets from the study:

The implications of the present findings are potentially troubling. Whereas patriotism is typically unrelated to the devaluation of or aggression toward outgroups, nationalism has been implicated in aggression, oppression, and warfare (Federico et al., 2005; Feshbach, 1987; Kosterman & Feshbach, 1989).

At a more general level, the present research demonstrates the power of a national symbol in reproducing a specific national identity. The American flag is deeply embedded in a rich cultural and political life, in which it represents a proud and powerful nation—as well as how this nation sees itself in the world.

With every encounter, they are reminded continuously of their nation and national identity. The result is arguably that Americans’ national identity is chronically salient—and with it some nationalist ideas. In other words, we argue that the cultural practice of flagging is an important aspect of the maintenance and reproduction of the American national identity.

In conclusion, the present work demonstrates that national symbols, and specifically the American flag, help shape the national attachment of Americans. Further, even though the flag is commonly considered a patriotic symbol, our data suggest that the flag is more likely to arouse nationalism than patriotism. Arguably, the American public may not care much for academic hair splitting and the scientific distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Indeed, Americans who consider their country to be the best in the world and support America’s dominant position in the world are likely to consider themselves patriots, not nationalists. Because nationalism typically connotes extremism and aggression, Americans (as well as members of other nations) are likely to reserve this label to describe the national attachment of others. Even when there are no substantive differences in beliefs about their own identity, “their nationalism” is likely to become “our patriotism” (Billig, 1995). Therefore, it appears that self-described patriotism does not guard against a potentially more perilous nationalism lurking underneath.

I think there is another benefit that I might share in a future post, but for now this is why flags and monuments matter. They have a psychological impact on people. Who cares about our heritage when our very existence is at stake? The reason we should care about flags and monuments is because they inspire the psyche. They stir national pride and inspire us to rally together, make personal sacrifices, and to WIN.


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