podcasts, research

Cross-Cultural Communication and Transnational Crimes

This C+MRC podcast episode features a scholarly dynamic duo. Who also happen to be married to each other. Dr. Bond Benton joined the School of Communication and Media in the College of the Arts this year. Dr. Daniela Peterka-Benton also joined Montclair State University—in the Department of Justice Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Together they have a growing body of research at the intersection of media, popular culture, cross-cultural communication, and transnational crimes. Their work spans:

  • Japanese environmental perspectives in Godzilla films
  • Building public relations teams in post genocide Rwanda
  • Recruitment and retention strategies employed by international terrorist organizations
  • Reputation repair strategies for consumer brands hijacked by alt right and Neo Nazi extremist groups.

Benton and Peterka-Benton co-wrote a piece for the Fletcher Forum for World Affairs in 2016 titled, “The Battle of Thermopylae and the Iconography of Hate” where they discuss the 2007 film 300 and its unexpected positioning as propaganda of far right movements in Europe. Here is a pull quote mentioned in this episode:

“The media has enormous power in energizing social movements for good or ill.  The Scottish independence movement, for example, was profoundly influenced by the film Braveheart. More insidiously, D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist epic Birth of a Nation was instrumental in the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan. . . While it is folly to attribute the traction gained by far right organizations and hate groups to media images, history suggests that we would do well to consider how popular culture is capable of turning hate into heroism.”

In their piece “Effects of Cultural Collectivism on Terrorism Favorability” published in a 2014 issue of The Journal of Applied Security Research Benton and Peterka-Benton found that cultural attitudes are rarely taken into consideration in the formulation of proactive policies designed to eliminate terrorist environments and groups. And that democracy has features that are frequently not compatible with the perspectives of more collective cultures (Benton clarifies this in the podcast to mean the “American” version of democracy). Other interesting takeaways from their research:

  • The “majority rules” ethos of democracy suggests that the plurality of individual opinion has more value than collective group identity
  • The link between increased political freedom and decreased political violence is largely unsubstantiated.
  • Framing terrorism as something that limits individual choice is unlikely to serve as a salient argument when group status is the supreme value. Framing terrorism as detrimental to group status in a compelling and culturally authentic way may prove a far more fruitful approach.

And if this doesn’t compel you to listen to this episode, then the conversational tangent into BTS (K-pop) just might.

Dr. Bond Benton joined the School of Communication and Media in the College of the Arts this year. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in Austria after working with the State Department for nearly a decade. His research focuses extensively on the global and cultural dimensions of public communication. His first book, The Challenge of Working for Americans was published in 2014.

Dr. Daniela Peterka-Benton joined Montclair State University’s Department of Justice Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She has a PhD in Sociology with a specialization in Criminology from the University of Vienna, Austria. Her research interests center around transnational crimes such as human trafficking, human smuggling, arms trafficking, and right-wing terrorism and extremism. Dr. Peterka-Benton has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals. Prior to her focusing on a full-time academic career, she worked for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria.