Politics And The Media Essay, Research Paper
In America, the media holds a powerful and effective position in politicizing and socializing the general populace. The main political function of the media is to inform and analyze while being accountable. However the question of whether the media produces a pluralist democracy, or fosters a one dimensional society still remains unanswered. Many contemporary philosophers conclude that the media does contribute to both, some even postulate other drawbacks, for instance they posit that the media maintains elite power both in the corporate and political sector. On the other hand, some intellectual thinkers have theorized that the media, especially advertisement, is a major influence to substantiate the economy.
One common belief shared by all contemporary media critics is that the media reflects and produces values of its own, even though their onus is initially to inform. In America the media has become a corporation in a corporate dominated society, it has become a bias agency of politicization. Powerful business corporations and politicians intertwine, both using the media to indoctrinate the mass populace in order to consummate a political and social consensus. This in turn maintains their elite positions. Hollywoodism and advertisement contributes to American imperialism by generating a desire among oversea consumers to buy American products. The impact of the American media has politicized a pluralist democracy among the majority by creating a marginilized society, leaving the corporations, including the media, and the American politicians at the top of the pinnacle concerning political decisions and elite power.
Mass communications used to be, in itself, an autonomous solely owned corporation. However, this changed by the 1980 s, the majority of all major American media- magazines, televisions, radios, books, newspapers, and movies- were controlled by fifty giant corporations. Today, only twenty-three conglomerate corporations own the media. Elite theorists have articulated that giant business enterprises and politicians hold a symbiotic relationship. They are and must remain interdependent on one another in order to sustain their dominant status. The media is a corporation owned by conglomerates, therefore one cannot mistake the media s membership in the coefficient group.
In America where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite (Chomsky 1). In spite of the media s patronage with the government and corporations, one would wonder who controls whom. Not only do the politicians and huge conglomerate enterprises need ends to be met through positive political discourse and brainwashing advertisements incorporated in the media, but the media also needs ends to be served. Insofar the media is a business enterprise trying to substantiate their profits; thus the media can too dictate politicians and corporations. Any discordance amidst these three agencies will produce ramifications that would endanger the paradigm pertaining to their established elite positions. Consequently, collusion will be assessed if such a problem emerged in the symbiotic equation of power. No politician likes to lose the sympathy of even a single newspaper or radio station. For a national leader to lose the support of a major portion of all American media can be a political disaster (Bagdikian 91). This became evidently clear when Richard Berlin, the president and chief executive officer of the Hearst Corporation in New York, asked President Richard Nixon to grant him immunity from the antimonopoly law that had in previous years sent other corporate executives to jail. The Hearst Corporation owned nine newspapers, ten broadcasting stations, twenty-six magazines, and a book publishing house (Bagdikian 90). Nixon knew that if he did not exempt Berlin from the law, his actions would be remembered, come the next election. This illustrates that the government needs the media more than the media needs the government due to the fact the media has the ability to shape and form political discourse.
Also it is capable of disrupting the established paradigm, therefore threatening their dominant status.
The media and its patrons, the elite corporations and politicians, produce thought control among the non-elite, general populace. Indoctrination is the essence of democracy; propaganda to democracy is like violence to dictatorship. Mass communications has introduced new forms of social control and social cohesion suppressing dissident action. No wonder then that, in the most advanced areas of this civilization, the social controls have been introjected to the point where even individual protest is affected at its roots (Marcuse 9). Noam Chomsky, a notorious media critic, has proposed the propaganda model which traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public (Chomsky 2). The original information gathered by the press cannot be printed nor articulated before it goes through a process of filters.
The first filter illustrates the size, ownership, and profit orientation of the mass media. Here, one can distinguish between two types of media: the Agenda Setters and Mass Media. Harold Innis provides a guiltless definition of what an agenda setter is; A complex system of writing becomes the possession of a special class and tends to support aristocracies (Innis 4). Agenda setters are the larger media corporations that set the trends, for example, the New York Times, NBC, and CBS. The mass media are the trickle down media , which get all their information from the agenda setters. In simpler terms, the mass media is A simple flexible system of writing admits of adaptation to the vernacular but slowness of adaptation facilities monopolies of knowledge and hierarchies (Innis 4). The mass media are intended to indoctrinate the public. The belief system of the media sustains a marginal public and at the same time diverts them in accordance to the agenda setters and the mass media; therefore it maintains a hierarchy and at the same time it dictates social control. Corporations know generally what kind of a status one holds when reading the agenda setters in comparison to the mass media; as such they sell their products through advertisements accordingly. This filter also postulates the political ties the media has with the government; The media giants have a joint and close interest in favorable climate of investment in the Third World, and their interconnections and relationships with the government in these policies are symbiotic (Chomsky 13-14). This is not only favorable to the media giants but also to the American government as it strengthens its global imperialism.
The second filter process is headed under advertising as the primary income source of the mass media (Chomsky 2). Long before advertisement emerged, newspapers had to pay for their own business; for example, they had to pay for their features, format, style, and promotion. With the bombardment of advertisements, newspapers that incorporated ads from businesses were successful because their production costs were significantly lower than newspapers that were not ad-based. As a result, ad-free newspapers took a plunge in the media competition, or were marginalized to succumb to advertising agencies. Chomsky notes that today media is besieged by advertisements and as a result an advertising-based media system will gradually increase advertising time and marginalize or eliminate altogether programming that has significant public-affairs content (Chomsky 17). Television news clearly demonstrates Chomsky s point. News coverage is requested to a time limit, about 45 seconds, thus the message receiver does not obtain adequate information, instead, fascinating pictures that are sentimental are projected at rapid random sequence. On top of that, one-story follows another therefore not only does one get limited information but ones emotion changes simultaneously. This is all due to the inevitable commercial that must be televised at a certain time.
The third filter is classified as sourcing mass media news. Chomsky demonstrates how the government and business-promoters endure agony in order to ease the job for the press. They prepare rooms for the media to gather; they provide the press with advanced copies of speeches; they schedule their news conferences so that it brands the news hours; and they carefully coordinate their press conferences in accordance to photo sessions. In short, bureaucracies subsidize the mass media, and this in turn maintains their mutual relationship. What is ironic here is that the subsidy is at the taxpayers expense the citizenry pays to be propagandized in the interest of powerful groups (Chomsky 22). There is no doubt that We have become what we behold we shape our tools then they shape us *. During the Age of Print, newspapers have always advocated technological innovations, and hitherto, their implication has had serious ramifications. We invented the telegraph, the radio, and television which now invites political and social discourse into our homes, which shapes our political and social values to the interests of the dominant class.
The fourth filter is indexed as flak and the enforcer. Flak refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (Chomsky 26). A flak can be presented in the form of a letter, telephone call, petitions, law suits and so fourth. A flak can be enforced directly or indirectly. For instance, a telephone call to Gord Martineau or the Parliament is a direct flak, whereas a business corporation funding lobby group professionals intended to attack the media is an indirect flak. AIM (Accuracy in Media) is a powerful institution that harasses the media to follow right-wing conservative standards of bias. This proves that not only does the media present a monolithic ideology, it has become susceptible to institutions like AIM to convert their values so that it becomes a biassed form of communication.
The final filter is labeled anticommunism as a control mechanism. Basically, any news story that advocated the Left will be subjected to political harassment. The ideology and religion of anticommunism is a potent filter (Chomsky 31). Communism is considered as the ultimate evil in the U.S.A., not only does it threaten the government and property owners, it also affects media ownership and values. As Karl Marx envisaged The proletariat destroys the political apparatus of capitalism but retains the technological apparatus, subjecting it to socialization (Marcuse 22). The New York Times is considered the most powerful and influential agenda setter not only domestically but also in the foreign countries as well. Thus, one can easily hypothesize that anticommunism has not only become a religion in the continent of the Americas, but worldwide as well. This sway again contributes to American imperialism.
To illustrate how this propaganda model can be assessed one can analyze the case study of Cambodia and East Timor. During the years 1975 through 1978, an atrocity occurred in Pol Pots Cambodia. A ruthless genocide resulted into an estimated 250,000 lives. The media focused their whole attention to this gruesome and gory event, yet at the same time, the same genocide was happening in East Timor. Pol Pot was not the aggressor here, the American media was.
East Timor used to be colonized by Portugal for their rich natural resources. In 1975 a Populist Catholic group, coming from the Left, dubbed Fretlin instigated a civil war to break the Portuguese chains, and they were ascertain that they were the victors in August of 1975. This, unfortunately, led to Indonesian intervention. At the time President Ford was in office with Kissinger and they were, in fact, in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) on December the 5th, a day before the invasion took place. We know that they had requested that Indonesia delay the invasion until after they (Ford and Kissinger) left because it would be too embarrassing (Chomsky 100, 1994). By 1978 East Timor reached the 200,000 genocidal level which was supported financially and backed up politically by the U.S. all the way. When the Indonesian military ran out of arms the U.S., Canada, England, and Holland sold military equipment to them, during the same time the media provided absolutely no coverage of these events. The New York Times rendered much coverage on East Timor before the invasion because they were concerned what the outcome would be after Portuguese colonization broke up. After the Indonesians invaded the coverage dropped. There was some, but it was strictly from the point of view of the State Department and Indonesian Generals. It was never a Timorese refugee (Chomsky 103, 1994). In the New York Times index coverage of the Cambodia case constituted 1,175 column inches, whereas the case for Timor consisted of an astounding column of 70 inches. Take in to consideration the genocidal level in East Timor has been suggested to be higher than Cambodia. Chomsky noted that there was a pretty accurate coverage of East Timor presented in the London Times. The New York Times revised it radically. They didn t just leave a paragraph out, they revised it and gave it a totally different cast (Chomsky 113, 1994). At the end other media gathered their information from the agenda setters and all together the revised story became a whitewash . One can clearly construe by analyzing this case that the propaganda model is a reality. Some, particularly the media, has criticized the model as being a conspiracy theory ; Chomsky likes to call it an institutional analysis . The ramification of this case demonstrates clearly that Technological rationality has become political rationality (Marcuse xvi). The American media has the endowment to marginalize other media around the world with the American anticommunist religion , they can effortlessly repress dissent, and pave way for conglomerate corporations like Westingtonhouse and G.E. (General Electric) that own the media to sell military equipment overseas.
Those who produce television news in America know that their medium favors images that move. Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well- informed people in the Western world (Postman 106). One consumes and conceives information differently from news set out in print and news elicited in television. Information in print is sequential; meaning that it is confined to one time and place without any break or interruption. On television, information is simultaneous; information is grouped with pictures that last for several seconds following one another. Facts are composed in print whereas on television, it is improvised. One receives the directive from the eyes when reading a newspaper, while the ear acquires news from the television. One must be active when reading the newspaper, while the person obtaining information from the television remains reactive. News in print is complete, whereas television news remains incomplete and time constrained. Finally, journalist s present news on prints under a self-expression format; they give analysis in editorials. Television news anchor work on group therapy; Like television commercials, image politics is a form of therapy, which is why so much of it is charm, good looks, celebrity and personal disclosure (Postman 135). Neil Postman, another well-known media analyst, argues that cosmetics have replaced ideology when politics is depicted through the media. The twenty-seventh president of the United States was Howard Taft, a double-chinned, overweight politician. Back in those days, Taft was not exposed to visual images channeled through the media, however if Taft was a candidate running for presidency in today s world The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech (Postman 7). Postman postulates that the American people are only concerned with the appealing pictorials elicited by television while the interpretation of words are distracted; television news is a format for entertainment, not for education or catharsis.
The medium of a message is important insofar as the meaning of a message can change depending on what word is emphasized. For any medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary (McLuhan 30). For instance, one can immediately interpret the following sentence in distinct ways relying on the medium of the message; I never said you stole the money . If one accentuated the word you instead of said for example, the meaning of the sentence will alter.
A medium of communication has an important influence on the dissemination of knowledge over space and over time and it becomes necessary to study its characteristics in order to appraise its influence in its cultural setting (Innis 33).
Neil Postman demonstrates how to study the characteristics of television news in his book How To Watch TV News. Postman argues that people who are not avid readers are not prepared to watch TV news. Postman agrees with Chomsky that news is made rather than gathered and is usually selected based on an event, for instance an earthquake or an assassination of a president. News is made on the basis on what the journalist thinks is important or what the journalist thinks the audience thinks is important or interesting. In America Audiences like to see fires; fires kill, and when people are killed there is drama it creates a sense of urgency and excitement (Postman 70, 1992). One would have to acknowledge that the anchorperson on TV news is an actor. The expressions of a TV anchors visage can alter the message being conceived, it gives characteristic to the medium, and has the ability to introject values into the viewer and leave him or her manipulated to the bias of their communication. On the contrary, when the anchor is a journalist in the newspaper The story is likely to be given additional dimensions, especially if the journalist-anchor does his or her own writing (Postman 31, 1992).
.Many news consultants claim that no matter what they say, the audience prefers to watch good-looking, likable people it can relate to (perhaps of the same age group, race, etc.) Unfortunately, in some markets the top anchors are sometimes hat racks who read beautifully but who can barely type a sentence or two without the aid of the producer and writer (Postman 30, 1992).
TV news also depicts a family-oriented presentation. They have a female anchor and a male sitting side by side looking happy in order to ensure everything is fine. Another factor that affects news on television is the music that is played when the news program begins and ends, and is always penetrated in between. This is evidence for the dissolution of lines of demarcation between serious public discourse and entertainment. If there were no music at any given point, especially in the beginning the audience might expect something life-altering. The media presents itself as if it is familiar to its audience.
The same familiarity is established through personalized language, which plays a considerable role in advanced communication. It is your congressman, your highway, your favorite drugstore, your newspaper; it is brought to you, it invites you, etc Its success indicates that it promotes the self-identification of the individuals with the functions which they and the others perform (Marcuse 92).
The medium in the media has the capacity to shape and form the values, beliefs, and opinions of the mass populace. How do they do this? They do this in all sorts of ways: by selection of topics, by distribution of concerns, by filtering of information, by bounding of debate within certain limits (Chomsky 55, 1994). The media determines, selects, controls and restricts information from the original pleat in order to serve the interests of politicians and elite groups in America. For instance, when America wants to induce the public to go to war, the government presents a theory of its political leadership as being committed to war through the media; after all they are seen through the media lens as God s Country . However this is a very heavy burden of proof to meet because a war is a very catastrophic affair. When a political debate is formed with citizen participation, the only topic that is covered is the ramifications of the war; how should they plan the attack, what will determine the climax in order to intervene, or even how much tax payers will contribute to the military. Never or rarely do they talk about a peaceful settlement. The United States have been criticized of intervening into foreign affairs only when they somehow profit from it. With the comfort of media producing a one dimensional and pluralist democracy, dissent will be repressed and America can intervene much easier.
The media perseveres and expands upper echelon power amidst the corporate and political sectors in America. The media s monolithic ideologies, which are either formed or imposed on them by agencies like AIM, have favored the conglomerate corporations and politicians by articulating their values, beliefs and their accomplishments. Nonetheless, advertisement plays a significant role to substantiate the dominant class in America. Corporations use the media to sell their product in advertisements in newspapers and television. In effect, advertisements indoctrinate the public; it produces a false consciousness. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe (Marcuse 12). Marx has redefined ideology-in the capitalistic sense- as a false consciousness in which consequences are treated as causes and real social relations are mystified in order to perpetuate the status quo or the interest of the dominant class. This is what American ideology has come to with the helping arm of the media.
Herbert Marcuse postulates that humans have needs, they are inevitable. There are two categories of needs; true needs and false needs . True needs are things that are necessary to acquire in order to ensure survival (i.e. food, shelter, and clothes). False needs are those which are superimposed on upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression: the needs which perpetuate toil, aggressiveness, misery, and injustice (Marcuse 5). These false needs are imposed on the individual by external powers, channeled through the media.
Freedoms have become a delusional weapon that retains the elite population. The new modes of liberties need a carefully assessed evaluation.
Thus economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy-from being controlled by economic forces and relationships; freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living. Political freedom would mean liberation from politics over which they have no effective control. Similarly, intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination, abolition of public opinion together with its makers (Marcuse 4).
Marcuse concluded that the only manner a individual will achieve individuality or self-determination is by liberating him or herself from the media.
Politicians manipulate the mass populace indirectly through advertisements, whereas corporations attack their audience directly. Independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs of the individual through the way in which it is organized (Marcuse 1). The tactics politician s channel through the media is much more complex than how the corporations manipulate the public. Advertising has invented these corporate monsters, the circulation of the newspaper promoted business products and television invites their available merchandise to households.
In the newspaper, advertisement cost comes into accordance with the size of the ad and its location. Business firms find that ideal spots are in short distance from exciting news. Marshall McLuhan has argued that bad news sells good news. Bad news is real news for the reader. One must consider that the newspaper is what McLuhan calls a hot medium, where the individual must partake in high participation to read. A cool medium would be a TV, where there is low participation. Bad news brings upon not only reader participation but intensity as well. Good news is advertisements. Ads , have to shrill their happy message loud and clear in order to match the penetrating power of bad news (McLuhan 188). An individual may be reading about a devastating earthquake that cost 100,000 lives, and than on the same page find an ad that elicits its message loud and clear; INVENTORY BLOWOUT! . Now the readers focus is on the rest of the ad s detail.
Corporations approach and bid their advertisements in a different way on television. Accountants, business people, and managers are statistically watching the television audience. Rating companies do not simply count the viewers of a particular show , they slice, dice, chop, and crunch the viewer information, then report to advertisers who pay them for these statistics (Postman 7, 1992). Demographics are also taken into account when statistics are documented; particularly they provide a statistical picture of the age, sex, and income of who habitually watch programs. Advertisers of toys will advertise on cartoons; advertisers of cosmetics advertise on soap operas; and advertisers of running shoes will advertise on sporting events. Since the commercial involves the eye more than the ear, the best commercials are the most appealing. With the fascinating complexities American media corporations own, commercializing can take form in multi-dimensions. Advertisements have the ability to manipulate a population s social and psychic lives. They tell people to buy their product if they want to become attractive, or they tell everyone to buy a computer and hook themselves up to the Internet so they can see more of their junk advertisements; they do this indirectly by proposing their Internet address on screen.
Not only do news and advertisements create a pluralist society, but regular television programs carry the same potential as well. These are programs Chomsky calls necessary illusions – unreal things that are important. These necessary illusions allow the individual to escape reality and find themselves in some form of fantasy; these necessary illusions are often the topic of social conversation; these necessary illusions allows the media to become synergetic- newspapers and magazines can be used to promote the lives of celebrities in movies, television-series, or sporting events or vice-versa. Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations (Postman 16). Sport teams, for example, are an important cultural trait in America. The media forms American culture, and it is slowly permeating overseas.
Politicians need to stand on good terms with the media to prevent any disruption to their master position. Corporations need newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting not solely to sell their goods, but also to maintain their economic and political influence.
The main trends are familiar: concentration of the national economy on the needs of the big corporations, with the government as a stimulating, supporting, and sometimes even controlling force: hitching of this economy to a world-wide system of military alliances, monetary arrangements, technical assistance and development schemes; gradual assimilation of blue-collar and white-collar population, of leadership types in business and labor, of leisure activities and aspirations in different social classes; fostering of a pre-established harmony between scholarship and the national purpose; invasion of the private household by the togetherness of public opinion; opening of the bedroom to the media of mass communications (Marcuse 19).
The media are no longer neutral agents of the merchants and politicians but essential gears in the machinery of corporate gigantism and political pluralism.
In America, political and corporate power asserts itself through its power over the media apparatus. The elite can maintain, sustain, and substantiate themselves only when it succeeds in mobilizing, organizing, and exploiting the technical, scientific, and mechanical productivity available to them. In this case, it is clearly evident that the media has provided the higher echelon the opportunity to succumb to their ideological measures. It is also unmistakable that technological administration shapes and forms American values and beliefs in the social and political spheres. The control of media is the most effective political and corporate instrument, where they have the power to form the mass public to their status quo.