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Sample Essay on Media Manipulate Public Opinion

By Joann K. Floyd

There can be almost no doubt that the mass media have been among the most powerful forces, having a tremendous influence on politics, society, and culture. Starting with the evolution of movies and radio in the early decades of the twentieth century and ending with the dramatic rise of the Internet in the second half of the 1990s, the mass media have played a powerful role in the evolution of Western democracies. Since the question of how the media are organized and how the actual messages are transmitted remains, it is relevant to consider the character of the medium in relation to message content, questions about that content and the way it is produced in terms of education, culture, and politics.

In modern times the words ‘communication’ and ‘media’ have often been prefixed with the word ‘mass’. These terms are used so often that they became like familiar objects that we take for granted. However, there are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses. Naturally, society is impossible without communication and it is through communication that socialization takes place, thus creating a huge possibility for influencing the attitudes and behavior of others and of being influenced by ourselves. In our everyday life we often switch from one attitude to another mixing them together. Though, we need to create a more critical distance, thinking about the meaning of what we hear and its effect on us, thus using it to enhance our perceptions instead of allowing it to use us. Therefore, it is conceptually useful to distinguish between what the mass media tell us to think about and what specific attitudes we have to adopt towards those events. Now more and more people are starting to get some public debate over the way the media manipulate public opinion, creating fictions that masquerade as facts. The media itself has become so powerful and so uncontrolled, that there is no longer any way for it to keep what it is doing under wraps. This transformation that took place in large measure caused the creation of certain attitudes people commonly take toward media. According to the first model of attitude, the audience gets absorbed by it, accepting its rendition of reality because it occupies their view. In this case people may be compared to the children whose parents define their world. It is frequently experienced while reading news stories and watching television and movies. In the second one, the audience distances itself from media. The meaning is being examined and certain attempts are made in order to understand the intentions of its authors. It is through this method that criticism appears and freedom of thought and perception becomes possible.

The medium of communication in modern Great Britain requires very considerable resources, organization, and sophisticated technology. Thus, in overall terms the communication industry is subdivided into publishing the press, broadcasting film, and telecommunication industries. It is evident that the contemporary media scene of the United Kingdom as well as the whole Western Europe is greatly dominated by television. Indeed, many observers are likely to argue that the introduction of television has revolutionized the role of the media in cultural production, political life, and moral values. However, despite television’s growing importance as a source of information, regular readers of newspapers continue to attach a great deal of weight to the print medium. The invention of printing made possible the distribution of material, books, pamphlets, journals and books to a far wider readership audience than earlier forms of communication. The great European movements of thought in the Reformation and the Enlightenment preceded these opportunities. It was during this period that the label ‘mass’ started to depict various dimensions of development: mass production, mass consumption, mass media, and even mass society. The rise of the newspaper industry that took place in the nineteenth century, of radio and furthermore television in the twentieth century led to a condition when millions of people in a country like Britain read the press, listen to the radio, and watch television. According to numerous researches held in the United Kingdom it appeared that non-readers showed a greater dependence on television for political information. In addition, there were significant variations in responses between readers of ‘quality’ and ‘tabloid’ newspapers: the former remained wedded to their preferred medium, using it much more extensively as a means of surveying the world in depth, whilst readers of tabloid newspapers relied more heavily on television and also tended to attach greater credibility to it as a source of news. However, even though there are variations in audience ‘readings’ of media reports, there are pervasive common themes in the meanings conveyed to the public. It reveals that even though people may ‘resist’ the dominant message of a program, it may still have the power to convey facts and to influence their ideas, assumptions, and attitudes. The Glasgow Media Group research that was held in order to understand to what particular extent the media help to shape perceptions of key social issues. The results showed that in spite of audience ‘activity’ in all its forms, there was still noticed a broad media influence over public understandings. The way in which people use the media and percept the messages they hear can strengthen, rather than weaken, media power. Even the ‘active’ state of the audience is not a sign of media ineffectuality, because recognizing the role of ‘interpretation’ does not invalidate the concept of ‘influence’.

The influence of media on British public opinion can be seen not only through the means of advertising, but also through the bias with which they choose the content and the way to present the news. As the problem of receiving ‘second-hand’ news became a matter of concern for many people throughout the whole Western Europe and numerous researches and observations were made, it was noticed that there are certain basic tools used to manipulate public opinion. Among the most widely used methods was the reducing of the capacity for critical thought of the people by promoting all kinds of irrational beliefs aimed at deactivating the rational thought and well balanced individual judgement. Emphasis on the emotional rather than the factual aspects of all the news in order to submit to their feelings instead of seeking the guidance of their reason is another method frequently used in Western Europe. After the successful implementation of the first two methods, “masses” easily absorb politically correct thinking by idealizing “patriotism” and at the same time demonizing dissidence. It becomes obvious that public opinion is greatly dependant on what the media tells it. That is why, it is extremely important for the public to know the true facts in order to create effective resistance and become educators rather than simply protestors.

The evolution of media was greatly influenced by globalization, thus causing a tremendous social change. No one can repute the fact that people are no longer connected to each other through the central meeting-ground of mass television. Instead, the public is being offered the multiplication of numerous channels. Television is no longer able to function as a shared public space. It is only for occasional media events that the whole nation might gather together. Among other disadvantages is the decline of public service broadcasting that leave people less informed. The Western European public, both the mass and elite publics, has become dependent on the news media for information and understanding of national and foreign affairs. Due to the access of public to a variety of different sources of information, people became increasingly selective while choosing programs supplied by the global economy through multiple channels. However, the majority of Europeans still get their information from the mainstream media: major newspapers, radio and television stations available in their communities. In addition, national identities are being weakened by a growing separation between the telecommunication system and the nation state.

The governments of Europe, once proud of their public broadcasting system, are bowing to the combined constraints of the new media technology, the economic and political burden of public broadcasting, and the seductions of multinational corporations. Today in the United Kingdom it is very common to refer to the relationship between royalty and the media. The royal family is the subject of endless storytelling, speculation, and gossip. The press is never far away, from the tabloids, with their royal watchers, gossip columnists, and paparazzi photographers. The media controlled the “means of communication” and it used that power to censor virtually all discussion of its own role in shaping events.

However, the most obvious evidences of media manipulating the public opinion can be noticed from political perspective. Earlier media ‘revolutions’ affected political behavior and cultural perceptions in equally powerful ways. Nowadays the mass media became the battleground between competing groups within government and throughout society. In a democratic society it is through media and the communication process that people see and define the world, especially concerning the atmosphere around the policymaking process. It is a matter of fact that without telecommunication system and mass media in general political activity in its contemporary condition could be hardly carried on at all.

It is a matter of fact that much of information, as well as images and knowledge individuals have of the world come from mass media. Thus, media plays an important role in British politics and affect its political agenda, creating the “climate of opinion”. In other words, the mass media not only determine what issues British people consider important, but also what opinion they have about those issues. Finally, due to the dominant role of mass media in the communication process throughout the whole Europe, many national leaders, government officials, as well as challenging groups and social movements all compete for media attention in order to promote a favorable climate of opinion for their interests.

One cannot repute the fact that the overall news media coverage today is better than ever before. It became more informative regarding national and foreign affairs. In addition, the quality of journalism has improved and became more professional. Though at the same time, the mainstream media do not provide a comprehensive and complete picture of reality, providing the public with ‘second-hand’ information. In near future it may become that the brief news coverage, its simplicity and high selection with the respect to which events are reported and how they are presented may be resulted in public little interest in becoming truly informed.


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