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DJ Woodard

Mass Media�s Impact on Political Policy


Sociology 101
April 23, 2009

It seems as though the mass media industry grows more and more, advancing
technologically every decade. The use of public communication has slowly taken
over the mainstream, and now, media and technology has consumed every bit of what
we Americans do in our everyday lives. From the first brick-like cell phones, to
iPhones and BlackBerrys, technological advancements as well as social changes are
happening all the time. The use of movies, radio, television, and magazines are a
huge influence on the political world, because it allows people to use their own
judgment. In current times, these tools are used to one�s own advantage and may be
used however is pleased (to an extent). The political government have been
affected by this, but has also used these means of communication to reach the
public.
Firstly addressed is the impact that the use of media had on the recent
presidential election. In the beginning of the campaign, the controversy was the
fight for democratic candidacy between either the first female president or the
first black president, otherwise know as Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. After
preliminary voting, America had come to find that a black man would be running for
our United States President. Before you know it, Americans everywhere were either
praising or bashing this Illinois Senator. Republicans were furious, while
democrats were overjoyed. An article from Socialistworker.org quotes �Republicans
tried to make race an issue by reviving the dead issue of Obama's former pastor
Jeremiah Wright, calling Obama "dangerous," letting conservative followers believe
Obama was Muslim and Arab.� Example being- people were trying to use his ancestral
background against him in his campaign. Although I stand politically as a
Republican, I would like to share my opinion with this matter. I do not think it
is fair at all to use this type of information against him. People like Jeremiah
Wright are trying to throw peoples� opinions of Obama�s intentions and political
standing by filling the minds of American citizens with nonsense. This is an
unfortunate issue, seeing as according to David Str�mberg, a Stockholm University
Professor, mass media has a major underlying factor on the decision-making of
uninformed voters (such as the first-time and younger voters). This is because of
the information heard in the news or read in headlines. On a side note, I
understand that that being the first black president of the United States of
American is definitely a historical phenomenon, but I feel that the use of media
(such as merchandise sold in shopping malls) is way to over-the-top. That said,
either way it is still a huge landmark on our American history.
Mass media have influenced many American�s ways of thinking. The ability to
broadcast news across television screens, radio waves, and tabloid headlines have
given people way too much power. Because of the fact that you are able to share
facts and/or fictions with a �hint of your own two-cents�, people tend to alter
the truth sometimes. In addition, people usually prefer to believe that rubbish
over the real facts, rather than to do the digging themselves. Clearly, this is
how rumors are started and spread. I have come to realize that before a person
reads an article about a politician, or anyone famous being for that matter, a
viewer/reader will somehow connect to or relate to the headline. Shortly after,
having read the article or not, the viewer will have formed an opinion based on
initial response, somewhat like a first impression. Those people, however, are the
politically uneducated; which I am almost positive is quite are large percentage
of the American population. Clearly, making the impact on the political policy.
In reverse, the use of mass media by the political government (rather than
being used against them) helpful in many ways. For example, monitoring minors on
social networking websites. Websites like MySpace and Facebook have opened up a
whole new world for sexual predators. With millions of young boys and girls
logging on everyday, these children are putting themselves at risk. The risk of
becoming a victim of sexual assault, rape, and etc.. Because of the issues,
complaints, and criminal acts that have occurred from kids networking on these
sites, the government is trying to develop a bill to protect minors from sexual
predators online. A blog post on APCommunity.blogspot.com mentions that bill to be
proposed to congress would retain internet records for two years (including IP
addresses). The post also mentions that the reason this has not happened already
is because of the expenses it would require for this to happen. Aside from this,
Pennsylvanian Republican, Michael Fitzgerald, is also taking action by endorsing a
bill called The Deleting Online Predators Act. This bill would require monitoring
of minors� internet usage on social networking websites in public schools and
libraries, cutting off access to these websites for underage children. Despite the
fact that there are so many other problems going on in our nation today, Some
people may find this to be an unimportant issue to have to deal with during these
times. Some may also find this to be a major invasion of privacy, but I personally
never underestimate the importance of children�s safety. Imagining myself with
children, I would want nothing but the best for them, wouldn�t you agree? I
respect the fact that the government wants to, per se, �take advantage� of mass
media for the better. It is important that we keep predators away from America�s
youth.
Mass media on politics is generally directed as a bad thing, and I�d have to
say that I agress. But I would also have to say that media and technology can be a
good thing in the political and governmental world- IF it can be used to help
protect someone, find out valid information, or even help the nation communicate.
If American used media in a healthy way, this country, I am sure, would function
more properly.
J.M. Balkin of Yale University quotes, �Without mass media, openness and
accountability are impossible in contemporary democracies. Nevertheless, mass
media can hinder political transparency as well as help it. Politicians and
political operatives can simulate the political virtues of transparency through
rhetorical and media manipulation. Television tends to convert coverage of law and
politics into forms of entertainment for mass consumption, and television serves
as fertile ground for a self-proliferating culture of scandal.� Boldly, yet simply
stated, this Yale professor says exactly what I am trying to emphasize. Balkin is
brilliant in his metaphors, using the term political transparency to signify mass
media simulating the political world. By transparency, Balkin means that
transparency is a way we view things. �We want the medium to be transparent to
vision so that we can accurately view what is on the other side.� His theory is
that mass media will help Americans understand government operation, participate
in political decision, and to hold government officials accountable for
wrongdoing. He also goes on to explain how the public uses mass media to into the
private lives of political figures, for example, the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky
scandal. He also expresses how many different ways and just how far the media will
go to exploit peoples� private information. All for the public eye to get a kick
out of, as a form of entertainment. J.M. Balkin has many ideas and theories in his
article that are excellent, and I could not agree with him more. From Darwinism to
the O.J. Simpson trial, he has perfected the idea of how this nation is viewed
through the silver screen, and how it leaves the politicians in the real world
standing.
So surprisingly, there are a few things that mass media is good for in this
society today! You see, there are both pros and cons where mass media and
political policy meet, and sometimes we need to find a happy medium. From a Yale
University professor himself, he helps me explain the many impacts and advantages
mass media reflects on society. It not only influences, but also dominates!
Whether it be to exploit persons� private lives or historical background, or
protect for the common good of others, it is always important to know the facts
behind what people hear, read, or see. When the people of our nation are buying
what the media is selling, that is when the impact is left on out political
policy. So let not be dumbfounded by scandal and deceit; let us be aware and
understand the intellect behind the operations of the television we watch, the
magazines we read, and the radio we listen to- whether it be fact or fiction.
Bibliography

SOCIALISTWORKER.org. 3 Apr. 2009. Race in Obama Era.


<http://socialistworker.org/2009/04/03/race-in-the-obama-era>

Mass Media Competition, Political Competition, and Public Policy. David Str�mberg.
26 Mar. 2002. <http://www-2.iies.su.se/~stromber/MediaComp.pdf>

Weblog post. APCommunity.blogspot.com. 24 Mar. 2009.


<http://apcommunity.blogspot.com/2009/02/us-government-may-begin-
internet.html>

McCullagh, Declan. "Lawmakers Take Aim at Social-Networking Sites." CNET News.


10 May 2006. <http://news.cnet.com/Congress-targets-social-network-
sites/2100- 1028_3-6071040.html>

Balkin, J. M. "How Mass Media Simulate Political Transparency." 1998.


<http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/articles/media01.htm>