Essay Q 2 Media and Power
In this essay, I will talk about a few major theories, concepts and theorists that I’ve covered during the media and power module to explain the key aspects of “the hidden face of power” and how the news media related to such forms or sources of power. I will explain the ‘Propaganda model” and defend its use as I am a big believer in its relevance today. I will also talk about mediatization.
The most important thing you must be aware of when learning about how the media works and in turn the world, is the Propaganda model. The Propaganda model can be read about in the book titled “manufacturing consent” by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman. I feel like even the books title can even be used to easily sum up how the world works. Before I talk about the propaganda model it’s important to understand that the current world we live in runs on money, trade and people. Every one of those things can be monetized. Yes, even people, now you may say to yourself but how do we sell people? but slavery is abolished in my country? Well, the thing is you may not be sold into a visible form of labour like in the days of old. Nowadays your interests, your life and any other details about it will be sold to advertisers so that they can find you and target you with their advertisements more easily thus gaining another loyal paying customer but this isn’t against your will. You may notice that Facebook, Instagram and many other applications will have started asking you to modify the data that they have been gathering on you. Those walls of text that you have to read through at the start before you click I accept warned you about this but like most people you probably ignored it.
The Propaganda Model just shows how the media works. You will never see this theory being mentioned in mainstream media though since it challenges basic premises and suggests that the media is undemocratic. The basic theory is that before the media gets to the average viewer it must first travel through five filters. The first filter the size of the company, the second advertising as the primary income source of the mass media, the third the reliance of the media on information provided by the government, business and experts funded and approved by these primary sources of power, the fourth “flak” a way of disciplining the media and discrediting them and finally the fifth filter a big enemy to distract or blame to get the audience’s attention. With all of these methods combined they interact and reinforce each other.If you apply this theory to most mainstream media corporations you can see how it applies today perhaps even more so although for it to work you need to make sure you take into account the pressures and constraints on news production coming from “the economic and political realities of capitalist democracy”.
The media is selling ways of thinking and you the audience are being sold off to companies that you will already readily accept. You’ll be thinking you found something interesting when in reality that company found you.
This all may come across as negative but it’s important to remember that there is no conspiracy, this has been done for years. Most noticeably Facebook gathers your data and Mark Zuckerberg ended up having to talk in front of Congress. He may have been on trial because of Facebook but in this event, he was really representing the entire tech industry that sells your data to advertisers. I think it was unfair to just single out Facebook as other companies have definitely been sharing this information. I think this is the perfect example of the fifth filter. It is true that Facebook was in the wrong here but just Facebook has been singled out and I can’t help but feel like they’ve been made out to be the common enemy or the fifth filter in manufacturing consent. Distracting from the fact that there are other organisations, who do this like Google. Google has installed automatically on most platforms nowadays and yet we never signed anything saying we wanted it to gather data on our web surfing.
People may argue that shows like RTE are free from this but they aren’t unfortunately. RTE doesn’t get that much money so they have to rely on advertisements and sponsors to get by which could influence information it puts out. For example, if you watch the news right before the weather comes on you see an advert for Avonmore dairy. The media is seen as standing up for the little people but in reality, the mainstream media is very complicit.
The Media didn’t always affect our lives this much. Media used to be a tool or a means to an end but because of mediatization and the growth of technology. The media has brought the world and therefore different ways of thinking into our lives. When TV came into existence it opened up a new way of experiencing the world. We could now view the world from the safety of our homes. It was a way of seeing the world, learning about other places in the world and learning to become empathetic with these other countries through footage and gripping stories and the facts about the trials and tribulations they go through and how we have it so much better.
The problem is now that the people who are creating this media are now controlling how we view the world and we now trust this second pair of eyes that are not our own because of how realistic this new dimension of experiencing the world is due to mediatization. It’s like a gamer falling into a fantasy world and taking it as their new reality.
Due to the Mediatization of basically everything in our lives. We now have to question was this better or for worse. For this essay, I’m going to focus on the negative. The mediatization of the world has given us a lot more access to knowledge but it has also infected our politics and influences our decisions in elections. Presently we know more about a politicians social life rather than their policies. In the news we even see news companies taking sides and showing bias. Running for positions of power seem to be more like a role for comedians rather than a position of leadership and serious importance. If we look at the American presidential race and Irish politics. Everyone is judged based on how they react to social situations that may have nothing to do with running the country.
If there is a 100% decent candidate to vote for. They’d be hard to find due to the overload of information from the media which is another form of flak. Overloading the news with so many facts that the important details get shouted out by all the noise.
The Media is now the mediator between the masses and the government. It’s now our only way of hearing and understanding what is happening in politics. The media needs support as it can’t fund itself, therefore it’s mediations are no longer as straightforward as they used to be so even political news has the potential to be manipulated.
In America, there are more people working in public relations than Journalists. On campus I even see more people doing successfully through PR rather than Journalism. All I hear from studying Journalists is how hard a job it is and that since they have different views from the masses they probably won’t get a job and so they go off and do marketing or do entertainment style of journalism. Any Journalists you hear about today are receiving tonnes of flak and hate which you can see on Twitter. Some are even being kicked out of countries or being banned from meetings and are no longer allowed to report there which can be seen if you google anything about free speech. Recently a Journalist named Lauren Southern was labelled a terrorist and banned from Britain. These are all examples of the Propaganda model at work. In Britain there has been an increase in violent crimes and sex offences but all I hear about is some comedic Youtuber who is going to court because he taught his dog how to do the Hitler salute as a joke and the fact that he gets fined for it as well and how now everyone is worried about free speech.
In the age of the internet, if you haven’t blocked them yet your timeline on youtube, twitter, facebook or any social media channel you frequent will be swamped with Buzzfeed and vice. Buzzfeed is an unreliable source of information. It’s hard to tell whether you are watching the news or an advertisement or some “macaroni and cheese cooking video”.Vice which when I discovered it was all about the stories you wouldn't normally get to hear about and questioning the mainstream narrative but a few years ago a former vice media editor and many other anonymous sources and former vice media editors came forward saying Vice took down some of their stories or edited them to make them more palatable for sponsors. The fact that the media is afraid of losing sponsors just because of a story is scary.
It is important to stress that there is no evil elite group conspiracy like you would have in a totalitarian government. In Manufacturing consent repeatedly throughout Chomsky and Herman stress, there is plenty of room for disagreement in this model. As long as we can debate and still have the ability to bring forth opposing opinions then we are still living in a Capitalist Democracy.
We live in the age of information though and social media allows us to communicate with people from around the world and even hear about events or news live from people experiencing them. This can negatively affect a Journalists job since you are reading news for free but on the brighter side, you are now able to act like a journalist yourself a bit just by simply googling and fact-checking the various sources of information. This, in turn, takes away some of the power a higher up establishment would have. On some news sites or sometimes even during the news. The anchor or their website will ask people to send in photos or footage of the incident. Discussions and debates are happening on twitter too. In this age, you may seem various people of power voicing their opinions to the masses on social media.
Networking has become a new form of news, a new way of voicing your opinion to the masses even take part in doing some internet activism. In some countries, they were able to receive support when having a revolution against their government because of social media. You also have sites like Wiki Leaks and while some of the information on there can be hard to understand. Through networking, we can find people who have read through all the information and they can help teach you how to navigate it. We are now as Manuell Castell says a network society. In this age of networking, everyone has to have an online presence if they hope to rise up through the classes. Networking has bridged the gap between upper and lower classes. You no longer have to physically meet this person to talk to them online. Just by simply googling someone’s name and other info you might know about them you can find them. The internet is like another reality for popularity. Anyone from a lower class can go viral for absolutely no good reason and suddenly be shot into fame and profit and then they suddenly become an influencer. This can be a new level of misinformation in some cases. Some of these influencers are people making fake accounts posing as victims creating false information and stories that will then catch the attention of news outlets and be sold off as real. This is done for the sake of being sarcastic or just to wind up media companies for a laugh and show all their followers what they’ve done.
In conclusion, trying to understand what’s happening in the world nowadays is difficult. The larger companies in the world affect the media that gets filtered through. Some facts have been left out to try gain support from sponsors and even people you converse with might be leaving details out although for wholly various reasons. The positions of power that are held over people by the media are big but as long as there are counterpowers and the means to debate any issues and that camera phones are more potent than guns. Then there probably isn’t anything to worry about as long as freedom of speech is safe and education is accessible.