Role Of Mass Media In Politics

Themes

In this discussion I call upon two movies as examples and evidence to
examine the role of mass media in politics. The two movies I will use for this
basis are The Candidate and All the Presidents Men.

Today, the art of governing a society seems to be much dictated or
prescribed by what the assemblage of the citizens of the United States say or
express to the mass media.

Thus, the government and politicians listening to and acting upon our
very wishes and desires. Or looking at this in another point of view; The mass
media relays to us as citizens the news or information about the administration
as conveyed or set forth by the administration as the “truth”. I believe that
the majority of the populace would tend to agree more with this second point of
view. The government or politicians of this great country try to appear to have
the semblance of truth or honesty in all of it’s endeavors.

And sometimes it does. However, on occasion within its own discretion,
the media investigates and tries to inform us by the televised news, major
newspapers and (large) radio personalities of cover-ups, conspiracies and or
wrong doings by our so-called leaders. Are we always told the truth by the mass
media? By the government? By the media speaking for or as directed by the
government? Or has the line between truth and lies been so badly blurred in
politics that we will never know what truly goes on in our political system?
The two movies examined, both play in some way on the function of the
mass media in American politics. We can see how much and how heavily we rely on
our televisions, radio shows, newspapers and now the Internet to communicate to
us the latest breaking news, political campaigns, slandering, commercials for
politicians running for office, debates, presidential addresses, cover-ups,
conspiracies and information that can take down an entire administration. This
shows that in all the different aspects of politics that the media plays a very
wide, varied and important role in letting us know what is going on.

The Candidate tries to unveil how a political campaign for office is run.

It tells the story of how an upstart uses the media and available resources in
its televised form to try and convey his message and his beliefs to the mass
public on whom he will rely upon to vote and hopefully elect him into office.

As we see though, the people or elite’s who run the campaign, take what the
candidate says and dilute it, dissect it, take it out of context and rearrange
his words into what they think the public wants to hear. We see how elitist
decisions are made as to what we get to see, hear and digest on our own. How do
they know what we want to hear?(Maybe they would if they would go door to
door and take a legitimate poll on the issues and concerns that are the most
important to us today.) What we do get to see in this example though, is a
behind the scenes look at the candidate and how he differs from his real self
personae when not in the public eye and how he is skeptical at a lot of the ways
a political campaign is run.

All the President’s Men shares the same theme and ideas as The Candidate
in that the main link between the people and the politicians/administration is
the media. This story is based upon how the undying determination of a team of
two reporters for a major newspaper, The Washington Post go at all costs to get
the truth out in their investigation and uncovering of a major conspiracy in the
administration. The reporters fact finding was hindered quite a few times along
the way to discover and disclose the truth to the public, but their willingness
and determination to do so brought out the facts and allegations that crippled
the White House. This example shows how the media does play a crucial role in
bringing out the truths and realities of what really goes on behind the closed
doors of the politicians who run our country.

There are some things that separate these two movies in regard to the
role of the media in politics. They differ in the angles at which they
approach their respective story. For instance in The Candidate, television is
the main means of communication to the public for the fresh upstart and the
incumbent running for the office of senator. Television can give almost exactly
what the two candidates want. Short spots in which they convey their beliefs,
ideas and towards the end, slander for one another. Television provides to us
up to the minute, flashy, visual, auditory messages and it has proven to be a
good way in which to get a certain point across in a specified amount of time,
for a price. The political role of the media has expanded immensely by means of
the television set, in what media theorist Marshal Mcluhan called our planet
“the global village.”1
In All the President’s Men the role that media plays takes a different
note to reflect the hard hitting sword in the form of the printed word of
newspapers. Newspapers are very powerful in the sense that they are print, and
most people still believe that what they read is true, instead of taking
everything at face value, gathering together several other sources of
information and then making the decision to agree or disagree. So with
substantial evidence, newspapers can print stories and or allegations that bring
about many stirring revelations, as many citizens get their daily dose of news
by reading the lowdown that is delivered to them right at their front door every
morning. This points out that newspapers are still very much a major player in
American and political culture.

Looking further into these films we can see that they make some
assumptions about us as the mass public. The films themselves assume, the
characters of the candidates running for office assume, the higher ups assume
and the media also makes these predictions of what the public wants to be
exposed to. In a general sense a couple of these at first glance would appear
to be that we as a public do not care about some things. As in All the
Presidents Men, when the two reporters first started learning of some of the
wrong things that were going on in Watergate and they wanted to report on it,
their superiors at the newspaper argued that it wasn’t news, “nobody wants to
read about that shit”. Why do they predict these things, and what do they base
their decisions on? Well, I believe that at first they just want to make sure
they get the facts straight before diving in and printing some potentially
damaging evidence, or one could also argue that they do not want to be the ones
to diffuse the truth. I n The Candidate at the first banquet the new upstart
attends, while giving a speech we can hear the reporter telling the cameraman,
“OK, shut it off, we got enough”. The candidate had not even spoken two or
three complete sentences before being cut off. Maybe a lot of people wanted to
hear what he had to say, maybe not. But the media made a curt decision right
there on the spot to cut short what they would show in their respective newscast.

This clearly shows that maybe they are not playing favorites for the incumbent,
who got just about any bit of airtime he wanted, but that the media sticks by
what they know or believe. Always just a little hesitant to jump right in with
something fresh, until the freshness turns into something tried and true.

I offer some more assumptions or predictions that the media tends to
appear to have about the citizens who soak up what they give to us every day;
First they seem to be under the impression that we (the public) do not care. In
general I would assume that they might think that the majority of the populace
are dimwitted and muddleheaded about the politics that rule this nation. That
we are curious and want to know, but we take almost all things conveyed through
the media as fact and reality, so they can spread just about whatever they would
like as the truth.

A good counterpoint to this though is that in this day and age, it is
getting more and more impossible to hide or conceal what is the truth as we are
becoming ever more connected in terms of the Internet. Someone can publish a
document in Yugoslavia about anything and seconds later make it available to
anyone with access to a computer and the Internet. Then it could be relayed to
the media as a great top news headline, but the media as always will have that
final decision.

These assumptions that the media makes in such an ever so lightly way
are very much consistent with what we know. These movies were filmed twenty
years ago, and yet we can still see that they shed some light on the media in a
way that we can compare them with the media as of today. Everyone is always
looking for the latest news, newspapers and TV newscasts are clearly biased in
the news that they report, and still, we do not always get told the truth.

In closing, I offer the thought that the media should not be so critical
in what it reports to the population in the world of politics. If we are to
continue to have the greatest country on the planet, we need to be informed of
all the facts that are readily available about our State Representatives,
Senators and Presidents, so that we may make our own intelligent decisions on
who to vote for in our elections when putting these people into office. It
would be a shame to have to impeach or require a politician or administration to
step down from their position due to some news about wrong doings by them after
they have been elected to office, especially if the information was available
but never reported before the election took place. This country was built on
honesty and integrity and hopefully it will continue to prosper with these
values, but as in the past deterioration is sometimes inevitable in the big
money world of American political system.


Category: History