What is mass media? Mass media is the broad use of media technologies intended to reach the large, scattered, heterogeneous and anonymous population via mass communication. Mass media can be categorized into print, broadcast, internet and outdoor media and it is presented by mediums such as newspapers, radio, television, websites, blogs as well as posters. Mass media commonly operates as a ‘one-to-many’ channel of communication used to disseminate information, educate, entertain and persuade the public.
Most people, save for those in third world nations or some developing countries, obtain information about international, national and local affairs from the mass media. This gives the mass media a significant role to play in influencing public opinion, determining political agenda, governmental and institutional objectives. Mass media manipulation is the distortion of truth by the media, the suppression of information or arguments which potentially threaten the interests of partisans in control of, or in relation to the media.
The issue of whether the mass media is manipulative has been a long standing one. I am of the opinion that the mass media, to a large extent is manipulative. This is because there have been numerous evidences of partisans’ attempt to transplant ideas with the aid of media’s influence on the public, and also the media’s unintentional ignorance leading to manipulation, which are sufficient to convince me of its manipulative nature. In this essay, I will go on to evaluate these evidences and prove how they point to media manipulation resulted by various parties.
Over the course of history, the mass media has been associated time and again with propagandistic causes around the world. The Nazi Propaganda of the 1930s can be argued as a turning point in history whereby the Nazis pioneered the use of radio as a tool of genocide. Extreme anti-Semitism messages by Hitler and the Nazis were transmitted through the broadcast media; the radio was highly regarded as a propaganda machine by the Nazi Germany. At that time, radios found in households nationwide were limited in range to prevent loyal citizens from considering other viewpoints in foreign broadcasts.
In addition, radio broadcasts were also played over loudspeakers in public places and workplaces, in repetitive attempts to integrate anti-Semitism beliefs into people’s lives. Other modes of mass media were also involved in the Nazi Propaganda. In 1938, Julius Streicher published a storybook ‘Der Giftpilz’ (The Poisonous Mushroom) which aimed to educate children about the Jews. The book illustrated anti-Semitic propaganda and stated that “The following tales tell the truth about the Jewish poison mushroom. They show the many shapes the Jew assumes.
They show the depravity and baseness of the Jewish race. They show the Jew for what he really is: The Devil in human form. ” Such a false presentation of the Jews through mass media manipulates and indoctrinates young minds of the nation. Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels said that if “You repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. ” The strategy employed by the Nazi Party is hence one which is repetitive and manipulative. Over time, the mass media (then being controlled by the Nazis) convinces people that the information which they are exposed to is the truth.
On top of the Nazi Propaganda, the mass media in North Korea also makes use of selective broadcasting to achieve its propagandistic aims. Radio and television sets in North Korea are pre-tuned to government stations which pump out a steady stream of propaganda. All press outlets and broadcasters are under direct state control, and serve up a menu of flattering reports about Kim Jong-il and his daily agenda. These reports are meant to instill a sense of unfaltering loyalty and pride among North Koreans and prevent the rise of rebellion by exerting extreme influences on the people through the mass media.
Furthermore, North Korea’s economic hardships or famines are not reported through these mediums, in efforts to upkeep the country’s image in front of its people. Hence, the state has been dubbed the world’s worst violator of press freedom by the media rights body Reporters Without Borders (RSF), due to its heavily manipulative ways of transmitting information through mass media which sole purpose is to indoctrinate the minds of North Koreans. From the two examples given above, it is evident that the mass media, through the ways it eliminates certain opinions and distorts facts, is manipulative.
The mass media is manipulative because it uses its powerful influence to shape public opinion according to its objectives. For example, before the Vietnam War in 1957, the media selectively broadcasted images and printed news updates, with goal in mind to keep American listeners and readers optimistic and panic free. Brutal images of the U. S. military casualties as well as the numbers of dead, injured American soldiers were kept in the dark by war correspondents. It was only during the start of Vietnam War that the American reporters and photographers began to feature heart wrenching and ainful pictures upon exposing the true awfulness and politics behind the Vietnam War. The mass media manipulations before the Vietnam War helped to sooth and pacify the American public, to falsely assure them that the war would not endanger the welfare and lives of the U. S. military. This was part of the plan to prevent the American’s overwhelming opposition to the war which could lead to the eventual withdrawal of the U. S. war. Another evidence pointing to manipulation by the mass media was the cover up of the U. S. bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan sixty-six years ago this week, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included vivid color footage shot by U. S. military crews and black-and-white Japanese newsreel film. The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for twenty-five years, and the shocking US military film remained hidden for nearly four decades. The suppression of nuclear truths and the true devastation of the U.
S. bombings were stretched over decades, a form of mass media manipulation occurring at a large scale. Such examples of concealment of war footages by the media points to the fact that the mass media has indeed manipulated the reality of the warring situation in the mentioned Vietnam War and the U. S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Regardless of their motives for doing so, they have breached media ethics by filtering news which can be detrimental to their cause and repuatation, i. e. the hiding of U. S. bombing footage.
Mass media manipulation is becoming more rampant with the spontaneously changing landscape of the mass media. The nature of the world mass communication sector is global, market driven, and increasingly based on entertainment values, even in the news business. According to Alisa Miller, the CEO of Public Radio International stated in the 2009 TED conference that international news constituted only 12% of U. S. media news. Most of the news were revolved around entertainment, gossip and trivial news such as the death of popstar, Michael Jackson.
Even insignificant Hollywood news are given more priority and media coverage than topics such as global environment issues. This manipulative act of the media by placing more emphasis on news which is hot and sells in conjunction with its profit-oriented nature is effective as it generates total revenue for the media organizations. The rise of dishonest sources, greedy publishers, as well as the rocketing demand of audience is also a huge driving factor of mass media manipulation which broadcasts insignificant issues, therefore neglecting the coverage of other vital world news.
The public as a result are more often than not exposed to scandals such as break ups between celebrities Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, rather than updates of social issues such as the Arab Spring. The problem of monopoly leading to mass media manipulation also exists in te relevant setting. The phenomenon of media acquisition in recent times has resulted in concentrated ownership. There are concerns that information presented by these media giants is skewed in favour of corporate interests and agendas. One of Europe’s largest media monopolies, Axel Springer AG owns over 200 newspapers, magazines, TV and radio channels in 36 countries.
As a result, information published in this newspaper rotates around Europe for days. Such media monopoly by companies such as Axel Springer AG can limit the amount of news being revealed to the public in attempt to craft a reputable image for the organization. To summarize my stand, the media has become a commercialized sector which no longer acts as a provider of important information and educative programmes. It features sensational depiction of all news stories, which is manipulative as news which are important but deemed to be boring by the public will be eliminated.
Ultimately, their goal is to gain television rating points (TRPs) and profits. On the other hand, large organizations in control of mass communications can manipulate information suited to their well-being. However, there are always two sides to a coin. We can always argue that the mass media is not definitely manipulative the above mentioned examples are not a general representation of the mass media. The British BBC news for example is an excellent model of a media organization which places great value in social responsibility and respects media ethics to satisfy the public.
Hence, their reports lean towards truthfulness and credibility. Furthermore, the media like us or any other organization in the world is objective and what may seem to us as manipulation can also be viewed as a presentation of different perspectives towards the same issue. An example would be the varying views of different magazines and newspapers regarding Susan Boyle. The Washington Post believed that her initial demeanour and humble appearance caused the judges and audience to be “waiting for her to squawk like a duck”, whereas the New York Daily News said that an underdog eing ridiculed or humiliated but then enjoying an unexpected triumph is a common trope in literature, and the stark contrast between the audience’s low expectations and the quality of her singing made Boyle’s performance such an engaging and inspirational piece of television. Evaluating this piece of evidence, the mass media instead of being viewed as manipulative in nature, can also be regarded as a medium which considers the myriad of perspectives our world has towards similar issues.
However, this argument not valid in rebutting obvious manipulation by the media, such as the scarce coverage of important international news, such as the follow up on pollution issues. In a nutshell, it is undeniable that blatant evidences of mass manipulation, such as the Nazi Propaganda and the positive coverage of the Vietnam War can be interpreted as otherwise. History has shown us that the mass media can be manipulative to a large extent, with negative intentions to surreptiously indoctrinate minds and sway beliefs. After all, media manipulation “currently shapes everything you read, hear and watch”.