Tag Archives: propaganda

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper - didn't end up using them all but could have if I kept going!
Here are some of the sources I collected for this paper – didn’t end up using them all but could have if I kept going!

I turned in my final paper for Media Organization Regulations last night. It was already a lot longer than it needed to be for the assignment, but I would have kept writing more if I had more time, right or wrong!

 I am not an attorney or law student. Edit 12-22-20 – I found and fixed a couple of typo-type errors in the Works Cited section.

After seeing my grade, I did ok on this paper but I didn’t do great. I want it to be great. My professor left me some comments about things she thinks I should have included. It is possible that I will publish a revised version of this paper incorporating the professor’s suggestions. When/if I do that I will have to double-check how to give proper credit for that sort of thing in an academic paper in the MLA format because I’m being trained in academic writing and academic integrity as I go as well as in course material. Before starting this degree in 2019 I hadn’t written an academic paper since 1993. What you will read below is unedited from when I submitted it except for two typos in the credits section. When/if I revise it further I’ll make that clear in the proper format.

At the end I have links to sources, and after that links to other posts on this blog that are on related topics in case you think the subject is interesting and want to read more. I’ll also link to the Pinterest board I use to help collect and organize sources I might use. Enjoy!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Geri L. Dreiling, J.D.
MEDC 5350: Media Organization Regulations
20 December 2020

Can Laws Protect The Public From The Media?

Physical abuse of women in history has been mostly allowed to go on without consistent punishment until the 1990s.  Hundreds of years of beliefs that abuse victims deserve it, that the perpetrators who are punished are the real victims, or that abuse victims must be lying will likely take generations to diffuse because they were validated by hundreds of years of attitudes as well as the lack of prohibitive laws.  Another obstacle abuse victims have to face is a lack of enforcement even when there were applicable laws on the books (Bancroft 321).

In our culture, physical violence against domestic partners is slowly becoming less acceptable.  It is not as common as it used to be for family members, neighbors, or bystanders to look the other way when they witness abuse.  Some schools even teach children that they are entitled to safety from family members in their home instead of only strangers outside of it when they are teaching them how to call 911 for help (Bancroft 293).

Even though emotional and economic abuse can inflict severe harm, there are not as many legal preventive measures or remedies available for mental abuse as there are for physical violence (Bancroft 293).  It is difficult to promote awareness of the seriousness of emotional abuse when physical abuse has only been taken seriously in very recent history (Bancroft 321).

Negligent infliction of emotional distress, or NIED, is a tort that can be used in a suit against someone who carelessly caused emotional harm to another person (Trager et al 184).  A plaintiff hoping to win such a suit must be able to prove the following facts (Trager et al 184):

  • The defendant had a duty to use due care in interactions with the plaintiff.
  • The defendant acted negligently while failing to use due care.
  • The plaintiff has suffered injury.
  • The injury can be proven to be caused by the plaintiff’s negligent actions.

Attempts have been made to bring NIED lawsuits against the media as well as individual abusers, but they usually are not successful (Trager et al 185).  It is difficult for the plaintiff to prove proximate cause, that is, a reasonable finding that the defendant’s actions were directly to blame for the plaintiff’s injury (Trager et al 184).  It is theoretically much easier to prove that a media plaintiff was negligent because there are ample studies showing how media members should behave if they care about the public’s well-being, but negligence alone is not enough to win a suit (Trager et al 184-185).

If the behavior of the media defendant is so outrageous that “a civilized society” would consider it “intolerable and beyond all bounds of decency” then the potential tort might rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, or IIED (Trager et al 179).  The plaintiff must still prove direct causation (Trager et al 179).  In addition, if the plaintiff is a public figure, the defendant must be proven to have acted with actual malice, that is “publishing with knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth” (Trager et al 181).  Even actual malice is sometimes not actionable if the courts interpret the defendant’s actions as satire or parody, or if the subject of the offending speech is about a matter of “public concern” (Trager et al 184).

One reason the media has so much latitude is because the founders of our country considered a free press and freedom of speech to be so important that they specified those rights in the First Amendment (Baran and Davis 30).  When members of the media are criticized for having harmful effects on our culture, they argue that they are not that influential, that they reflect society but don’t have the power to shape it.  At the same time, the media tells advertisers they can give them a good return on their investment and if an organization is of any significant size, be it government, nonprofit, or business, they spend money and resources on maintaining a public relations department (Baran and Davis 30).  A belief that media IS very influential is apparently coming from somewhere.

There has been disagreement among theorists, academics, government officials, media companies and the public about how legally free from restraint the media should be ever since there was such a thing as media (Baran and Davis 62-63).  The idea of technocratic control was considered and debated in the United States but ultimately rejected, at least if it was framed as control by the government.  Technocratic control is “direct regulation of the media” by technocrats, people considered to possess the correct values and skills to regulate media for the welfare of the public (Baran and Davis 62).  One of the reasons government technocratic control was rejected in the United States in the 20th century was because there was no consensus on who was qualified to have that power (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Regulations that applied in certain situations that passed First Amendment tests have been enacted over the years and are sometimes thrown out by the courts when re-tested.  The limits are renegotiated constantly from both the direction of greater freedom and the direction of more control (Baran and Davis 63).

Part of my incentive in choosing in this paper to examine parallels between domestic abusers and media abusers is the observation that both groups have the characteristic of constantly testing limits, like predators looking for weaknesses and loopholes to see what their targets and society will let them get away with.  Awareness and legislation often lag behind the latest technological developments and technocracy strategies.  Another reason is that abusers and media utilize many of the same manipulative techniques.  Does the media share some of the same motivations as domestic abusers?  Neither group can be trusted to be forthcoming about their intentions because of course they are more effective when their tactics are opaque – one can only judge by observing patterns of behavior.

There is another parallel between domestic abuse and media behavior that could be examined from a regulatory perspective.  In considering the pattern of legal intervention in abuse, physical harm was an obvious effect of abuse to be considered worthy of attention by the law.  When consumer products began to be subject to regulation in the United States, the danger of physical harm to the public was also an issue addressed early on.

Consumer protection laws began to be enacted in some US states as early as the mid-1800s to protect the public from adulterated food and drugs (Pride and Ferrell 78).  The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created to assume responsibility, formerly handled by the Department of Agriculture, for testing agricultural products (“The History of FDA’s…”).  The 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act was a continuation this public safety work as the regulatory body evolved into what we know as the FDA by the 1930s (“The History of FDA’s…”).  There was a further push for increased legislation designed to reduce physical harm from products, their advertising, and labeling in the 1960s and 1970s (Pride and Ferrell 78).  Today there are several additional federal agencies created to help protect consumers.  Some of the major ones are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Pride and Ferrell 80).

Ideas are also products – they can be sold using a lot of the same strategies as tangible goods.  By the 1930s, the notion of regulating harmful ideas was part of the discussion and remains so to the present day (Baran and Davis 68).  An influential compendium of the state of scholarship on media effects, The Effects of Mass Communications, was published by Joseph Klapper in 1960.  Klapper’s opinion was that media was more of a reinforcer than a dictator of current culture because there were mitigating social institutions in peoples’ lives such as churches, families and schools (Baran and Davis 114).  If media actors with self-serving and destructive intentions wanted a strategy for how to break down society to bend more people to their will, it was made readily available to them, however unintentionally, by Klapper and other theorists.

Consumer protection laws of a sort directed at media and advertising do currently exist under the auspices of agencies like the FTC and the FCC.  Normally these laws don’t deal much with physical harm unless the issues are safety related.  Physical injury is however sometimes considered as part of the negligent infliction of emotional distress tort in some states.  It is acknowledged in some jurisdictions that physical assault can cause emotional distress, and severe emotional distress can cause harmful physical symptoms and disease (Trager et al 185).  If the link between the media and emotional abuse is better studied and acknowledged, and the link between emotional distress and physical disease is likewise given due consideration, a pathway to further regulation of media to protect consumers might be blazed through studies of the physical sufferings of those harmed when media abuse goes too far.

The FCC is permitted to regulate broadcast media to an extent because the airwaves are considered the property of the people.  Broadcast stations are thought to have a responsibility to the public due to the people’s ownership of the airwaves (Trager et al 402-403).  It is less clear who, if anyone, “owns” the internet, but it was originally partially developed by US taxpayer-supported institutions (Press).  As of 2015 the amount of foreign ownership of US communications companies was capped at 25% with the then-current FCC commissioner proposing to raise the cap on foreign investment or eliminating it entirely (Traeger et al 404).  The policy that foreign companies would be allowed to own anything that US citizens own or paid to develop is something the FCC could reconsider by following their normal procedures for a change of policy (Traeger et al 401).  Any corporation, association or individual affected by FCC regulations has the legal right to a challenge in Federal appellate court (Traeger et al 402).  Foreign exploitation via international internet scams is rampant all over the world but we still allow access to our citizens by criminals from foreign countries who don’t participate in international anti-fraud measures (“Report international scams…”).  Economic exploitation tips the power balance in the abuser’s favor (Bancroft 156).

Tactics Employed by Domestic Abusers

Here are some of the techniques that abusers use to gain control over their victims (Bancroft 74, 145-146, 213-214, Dwyer 55-56).

  • Ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs, and sarcasm
  • Distorting what was said
  • Accusing you of doing what they do, or thinking the way they think (projection)
  • Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”
  • Turning your grievances around to use against you
  • Criticism that is harsh, undeserved, or frequent
  • Provoking inappropriate guilt
  • Playing the victim
  • Swearing
  • Threatening to harm you
  • Discrediting, spreading rumors
  • Silencing
  • Getting other people to put pressure on you
  • Spreading confidential information (doxxing)
  • Presenting one face in public and another in private to gain credibility and trust
  • Using events from the past or situations that can’t be changed as a reason a person should accept poor treatment
  • Collective punishment
  • Separating the target from sources of support

It is not easy sometimes for us to imagine that our entertainment providers would knowingly set out to abuse us, the consumers.  People often feel warm emotions toward celebrities and providers of entertainment.  A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might be the case (Tan 45).  “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.”  The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

One trap that is easy for consumers to fall into is to forget that we are not really the ultimate customers for most entertainment products – the advertisers and sponsors are.  We may be the audience, but we are not the customer.  When considered in that light, it is a little more understandable why entertainment and media companies would be willing to actively abuse us, or at least not care if we become collateral damage.

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Jim Taylor proposed that what we now call “popular culture” is no longer a reflection of the genuine culture of the people, but an artificial, media-cultivated corporate culture that he names “synth culture” (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  Cultivation Analysis is the theory that the media present a view that does not necessarily reflect reality, but because people believe it does, reality changes to conform to the media (Baran and Davis 287).  As early as the 1950’s, architects were creating buildings and landscapes to conform to movie and television versions of reality.  The cultural landscape known as Disneyland, for example, was the product of a media corporation and was not merely appealing to existing media-cultivated tastes but actively implanting them (Hine 150-152).

If the culture we have is not based on the genuine culture of the people but is deliberately planted there by the media, I postulate that if we don’t already have it, we will end up with a government that is no longer “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but is of the self-appointed media technocracy whose primary interest is in exploiting us (Taylor “Popular Culture…”).  It’s obvious which political direction the technocracy wants us to go.  If we ask why, the large media corporations have the power to remove questions from public debate through moderating content and banning users with certain views even though they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“Does Section 230’s…”).

The Rewards of Being Abusive

Above I have listed some of abuser’s techniques – now I’ll provide some of the possible incentives that motivate people to abuse other people.  Abusers enjoy the following advantages and privileges in life (Bancroft 43, 152, 153-158):

  • Abuse victims change their behavior and work to bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.
  • Abusers gain the freedom to behave as they desire without restraint while getting lots of attention.
  • After being catered to, they get praise for being a great person and improve their public image when they act decent.
  • The comforts, privileges, and financial advantages of being catered to are too attractive to give up.
  • The thrill of having power is a seductive feeling.
  • The abuser can pick and choose low-stakes situations to act altruistic so that they can cultivate a positive image without making any actual sacrifices.
  • Abusing others can give the abuser temporary relief of frustration at life’s annoyances.
  • Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.
  • When people are deprived of financial resources or financial autonomy, they are much easier to control.
  • The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.
  • The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.
  • Disunity among a group gives the abuser more power by directing attention into fighting among themselves rather than holding the abuser accountable.

Abuse Examples and Comparisons

Here are a few examples of how members of the media have used abuse techniques to advance their agenda while disregarding the harm to individuals and society.

Abuse Example 1

Abuse benefits:  Abuse victims change their behavior and bolster the abuser’s self-esteem to win approval or tolerance.  Others can be coerced into performing unwanted tasks or giving up resources, resulting in better quality of life or gratification for the abuser.  Financial resources are often something abusers work on transferring from their targets to themselves (Bancroft 155-156).

Abuse tactic:  Using a tone of absolute certainty and final authority – “defining reality”.

Media example:  The highest status people in our culture tend to be doctors, lawyers, professors, executives, politicians, sports figures and entertainers (Dwyer 19).  Some of these people are at least well-educated, but many have no more knowledge or ability about most issues than we do.  When people are catered to as though they are of a higher status than the common person, they often feel entitled to treat us as inferior and expect us to defer to their authority (Dwyer 19).

News content producers can be an example of media using their sense of entitlement and branding skills to claim authority they have not really earned.  Before the 1970s, news programs were offered as a public service and run at a loss to the station in exchange for the right to use bandwidth on the limited public airwaves.  Released from that obligation, many news programs still claim the image of public service while earning large profits by featuring “sensational, sentimental or dramatic” stories that will attract mass audiences for their advertisers (Silverblatt et al 119).  In return for their airwaves generating profits for media companies, the public gains at best only low-quality entertainment disguised as news, and possibly manipulation, abuse and ill health.

Some prominent social media companies have recently declared themselves to be authorities on objective truth, supposedly in the service of their users, who they see as not as qualified to judge as their own self-declared technocracy.  They employ “fact checkers” to distinguish between beneficial and harmful content.  A couple of the areas they recently claim special authority on are Constitutional law and medicine (Lucas, “Does Section 230’s…”).  When a technocracy was originally considered for the United States in the 20th century, sufficiently wise people, such as social scientists, religious leaders, the military, the police, Congress and the FTC were considered as members (Baran and Davis 62-63).  Investigative journalists have been trying to investigate today’s new technocracy.  In documenting the harsh working conditions of Facebook content moderators, journalist Casey Newton found that most of Facebook’s content moderators are employees of outside contractors.  At one facility in Phoenix, content moderators are paid $28,800 per year as compared to the average Facebook employee compensation of $240,000 (Newton).  Facebook periodically audits the contract workers for accuracy, with accuracy defined as what Facebook decides it is.  It is unclear what the educational qualifications are to be a contracted content moderator or a Facebook employed auditor (Newton).

Abuse Example 2:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser receives peer approval from the surrounding culture.

Abuse tactic:  Provoking inappropriate guilt.

Media example:  Netflix aired a documentary showing walruses falling to their deaths from a cliff, claiming the deaths were caused by climate change.  In actuality, the falling walruses were chased by polar bears, and possibly were even frightened by the film crew’s disturbing presence in the area and noisy equipment (Foster).  Netflix gained the benefit of appearing to be socially responsible while directing attention away from their own possible culpability.  As professor of space architecture and author Larry Bell commented in Forbes, phenomena that we used to be taught were natural, such as earthquakes, “hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzard cold weather conditions and such” are now our fault and we are pressured to feel guilty (Bell).

Many celebrities have shared mis-identified fire photos on social media, claiming they are current and from the Amazon rain forest, when they were sometimes not current and taken somewhere else (Richardson).  Perhaps they feel less guilty about their lifestyles for spreading these often unverified messages, while at the same time enjoying social approval from their peers without having to actually sacrifice anything.  One of the privileges abusers regularly enjoy is to feel better while others around them feel worse (Bancroft 31).

What is the cost to mental health of this constant bombardment of what some affix the label “tragedy porn”?  Therapy for eco-anxiety is a prominent field of mental health with over 120 practitioners known as far back as 2008 (Bell).  Sufferers of eco-anxiety have reported shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, fatigue, overeating, bulimia, depression and alcoholism (Bell).  96% of respondents of one study on relatively affluent Americans claimed that eco-anxiety changed their ideas about having children, 6% even going so far as to regret the ones they already have (Carrington).  What is it like for a child to grow up as a regret?  In one case a seven-month old baby is going to have to find out what it’s like to live through a gunshot wound in the chest as the only survivor of an Argentinian family killed in a murder-suicide pact apparently precipitated by eco-anxiety (Sacks).

Children and adults alike have been taunted with threats that important cultural traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas will be ruined or cancelled because of climate change (Watts).  This could be interpreted as doubling down on the effort to induce poor mental health in viewers because religion is one of the well-known weapons against depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, suicidal behavior and poor physical health (Whitley).  Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, not a religious one, but gratitude is something both atheists and theists alike can embrace. However, too much gratitude is not good for the advertising business.  If people get too satisfied with what they already have, they won’t buy as many new things.  The idea that products should constantly be updated in appearance to make old versions obsolete or deliberately made not to last very long became mainstream by the middle of the 20th century in the United States (Hine 66).  The media likes to encourage us to buy unnecessary products  while at the same time promoting guilt in us because excess consumption is bad for the environment.  That behavior results in a triple win for the media/entertainment industry and their advertising clients – they sell more products, appear to be socially responsible for infiltrating our entertainment with guilt messages, and evade accountability for their own environmental misdeeds.

Abuse Example 3:

Abuse benefit:  The abuser’s goals are prioritized while others are diminished. The abuser escapes consequences while others who would dare to engage in the same behavior are held accountable.

Abuse tactics: Getting other people to pressure you, discrediting, spreading rumors, ridicule, name calling, insults, put-downs and sarcasm.

Media example:  Because they claim immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media corporations such as Facebook and Twitter maintain they are not liable for the actions of their users (“Does Section 230’s…”).  At the same time, they can allow content they approve of and ban content they don’t approve of, boost content they favor and restrict content they disfavor, and promote or suppress users in an equivalent manner.  In that way they can discredit, spread rumors, bully, harass or otherwise pressure whoever they choose by selectively enforcing speech, while avoiding proposed regulation of this privilege by manipulating public opinion to vote for whoever is unlikely to impose regulations that would reduce their technocratic control (“Does Section 230’s…”).

Sophisticated advertisers know what anxieties, fears and insecurities their target audiences are prone to, and they know how to trigger them at will and then offer products and ideas as solutions to the uncomfortable feelings that result (Silverblatt et al 291).  Facebook ran a test in 2012 to see if they could go beyond mere curation and actually prompt the type of content users post on their platform by manipulating people’s moods (Meyer).  They succeeded, and if there was ever any doubt, everyone now knows that they have the power to recruit their users into unconsciously propagating the media’s agendas and those of their advertisers.  Fear and anxiety have been known to be aids to selling products for a long time (Packard 48, 58-59, 221-223).  When Vance Packard published his book The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, the techniques advertisers studied to appeal to our fears and anxieties were still new to the public (Hine 28).  Even though the methods are no longer new, they still work as the Facebook experiment demonstrates (Meyer).  There are a number of possible health related side effects resulting from induced fear and anxiety, including fevers, vomiting, impotence, diarrhea, increased heart rate, fatigue, nausea, sleep problems, reduced ability to fight infections, heart disease, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse, social dysfunction and suicidal thoughts (Dyer 33, 197-198, Leonard).

Even with the available legal remedies, there is a limited amount that can be done for a victim of physical or mental abuse unless they decide to stop accepting the abuse and take action to use what help is available to assist in freeing themselves.  Many of the harmful mental and physical effects of media can be overcome if individuals make the decision to reclaim their agency and follow up with suitable action.  Abused individuals and abused media viewers are groomed in a similar manner with deceptive seductive techniques that hide the true intent of the abuser.  Abuse and grooming gradually break down the resistance and health of the target to make the target less able to fight and break free from bondage.

Dangerous and addictive products that are regulated as “vice” products perhaps provide a precedent for the legal system and government agencies to regulate abusive media in a similar manner.  “Vice” products are related to activities that are not considered healthy or moral and whose use is controlled to some extent by age-related or other restrictions (Trager 547).  Categories of “vice” products currently include alcohol, tobacco, hookahs, e-cigarettes, drugs, gambling, sexually explicit material, firearms and marijuana (Trager 547, 550).  In the past some of the methods of combating the harm caused by the misuse of these products has taken the form of public service messages and warning labels.  The battle lines which government agencies and commercial interests navigate as they both attempt to advance their opposing goals is constantly in flux, with states and local jurisdictions having a lot of leeway to tighten or loosen regulations on vice products (Trager et al 542-555).  If the media is going to intentionally or negligently affect our health, I think a case can be made for providing media literacy information content on their channels in lieu of labeling on media products in exchange for the benefits their corporate owners enjoy at the public’s expense.

Some forms of media regulation have been allowed by Federal government agencies and the courts in the past to promote the ability of citizens to make informed choices about their health, welfare and the consumption of products and ideas.  Here are a few examples of past attempts by the FCC.

From 1949-1989 the Fairness Doctrine required broadcast stations to provide programming that presented diverse views on controversial topics of public importance (Trager et al 408).

The personal attack rule required broadcasters to provide a rebuttal forum for the subjects of an-air attacks on their “integrity, honesty, or character”.  Because the personal attack rule did not apply to public officials, it had limited power to limit one-sided attacks.  Even that protection for private individuals was eliminated in 2000 (Trager et al 409).

Under the political editorial rule, private broadcasters were required to allow legally qualified candidates for public office rebuttal time in response to editorials aired either against the candidate or in favor of a rival.  The political editorial rule also ended in 2000 (Trager et al 409).  Public broadcasters are not allowed to endorse a candidate but can editorialize on public issues (Trager et al 409), some of which could affect the livelihoods of those who work for public broadcasters and in that case could be one-sided and self-serving.  The taxpayers who fund a portion of public broadcasting involuntarily are afforded no opportunity to rebut (Trager et al 417).

Net neutrality was the requirement for internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally and not set up paid priority service for preferred content (Traeger et al 423).  Net neutrality was repealed in 2018 (Morton). Some states have started to create their own net neutrality legislation since it no longer exists at the Federal level (Morton).

There was a time when the four above regulations were considered acceptable under the First Amendment.  The First Amendment has not yet changed – not the text of it anyway.  I suggest that as a country we consider bringing some regulations back, as they are possible hedges against the technocracy gaining further power over us and increasing their ability to abuse.

Works Cited

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Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

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—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.

“The History of FDA’s Fight for Consumer Protection and Public Health.” Food and Drug Administration, 2018, www.fda.gov/about-fda/history-fdas-fight-consumer-protection-and-public-health. Accessed 19 December 2020.

Trager, Robert Susan Dente Ross and Amy Reynolds. The law of journalism and mass communication. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. 2018.

Watts, Anthony. “Future Holiday Hell – A Repeating Pattern of Climate Change Doomerism.” The Heartland Institute, 2020, climaterealism.com/2020/11/future-holiday-hell-a-repeating-pattern-of-climate-change-doomerism/. Accessed 17 December 2020.

Whitley, Dr. Rob, “Religion and Mental Health: What Is the Link?” Psychology Today, 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-men/201712/religion-and-mental-health-what-is-the-link. Accessed 18 December 2020.

Pinterest Board I Use To Collect Sources for Advertising and Marketing Degree Work

Media Analysis – lots and lots and lots and lots of sources on related topics. Some of which I have used, some of which I haven’t.

Blog Posts I Have Written On Related Topics

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Freedom of Expression in The Age Of Powerful Technology Corporations”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/4051-2/.

—. “The Snapchat Indecency Lawsuit”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2020, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/snapchat-indecency-lawsuit/.

—. “Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/attempting-protect-vulnerable-violence/.

—. “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/3534-2/.

—. “Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/political-ads-about-political-ads-and-trolling/.

—. “Pride & Prejudice: Light Holiday Entertainment?”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/pride-prejudice-light-holiday-entertainment/.

—. “The Spiral of Silence Theory”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/the-spiral-of-silence-theory/.

—. “Self-help techniques for depression”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2018, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/2758-2/.

—. “A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-comparison-between-emotional-abuse-and-saul-alinskys-rules-for-radicals/.

—. “My New Planner Layout”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2017, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/my-new-planner-layout/.

—. “Book Review: “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land) – Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing With Revenge” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/book-review-by-dr-laura-schlessinger/.

—. “Book Review: ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men’”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/why-does-he-do-that-inside-the-minds-of-angry-and-controlling-men/.

—. “Creative Arts Fellowship at DaySpring School of the Arts”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2016, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/creative-arts-fellowship-at-dayspring-school-of-the-arts/.

—. “A plea for the humane treatment of Wiggles the pet starling”. Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2014, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/a-plea-for-the-humane-treatment-of-wiggles-the-pet-starling/.

Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication

The first part of this post is a homework assignment for Strategic Communications Applications class in which I summarize the barriers to government and citizen communication as stated in our textbook, “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”. The second section is my own commentary which includes a lot of my opinion, speculation, and things I’d like the opportunity to delve into further to either prove or disprove. What do you think? Is your government a help to your life, a deadweight on your progress, or a mixture of both?

In our textbook are listed many challenges to successful two-way communication between citizens and government (Broom and Sha 356-366).

1. The government is large and complex with many bureaucratic layers that are difficult and time consuming to navigate.

2. Citizens expectations of what services government should provide keep expanding.

3. There is suspicion about the ethics of the entire profession of public relations and the governments that employ them.

4. Actual incidents of government misinformation have occurred, intentional or just not thorough enough, interpreted as lies or spin, such as in the Iraq war buildup.

5. There is a lot of citizen apathy.

6. There is often hostility of legislators to the public relations profession for budget and other reasons, sometimes causing practitioners to choose other areas of expertise.

7. A lack of journalists to cover government activity thoroughly.

8. When it comes to distributing information, government and media often have different agendas.

9. The job of informing the public is too large for anyone to do well.

10. Unlike a business with a more limited scope, a government has to attempt to please everyone rather than cater to one public in particular.

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

My Further Commentary

Here are some factors I’ve considered that the book did not mention, based partly on my own opinion, perceptions and experiences. I’ll put in any links and citations I can find as I go, exploring ideas that I can bolster with other sources.

A. Some members of government agencies represent their departments poorly and abuse their power over citizens, building mistrust. This apparently is what happened to my husband and I when we started putting in a rain garden to help cope with excess storm water. I documented all that in these two blog posts of mine and my final project for this course, Strategic Communications Applications, will partly be an attempt to analyze and find motivation for these actions against us.

B. News media is no longer the watchdog over government that it once was, due to more activist news coverage (Broom and Sha 365), or was perceived to have been. There is more than one reason for this in my opinion.

    • 1. Because traditional “old media” institutions are losing revenue to other channels, they are concentrating more on their social media channels. News on social media tends to be less informative, more opinion based, less accurate, and posted by journalists who are less constrained by ethics or standards than in the past (“The Impact of…”). Much content is only created to get views and clicks in order to sell ads and does not need to have much substance or even be true in order to meet the goals of the media organizations who publish it (Johnstone).
    • 2. Investigative journalism about government takes a lot of time and money to produce, and available money and staff are more limited (Grieco). Journalists can get stories with less time and effort by just repeating statements from sources without confirming or investigating (Johnstone).
        “Journalists wanted information to be easily available, yet resented the men and women who made it available. By the mid twentieth century, journalists were dependent on PR practitioners for a large percentage of the stories appearing in newspapers. But admitting their dependence would shatter cherished ideals. Journalists were proud of their ability to uncover stories, verify details, and expose sham. Thus, they were unlikely to admit their dependence, lack of skepticism, failure to verify, and failure to expose every sham.” – Delorme and Fedler, 2003. (Broom and Sha, 226)
    • 3. The attention span of the average person in our country is going down and there is less demand for in-depth stories with enough information to truly be informed (Lords).
    • 4. Issues related to the size and function of government are politicized. The personal philosophy of journalists and companies that employ them is more likely to follow their political interests rather than the well-being of citizens than in the past (“The Impact of…”).
    • 5. The media has less and less credibility with citizens because of selective reporting, staging and manipulating events in order to have a story that they want to be able to report, un-named sources that may or may not even exist and outright fabrication (“The Impact of…”, Johnstone). There are bi-partisan examples of this to be found. I’ll post one example each from two different political sides here for examination.

      The Pew Research Center measures the public’s attitudes toward both media and government and finds that news coverage about government is evaluated and consumed very differently according to political affiliation (Jurkowitz, et al).

    • 6. Many media institutions and personalities engage in “gaslighting”, similar to what is often done to the victim in abusive domestic relationships. Media, both entertainment and what is presented as “news” is permeated with attempts to make a lot of people who have done nothing wrong and have accurate and reasonable perceptions of reality to feel ridiculed and ostracized (Battaglio). If this is continued, the “Spiral of Silence” theory posits that certain ideas disappear from public discourse over time (Baran and Davis 268). Our form of government is based on the premise that people should be free to discuss issues in order to make the most rational choice, but there are many forces trying to restrict certain information from being discussed in public (Bufkin, Farrah, Gordon, OyperG, Poulakidakos, Sherr).

      For example in 2013 I was literally holding in my hand a letter from my insurance company saying that my insurance was cancelled when an “entertainment” podcast I was listening to was ridiculing people who claimed that their insurance was cancelled, claiming we were liars trying to fool people. This was a podcast that I had a paid subscription to. I sent a scan of my rejection letter to the podcast host along with a cancellation of my subscription to the podcast. The host’s response was to call me stupid and say I was making it up. That’s an example of gaslighting and DARVO, Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender, a tactic that abusive domestic partners and other abusers use to keep their victims under coercive control (Harsey, Zurbriggen and Freyd, 644). While the majority of media outlets were trying to deny that there were cancellations happening, a web site with Twitter account was set up for people to send pictures of their cancellation letters for publication (Fennell). Twitter shut that account down, then reinstated it later after public outrage (Fennell). Since I did see my letter on that web site and Twitter account and it was unaltered from what I sent them, I judged the things they were posting to be credible unless I was presented with information indicating otherwise. So even in a society where there is supposed to be freedom of speech and the government has limited ability to censor if the constitution is followed, corporations can take political stances and if they don’t want certain things known they can do a lot to censor information that isn’t in their interests (OyperG, Fennell, Bufkin). If we rely for information on a corporation that is in the business of news or providing a communication platform, we can’t assume without investigating that we are getting true or complete information about any issue. While media corporations sometimes have an agenda that is in opposition to a government (Broom and Sha 365), at other times they can be complicit (Woodruff). Citizens must investigate for themselves to try to determine the truth to the best of their ability, and many do not have the time or interest and so remain poorly informed (Broom and Sha 356-366, Poulakidakos 373).

TO BE CONTINUED…

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Bufkin, Ellie, “Twitter Users Appalled by Bias and Censorship Plan Boycott.” Townhall.com/Salem Media, 2020, https://townhall.com/tipsheet/elliebufkin/2020/06/24/conservatives-appalled-by-bias-and-censorship-plan-twitter-boycott-n2571231. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Fennell, “Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Account Critical of Obamacare.” IndustryDive, 2013, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/twitter-suspends-then-reinstates-account-critical-obamacare. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Johnstone, Caitlin. “‘Confirmed’ Is a Meaningless Word In MSM News Reporting.” Consortiumnews, 2020, consortiumnews.com/2020/09/27/confirmed-is-a-meaningless-word-in-msm-news-reporting/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Jurkowitz, Mark et al. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Lords, Shannon, “As Attention Spans Get Shorter, Content Gets Even Shorter – What Would Ken Burns Do?” Advertising Week, 2020, https://www.advertisingweek360.com/attention-spans-get-shorter-content-gets-shorter-ken-burns/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

OyperG, “NBC Goes Mask Off – Reveals Twitter Censorship Methods After Devastating Hack.” Bitcoin Warrior, 2020, bitcoinwarrior.net/2020/07/nbc-goes-mask-off-reveals-twitter-censorship-methods-after-devastating-hack/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Sherr, Ian. “How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ).” CNET, 2016, www.cnet.com/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“Taliban Denies CBS Claim of Endorsing Trump Reelection.” Tasnim News Agency, 2020, www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/10/11/2367327/taliban-denies-cbs-claim-of-endorsing-trump-reelection. Accessed 11 October 2020.

“The Impact Of Social Media On News and Journalism.” New York Film Academy, 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/social-media-in-journalism/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Woodruff, Betsy. “Democrat Rep: Insurance Cancellation Letters Should Have Just Said Things Are Getting Better.” National Review, 2013, www.nationalreview.com/corner/democrat-rep-insurance-cancellation-letters-should-have-just-said-things-are-getting/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

I also put some resources I’ve collected as I work on my degree on this Pinterest board:

https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/media-analysis/

Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages

In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.

I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.

blog traffic increased by trolling
Yes I’m a graphic designer and I could have easily faked this graphic – but I give you my word that I didn’t, for what it’s worth!

With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!

In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.

A political ad that comments on advertising and is also a trolling test.

Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).

The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.

Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.

There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!

The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?

political photo choice in an ad and in an article
Photo from the Warren ad on the left, photo from the Webster University Journal on the right. What messages might be sent based on Scale? On Relative Position? Anything else?

After reading my paper “Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown what do you think of the above two photos? Still photos and motion pictures use a lot of the same production elements. Following are some more questions I would ask the writer, editor and publisher of the Journal if I could.

Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?

Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?

Why was no mention made of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report? The excerpt below is from page 21:

“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”

I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.

To see what I used as sources in analyzing the Journal article I put a link to the Journal article and other interesting articles on the topic I found, plus a link to the Senate report on this Confucius Institutes on College Campuses Pinterest board.

The Spiral of Silence Theory

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor but no corrections were made.


The Spiral of Silence Theory

In 1963, Bernard Cohen identified a mass media phenomenon called agenda-setting, a theory which posits that the media has an influence over what topics people think are important even if it has limited control over the content of those thoughts (Baran and Davis 264). Research in 1972 by Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald Shaw appeared to confirm the theory while later researchers expanded on the nature of agenda-setting and amount of interchange between the media and the intended audience (Baran and Davis 264-268). Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann originated the spiral-of-silence theory which argues that people will be more reluctant to express their views if they believe those views are in the minority. This self-censorship results in views that are perceived as less popular gradually disappearing from public debate (Baran and Davis 268).

In 1973, Noelle-Neumann examined what caused the media to possess this agenda-setting power. In her view, one factor is that the media is readily available for consumption. Another reason is that there is a cumulative effect – the messages cross content formats and types of media and are repeated over time. Thirdly, there is a lack of diversity among the opinions of journalists that tends to lead to homogeneity of topics presented to the public (Baran and Davis 268-269). Other researchers have continued to criticize, test and analyze the spiral of silence theory (Baran and Davis 269).

During the 20th Century, information tended to flow in a top-down manner from the elites to the masses. In the present time, we still use legacy media such as printed materials and electronic media. The category of actors that would have relied on such “old media” to distribute their messages, such as activist groups, governments, organizations and companies, are still using those legacy channels along with the newer decentralized web-based platforms. Additionally, we are producing user-generated content in the form of blogs and social media posts that compete for time and attention alongside the more elite content sources (Poulakidakos 373). The line between production and consumption has been considerably blurred (Poulakidakos 377).

Individual media users make decisions to determine when it is safe or desirable to express an opinion in the public sphere (Poulakidakos 374). Users do monitor whether their opinion is in the majority or minority and take the effect on their online and real-life relationships into consideration before deciding what to share (Poulakidakos 374). A 2011 study by Andrew Hayes and associates examined the effect of opinion polls and found that they do have a greater influence on people who suffer more fear of social isolation (Baran and Davis 269). There is a tendency for some individuals polled to tell the researchers what they think they want to hear rather than their true opinion (Gearhart and Zhgang 38). This behavior suggests that some people who think they are conforming to their fellow citizens to gain social acceptance are really conforming to the perceived opinions of the poll takers instead.

What factors make people more willing to take the risk of expressing their opinion? Awareness of a wider variety of opinions helps – with more diverse points of view available for consumption, there is less fear of social exclusion for expressing an opinion, helping to break the spiral of silence effect (Poulakidakos 375). Minority opinion holders are more willing to speak out on issues that they hold very firmly and believe are of high importance (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). People are more willing to express their true opinions in forums where they are not required to reveal their real-life identity (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). Less popular opinions are more likely to be expressed when people perceive that their view is gaining momentum (Gearhart and Zhgang 48).

Research by Gerarhart and Zhang shows that the perception that the media is in line with the user’s opinions has only a limited effect on the willingness of people to post truthfully about their thoughts. The perceived opinion of other members of the person’s nation had very little effect (Gearhart and Zhgang 44-46). In other words, the opinions of real-life friends and family carry a lot more weight with individuals than the media or the general public (Gearhart and Zhgang 50).

Even if the intended effect is not very significant, some appear to feel that any advantage is worth pursuing when the stakes are high, such as they are in the case of a major election. It is estimated that 1.4 billion USD was spent on digital advertising in the 2016 US Presidential election (Madrigal). A Pew research study shows that with over a year to go before the next Presidential election, 46% of social media users are already fatigued by the amount of political content they are exposed to (Anderson and Quinn). Our current culture is increasingly tolerant of incivility and some of the political content and behavior goes beyond mere propaganda, taking the form of online shaming, bullying and offline terrorism. Vitriol is not only directed at candidates but also their supporters (Gordon). On our own Webster University Campus in 2019, wearing a candidate’s t-shirt or having a candidate’s bumper sticker on a car has resulted in attempted property damage, vituperative verbal insults, and physical assault (Farrah). It is possible to be attacked even when not engaging in public political speech based solely on identity (Gordon). In 2015, a man was allegedly beaten on public transportation in St. Louis for declining to state a political opinion when asked (Associated Press). The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2016 that there were 10 active hate groups in the St. Louis area that “target others based on perceived membership in a class of people” (Moffit).

Studies cited earlier in this paper have found that the opinion climate in a particular environment does have some effect on open opinion expression. In the case of political views, can the majority consensus in a social media platform, such as Facebook, accurately predict voting behavior? According to a study by Mihee Kim, if an individual is not strongly committed to a political point of view, not only is such a person unlikely to express an opinion in a hostile environment, that person is less likely to vote at all. People strongly partisan to a certain point of view were also less forthcoming with opinions in a hostile environment, but rather than reducing political participation in the real world as the less committed did, they increased their activities in a direction opposite of what they perceived as the majority view (Kim 700). As a result, those actors attempting to sway voters in their preferred political direction by making it seem as though the voters’ own opinions are unpopular are likely to get the opposite outcome than was intended.

The nature of new media results in users having more choices of what content to consume and more individualized control over what they prefer to consume (Poulakidakos 374). If our nation has lost its’ tolerance for the open debate that allows ideas to be heard and judged on their merits, then we will continue to make important decisions about the future of our country with only the opinions from our own self-selected sphere of influence to guide us (Poulakidakos 374).

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica and Dennis Quinn. “46% of U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions.” Pew Research Center, 2019, www.pewresearch.org/…/46-of-u-s-social-media-users…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Associated Press. “FBI investigates possible hate crime cases in St. Louis.” CBS Interactive Inc., 2015, www.cbsnews.com/…/fbi-begins-investigations-into…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Moffit, Kelly. “10 hate groups in the St. Louis area: Defining and discussing what they stand for today.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2016, https://news.stlpublicradio.org/…/10-hate-groups-st…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.


Further reading: Here are some links to things I didn’t use or cite but might be interesting to read if you like this topic!

Democracy vs. Republic

The Power to Influence

12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Facebook Says it Doesn’t Try to Influence How People Vote

“Feminazis,” “libtards,” “snowflakes,” and “racists”: Trolling and the Spiral of Silence effect in women, LGBTQIA communities, and disability populations before and after the 2016 election

Effects of the “Spiral of Silence” in Digital Media

Spiral of Silence, and the Election Half of us Saw Coming

The only true winners of this election are trolls

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

How do we decide which media sources we can trust?

For our first test in Mass Communications class, we were asked to pick two questions from four offered and write at least a page on each. I’m going to take a risk and put these out there before they are graded because it might be a week before I get the graded test back and I don’t want to sit on this for that long. I’m spoiled and too used to the instant gratification that comes with self-publishing I suppose! If I decide to make any changes after grading I’ll indicate what I changed so you can see the corrections.


3. Explain Propaganda Theories. Contrast Lasswell’s Propaganda Theory and the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ perspective. How do you see propaganda currently?

Mass society theorists have been fearful about the influence of mass media on average people since mass media first became prevalent (Baran and Davis 56). World Wars I and II along with the rise of totalitarian governments around the world caused researchers and critics to study how oppressive regimes used propaganda and to explore whether propaganda could be used to preserve and promote democracy instead (Baran and Davis 56). Behaviorism was an early theory that proposed that most human behavior could be explained by external conditioning rather than conscious choice (Baran and Davis 46-47). Freudianism was another theory that was also skeptical about the abilities of humans to use reason to control their actions. To Freudian thinkers, the rational mind was called the Ego. They believed media could be used to cause either the Id or the Superego to become dominant and undermine the Ego, resulting in people losing reasoning ability or giving up control to others (Baran and Davis 47-48).

Harold Lasswell was a political scientist who believed that the mental state of the subjects of propaganda was more important than the actual media content. In his view economic problems, war and conflict induced a form of psychosis that made people more susceptible to being manipulated (Baran and Davis 48). Democracies are designed so that it’s necessary to debate ideas in order for voters to decide which is the most rational. In his time as well as today, political discussions could become verbally rancorous and sometimes even escalate to physical violence. Lasswell believed it was too risky for people to engage in or witness such contention because it would induce psychosis that could lead to the adoption of subversive ideas (Baran and Davis 48). It would in his view be safer to expose people to benign propaganda crafted by a scientific technocracy rather than allow open debate (Baran and Davis 48-49). He advocated for long-term campaigns, possibly lasting months or years, that utilized every possible form of media to associate meanings with symbols that could be used to plant ideas into consumers that were more compatible with democracy (Baran and Davis 49).

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was an interdisciplinary association that existed from 1937-1942. It’s purpose was to explore how the public could be educated to consume communication more rationally and become resistant to propaganda (Sproule 486). Today we would call this type of education media literacy (Baran and Davis 293). The IPA identified the “seven common propaganda devices”, which they termed “name calling, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks, card stacking and band wagon” (Sproule 488-489).

In the postwar period, other theories and research methods were developed that made the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ research and list seem out of date among many researchers (Sproule 495-496). Nevertheless the ideas and terms that the the IPA introduced are still in use. A 1995 publication by the Institute of General Semantics advocates the use of the IPA’s concepts because they are non-technical and understandable by a wide variety of people (The Iconography of… 14). They created a set of symbols to illustrate and provided rhetorical examples with the symbols inserted to indicate which propaganda devices were used. A 2017 article in Psychology Today makes the case for continuing to use the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’ list along with an introduction that explains some of the history of propaganda and the IPA (Shpancer). A web site called Propaganda Critic was created during the early years of the World Wide Web. The project team for Propaganda Critic views itself as a successor to the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (Delwiche and Herring). They retain many of the IPA’s terms and ideas on their Propaganda page while renaming and adding a few of their own (Delwiche).

It’s not new for the elite classes to be concerned every time a new communication technology is introduced (Baran and Davis 33). An example of a media literacy effort developed to combat the new challenges that come with new technology is DROG. DROG is a European interdisciplinary organization that produced an online game called Bad News in collaboration with Cambridge University. Players are cast in the role of an online propagandist and earn badges for Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. The goal of the game is to make media consumers more aware of the new propaganda techniques made possible by modern technology. Although the goals of DROG are very similar to organizations like the older IPA, they have created a new list with new terms that does more than just put a new label on old ideas (DROG).

 

4. As an example of Normative Theories, what are the major aspects of Social Responsibility Theory? What are the pros and cons? How do you see Social Responsibility in the future?

A normative theory explains “how a media system should be structured and operate in order to conform to or realize a set of ideal values” (Baran and Davis 16). Social responsibility theory has been the dominant normative theory in the United States from the reform era of the early 20th century up to the present time (Baran and Davis 60-61). Since our Bill of Rights contains Freedom of the Press, the government is limited in what it can do to regulate communication (Baran and Davis 64-65). The Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press, consisting of leaders in different fields, was convened and financed from 1942-1947 by the CEO of Time, Inc. to explore how the press could better serve the public and avoid excessive government regulation (Baran and Davis 72). The commissions findings were summarized in Social Responsibility Theory of the Press in 1956 (Baran and Davis 73).

According to the ideas in the report, journalists were encouraged to be professional by being competent, accurate and balanced in their coverage. Beyond just their own financial interests and that of their employers, they had a duty to also serve society. Serving society was thought to consist of abiding by the law and not inciting crime, violence or disorder. All members of society including minority groups would ideally be respected and have their interests and views represented (Baran and Davis 74).

Doubts abound about whether social responsibility theory is actually followed by media professionals. Even if attempts are made to follow the guidelines, the results are not always what were intended (Baran and Davis 74-75). There are many barriers to living up to the ideas in social responsibility theory. Often members of the media are reluctant to engage in policing each other because they fear undermining faith in the whole organization or profession (Baran and Davis 75). Standards are vague enough that members of the media can go pretty far in protecting their own interests (Baran and Davis 76). There are no professional licenses that allow journalists to practice and it’s difficult to define who is a journalist and who is not (Baran and Davis 76-77). The output that journalists produce is often the product of many hands and it’s difficult to know who is responsible and what the actual damages are from misdeeds (Baran and Davis 77).

Technology has democratized the ability to be a publisher and consumers can choose from a wider variety of information sources (Baran and Davis 82-83). The American public’s trust in the media had dropped to a historic low point by September 2016 according to a Gallup Poll (Americans’ Trust in…). If the media wants to regain more of the public’s trust it might benefit from some self-examination and self-regulation in the tradition of the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the press.

 

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Delwiche, Aaron. “What Is Propaganda Analysis?” Propaganda Critic, 2018, https://propagandacritic.com/index.php/how-to-decode-propaganda/what-is-propaganda-analysis/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Delwiche, Aaron and Mary Margaret Herring. “About This Site.” Propaganda Critic, 2018, propagandacritic.com/index.php/about-this-site/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

DROG. Bad News. 2018, http://getbadnews.com/. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Shpancer, Noam. “The Con of Propaganda.” Sussex Publishers, LLC, 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201702/the-con-propaganda. Accessed 24 September 2019.

Sproule, J. Michael. “The Institute for Propaganda Analysis: Public Education in Argumentation, 1937-1942.” Conference Proceedings — National Communication Association/American Forensic Association (Alta Conference on Argumentation), Jan. 1983, pp. 486–499. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=20908496&site=ehost-live. Accessed 23 September 2019.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“The Iconography of Propaganda Analysis.” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, vol. 52, no. 1, Spring 1995, p. 13. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=9503150320&site=ehost-live. Accessed 23 September 2019.


Interesting links I found but didn’t use:

No, I haven’t read all these (yet). But I want to save them where I can find them again and if you are interested in the topics I wrote about above you will probably find some good reading in there!

Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Answers to Reader Questions on Our Brett Kavanaugh Essay

Information & Media Literacy: Skills Needed in Today’s World

Majority of U.S. adults think news media should not add interpretation to the facts

Public Attitudes Toward Computer Algorithms

What are the best examples of modern-day propaganda in the US? – a discussion that shows that some people have a good grasp of what propaganda is and some just define it as whatever they don’t agree with.

Partisans are divided on whether they associate the news media or Trump with ‘made-up’ news

Public Attitudes Toward Technology Companies

Public Insight Network

Handbook for Citizen Journalists

Digital Hydra: Security Implications of False Information Online

Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking

Emotional content to earn more attention

Time to call out the anti-GMO conspiracy theory

Bots, #StrongerIn, and #Brexit: Computational Propaganda during the UK-EU Referendum

Computational Propaganda Worldwide: Executive Summary

Causes and Consequences of Polarization*

Political Polarization & Media Habits

The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science

Discrediting moves in political debates

https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-internet-trolling-3485891

Propaganda in the Digital Age

“Everything I Disagree With is #FakeNews”: Correlating Political Polarization and Spread of Misinformation

Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor. I rewrote one sentence that was awkward but didn’t change anything else. I made a couple of minor formatting changes for online viewing, the printed version attempts to conform to MLA style. Comments on any of my blog posts are encouraged at any time and if you have any critiques that would help me write better I especially would welcome those.


Attempting to Protect the Vulnerable from Violence

Social scientists have been studying mass media for decades to see if there is a link between consuming violent media and real-life violent behavior. All social scientists do not agree but over time the majority have come to accept that there are causal links (Baran and Davis 193-194). Many researchers use social cognitive theory as a framework for explaining how and why people learn behavior from the media (Baran and Davis 193).

Human beings sometimes observe and then imitate behavior, but imitation doesn’t happen in every instance (Baran and Davis 170). How does a violent idea escalate to violent action? There are many variables in the content itself that influence behavior. If the subjects receive punishment for their actions, the content will be imitated less frequently (Baran and Davis 176). The Hays code, which the US Movie industry imposed on itself from 1934-1965, was an example of self-censorship to avoid consumer outrage and government intervention. The strictures that filmmakers had to follow indicate early awareness that the moral and legal contexts in which violence and lawbreaking were shown did make a difference in how they were received by audiences (Hays Code).

Experiments have demonstrated that there will be more imitations of violence if the behavior is rewarded in the character’s world, the content causes emotional arousal, if the violence is portrayed in a realistic way or with humor, if the motive of the subjects is seen as justifiable and if viewers identify with the characters (Baran and Davis 176).

The circumstances under which violent content is viewed are another area of influence. Violent effects are worsened if people become de-sensitized by frequent viewing (Baran and Davis 176). Content in which the user is active rather than passive, such as in a video game, has greater effects on the user (Baran and Davis 181).

From the beginning of the study of mass media, researchers and theorists have been interested in what the individual who is viewing the content brings to the interaction between the consumer and the media. Some of the earliest mass society media theorists did accept the paternalistic view that certain members of society were more vulnerable than others to the undesirable effects of low-quality media products (Baran and Davis 21). They feared that changing populations no longer protected by older institutions would not be well-served using the media as a substitute (Baran and Davis 36).

The story of the legendary 1938 radio broadcast War of the Worlds is well known by many Americans, but it has been greatly exaggerated into myth (Pooley and Socolow). The majority of people who heard the broadcast were not fooled into thinking that the Earth was really being invaded by Martians. There were, however, some people who were affected in alarming ways and researchers did attempt to find out why. The listeners who believed the broadcast was real and in turn responded with panic tended to be fatalistic, had low self-confidence, were afflicted by phobias and were emotionally insecure (Dixon, 2). These findings are an example of acknowledgement over time by many researchers that media does not affect all people the same way, an observation known as the individual-differences theory (Baran and Davis 105).

Even as limited-effects theories were becoming more dominant among researchers in the middle of the 20th century (Baran and Davis 22), they did not discourage other theorists from examining what kind of people were vulnerable and why. Neo-Marxists conceded an advantage to elites because of their economic power (Baran and Davis 23). Carl Hovland who led a research group for the US Army about the effectiveness of propaganda in training new recruits found that in general the films they tested did not have a great effect. The team did find that balanced presentations that explained both sides of an issue were more effective on people with more education (Baran and Davis 99-100). News-flow research associated poor news information retention with lower educational levels (Baran and Davis 110). Cultural criticism based on deterministic assumptions rose in popularity among 1970s academics as a humanities-based counterpoint to postpositivist limited-effects theories (Baran and Davis 24).

Children view media differently according to their level of development, therefore the age of the person viewing the violence is another factor that determines susceptibility to media effects (Baran and Davis 178). Ever since the first generation of people raised with television came of age in the tumultuous 1960s, researchers have been interested in trying to see if there is a link between exposure as children to violence in mass media and actual violent behavior (Baran and Davis 166-167). Enough causal relationships were found to cause the Surgeon General of the United States to commission research in 1969. After the findings became known the television industry engaged in some self-policing to quell criticism and prevent government-imposed regulations that might harm their interests
(Baran and Davis 167).

In the United States communication freedom is so essential to our form of government that freedom of the press is written into our Bill of Rights. That does not mean that no legal limits on media are allowed at all, but it is difficult to create new regulations that protect some rights without curtailing others (Baran and Davis 66). Media creators who subscribe to social responsibility theory may choose to create content they believe is in the public interest but the government has a very limited ability to compel them to do so (Baran and Davis 80), assuming there would even be a general consensus on what content is actually in the public interest.

Real-life violence has many costs. Obvious direct consequences are death and injury. Even indirect exposure to violence has detrimental effects on mental health, social interaction, cognitive function and academic performance, especially in children (Sharkey 2287). Since consumption of violence in the media has been determined to be one of many contributors to real-life violence, reducing exposure or taking steps to mitigate the effects of violent media content should help reduce violence at least to a degree (Fingar 183). Since consumption or non-consumption of most media can’t be compelled by law any more than the production, would education about media help consumers make better choices?

One attempt at mitigation is media literacy, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages” (Baran and Davis, 293). Participants in the Media Literacy movement believe that education is a powerful tool in the hands of consumers, particularly young consumers (Fingar 183). Studies undertaken in schools have shown enough positive changes in behavior for researchers to recommend that Media Literacy programs be more widely accepted and implemented (Fingar 189, Scharrer 82-83). In a society founded on Libertarianism (Baran and Davis 55), perhaps media literacy will gain more influence as new technologies draw people even more deeply into the world of media (Baran and Davis 192-193).

Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Dixon, Robert. “Limited Effects Theory.” September 2019. PowerPoint presentation.

Feilitzen, Cecilia von, et al. Outlooks on Children and Media: Child Rights, Media Trends, Media Research, Media Literacy, Child Participation, Declarations. Compiled for the World Summit on Media for Children (3rd, Thessaloniki, Greece, March 23-26, 2001). Feb. 2001. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED450947&site=ehost-live. Accessed 13 September 2019.

Fingar, Kathryn R., and Tessa Jolls. “Evaluation of a School-Based Violence Prevention Media Literacy Curriculum.” Injury Prevention, vol. 20, no. 3, June 2014, pp. 183–190. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2013-040815. Accessed 13 September 2019.

“Hays code.” Siteseen Limited, 2017-2018, www.american-historama.org/1929-1945-depression-ww2-era/hays-code.htm. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Pooley, Jefferson and Micheal J. Socolow. “The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic.” The Slate Group, 2019, https://slate.com/culture/2013/10/orson-welles-war-of-the-worlds-panic-myth-the-infamous-radio-broadcast-did-not-cause-a-nationwide-hysteria.html. Accessed 14 September 2019.

Scharrer, Erica. “‘I Noticed More Violence:’ The Effects of a Media Literacy Program on Critical Attitudes Toward Media Violence.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 21, no. 1, Mar. 2006, pp. 69–86. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2101_5. Accessed 13 September 2019.

Sharkey, Patrick T., et al. “The Effect of Local Violence on Children’s Attention and Impulse Control.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 102, no. 12, Dec. 2012, pp. 2287–2293. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300789. Accessed 13 September 2019.


Links to things I didn’t use

If you are interested in the above topic and the media in general you might enjoy some further reading.

7 Ways to Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Violence in the Media

Protect Your Brain from Images of Violence and Cruelty

Tips on How to Deal with Media Violence

Blocking kids from social media won’t solve the problem of cyberbullying

Effects of television viewing on child development

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

The media exaggerates negative news. This distortion has consequences

Facebook Has Seized the Media, and That’s Bad News for Everyone But Facebook

The Real ‘Fake News’ Is The Mainstream Media

The Media Is Obsessed With Bad News