Political Essay: Accuracy of Media
The purpose of this essay is to explore the notion of accuracy in the media as it pertains to political issues, specifically issues of creating positive political perceptions surrounding the genocide in East Timor. How did the Australian media present this event and what can be said about the strategies used by the media to create a specific political spin? What is at issue here is whether or not the media is accurate in its portrayal of events or simply telling the stories with politics in mind? Is the media accurate? What theories can be applied to the strategies as media is perceived by the public? This paper will first establish the intent of the essay by presenting an argument for media accuracy in relationship to politics and public perception. The situation from East Timor and the human rights infractions create an interesting view for the public to soak up in terms of making political decision and taking cues from the media to make these decisions about their own opinions.
Sometimes the media is the only story people will be given but also how this relates to political media communications theories as such: the Bennett Indexing Theory, Hallin's Sphere of Consensus, Wolfsfeld's Political Contest Model and Chomsky's Propaganda Model. How these theories offer reasoning toward media telling decisions but also how the public will perceive certain messages based upon the cues inside these strategies. The theories can be applied to allow for explaining the media and how there may be gaps in accuracy but perception of the story may also take upon new meaning dependent upon how these theories work as cues or filters for the story. This essay offers presentation of these theories but also offers further analysis into how public perception of politics for specific events like what took place in East Timor may also create political spin on the event as a story instead of presenting the truth. This paper will serve to offer specific examples and analysis of how theories offer correlations to theories that also maintain the public's awareness of political events. What remains interesting about media and political communication devices is the amount of control that goes into feeding the story to the public but also a concrete opinion about the story before it is told. How these perceptions remain a part of the filter and control of media from the political point of view remains of interest and analysis here.
The argument of this essay remains fixed upon the connection between accuracy and the steps that are taken as a part of the media control politics has upon public perception and creating the story to fit the political agenda. The media is essentially controlled by political interests because that is where the story is. Specifically the media coverage of the genocide in East Timor on the part of the Australian media remains at the core of this argument. Flow and Swift suggest the issue of media and how strategies for the story remain defined by those who have control and interest for the story. How the media is presented remains defined by who will read it and have access to it. Flow and Swift suggest there is inequality for how media works that only a certain percentage of the world's people actually have a real say in what is reported and how it is reported. They believe this is only becoming a greater problem as much of information and its value is being used as electronic forms of media. Many people in the world do not have access to Internet or smart phones, much less the ability to participate in the process of media. This really sets the perception of media within a valuable commodity available to the few and the rich. What this further suggests is that the public at large really has little control over stories.
Dunleavy surmises to under mind the political foreshadowing found in media means to forget about current events because each story out presently has a strategy to form and shape opinions. What furthers is this ideology remains the thought that in hostile conditions, negative media, the messages will be have greater control and more specific expert reasoning behind opinions. Dunleavy cites hostile conditions may not be about political power but more so correcting the view of a negative perception. Media will seek tactics to fit the situation and subliminally suggest to the public this is the message one will believe. There is little choice in belief for the story. For an event like what happened in East Timor, it is possible that such media interests will place upon other events to deflect from the negative implications and wrong doing taking place. Kiernan sees the events in East Timor as perfectly covered up by Aussie journalists and the global media or just completely forgotten as other mass conflicts and genocide took higher priority over this event. Such clear violations of human rights like what took place in Yugoslavia and Darfur overwhelm the media but also create a conflict of western views (Christian) versus eastern views (Muslim) brining about political control over who is right or wrong, good or evil. Many of the media's reports on conflicts put the western or American spin on the situation when they simply should just be reporting the facts.
How capturing the stories behind events like East Timor relate to political communication theories and the final perception of the story for public consumption remains defined by how media cues and filters are enforced within the story. Kiernan how media may be leaving out certain political events to serve as a control mechanism for the West's perception of human right's violations because these events serve to show a lapse of humanity but may not always serve to show a positive image of western acceptance toward diverse values. The media wants to place blame upon who created the genocide or ethnic cleansing and this may mean pointing a finger at Islam extremists. What remain interesting are the communication theories that enhance political perception within the public per view. How these theories create invisible cues for the media to attach the story to, drive the information but also give the public tools for understanding the information which is clearly derived by a realm of needing to control media and who controls media. Theories like: the Bennett Indexing Theory, Hallin's Sphere of Consensus, Wolfsfeld's Political Contest Model and Chomsky's Propaganda Model create means for the political messages to diffuse the media currents but also take shape as public perceptions. The Bennett Indexing Theory promotes the idea that public perception and political debate are closely intertwined and remain defined by political ideology and control within belief systems. The idea is that each individual will attach or index each story as it relates to their specific views on the story. If the story identifies with the individual at a close point of relationship, the indexing will remain closer to the inevitability of debating the issue. How Hallin Sphere of Consensus works is to create further placement of the opinion depending upon how the individual relates to those in control of media or political power. Hallin refers to the collective 'we' as a group of people who show allegiance to that bit of media, therefore further providing evidence of reliable origins and trust in the information the story provides. The collective 'we' for many situations remains the wester view point or the globalised, American view point. While this is quickly changing to suggest there are more spheres entering the model to create varying views within the public perception, there is still the ideological framework for control of the media that remains founded in western views. What remains interesting is how such a frame of reference not only becomes accepted but engrained in one's perception of everything.
Boyd-Barrett suggests how spheres and indexing may also play a role in how people perceive and trust subliminal images and propaganda in a way that also maintains their core beliefs toward gathering evidence to allow the story validity within their individual context. Boyd-Barrett sees how propaganda can be relate powerful images and connection at the emotional level to convey important political messages that also impact individual behaviour. There is a connection with established power in terms of propaganda images and messages, even in terms of brand advertising tactics. Political values can also be communicated using such images to invoke an emotional response as well as an individual's belief in the story's content. Bennett's Indexing Theory also works closely with propaganda as media content to suggest the rate of interaction or influence of the politics involved with the image but also how it shapes public opinion. The idea that public opinion can be swayed by a clear and precise emotional response to an image, or even predict how this message will be maintained using the same propaganda choices toward the design of the image and message remains entirely related to how indexing works to predict the amount of influence politics takes during this media exchange. Still part of conveying accuracy in valid stories remains in the power of the image as it relates to the whole of the collective 'we' or if the collective sees the value of the image, it will diffuse easier as acceptable and valuable to the media transaction. If people do not see the value of the message in terms of social acceptance and personal value, then the message can be lost which weakens the political strength or trust in those views. McNair surmises that part of the issue is that a lot of times people read, see or hear a story and they believe it as truth, they do not see the possible holes that media is looking to fill by suggesting individuals see only the surface image. The image can deflect the true and allow them to feel affiliation with politics when the truth has shifted to what the media wants people to believe.
The idea of public perception, seeing the truth or reviewing the evidence toward an event or situation also suggests that along with indexing information to predict value, correlating the image with the socially acceptable behaviour and agreement for value, also leads to competition and seeking to understanding how varying degrees of trust and belief in the media systems also signifies how people see politics. Who is in control and how they control media also guides the idea of political perception in term of how the media competes amongst these powers. Much like indexing, the political contest model suggests there will be cues that are stronger than others to influence public perception of power. Much like the sphere of consensus, there is a feeling of knowing one body controls the media and to get alternative views, one must deviate from the known, the norm and acceptable venues. People may also see the competition in terms of how each voice is important and this may explain the surge in social media participation on a whole. While people are inundated by messages and somewhat tired, they are still taking cues to sort the information in a way that makes sense per his or her experience and knowledge. Part of what is interesting in terms of these theories is how they can shift in use and importance depending upon how the media seeks to diffuse political messages. Dunleavy suggests these strategies become more intense in years where there is social unrest or an important election.
Lippmann surmises part of the issue for accuracy of media, stories and the information conveyed relates back to how the story is presented or written by the journalist. This person may have a certain political view or agenda that fits the needs of the media or wants to create a concrete view on the subject matter. Depending upon personal ideology, the journalist may want to expose and allow the public to question the grey areas of right and wrong or positive and negative. Media can be fuelled by questioning but typically, internal cues within the story relate concrete to proving specific views and holding onto specific political values. To have the writer spin the story to fit the sphere, the models for information is not new.
How perception and later opinions are formed remains closely tied to cognitive ability. How one person sees the situation will be unique to his or her cognitive ability to view the story and create one's own opinion about it. Lippmann does argue that while this can be true to how the story is perceived, in the case of a powerful leader's death, the opinion does not make him more or less dead, but the political emotion tied to the death may have clear and powerful significance to the situation for the public. Nash and Bacon see a clear connection between perception, trust and the ability to attach to the story, to feel a connection with the story. Failure to connect will see a loss of interest which is what they believe happened with the East Timor event. Many Australians did not see the value of the story within their experience but this also fails the media view in leaving parts out. What this also suggests is the power the media takes to guide the interests of the public that can possibly cover up more politically damaging stories for those in power. What this really does is control objectivity.
Without many different points of view available the public will have little choice but to attach with the dominant point of view. McNair sees the individual going through a process of filtering media information and seeking perception based upon what information is available and precise. This may be a form of indexing but McNair also sees how media can be powerful and deflect attention from key pieces of information by attracting the individual with use of propaganda and dominant culture or sphere views on the topic. The idea that one culture can create dominance over others and spin stories from this position of power is not without significance because the American view point is so similar to the globalised viewpoint when considering values and beliefs.
In closing what remains at issue is how theories work to impress upon the media strategy for the political environment. Who remains most accessible to the coverage of the event and why? Public perception may be changing with increased diffusion of different opinions and views via social media and interaction via telecommunications. The world is a smaller place, more diverse but to the same token, there is the concern for over saturation of information being detrimental to the media's voice and ability to sway political views. Ceron promotes the idea where social media and Internet communications allow for people to further express their own personal views but that in doing so, also creates more mixed messages to a point where others seek out the media for evidence of these views. McCombs surmises that part of the issue remains in awareness. Many times the public is not fully engaged in politics unless there is an election or very visible wrong doing. While social media supports the voice of the people, it also makes the people very comfortably numb to information which may result in less compassion. In this respect cues must be specific to regulate the messages and communicate what remains most vital. The unfortunate reality is the information conveyed may be perceived in a way that remains unequal and serves the good of those in power of the media.
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