Mass Media's Effect On Politics

Through class readings and discussion we have learned how the media has had a transforming effect on all aspects of US politics. The most important effect the media has had on our political system today is within our foreign affairs and policymaking. The media has increased access to information, created more influence and opinion, and finally, has transformed the relationship between foreign policy and the press.

The media has increased the awareness of foreign events to US citizens and of US events to other parts of the world. Satellite programming has had the biggest impact on increased awareness. CNN is available in nations all over the world and regardless of where or who you are you can keep updated on the current events of countries everywhere. This is keeping people updated and helping to create public opinion on matters of foreign affairs. Another tool for increased awareness is through the Internet. The Internet is a little bit harder to control (by the government) and provides fairly reliable information on events throughout the world. Last fall when the Military coup took over the government in Pakistan you were unable to hear much about it on the news (due to government control and closure) however, updated information was available on the Internet. This increased awareness is creating a greater influence on policy making.

The media exposure to foreign events could possible be the only information the public knows about a specific area or event how and what they report greatly affects the opinion and expectations the public has. This gives the media extraordinary influence on foreign policy this power is most commonly used to gather public support and effect policy. For example, the Kuwaiti government and citizens for a free Kuwait were trying to gain US support against Iraq. Parades, speeches and eyewitness accounts were included in their attempts to rally support. One eyewitness account was from a young Kuwaiti girl who explained the atrocities happening in the hospitals in her country. (Davis 290) Although this event was staged it still gathered the public support needed to continue US military support for their country. Another example of the media used to effect policy is during the conflict with Somalia. During a mission to capture leader Farah Aidid, a US helicopter was shot down and US soldiers were killed. The bodies were paraded around to the cameras for the US public to see hoping that the government would in turn loose support and withdraw troops.

Increased awareness and influence has forever transformed the relationship between the press, the government, the public, and foreign policy making raising the question of independence. Davis statement In no other nation is the press so independent and the political system so dependent as in this country (83) rings very true.

I feel that they are both very dependent on the other to successfully accomplish their goals. An interesting example of the power of this relationship is Reagan s attempt to fool the public. Reagan convinced the American public that the Libyan leader was planning terrorist attacks on the US to justify and have the support for an attack on Libya (316). This relationship is not just used for manipulative means but also, as Davis suggests, a tool for communication (314). It helps to get messages quickly to other countries and parties involved in international affairs. This media tool can often prove useful.

The media has had an unbelievable effect in shaping the foreign policy aspect of our political system. People within the media, governments, or interest groups manipulate the media to gain support and influence change in foreign policy.


Davis, Richard "The press and American Politics"

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