My first post yesterday was about the need for a certain level of dialog to occur in order for us to progress as thinkers, bloggers, and Americans. The reason I felt this was needed is there are growing divisions between ideological factions within the country and the blogosphere. I feel that this is growing ever important due to media influence, and marginalized ideas not having room to speak. The blogosphere right now fits right in with the old media model in so far as Agenda Setting Theory states "It is not important how something is talked about, but what is talked about." I feel this is important to consider. We mostly raise the issues which are raised for us to talk about. We speak about what is wanted for us to speak about according to the corporate media with some exceptions. With that I shall continue the discussion with added citation and research done on the subject.
There is much debate on whether blogs are a blessing or burden to society and some of the best debate happens within a single study. I will present some examples of the discourse taking place on the issue of what we do.
This point of view from the introduction to a study which discovers interplay between the media and bloggers does not delve deep into agenda setting theory but outlines a bit of the argument in the paragraph below. Though the purpose of this article is to see where influence comes from, it makes brief mention to context of conversation which is where my argument comes from.
Agenda Setting and the Blogosphere: An Analysis of
the Relationship between Mainstream Media and
There has been a great deal of speculation about how the blog agenda inﬂuences
these other, more established agendas. A particularly large body of theorizing has
focused on the extent to which the blog agenda interacts with the media agenda.2
Drawing on this literature, it is possible to extract two competing hypotheses about
the relationship between the blog and media agendas. The ﬁrst hypothesis is
derived from the long tradition of research in mass communications on the
so-called media agenda setting hypothesis. In its most basic form, the media agenda
setting hypothesis states that media coverage—by providing the public with cues
about the signiﬁcance of various political issues—will exert a strong inﬂuence on the
relative importance that the public attaches to these issues. Beginning with the
groundbreaking work of McCombs and Shaw (1972), this fairly simple proposition
has been tested using a wide variety of research designs and has been expanded
upon to include the inﬂuence of a large number of moderating and intervening
variables (Zhu & Blood, 1997). Regardless of the methods used, however, most
studies of the media agenda setting have found a strong relationship between the
media and public agendas. Indeed, in his review of the literature on the media
agenda setting hypothesis, McCombs (2000) concludes, "The power of the news
media to set a nation’s agenda, to focus public attention on a few key public issues,
is an immense and well documented inﬂuence" (p. 1).
How ever much we want to escape context, what is being discussed often is more important than how something is being discussed. I think that is important to reaching further into issues important to the people. Granted it is an important role of blogs to challenge the conventional media on its claims about health care etc, and to fact check, I believe it is also the place of the blog to discuss things that the main stream media keeps out of the conversation.
Next is the issue of a fragmented blogosphere leading to less debate and public consensus. If we as a group wish to push forward a political movement in order to take back the country for the people we need a means of political pressure. As things are fragmented now, things can look balanced online, everyone has their nitches, and the public forum called blogs can be ignored. If there were a way to create a blogging public forum for the purpose of reaching consensus within a democratic fashion, not just by voting but by engaging in discourse which could affect change that would bring new essence to blogging. There is a whole world of possibility outside of the context of the big media discourse that needs to be explored. This is naturally a broad medium which causes local issues to be pushed to the back burner, but if we could get a better general understanding of the people of different regions and their needs we could as a people make a better democracy. If in the end we can create a place of debate, or hold such debates here as often does happen and push the results to the government possibly we could affect change.
If we could cause huge amounts of draw, potentially create a site which requires real person membership but maintain anonymity through screen names in order to have public debates the congress could not ignore that would be wonderful. Basically I just want the blog to reach its potential for good, not its potential for hinderance. I want the agenda to be ours, not that of the corporate media. And if that results in them shutting down the internet in some way that would be telling in and of itself.
The fragmentation of our culture happens along psychological grounds. Cognitive Dissonance Theory has done a great deal to show that people do not like to hear that which challenges their world view and will go through great effort to avoid it. Given that being the case it makes sense that blogs have factionalized along ideological lines. But, that being said for democracy to work people need to put aversions aside and communicate truthfully. The final word of the previous sentence is the most important, and the hardest part to achieve given the sheer amount of propaganda out there. Noam Chompski did the world a great service in writing the book Manufacturing Consent. Let us please not allow the Blog to become another means of that as it seems to be heading towards. The blog is our medium, the peoples medium, the one place our voice can be heard loud. Lets make it very loud, very impactful, and meaningful in a democratic sense.
Here is Wikipedia's attempt at explaining the model that was explained over the course of a book. Sorry couldn't find a better source over a short period of time.
First presented in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the "Propaganda model" views the private media as businesses selling a product — readers and audiences (rather than news) — to other businesses (advertisers). Describing the media's "societal purpose", Chomsky writes, "... the study of institutions and how they function must be scrupulously ignored, apart from fringe elements or a relatively obscure scholarly literature". The theory postulates five general classes of "filters" that determine the type of news that is presented in news media. These five are:
Ownership of the medium
Medium's funding sources
The first three are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important.
Although the model was based mainly on the characterization of United States media, Chomsky and Herman believe the theory is equally applicable to any country that shares the basic economic structure and organizing principles which the model postulates as the cause of media biases.
Herman and Chomsky argue that since mainstream media outlets are either large corporations or part of conglomerates (e.g. Westinghouse or General Electric), the information presented to the public will be biased with respect to these interests. Such conglomerates frequently extend beyond traditional media fields, and thus have extensive financial interests that may be endangered when certain information is widely publicized. According to this reasoning, news items that most endanger the corporate financial interests of those who own the media will face the greatest bias and censorship.
It then follows that if to maximize profit means sacrificing news objectivity, then the news sources that ultimately survive must be fundamentally biased, with regard to news in which they have a conflict of interest.
Since the mainstream media depend heavily on advertising revenues to survive, the model suggests that the interests of advertisers come before reporting the news. Chomsky and Herman argue that, as a business, a newspaper has a product which it offers to an audience. The product is composed of the affluent readers who buy the newspaper — who also comprise the educated decision-making sector of the population — while the audience includes the businesses that pay to advertise their goods. According to this "filter", the news itself is nothing more than "filler" to get privileged readers to see the advertisements which makes up the real content, and will thus take whatever form is most conducive to attracting educated decision-makers. Stories that conflict with their "buying mood", it is argued, will tend to be marginalized or excluded, along with information that presents a picture of the world that collides with advertisers' interests. The theory argues that the people buying the newspaper are themselves the product which is sold to the businesses that buy advertising space; the news itself has only a marginal role as the product.
The third filter concerns the mass media's need for a continuous flow of information to fill their demand for daily news. In an industrialized economy where consumers demand information on numerous worldwide events unfolding simultaneously, they argue that this task can only be filled by major business and government sectors that have the necessary material resources. This includes mainly The Pentagon and other governmental bodies. Chomsky and Herman then argue that a symbiotic relationship arises between the media and parts of government which is sustained by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest. On the one hand, government and news-promoters strive to make it easier for news organizations to buy their services; according to the authors (p. 22), they
provide them with facilities in which to gather
give journalists advance copies of speeches and forthcoming reports
schedule press conferences at hours well-geared to news deadlines
write press releases in usable language
carefully organize their press conferences and "photo opportunity" sessions
On the other hand, the media become reluctant to run articles that will harm corporate interests that provide them with the resources that the media depend upon. Chomsky and Herman state (p. 22),
" It is very difficult to call authorities on whom one depends for daily news liars, even if they tell whoppers. "
This theoretical relationship also gives rise to a "moral division of labor", in which "officials have and give the facts," and "reporters merely get them". Journalists are then supposed to adopt an uncritical attitude that makes it possible for them to accept corporate values without experiencing cognitive dissonance.
During the year 2005 in the USA, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticised the George W. Bush administration for the preparation and distribution of videos which falsely give the impression of being interviews made independently of the administration. The New York Times reported that "more than 20 federal agencies, including the State Department and the Defense Department, now create fake news clips. The Bush administration spent $254 million in its first four years on contracts with public relations firms, more than double the amount spent by the Clinton administration." In April 2008, the New York Times revealed how the US Pentagon and Defense Department traded access to valuable information and powerful decision makers to ex-military officers, many now military contractors, who were parroting administration talking-points and providing favorable "analysis" regarding the Iraq War and related topics on/in major television, radio and print media.
For Chomsky and Herman "flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program. The term "flak" has been used to describe what Chomsky and Herman see as targeted efforts to discredit organizations or individuals who disagree with or cast doubt on the prevailing assumptions which Chomsky and Herman view as favorable to established power (e.g., "The Establishment"). Unlike the first three "filtering" mechanisms — which are derived from analysis of market mechanisms — flak is characterized by concerted and intentional efforts to manage public information.
Flak from the powerful can be either direct or indirect. The direct could include the following hypothetical scenarios:
Letters or phone calls from the White House to Dan Rather or William S. Paley
Inquiries from the FCC to major television networks requesting documents used to plan and assemble a program
Messages from irate executives representing advertising agencies or corporate sponsors to media officials threatening retaliation if not granted on-air reply time.
The powerful can also work on the media indirectly by:
Complaints delivered en masse to their own constituencies (e.g., stockholders, employees) about media bias,
Generation of mass advertising that does the same,
By funding watchdog groups or think tanks engineered to expose and attack deviations in media coverage that endanger vital elite interests.
By funding political campaigns that elect politicians who will be more willing to curb any such media deviations.
Anti-Ideologies; substitutes for anti-communism
A final filter is anti-ideology. Anti-ideologies exploit public fear and hatred of groups that pose a potential threat, either real, exaggerated, or imagined. Communism once posed the primary threat according to the model. Communism and socialism were portrayed by their detractors as endangering freedoms of speech, movement, press, etc. They argue that such a portrayal was often used as a means to silence voices critical of elite interests.
With the Soviet Union's collapse, proponents of the propaganda model have argued that the functionality and credibility of anti-communism has been fundamentally compromised. Proponents state that new, more functional anathemas have arisen to take its place. Chomsky and Herman argue that one possible replacement for anti-communism seems to have emerged in the form of "anti-terrorism".
Many of these filters can be subverted by the blog, many of them can be out right gutted if the discourse took a different path. The direction by which information is fed to us can be changed radically given the right motion. I think this is worthy of a healthy amount of discussion. I feel that from the angle of the people it serves in our best interest to drive our own conversations. What gives the big media outlets ideas any more validity than our own, other than we are supposed to trust them. These preformed assumptions of what is reputable and what is not need to be challenged and need to be argued by the people in public forum. Public forum is the key to a strong society of people free from bondage of the super elite. It is important that we fight back and fight together after we have first found the areas upon which we agree. Propaganda is a powerful tool, especially when it is not of the overt variety. It especially hits hard among the under-educated and the young. More and more children are becoming big time media consumers, it is important that the people have a line of defense against the constant stream of propaganda that is assaulting their minds. Its important that those who understand work with those who do not with patience in order to make democracy possible.
A TEST OF THE FRAGMENTATION THESIS
By Jae Kook Lee
This study tests competing hypotheses about whether diversification of
news channels results in fragmentation of public opinion and decline in
media power to provide the public with common subjects to think and
talk about. Employing a content analysis of blog posts and mainstream
media news stories during the 2004 presidential campaign, this study
finds that the blog agenda is similar to that of mainstream media.
Purthermore, political blogs cover the election with virtually the same
agenda, regardless of their liberal or conservative political leaning.
People are likely exposed to a fairly stable agenda across mainstream
media and Internet news outlets, despite the diversification of
This is the type of thing I want not to occur. The agenda of the people is not in fact similar to that of the main stream media unless I have totally missed my guess. The main stream media has several biases, and to limit the discussion to things they are willing to discuss would be a horrible mistake IMO. I wanted to put forth a more substantive diary on the subject with hopes that it would somehow further this discourse and help start a movement of people speaking of issues of direct import to them. Many of the issues the MSM pushes out are actually important I admit that, but the conversation should be broader than their scope. It is us as bloggers who are responsible for the blogosphere and for making it a place of plurality and substantive debate.
I believe there should be a US Gov blog site for suggestions and commentary on policy, law, performance, and direction. Once a topic is opened I believe all discourse on that topic should remain under the same post, perhaps separated into chapters as time goes on but keeping it continuous so that the discourse flows. I believe every US citizen should have the right to post as a citizen on this blog. No posts should be removed regardless of language or inflammatory nature, let the responses dictate the value of the statements.
I believe this format would allow for and somewhat force a dialog between the people of this country. I believe that such a site would also deeply encourage political activity. I believe the site should if/when it exists should be heavily advertised on other blogs in order to make sure awareness of such a blog is high. I also believe such a site would promote discussion of the subject matter on that blog outside of it, causing a more rich political discourse within our country.
On bipartisanship: I do not believe in the concept, I believe in debate between ideas to find the truth. I don't believe in intellectual dominance, meaning using diction above other peoples level of understanding in order to win an argument. I believe it is important to make the dialog accessible in nature so that all parties of all educational levels can take part in the discussion on where our country should go and why. I believe that such a blog could force politicians to stop following a party line and start adhering to their constituencies who elect them. And that it would force the president to instead of reading information from polls with slanted questions, to read the direct quotes from the American People.
The Structure of such a site.
I believe it should be broken down into sections ... policy issues, performance issues, policy suggestion, performance suggestions I would love further suggestions on other areas to fill in our gov blog.
I believe that by breaking the blog down into sections it would enable people to remain focused in their commentary within a focused subject. This hopefully will hinder major digression for lack of a place to express the opinion the poster wished to express. I believe this type of site should also be flexible and able to adapt to the needs of the posters. Therefore, a suggestions section for how to make the site better and more easily usable should also be an important component.
I feel that such a blog would allow for people like us who blog constantly to have a stronger voice in our democracy. It is in fact our democracy. I feel that it would also be more important than ever to fund public libraries so that every citizen had access to our democracy. And I also feel that with out the ablity to put direct input into our democracy we are gimped, and if the blog did not become our entry point its potential will have been wasted.
Thank you for your patience, free expression is my passion, voices heard is my calling, and an actual Democracy is my goal.