The Role of Media in Politics
Written by: Maximilian Thieler
Information can be presented in ways as to mislead, influence, deceive or directly lie to the reader. Naturally, any information disclosed with a manner of explanation or within a basis of interpretation will suffer from subsequent interpretative influences. In order to present news in a purely objective manner, the information presented would have to be equally weighted in significance, which is subjective in itself, and given purely as data with no explanation attached. This is not always useful nor desirable, which is why media interprets news for us and presents it in a manner for us to understand and work with. Media has changed enormously over time, but with the onset of the term “fake news”, the 2016 presidency and Germany’s desire to create a center of defense against misleading news, many questions are raised about the role of media in politics. As a part of this analysis the government’s role in controlling media will be discussed, the limitations of press and finally the role of the people in dealing with media.
Without distracting from the main purpose of this article, I do want to point out the significance and increasing prevalence of independent news that has no affiliation with the mainstream media. It is a recurring theme that readers are opting for smaller, less prone to monetary influence based media groups; be it on youtube, radio or blogs like these. This could very well be an indication of the failures of the mainstream media paradigm we find ourselves in.
As an advocate of freedom of the press I do not think that it is a safe precedent to allow the government to decide what is fake news and what is not. Unless of course a media site is directly inciting violence or encouraging behavior that is clearly opposing the law, freedom of speech should not be infringed upon. In a free society with a free market of press, the people should decide what is credible and what is not, thus deciding accordingly. If an ordinary individual is allowed to speak his or her mind, it’s their freedom to voice the opinion regardless of the perceived credibility thereof, and likewise media sites as products of individuals should be treated all the same. The issue with allowing government to decide what is right and what is wrong is that, while the government instituting this law may have good intentions, future government bodies may cause more severe consequences and work on interest rather than objectivity. There are evidently, as will be discussed in the following two paragraphs, more sophisticated suitable methods of achieving a better system of mainstream media.
An important aspect when discussing this topic is realizing the limitations of media, specifically mainstream media, and what alternatives there are. It is common knowledge to take media with a grain of salt today as it is, but even then it is often overlooked to what extent media may be appealing to special interests rather than trying to cover stories objectively. All mainstream media corporations in the United States for example can be tracked down being owned by only 6 corporations, which really indicates how while people think they may be exposed to a variety of sources, this may not actually be the case. Leading on from this is the obvious concern of where the government can limit the press. As mentioned previously, directly inciting violence isn’t allowed. The most fundamental flaw in current mainstream media is that it still functions for the most part based on the idea of a one-way line of communication. The uprising of the internet and increased prevalence of two-way communication media systems have led to much more thoughtful and productive discussion. It almost seems as if the times of only listening to receive news without discussing it are coming to an end.
The role of the individual is probably the most important factor in this debate, and is unfortunately often overlooked. Rather than expecting the government to ensure that our news are adequate, or expecting news agencies to not succumb to special interests, it really should be people holding media corporations accountable. This accountability can be achieved by investing time into topics that really should interest everyone, and making intellectual judgements based on a variety of information. Media corporations can only maintain subjectivity if there is an audience to appeal to, which means that people have to change their standards as to force media companies to follow suit. This relates to previous blog about complacency, but it is obvious that people have either become comfortable enough to be distanced from topics of importance entirely, or have become comfortable in their line of thinking and look for news that acts as a form of confirmation bias. Ultimately people should be comparing sources and moving away from media sites that clearly demonstrate that they are indeed not being objective. Where possible, people should be commenting on media articles, pointing out their flaws and then looking for alternative media sites that seem more reliable. If a media site does not allow for comments on news articles, that already is a clear indicator of the fact that they do not advocate discussion on what is being presented, which does not bode well for the message they are sending. Rather than simply being on the receiving end of the media cycle, people need to become more involved in the process and openly discuss issues and attempt to find the greater truth in things. It is not enough to scroll through facebook in the hope that the media headlines will enlighten you on current affairs. In a time where so many people complain about feeling as though they are not heard, or that they fail to understand the viewpoint of others, it does not suffice to say that they lack the time to invest into properly researching political topics of the contemporary day.
Ultimately, as with most social systems I believe that government’s influence should be limited at the bare minimum that is necessary, which in this case is to prevent people from directly harming others. Apart from that the government has no business in telling people directly or indirectly by limitation what is real news and what is not. Let the people make that out for themselves, but in order for this to happen people need to invest more time and be more aware of what is going on. As supposed to looking to others for help, it’s up to the people to find out the truth.