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How Power Is Maintained Within The Society Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1811 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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According to Lukes (1986) cited in Scott (2001), power is,” in its most general sense, the production of casual effects”. When it comes to the social power, probably the best known definition of all was introduced by a German sociologist Max Weber (1920). He distinguished three kinds of power- traditional authority, legal authority and charismatic authority. Traditional authority occurred mainly in early Middle Ages and in some of today’s tribal societies. It is the most stable form of power, not very susceptible to manipulation, because it is based mainly on tradition, which could be extremely difficult to change and the effects of such changes could be difficult to predict. Charismatic authority – based on a personal ability to subordinate people, their dedication and trust in relation to the leader. No one else is able to perform such kind of power except of the person endowed with charisma. Legal authority is the least stable and its impermanence is apparent from the ease of manipulation of the legal standards that form the basis of legitimacy. The authority is a feature of the relationship, not an attribute of personality. It is the impact on the partners in a mutual relationship.

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The aim of this essay is to show the ways, in which power is maintained within the society, through the transmission of values and ideas. Media can contribute a lot to a society. It can change opinions because they have access to people and this gives it a lot of strength. This strength can either be used constructively by educating people or it can be used destructively by misleading the innocent people.

According to van Dijk article (1995) media uses their power in a really elaborate way. Thanks to its persuasive power, mass media can influence and control the audiences minds. Consequently through such a mind control, the mass media can also indirectly affect the viewers or readers actions. Author argues also, that the mass media consciously leaves a bit of independence to its audiences, just to make them better absorbed and encourages them to be actively involved instead of stay passive. Such a deliberate action of the media on the recipient, van Dijk described as a media manipulation. Author further explains, that the manipulation is the most effective when the recipients do not realize, they are being a subject of the media manipulation. Furthermore, according to that, manipulation is often perceived in a negative terms and is also being seen as a kind of the power abuse in the media. It is because of people, who create an image or certain argument just to support own interests. In effect, recipients accepts the news reports as a true and journalists opinions as a trustworthy.(van Dijk, 1995).

There are many ways in which media manipulate their audiences inter alia suppression by omission, labeling, face-value transmission, slighting of content, false balancing, or framing. The basic way to make people stop to listen certain arguments, is to divert their attention elsewhere. The useful tool to do this is propaganda.(Herman, 2003;) In “Manufacturing Consent” Chomsky and Herman explains that the vast majority of the mass media companies are businesses, owned by wealthy people or big companies, and therefore media are mainly looking for profit, and they are selling airtime in TV or columns in newspapers to advertisers, who wants their ads to appear in a supporting environment just to secure access to the widest audience.

Moreover, Herman and Chomsky introduced five factors actively involved in propaganda model. Those factors are: ownership, advertising, sourcing, flak and anticommunist ideology.(Herman, 2003) Those factors works like a filters, every information must pass through to get its final shape.

Marxists also agrees, that ownership is an important factor. From Marxist point of view, if a newspapers are owned by the wealthy, it suggest that they will promote views of their owners. Another way in which the productivities of the mass media are affirmed, is through advertising. Companies pay large amounts of money just to have their products advertised in the newspaper or shown in television, and in effect the vast majority of newspapers or commercial television stations exists only because they earn money from advertising goods and services. Nowadays advertisements are everywhere and for some people it is nothing more than letting to know what is new or worth to buy. But for Marxists advertising performs more functions than only informing people what is worth buying. (Berger,1982; Chapter 2) In his book “The State in the Capitalist Society” R. Milliband analyzed the functions of the mass media, and he found that advertising could be seen also as a kind of political tool, because it reinforces the existing social order and highlights the rule of the capitalists. Milliband stated that advertising not only informs but mostly persuades. It not only tells to the potential buyer what to buy, but also suggests that capitalism is the best system. Consequently, the company not only sells goods, it also sells capitalism. Just to conclude propaganda model from the Marxist perspective, if a group own the production, they have not only economic, but also political power. The state is being seen as an institution which helps to organize the capitalist society, while the working class people are said to hold values, ideas and beliefs, but their ideas are still being manipulated by the media. Marx saw capitalism as a system of unequal wealth distribution within group of the powerful people, and believed, that the masses will further give up with capitalism to find the less oppressive system. (Best, 2002; 78-79) The Marxs theory of ideology was further continued by an Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci understood that each of the dominant political class dominates also the consciousness of others. Gramsci believed that the working class has not made a revolution because capitalism was on its cultural hegemony. Cultural hegemony in practice is limited to fixing the content has already been imposed. Such content may be, for example lifestyle, religion, school programs or career patterns. All this is presented to a subordinate class in a “knowledge-sense” way, and it effectively prevents the proletarians from formation of their own culture, their own patterns of life, or their own ideas. In Marx’s materialist concept of history, the conditions of scarcity and poverty create antagonism between the classes. Antagonism, which leads to the hegemony of one class over another. Capitalism has not collapsed thanks to the cultural hegemony. The workers accepted the existing system of production as really reasonable and unassailable. Therefore that gave the ideological victory for the bourgeoisie. To succeed the revolution, workers must have their own culture and ideology. Therefore the key challenge for them is to oppose to the bourgeois culture. (Gramsci, 1926-37)

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According to Turow, hypodermic needle theory implied that the mass media had a direct, immediate and powerful effect on their audiences. That model of media communication was introduced by S. Tchakhotine (1939) and was based on media war propaganda. Broadcasters using the targeted content continuously and systematically stimulate basic instincts of the recipients on a stimulus- response base. This model assumes passivity and irrationality of behavior and a high susceptibility to the content of propaganda. A reflection of this concept in the context of the relationship between media and the recipient is a shot called a “magic bullet” theory or hypodermic needle injection. The basis of this theory is the assertion of total passivity of the recipients and the lack of resistance to the transfer. It was assumed that the message reaches all units in the society, which each of them receives in the same way, and it leads them to a similar reaction. Every unit within the society becomes a subject to “bite” specified by the message and whether it will be effective depends only on the dose. (Croteau and Hoynes, 2003, 240; Turow, 2009, 153)

French sociologist Jean Baudrillard in his book “Simulacra and Simulation” argues that we live in an age of simulacra in which reality has been absorbed by its own representation, in an age in which truth, reference or objective reason ceased to exist. According to the philosopher people no longer perceive reality, only a simulation. In the opinion of Baudrillard simulacra has become one of the most important category in our culture. Media lead to the invalidation of reality, and to stem the flow of information. Each event is ground, which according to the author of “Simulacra and Simulation” leads to loss of feeling and the whole sequence of events. Simulation runs directly to produce hyper-reality, which defines the reality even more real than the reality itself. Media offer us the beauty more beautiful than the beauty and truth truer than the truth. Baudrillard argues that there is no reality, which does not mean that we live in a world of fantasy, he says only that people can no longer reach the unmediated reality. Baudrillard says that the reality does not disappear, it vanished the difference between what is real and what is simulated. Our senses are no longer able to distinguish between images and simulacrum.(Baudrillard, 1994; 21-23) Baudrillard also famously claimed that the Gulf War in 1991, did not happen, although its appearance in television. It is obvious, that the war actually took place, but the meaning and the details of what happened are inseparable from television coverage.(Baudrillard, 1995; 17). A man immersed in the “hyper-reality”, assess their “real” survival according to whether they match with the image promoted by the movies he watch, he sees himself in the mirror through the prism of ideal images in advertising. A sense of reality blurs for him forever because of continuous invasion of images served by the media, what captures their understanding of the world.

In conclusion, media therefore do not affect what people think, but affect it, about what people think and can focus our attention on some issues, turning it (via omissions, etc.) from the other cases. The views of the unit depends largely on its perceived bias, the opinion prevailing in the social environment, and these in turn – from the views presented in the mass media. The views of the media are easier than others reinforced by public opinion. The truth of this assertion depends on the activities of dissident groups, having the courage and strength to expression of alternative.


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