By Bobby H.
In America’s political atmosphere, the average politically minded citizen is faced with a barrage of information from a multitude of different sources. Social media sites and blogs, which are tailored to certain biases as they often so state, usually present one-sided sources of information that prey on assumptions to incite fear or anger among its following. In contrast, mass media organizations operate under the guise of objectivity and reliability in order to maintain its viewership. Yet both types of sources tend to distribute information that confines both what gets talked about in political circles and how. An example of these instances includes mainstream media’s handling of the War on Terror.
Often times what becomes bipartisan agreement becomes the standard consensus among major media organizations, and thus all attempts at further debate are off the table, no matter how much of a direct impact the issue may have on viewers of said media. Regarding the War on Terror, almost every single major news media outlet poured out in support of it, while those who dissented were frequently called un-American traitors and thus were left out of the conversation. This lead to the creation of an information bubble regarding the United States’ policies in the Middle East, or in other words, any information or position that did not in some way justify the actions of the U.S were rejected and scrutinized, leaving the American people largely ignorant of happenings in the Middle East. This is consistent with Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s “Propaganda Model”, who, incidentally, have also been subjected to scrutiny due to their criticisms of America’s actions and left out of most mainstream debate circles.
The Propaganda Model states that the media is “constrained by the dominant ideology, which heavily featured anticommunism before and during the Cold War era”, yet as we have seen in the post 9/11 America, antiterrorism fervor is now the new anticommunism (Herman, Chomsky). Another interesting point, brought up by Marc Lynch, an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University and a writer for Foreign Policy, is the limiting of retrospectives even today regarding the war in Iraq. Of all the different viewpoints, most, if not all of them, “have almost exclusively been written by Americans, talking about Americans, for Americans.” (Lynch) This America-centric view of the war, as Lynch says, “minimizes the human costs and existential realities of military occupation and a brutal, nasty war.” (Lynch) It does not matter what the Iraqis think about the war now, and it did not matter at all then. All that mattered was America’s interests.
This is why media literacy is incredibly useful in the democratic process because there are certain acceptable parameters of debate that are only allowed in the media’s political discourse. Without the ability to recognize what those are, we cannot hold our government accountable for its actions, including those involving the innocent people in those countries whose lives we have destroyed with warfare. Without the ability to see beyond the vacuum of information the media tends to create regarding the United States’ actions, the less likely we are able to speak out against the injustices it is responsible for, and the more likely that nothing will ever change.
Herman, Edward S., Chomsky, Noam. “The Propaganda Model Revisited”, Monthly Review. Monthly Review Foundation, July 1996. Web. 6 June 2013.
Lynch, Mark. “What’s Missing From The Iraq Debate”, Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy Group, Mar 21, 2013. Web. 6 June 2013