Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Political media

Political media are communication vehicles that are owned, ruled, managed, or otherwise influenced by political entities (eventually governmental entities too) or by opinion groups. They are meant to propagate the official or convenient views of the related entity.

A similar term, normative media, emphasizes the role of the actual technical and social characteristics of the media itself in shaping the views or decisions. Harold Innis and later Marshall McLuhan were influential in developing this theory.

While it is quite simple to recognise a political medium in an official newspaper, magazine, TV channel that directly declares to belong to some entity or group, deep concerns might regard the eventual submission of the system of communications to political interests and the effective impartiality of information and communication by media that do not declare officially which party they would eventually feel closer to them. This influence is not always clearly recognisable at a first sight and causes the individuals' opinions to share into a friendly acceptation of the concept (by those who consider that communication and information must be kept under control because this would be better for the society) or into a strong opposition by those who fight any attempt to limit the freedom of communication (because this would weaken the already weak minorities).

Some believe that big societies actually need to canalize communication. In this sense political media would often be meant to form or at least influence public opinion, a least-common-denominator for all members of society. They are a one-way street and sometimes misused. The Greeks could learn from the Egypt of the Pharaos that some risks could be suffered when medium and executives occur in personal union, concentrating too much power in one hand. This, however, implies the acceptation of a concept of media as power, which is widely but not generally shared. Opponents do argue that the simple fact of producing a communication is not by itself leading to a direct result on the public opinion, unless this one is considered as a merely passive mass in front of an irresistible communication.

Modern Democratic theories and implementations, especially after Montesquieu's theories, rely on the separation of powers: Executive (government and police), legislative (parliament) and jurisdicative (court) are separated. Commonly in recent times, and especially in journalistic jargon, media are however defined as an alleged fourth power, and a difference from the others is often outlined in the fact that the power to (eventually) influence the public opinion using media is not much controlled, because media are so "ethereal", and it would be hard to weight them. Others instead suggest that this would not be a difference, since the control over official powers is extremely hard to be verified in practice. Often it is not easy, indeed, to find out who really controls a medium and how much potential efficacy it effectively could have for such goals. It is then argued that when one of the three "canonic" Montesquieu's powers gains an additional power on media, this would be extremely dangerous for the survival of democracy, and an eventual conflict of interests is contested.

As a matter of fact, private media companies became very powerful since the invention of the printing press, cinema, radio and TV, and in history the age of amanuenses (the manual copysts of Middle Ages) is perhaps characteristic in demonstrating the attention that usually official powers attribute to communication. Back to our times, in some cases people in media careers have been previously selected by ruling apparatus, and often openly declared their political beliefs, admitting a lack of impartiality. Their work has sometimes been seen as becoming a part of the executive or parliamentar communication.

It is indeed very often said that media could be useful (in the point of view of someone looking for a control over the forming of consensus) in order to discipline the popular sentiments, by detracting the public from the apocalyptic problems of mankind (e.g. global warming, ozone hole, radioactive waste, ...), and by the "psychological warfare" threating their own public until it accepts foreign or external interventions. But, as said, this needs to encounter an audience mainly composed by people without sufficient means to "resist" this intellectual pression. The lack of a sufficient individual education, due to a perhaps intentionally provoked low quality of school, is then considered one of the major reasons for the success of such attempts.

Education is by some included in social media, and in this sense it could eventually be used as a powerful mean to introduce in individuals some "politically useful" concepts: what a man learns in his youth, in the phasis in which the fundaments of character are created (which many believe will seldom greatly vary after), is brought to him by family, schools and other clubs, and mass media. Apart from the studies of facts, education could be used (some suggest) as a mean for conditioning, usually practiced by emotional and mechanical learning. Education could be then interwoven with political media, although the respective effects of a conditioning in these two fields might be much different, in the average (and admitting many exceptions) for different classes of society. This matter is however very hard to distinguish from a cultural bias, which is a common argument for "ordinary" media too.

The power of technology is also be recalled sometimes, since western civilizations use media to carry forth knowledge and enable technical progression. Some civilization critics point out that modern societies rely on technology to invent and promote new technology, often resulting in a degree of pro-technology propaganda, and this backpropagation would mean that mankind hands over control to a living machine. As with any self-reproducing system, this dynamic makes it hard to control. Some view this as leading to the so-called technological singularity as persuasion technology advocates the creation of more persuasion technology until all are persuaded to do nothing but work on improving technology - handing effective control of society to it.

At present, however, many view this process as being benevolent - the internet is both a mass and a personal medium, flexible and scalable. The internet enables a way of communication which was impossible to be foreseen in past societies. The software could potentially allow to cement structures which stand against democracy and competition of ideas, as well as structures which could gain a quite complete control over private communications and isolate eventual dissenting voices. Currently the Net is not completely identifiable as a political medium, given the lack of a central authority and a common political communication. Locally, governments could in the reality use censorship, the first experiments of which have been received with relatively little scandal.

See also: anti-globalization movement, Indymedia, Wikimedia, Second Superpower