Wag the Dog

Hence, not all trolls are the same, and there are different categories and degrees of trolling. And the distinction between who is a troll and who is not a troll becomes blurred in a day and age when everyone has something to say to someone and when everyone is expressing and voicing themselves incessantly. 

There is also the misconception that the mainstream media and social media can act as a socializing force which educates and civilizes people, or that mainstream and social media can act as a replacement or substitute for traditional modes of learning. As Nicholas Cull wrote: “Human societies have long understood that one of the most effective ways to communicate something really significant and complex such as a culture, a value system, or a skill to an outsider was to embed that outsider in an environment rich with that attribute and help them to absorb it through lived experience.” 

The advantages of learning through lived experience as opposed to opening oneself to the falsehoods of mainstream and social media are that lived experience enables “the depth of learning” as well as the building of “personal bonds” which cannot be built in cyberspace. Moreover, those who are elevated and are made visible in the public sphere both through mainstream and social media are individuals whose visceral and instinctual responses and reactions to the world are “militarized responses.” Dissent towards “militarized responses” which push for either violence against those with different cultural and ideological dispositions or the imprisonment of those who think differently is largely met with a cold-hearted and harsh response in Washington. 

Yet, while the mainstream media and social media cannot take the place of lived experience when it comes to education and socialization, the media does play the role of agenda-setting in the public sphere, and it shapes the nature of the discussion in addition to determining what it is that gets discussed, although this role may have been diminished over the years as a result of the internet and social media. As one scholar argued: “The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion; and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by any law. It determines what people will talk and think about – an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties, and mandarins.” 

And especially in the foreign policy realm, the American media “becomes the dog that wags the public policy tail” or “the tail that wags the public policy dog.” Some governments and societies control the flow of information in order to prevent the media from undermining the government’s agenda, whereas in other societies, the media tends to be “comparatively unrestrained” and in turn the media can criticize and hold governments accountable for corruption and malpractice. But in reality: “Nowhere are the media totally free from formal and informal government and social controls, even in times of peace.” Although some governments control the media more than others, the truth is that “all control systems represent points on a continuum” and there are “gradations of control” between and within nations. In sum: “The specifics of control systems vary from country to country, but the overall patterns are similar.” 

Why there are controls over the media and speech in virtually every society is due to the sheer power, influence, and significance of the media and public relations when it comes to their impact on the hearts and minds of people. The profundity of such power, influence, and significance can significantly alter the basic actions and interactions of people in the public sphere, which in turn has implications for basic social order and stability in a society. Moreover, the power, influence, and significance of media and public relations is compounded by the demand on the part of the government sector, the private sector, and the general public for information about virtually anything and everything. Hence, when one combines the power, influence, and significance of media and public relations with the demand for information, what is rendered is a high-stakes game between a wide range of entities and individual actors which can determine and shape economic, political, and social outcomes over both the short-term and the long-term on a global scale and scope due to advancements and evolutions in globalization and technology. 

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