Crystallizing Public Opinion

As mentioned before, a political and social agenda needs popular mobilization and support as well as the fostering of “mass consciousness” in order to advance itself and to achieve its basic aims and goals. But as we have noted, the manner in which popular support is mobilized in non-Western societies and the manner in which mass consciousness is fostered in non-Western societies is different than the way these two political and social conditions are engendered and fostered in Western societies, in the sense that in non-Western societies, popular mobilization and support and mass consciousness are engendered and fostered through the central organ or central organs of the governing or ruling party, whereas in Western societies, popular mobilization and mass consciousness are engendered and fostered largely through the mass media

As the mass media expert and scholar Doris Graber wrote: 

“News stories take millions of Americans, in all walks of life, to the battlefields of the world. They give them ringside seats for space shuttles or basketball championships. They allow the nation to share political experiences, such as watching presidential inaugurations or congressional investigations. These experiences then undergird public opinions and political actions.” 

Hence, the mass media in the Western world performs four critical and all-important “societal functions” which would otherwise be carried out by a central organ of the governing party or ruling party of a nation, namely, the “surveillance of the world to report ongoing events, interpretation of the meaning of events, and socialization of individuals into their cultural settings” along with, of course, the “deliberate manipulation of politics.” Edward Bernays, a 20th century media and public relations expert, argued that there is always ample and sufficient evidence to suggest “how little the average member of the public knows of the real work of the [media] and how that work impinges upon the daily life of the public in an almost infinite number of ways.” 

But as mentioned before, both the political impact and the social relevance of the mass media in the Western world has declined as a result of the internet and social media in recent years. Donald Trump, for instance, was able to foster mass consciousness and mobilize popular support largely through the internet and social media, even though the mass media vehemently opposed him. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Trump to make the impact that he did on the general populace and on mass consciousness had it not been for the internet and social media. 

In turn, the advent of the internet and social media has led to the democratization of what are essentially ‘top down’ functions and operations in the Western world. Obviously, there is both an upside and a downside to such democratization. But given the outcomes we are witnessing today of the monopoly on power which the mass media had at the beginning of the 21st century and their abuse and exploitation of such a monopoly, the democratization of what were traditionally top-down functions and operations has an upside that is greater than its downside when all is said and done and when all of it is weighed on balance. And on occasion, one begins to wonder how much worse our situation would have been today had this monopoly on power not been broken by what are largely non-anthropomorphic phenomena which go beyond our comprehension and understanding. 

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