Tech - Internet
By: - at March 3, 2013

New Media in the 21st Century

newsThe emergence of new media has had several effects on not only social interactions but educational interactions, consumer interactions, and governmental interactions. These effects have a radiating effect, beginning with people’s social networks and the way they use the new media. What audiences takes in from these sources and what is promoted on them based on tracking systems, affect their thoughts and understanding of the world at large.

Information Gathering
People have become adjusted to using the internet and social media networks to gain a lot of their information. Many people have stopped watching news, possibly because they find it depressing or overwhelming or because they are apathetic to news concerning today’s society. This limits the information they receive regarding important issues such as politics or economics. In other cases, people rely on a single network for their news, which often times can end up being biased. In either of these examples, people then receive most of their news from the internet, whether it is from the same corporations online as opposed to television or via social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or other blogs. This also limits and/or biases the information they receive.

social networking

The emergence of Web 2.0 and social networking has had a doubled edged impact on politics and democracy. These online “communities” are a good way to utilize radical media to bring together people of the same way of thinking. They can also “imply a seamless social tissue that is local and therefore healthy,” (Downing 39) compared to mainstream media and a wider governmental class that could be considered “unhealthy.” These internet based communities can create a “public sphere” for users in far flung locations to present new information, debate and discuss, creating a democratic environment. Raymond Williams stated that “media once freed from their overwhelming subjection to private firms and opened up to mass participation, could stimulate and sustain a common culture and a lively democracy.” (Downing pg 43) Web 2.0 gives audiences a platform in which to receive information they may not have been able to previously and also gives them a way to respond directly to the producers of the content.

The downfall of mass usage of Web 2.0 and social networking is the Echo Chamber effect. There is so much information on the internet that a user is likely only to search for things they want to read, things that correspond with their current thoughts on the issues. Also they are lead by several types of tracking devices to what the algorithms behind the internet believe the user would be interested in. Therefore unless a user is actively searching out unbiased information that relates all sides of an issue they are likely to read and find information that only reinforces their current position.

Another strike against using new media for political purposes is the availability and ease of the medium. Almost anyone can access the internet, and all it takes is a few clicks of a button and you can be part of an activist community or sign a petition. It no longer takes the passion or active participation to align oneself with a social or political movement. An internet user is not necessarily as informed about what they are agreeing to, or aligning themselves with. This could lead to more support for an undeserving cause thanks to that cause’s media marketing savvy. It no longer requires any real commitment to an issue to sign your name electronically.

Positive Uses for New Media
networksHowever this same ease of access has allowed many grassroots movements to spread their message and easily educate an audience that may have been inaccessible previously. Over time media has become more expensive to own and operate, making it more of a challenge to get messages to the public. The few major corporations who have control of the mainstream media are heavily persuaded by economic and political forces. This new media is a free platform for any movement to get their ideas out to the public. They now have the ability to educate society on issues that mainstream media are not discussing for any number of reasons.

I believe that this new media does help politics, while not necessarily helping the politicians. It allows the members of society to be more informed and to have a public sphere in which they can discuss with other concerned individuals the issues they find important. New media makes it easier to get around the “spin” of public relations and the glossy images that the politicians present for the public. Thanks to technology and its regular use by members of today’s society we can often find out the real story as opposed to what government officials want us to believe. There is however still an inequality due to large percentages of the population being ignorantly pacified or stubbornly biased, but this may never be overcome.

I believe that the new media really increases our chance at having a true democracy. It may not have reached its full potential yet but the potential is certainly there. People can be more informed and they can access information more readily than before the internet was in such major use. People can find forums or blogs that discuss the issues they are concerned with and they can debate the principles of such issues. The use of new media really allows society to create a new level of equality and gives us more freedom regarding politics and much more.

Radical Media Usage
leninist newsFox News could be considered radical media based on Downing’s assessment of the Leninist model. The Leninist model was characterized as radical media because of its service to transmit only the party’s priorities and perspectives. This decidedly undemocratic approach directly correlates to the approach that Fox News takes. They are consciously opposed to the dogma of a part of mass culture, in this case, the entire system of fact based journalism and a democratic system. While the method of delivery is considered within the mainstream media and they try to portray themselves as fair and balanced they are most definitely radical in the attitude they convey. The agenda of Fox News is to put the GOP in high regard while vilifying anyone in opposition.

It is clear that the newscasters at Fox News have been using agenda setting to their advantage. Being a twenty four hour news program they have the opportunity to not only break important stories but to report on many different issues in any one day. Yet they intentionally repeat stories several times, often times not even adding any new and possibly pertinent information. They bias their stories towards Republicans and gaining support for them. In the few stories they report on concerning liberals they continuously use derogatory terms and character assassination. Their liberal references are often weak or “faux” liberals who often change their opinions during an interview. They also use phrases which allow them to escape direct responsibility such as “some people say,” or get verbally abusive with guests, as in the case of Bill O’Reilly.

These tactics prove the agenda of Fox News is to promote not only the owner, Rupert Murdoch, but also the politicians of the GOP. It has a major effect on viewers of this channel, more so if it is the only news they watch. They are getting biased information and only parts of stories and at times outright lies and propaganda. In a recent poll, it was shown that viewers of Fox News are less informed than people who watch no news at all. This is incredibly disturbing and can probably account for many of the issues taking place in society today.

Radical Media or Part of the Hegemony
While Fox News can be considered a form of radical media due to its content, it can also be argued that it is not radical, that it is part of the controlling hegemony. In no way does Fox News encourage a public sphere where society members can come to have a democratic discussion. They are entirely one sided and will shut anyone with an opposing opinion out. They are also heavily influenced by the government and the economy which further decreases any opportunity for a free discussion. They do promote the solidarity of their group, an important function of radical media, but they use all the wrong means to do so. They do not fully educate their members and force their ideology upon them. Fox News also tries it’s hardest to help add to the false consciousness that Americans have. They influence their viewers by alluding that everything is ok or that it will be with the right people in office.

modern media concept

Media in general can have a major impact on their audiences. There has been a major increase in using a politician’s image to sway the public. Government has put more effort into staging debates and making the candidates presentable than they have put into conveying opinions and information regarding important issues. Most politicians have hired public relations people to promote themselves and make them more presentable to society. They also use debates and interviews to present themselves as worthy, moral candidates rather than discuss pertinent information.

Fox News takes a large role in these actions for the GOP. They follow all the guidelines to present their choices for government positions in the best light and give a negative light to their opponents. They take agenda setting measures to ensure they get their audience thinking about specific issues and events. However they do not follow through with the necessary information and leave the audience to come to their own conclusions. This is also an example of the hypodermic needle model, in which the Fox News corporation directly tells their audience what issues should be important. Realistically though, most members of today’s society have a two step flow of information, where the audience takes the information received from news and discusses it with their social networks. This can lead to different outcomes depending on the social network. The audience member can discuss with people who have similar beliefs which would strengthen their opinions, or they can talk to people with differing opinions which can help them reform their opinions.

political news

Fox News has elements of a repressive radical media as well. They use their power and position as a major news corporation to further their agenda and force their opinions on their audience. They also shut out any chance for the opposition to respond in a democratic manner. They make a case for freedom, human rights and morality, while shutting down people who want freedoms and rights that they do not agree with or think are unnatural and immoral.

In conclusion, saying whether or not Fox News is radical media is not an easy black and white answer. They have definite elements which define radical media, yet they are clearly a part of the hegemony. Their content and method of delivery is what makes them stand out as radical. Their clear opposition to another point of view and their rejection of democratic debate and discussion with this opposite power and its audience is what makes them stand out as radical.

Works Cited
Downing, John. Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001. Print.





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