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Governments Influence On Public Opinion Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 4534 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the last 50 years the media influence has grown exponentially with the high tech technology, in the early years there was only telegraph, radio and magazines but now a days we have got the number of media channels, internet

We live in a society that depends heavily on the information and communication to be at right path, to do the right things and to take right decisions.

What we need to be aware is that the most of our decisions, belief and values are based on what we know for a fact, our assumptions, our own experience and studies, however we rely heavily on the media to get current news and facts about what should be done and what should not be?

The purpose of this discussion is that our lives rely heavily on the media to know the information and take the right decisions. Coming to our topic of discussion that how government influences the public opinion. As consumers rely heavily on the media organizations for information, governments too rely on media organizations to influence the public opinion whether it’s through advertisement, public service message or any other way to achieve their primary and secondary objectives too.

That’s why we have divided our topic of discussion into three parts

The media plays a very important role in shaping and controlling the political opinions. Media is extremely powerful in the sense that without the adequate functioning of the media it is very much impossible for any social structure like government to exist so all of the social structures exists on the media’s ability to socialize. The U.S. government generally will exploit the media, often times manipulating the enormous power of the printed word. Ultimately empowering the U.S. government, strengthening it with the ability to determine and control the popular perception of reality. One way in which government achieves this objective, is by its ability to misuse the media’s ability to set the agenda.

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Contrary to popular belief, media is in fact an enormous hegemony. In fact, separate independent news organizations relatively do not exist. Rather than creating an independent structured agenda of there own, generally lesser smaller news organizations adapt to a prepared agenda, previously constructed by a higher medium. Based upon this information alone, it is quite apparent that media functions in adherence to the characteristics of a hierarchy. This simply means that media is structured in a way that it operates functioning from top to bottom. This is also identical to the hierarchical nature of the human body, in that from the commands of the brain transferred through the central nervous system, the body responds accordingly. In order for the U.S. government to control and determine the public’s popular perception of reality, the government must shape and oversee the information that the media reports to the existing populous. This particular process of democracy is known and referred to by political scientists as cognitive socialization However, many of us, who do not stick to the cushioning of political correctness, refer to it as the propaganda machine. Numerous political scientists consider

cognitive socialization to be the most effective form of political socialization. According to theory, cognitive socialization is doctored up information, which is strategically fragmented in such a manipulative manner, that the probability of its rationalization is highly predictable. The manipulative properties of cognitive socialization are so diabolical and tricky in nature, that I consider it to be the ultimate perversion of the democratic process. In all seriousness, numerous intellectuals, and gentleman held in good stature agree, that cognitive socialization is the product of an evil genius.

Senator William Fulbright observed in Senate hearings on government and the media in 1966, “that so many of our prominent newspapers have become almost agents or adjuncts of the government; that they do not contest or even raise questions about government policy”(Refrence)

The Professor Noam Chomsky on a book of his entitled Manufacturing Consent, democracy and the media. Mr. Chomsky comments on the unholy alliance between government and media. “Indoctrination is the essence of democracy”

Now the question is that when it is impossible to control the people via force, it is very much possible to control the people what they think. That’s why media is used as an additive applied to a free democratic society to preserver the interest of power elite. (the relationship between government and media)

Media and Public Relationship

Mass media heavily influences our daily life, with providing of information so we will discuss that:

How Mass Media Works

Influence Young People

Influence Of Violence Image On Kids

Shaping Up the Public Opinion.

How Mass Media Influence Works

Of all the media distribution channels the most influential has been the television, we are constantly exposed to thousands of images and a moving picture is more than 100,000. These words are in the form of images the images of violence, advertising, sex, celebrities and much more. All these are helpful in shaping up the minds of the people, actually they are not shaping up the minds but they are shaping up the public opinion in terms of giving the consumers new values, new psyche and new way of thinking and providing them with new directions.

The question is that who are shaping up this public opinion these are those five big companies which owns most of the media channels, cinemas and other sources.

Time Warner


Vivendi Universal

Walt Disney

News Corp

They also own integrated telecommunications, wireless phones, video games software’s, electronic media, the music industry and more.

For example if we just try to peep into past it shows that UK ex President Tony Blair won the elections due to the contract with the Murdoch News Corporation to portray the image of Tony Blair. This shows that the media has very great and long lasting influence on the people’s as this example shows that Murdoch Corporation was quite successful in shaping up the public opinion. On the other hand the thing which is quite noticeable that Mr. Tony blair contracted a company which has a wide area of coverage, which shows that the wide area of coverage helped him to shape large number people’s mind.

Years ago there was more diversity in companies, but they have merged so now they are just a few and they have been successful in shaping up the opinion and beliefs of us and our kids. It has become very much important for any parent to have a look on what their kids are watching and the material is not going to conflict with norms and values.

For example if we just have a look on the Pakistani kids now a days they have just been very much addicted to Indian culture that they don’t any more remember the Pakistani culture they don’t have the knowledge that in Islam marriage is based on Nikkah but I have seen some of the kids asking their parents that when the couple is going to take rounds around the fire. India media has been very much successful in shaping the norms, values and most important the minds of our kids.

How Does Mass Media Influence Young People

As we all know that the mass media’s heavy reliance is on the advertisements, media organizations earn billion of dollars. This advertisement is shaping the minds of the people regarding their buying behaviors. All the people exposed to these advertisements try to buy the same thing that was in the advertisement.

As there are some positive and negative influences of the media so they try to influence the young minds these young minds can may have positive influence or may have the negative one but in both cases the media is influencing the young mind, if young mind is doing a lot of exercise just seeing someone his/her favorite sportsman doing that then it’s a positive influence but if he/she starts smoking then it’s a negative image.

In both the cases media is trying to project something onto the young mind whether it’s a good or bad but the question is that why young minds accept all these things don’t they have to do something else.

The answer is that every young one has got some of the peer pressure so whenever they are trying to do something its just of peer pressure to get accepted between his friends, no matter how this will impact the health of a person but the young people just wants to be accepted in their friends.

This thing shows that media is playing two way game projecting both the positive and negative image in order to achieve their objectives. Media is quite capable to project a bad image a positive one and positive one to negative but in both the cases they are influencing the young minds.

Another negative influence in teenagers that has grown over the last years is anorexia and obesity. There are millions of adolescents fighting obesity, but at the same time they are exposed to thousands of advertisements of junk food, while the ideas image of a successful person is told to be thin and wealthy.

Also more women are obsessive with losing weight even when they are not obese; there are many thin women that want to look like the super models and thin celebrities so they engage in eating disorders which lead to severe health issues and even death. (Hubpages)

How media influence public opinion

As we have discussed above and continue to discuss that media has got a great impact on the society for shaping up the public opinion whether that’s a political campaign, an advertisement to make you fat, broadcasting successful characters or a terrorist attack in every situation media is trying to influence.

Wilton Sekzer in a movie states:

I was travelling in a subway there comes a point where the wheels of the subway screech loudly, there the towers of the World Trade Centre were in perfect symmetry so I didn’t know that which one is my son’s building, I was thinking that cannot be my sons building because everyone inside that building gonna die, watching TV every 5 minutes they gonna show the falling towers. I am watching your news cast. How many times you gonna show got damn towers falling down, don’t you have any respect for those, who have got family and friends inside there. (Why we fight, 2005)

Now if we have just have a look on the above discussed example that after 9/11 the US media was trying to shape up the public opinion in a way of creating hater in the minds of populous for the Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. This shaped up the public opinion for war against terrorism and the same public opinion helped the US government for the war against Iraq. This shows that media has great power which has changed the public opinion of 80% of the Americans.

Advertisements for Political Parties by Media

If we just have a look on the advertisements of Pakistani political parties during the political campaigns, all of the parties whether that was in rule or in opposition both will be trying to influence the public opinion in a way that people cast their votes to the ruling party or the one in the opposition, for this purpose they try their level best to count of their best works during their ruling time. On the other hand they try to show in their advertisements that what plans they have got for the next five years. Conclusively they always try to influence the public opinion in a way that change peoples mind to cast their vote to the relative parties.

There are number of other ways to influence the public opinion which includes polls and trends especially in political campaigns. The candidates that can pay more for TV and media exposure have more influence on public opinion and thus can receive more votes.

This suite up the same example we discussed above about the Tony Blair’s contract with Murdoch Corporation to win the elections


The influencing works on the agenda setting program which says that the government has to rely on the media organization for influencing the public opinion. The same is the case discussed by the Agenda setting.

Agenda Setting

The agenda setting theory states that the mass media has got a heavy influence on the audiences by their choices of what to report, how to report and how much worth and space should be for the issue. The salient feature is the ability of mass media to transfer issues of importance from mass media agenda to public agenda. (Brooks, Brian S., et al., 2003)

Functions of Agenda Setting

The agenda-setting function has multiple components:

Media agenda are issues discussed in the media, such as newspapers, television, and radio.

Public agenda are issues discussed and personally about members of the public.

Policy agenda are issues that policy makers consider important, such as legislators.

Corporate agenda are issues that big business and corporations consider important, including corporations.

These four agendas are interrelated. The two basic assumptions underlie most research on agenda-setting are that the press and the media do not reflect reality, they filter and shape it, and the media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. (Brooks, Brian S., et al., 2003)

Now coming back to our topic of discussion that how governments can influence the public opinion according to the agenda setting theory discussed above there are a two ways for any government to influence the public opinion the one is direct influence and other is indirect influence.

Direct Influence

Direct influence is a kind of influence in which the government tries to influence through their speeches and press conferences.


If we just have a look on any of the speeches of the prime ministers, presidents or even the ministers they are actually trying to influence the public opinion that they are trying to influence the people that they are doing good and taking the right decisions they are actually shaping the public opinion but a single statement can set up agenda for the media.

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Press conferences:

Press conference is another important source of influencing the public like we every day see that somebody is conducting a press conference in which the government or non government officials try to tell to the people via media organizations about the ground realities but in some cases to portray the issue favorably they try to use different methods which includes

Secrecy: an important tool that governments use to influence or avoid media coverage. Governments release information as part of a general media strategy to influence the media agenda and frame issues favorably (McCloskey, 1990, p. 119).

Governments often attempt to conceal information from other governments and the public. These state secrets can include weapon designs, military plans, diplomatic negotiation tactics, and secrets obtained illicitly from others (“intelligence”). Most nations have some form of Official Secrets Act (the Espionage Act in the U.S.) and classify material according to the level of protection needed (hence the term “classified information”). An individual needs a security clearance for access and other protection methods, such as keeping documents in a safe, are stipulated.

Few people dispute the desirability of keeping Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information secret, but many believe government secrecy to be excessive and too often employed for political purposes. Many countries have laws that attempt to limit government secrecy, such as the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and sunshine laws. Government officials sometimes leaking formation they are supposed to keep secret.

Secrecy in elections is a growing issue, particularly secrecy of vote counts on computerized vote counting machines. While voting, citizens are acting in a unique sovereign or “owner” capacity (instead of being a subject of the laws, as is true outside of elections) in selecting their government servants. It is argued that secrecy is impermissible as against the public in the area of elections where the government gets all of its power and taxing authority. In any event, permissible secrecy varies significantly with the context involved. (Bok, 1989)


Disinformation is the false information that is spread deliberately. It sometimes called Black Propaganda. It can include the distribution or spreading of malicious rumors and fabricated intelligence. In the military agencies there is an extensive use of this technique to hide one’s course of action.

Disinformation is also helpful in the cases where the government needs to hide some of the details in order to keep the emotions high or to portray the issues favorably. This can be done by manipulation of the audience at the rational level by either discrediting, conflicting or supporting false conclusions.

Another technique of concealing facts, or censorship, is also used if the group can affect such control. When channels of information cannot be completely closed, they can be rendered useless by filling them with disinformation, effectively lowering their signal-to-noise ratio and discrediting the opposition by association with a lot of easily-disproved false claims.

To further understand the concept of disinformation can be clarified by the example that America has faced very high life losses in war against terrorism so government to avoid any opposition of war, the government officials will tell there is a high rate of death rate for enemy and no or very less soldiers have lost their lives. This is actually providing the people with emotional support that America is quite successful in war against terrorism and people will not oppose the war.

In 1957 the CIA knew about the Mayak accident but the information was not released publicly because of the reluctance of the CIA to highlight a nuclear accident in the USSR, that could cause concern among people living near nuclear facilities in the USA. (Makhijani, 2008)

Now this shows that governments provide sometimes wrong information to the media so that media cannot shape the issue as they want and create a distrust in the minds of the people but they try to shape up the content as they want, this is another way of influencing the people via shaping up the content in a way as government wants.

Denial of access of information:

It’s an important technique to manage media coverage. Officials release only that information they want to be released. For instance, in 1983 when the Reagan Administration ordered troops to the Caribbean island of Grenada, the Pentagon refused to take reporters along (Purvis, 2001, p. 243). Similarly, the Bush administration and the Pentagon restricted and carefully controlled information and media access during the 1991 Gulf war, in sharp contrast to the freedom allowed the press and the coverage of Vietnam War. Woodward (1996) revealed that the restriction list was two-pages long and included a number of restrictions on information and travel (p. 174).

Now adding up to the above discussion that the media shapes up the public opinion but sometimes Governments also have to use different strategies to shape up the matter as they want rather than allowing the media to shape up the matter according to themselves. That’s why governmental officials have got media handling strategies.

Indirect influence

Now coming towards the indirect influence as this is conducted through the media organizations actually the government sets up the agenda for the media organizations to discuss, to broadcast and to influence the public opinion.

There are two ways of indirect influence which includes:


Talk shows


Advertising is a form of communication intended to persuade its viewers, readers or listeners to take some action. It usually includes the name of a product or service and how that product or service could benefit the consumer, to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume that particular brand. Modern advertising developed with the rise of mass production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Commercial advertisers often seek to generate increased consumption of their products or services through branding, which involves the repetition of an image or product name in an effort to associate related qualities with the brand in the minds of consumers. Different types of media can be used to deliver these messages, including traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboards or direct mail. Advertising may be placed by an advertising agency on behalf of a company or other organization.

Organizations that spend money on advertising promoting items other than a consumer product or service include political parties, interest groups, religious organizations and governmental agencies. Non-profit organizations may rely on free modes of persuasion, such as a public service announcement. (Oxford Journals)

Public Service announcements:

An advertisement broadcast on radio or television, for the public interest. They are to modify public attitudes by raising awareness about specific issues. The most common topics of PSAs are health, safety. Such advertising is generally produced and distributed on a cooperative basis by governmental agencies or nonprofit organizations acting in concert with private advertising and mass media companies. In most cases, the nonprofit provides the programming that is to be advertised, while the participating advertising agency and media companies provide creative services, media planning, and dissemination services on a pro bono basis.

Some television shows featuring very special episodes made PSAs after the episodes. For example, Conrad Bain of Different Strokes spoke two PSAs after the episodes dealing with child sexual abuse and hitchhiking

Now days we every day watch tv and read newspaper there are lot of advertisements from government or government institutions side which give us a message or information regarding some of the issues. For example child sexual abuse is very much high in Pakistan so there is a repetitive message via different media organizations that “Don’t let your child to be alone with a

A very much common ad we use to see in the newspaper or TV that is from the FBR (federal board of revenue) which says that “Tax is your liability you have to pay it”

All these kinds of ads and public service announcements are for the purpose of making the people get aware and shaping up the public opinion in a way that people starts doing the things that what government says.

Talk Show

A talk show is a television or radio program where one person (or group of people) will discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host. Sometimes, talk shows feature a panel of guests, usually consisting of a group of people who are learned or who have great experience in relation to whatever issue is being discussed on the show for that episode. Other times, a single guest discusses their work or area of expertise with a host or co-hosts. A call-in show takes live phone calls from callers listening at home, in their cars, etc. (wikipedia, 2009).

Now to understand that how we indirectly get influence through talk shows. As we have discussed above the speeches or the press conferences as a direct source of influencing the people. Now just for a minute if we think that there is a statement by any of the government official that “Pakistan is giving access to Black Water to nuclear weapon”. This opens up the agenda for public and the media. Now media organizations start inviting the government officials to the talk shows and discuss the circumstances that “Why Pakistan is giving access”. What will they do with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons” and lot of questions will be raised. The answers of these questions will be actually to influence the public opinion that whatever Pakistan is doing is in the large interest of the public and so on.

This is how the government official indirectly influences the public opinion. In the same way the agenda can be raised up by the public or media. Again the government officials have to influence the public opinion in order to continue the government.

Statements That Changed Up the Public Opinion

Jan 17, 1961

President Dwight Eisenhower’s stated:

My fellow Americans this evening I come to you with a message of leave taking and to share few final thoughts with you my country men, we have been compelled to create a permanent arm industry of vast proportion. Three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in defense establishment. The total influence economic, political and even spiritual is felt in every city, every state house and every office of the follower government. We have recognized the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications in councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwanted influence whether sort or unsort by the military industrial complex the potential for the disastrous rise of misplace power exists and will persists . (Jarecki, 2005)

Iraq is a supporter of terrorist groups, inc Liberation Front, and Hamas (Why we fight)

Iraq is paying $25, 000 per suicide bombing (Why we fight)


Now the governments heavily influence the public which has been demonstrated by different statements which shows that America brought Saddam Hussain to conquer Kuwait and after that they have used different statements against Saddam Hussain and his country and media developed an agenda upon those statements which changed the public opinion and America has to attack on Iraq. The concept is that government is the supreme power of the country and can shape up the incident as they want whether in the positive way or a negative one. We have also seen that governments keep some of the issues hidden from the public but all of these issues are intentionally kept hidden to avoid the opposition of the decision.

All the above study has crystallized the topic “Government Influence on Public Opinion” that its true that governments do influences sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.


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