The role of the mass media in influencing political process
The following report will investigate the role of the mass media in politics and will aim to prove the hypothesis that the mass media reinforces existing stereotypes and prejudices in society.
The modern media play a central role not only within the political processes of every type, ranging from coverage of major political events and institutions to effects on campaigns and elections but also in any individual's life, providing many necessary information services as well as offering possibilities for self-enlightenment and entertainment. We live in a society that depends on information and communication to keep us moving the right direction and do our daily activities like work, entertainment, health care, education, personal relationships, travelling and anything else that we have to do. The media have a powerful role as people have come to treat television, radio, newspapers, magazines and internet as the basis on which to think and act in the world. Thus media have a potential power to influence peoples’ attitude, opinion and behaviour around many sensitive issues, such as gender, ethnicity and age. It can be further argued that, although the question about mass media direct effect on British politics is a contentious one, it would be practically impossible to prove that the media has no effect at all on liberal politics. However, it can be difficult at times to determine whether the media plays a direct or an indirect role in affecting politics.
Politics– the process through which individual and collective decisions are made. It is the activity in which goals are agreed and pursued through policies designed to achieve these goals. It is a characteristic of most social systems: family, community, region, state and international community. When human beings form a group this leads to discussion in order to decide what their community will seek to achieve. The discussion of different goals and priorities often lead to conflicts (Selby, 1995, p1). Politics is the process which resolves these conflicts. Politics touches everybody on any level to a more or lesser extent.
Stereotypeis whether favourable or unfavourable an exaggerated belief associated with a category. Its function is to justify our conduct in relation to that category (Allport, 1954, p191). Stereotyped characteristics in a category are not always unsupported by facts. Those stereotypes may have their origins. In fact, people use types and categories to easily make sense of the world. According to Hall (1997), however, the distinctive difference between typing and stereotyping is that ‘stereotypes get hold of the few simple, vivid, memorable, easily grasped and widely recognized characteristics about a person, reduce everything about the person to those traits, exaggerate and simplify them, and fix them without change or development to eternity’.
Prejudiceis an implicitly held belief, often about a group of people. Race, economic class, gender or sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and religion are other common subjects of prejudice. It can be used to characterize beliefs about other things as well, including "any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence” (Aberson et al., 2000). The base for prejudice usually form the stereotypes.
Arguments to prove the hypothesis
The hypothesis will be proved with a range of arguments. Firstly the issues around gender stereotyping will be discussed, which is one of the most common stereotypes across the world. Gender stereotypes involve generalisations about male and female identities and about appropriate roles and aspirations for women and men. Generalisations about women and men inevitably involve false assumptions as they negate the diverse identities, aspirations and personalities of individual women and men. Current stereotypes of men and women not only rest on false assumptions but also reflect and reinforce a male dominance. There are several issues surrounding the gender stereotypes, such as beauty stereotypes (unattainable beauty, reinforced culture of the thinness), the economical side of gender stereotypes: ‘sex sells’ with its downgrading impact on women or self-esteem of young girls.
The mass media use stereotypes to provide truncated, fast and simple information to its audiences. However, a major influence in the use of these stereotypes is the profit. Advertisers in particular want safe representations of the dominant culture's ideology to represent their product. Mass media's use of stereotypes is clearly based on the dominant culture's ideologies. Advertising certainly is the major component that has contributed to many of the negative outcomes as a result of reinforcement of the stereotyping. Cummings (2003) is writing in ‘The diet business: Banking on failure’ that ‘dieting’ is a business with enormous financial interest in making sure that it continues, which is controversial in itself.
A Korean research about beauty stereotypes conducted by Jee, Min-Joo and Oh, Byoung-il (2009) explores how Korean mass media represent Korean beauty stereotype and further reinforces this stereotype both directly and indirectly. Within these stereotypes women are characterized as being passive and subject-less and as objects to be observed and chosen, women are compelled to prioritize their appearances over other merits and to follow beauty stereotypes. Undoubtedly a major influence has played here western culture, which itself is very familiar with the beauty stereotyping. The problem in Korea is that these stereotypes, however have led to a problems with social and political character. The authors state that in Korea the more a woman possesses stereotyped beauty, the greater the chance for success in both in marriage and career. Korea has rewarded beautiful people with well-paying jobs, improved marriage prospects and respect. Considering that Korean women see their bodies as the primary means towards self-improvement, it is not surprising that a great number of Korean women have a favourable view towards cosmetic surgery. According to a study of mental health of Korean adolescents, conducted by Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development in 2002, 71.6% female high school students responded that they wanted to get plastic surgery, an increase by 13.7% to the year before. While in Korea situation might be more extreme it can be assumed that in Europe and America there are similar tendencies.