Custom «The Media and Democracy in the US» Sample Essay
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The wide penetration of communicative technologies into everyday life and the immense potential of civic participation consistently formed in American society with the assistance of representatives of the media and analytical experts create active political discourse. This provides the foundation for participation in information exchange, socially significant discussions, and the creation of user content not only during periods of political activity, forming the basis for representative democracy. In addition, the First Amendment to the US Constitution provides broad rights to self-expression, which are actively used by the media to activate public dialog. The major threat to representative democracy in the United States lies only in excessive framing and monopolization of the mass media. However, the First Amendment, the high communicative potential of the media space, and the weak interference of the state in regulating the information space create positive preconditions for the development of representative democracy as well as regulation of public relations.
The Importance of the First Amendment
Philosophy is an important basis of American constitutional freedoms connected to the media. The First Amendment was influenced by three prominent philosophers. In the middle of the 17th century, Englishman John Milton opposed government censorship, believing that true views would surely defeat false ones in the process of open debate. Two hundred years later, his fellow countryman, John Stewart Mill, came up with the idea that the press was a counteraction to corrupt or tyrannical authorities. The media make their contribution to the system of checks and balances described in the American Constitution by informing people how their representatives deal with public affairs (Michel). Alexander Meiklejohn argued that freedom of speech is the key to the proper functioning of democracy that should stimulate discussion in order to gain knowledge and skills necessary to participate in public affairs. The primary objective of the First Amendment is to maximize the protection of freedom of speech which enables citizens to make right decisions on important social issues.
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Moreover, the American Constitution provides the basis that helps the media to avoid restrictions on time, place, and method. It does not contradict public morality and provide the ground for freedom of thought. However, a protected speech may be subject to a restriction if it creates a contradiction between the First Amendment and other important rights contained in the Constitution. For example, one of the major benefits provided by the First Amendment is the right of the media to report on criminal proceedings. In the early 1900s, the court concluded that there are still cases when the authorities have the right to interfere in one or another aspect of freedom of speech despite increased constitutional protection (Greenberg and Page, 2.6). However, such interferences are strictly limited, and the government is always obliged to provide evidence in court to prove that they are not contrary to the Constitution and previous court decisions. The reasons why freedom of speech can be restricted include the threat to someone's life, death, or national security. In some cases, this may conflict with the defendant's right to honest litigation guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to look for a balance between these two fundamental rights provided by the Constitution.
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As a rule, the media act as a substitute for the public that was unable to attend the court. This practice is related to the principle that people's awareness of the court process plays a positive therapeutic role in society. Since the 1970s, the US courts have recognized the right of the media to participate in criminal proceedings. This right is guaranteed by the First Amendment, even though this may affect the sentence. The judge has the right to ask defendants, witnesses, lawyers or jurors to keep silent, but has no right to prohibit the media from covering events taking place in open court.
The Communicative Potential of the Media
The American media perform both value and communicative functions. Currently, there is a gradual transition from the one-sided to two-sided communication model and, increasingly, to a multilateral model of interaction with the active involvement of societal representatives. The combination of communicative and value functions contributes to the formation of sustainable channels of social participation, whereby power over politically important information is redistributed among the audience. This fact increases the role of moderators and editors of information processes, communicators, and interpreters (Greenberg and Page, 6.1). Many American states have sunshine laws on the maximum disclosure of all government documents and the openness of meetings, which contributes to the transparent media coverage of political events. Any activity of an official should be transparent, in other words, sunlight should be shed on it. In addition, there are laws on access to information, which are the same for journalists and ordinary citizens. The editorial point of view is less important than giving the public an opportunity to learn facts, which provides the basis for the creation of public opinion platforms. Moreover, the communicative potential of American democracy involves a huge number of political websites that analyze and monitor the promises of politicians. One of the brightest examples is the participation of the best independent journalists in heated debates during presidential elections. The reliable media such as Washington Post, Ney York Times and Vox have their own fact checking departments that re-check all the data gathered by journalists and clarify them again from the primary sources.
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Arguments Against the Media
However, sometimes the US media lack impartiality and objectivity while covering important events and decisions. The media market of the United States is in private hands, and the 90% of media outlets belong to six huge corporations (Greenberg and Page, 7.1). Nowadays, the media market is highly monopolized, and one owner can impact media content. So-called corporate censorship replaces formal censorship of the state when the position of a single journalist should comply with the general policy of the news company.
The American media model has a long tradition of data fabrication, especially when it comes to a massive propaganda campaign of 2003 aimed at persuading US citizens to support the country's participation in the Iraq war. In general, the history of US interventions in the activities of the media, both domestic and foreign, is a holistic pattern. The US most often spreads subjective messages to back the interests of the Republican or Democratic party. Newsmakers often hire intermediaries who deliver these messages to ordinary citizens to influence them or create an agenda. The bright example was the Hannity show on the Fox News channel, primarily targeting the white conservative segment with a strong focus on nationalism. Moreover, the US media often use framing when interpreting an event or image of a particular figure to form stereotypes. The daily interaction between the media and society can make certain parts of information more relevant and encourage the viewer to compare facts or perceive them in accordance with a biased point of view. For example, with the help of the story about the survival of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, television persuaded US citizens to support the First Persian Gulf War. The girl claimed that Iraqi soldiers condemned to death 15 infants at the hospital in Kuwait. However, it was subsequently discovered that the girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the USA (Greenberg and Page). The Reuters news agency showed fake dead bodies during the war in Syria and Libya to influence public opinion as well. In addition, the media use framing on a local scale to emphasize racial conflict in the US for political purposes. There are influential groups that can be interested in the creation of an internal conflict to negatively affect the reputation of the leading party or president to solicit bigger preferences. The media becomes an instrument that helps to distract people's attention from important political problems by creating information noise or manipulating public opinion through the substitution of facts or false experts. The media portrayed the events in Virginia in a sharply negative or slightly negative context to shift the problem of violence and cruel behavior to the problem of self-expression. Therefore, it can be said that the media channels, in part, serve as a means of protecting state interests, which undermines the belief in the power of democracy.
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Freedom of speech and the press are protected by the Constitution that provides a legal basis for the free and unhindered exchange of ideas and discussions about the changes in political and social life. Political discussions are really free and unbiased only when the government is really subordinate to the will of people, and citizens have opportunities to create public discussion platforms. The First Amendment gives journalists the right to freely express their views on key events, cover governmental meetings, have access to court hearings, and keep their own sources of information protected. However, the media cannot be fully objective due to the large monopolization of the country's media market as well as biased coverage of foreign political events. Framing is often used by the state to shift the focus of attention to other events, sow doubts or persuade citizens to support a particular course of action, which negatively affects the quality of democracy.
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