The media plays several roles in our society. It has the adversarial role apart from which it also acts always as a platform that is used by the elite to promote stories or news that serves their concerns and needs. Thus, in many cases the media broadcasts propaganda as news that is instigated by the political arm of the society. The mass media plainly stated serves to marshal support for the special interests that dominate the private and state activity. This article seeks to analyze the manipulation of the media and propagandas for political agendas as depicted by four authors in their different articles.
The other authors Kris and Speier in their book ‘Nazi propaganda and violence from the German radio propaganda’ cites a case of distraction by nationalism. There is the demonization of the opposition. The opposing views about Nazi Germany were ascribed to an out-group or hated group, and thus dismissed out of hand. This was the Jewish society. The article on ‘The part played by people’ depicts role played by people in democracy. This was made possible through social interaction between people and the media. The discourse below takes us through each article and their respective critiques.
Manipulating Public Opinion
Bernays was the first individual to emulate Freud’s ideologies to manipulate the masses. He showed American companies how they could make people demand their things which they did not need. The companies were to do this by manipulating the people’s subconscious desires. Bernays could also be called the ‘the father of spin’. Within the realms of public relations, spin is a pejorative expression for manipulative tactics used to influence public opinion. He is probably considered one of the most influential practitioners and theorists of public communication in the twentieth century (Bernays, 1928).
Public relation is in between propaganda and advertisement. As much as public relation could be used to market an idea commercially, it could also be used as a propaganda which involves an intricate manipulation of the media. In his book “Propaganda” he asserts that propaganda is a good thing. He points out that it is an indispensable intervention tool in the communicative chaos of this contemporary world. It helps the public to interpret and act in this confusing world. Thus manipulating the public opinion is necessary so as to reduce prejudice. (Bernays, 1928).
Public opinion can either be taken to represent the thought of any given group of society at any given time toward a given object. Broadly defined, it would be the power of the group to sway the larger public in its attitude towards an idea. If an individual, a special pleader, is to introduce their idea to the public or make changes in the public opinion then they have to acquire the psychology of public persuasion. The innovator can usually manipulate the public opinion for the good or for the worst.
A well intended manipulation is usually good for the public. An example of this would be a social move by a special pleader to wage war against tuberculosis or cancer or to raise the standard of business ethic or support a philanthropic institution. On the other hand, it is always very disastrous to sway the public opinion or influence the masses with an intention of promoting one’s self ambitions.
Looking at this from a political standpoint, this could be very detrimental to the general public or to a part of it. A good example is the cases where a political leader uses platforms such as advertisement, radio, motion picture, newspaper and other to articulate and strengthen minority ideas, make old ideas apply to new, make a part stand for a whole and create events and circumstance that stand for his ideas. This is clearly depicted when through propaganda there is a huge attendance at President Coolidge breakfast. The public relation council also reveals how a show was used to manipulate public opinion as far as hat using habit of women is concerned. The show really boosted the sale of trimmed hat in a given manufacturer.
This shows that a major feature of democracy is the manipulation of the mind of the masses by advert and media. Meaning good public relation is indispensable in a democratic society. Thus, we can never rely on public democratic judgments because they are driven by desires and are always irrational. Most of their thoughts have been molded by the invisible hand of the government. This is why Bernays believed that the crowd ought to be controlled because they their minds could be dangerous. His fear for example was that America could vote for the wrong man or want the out rightly wrong thing.
It is very important that the person who teaches the public how to ask for what it wants also teach them how to safeguard itself against his own possible tyrannous aggressiveness. (Bernays, 1928)
The Metropolis and Mental Life
This article the "The Metropolis and Mental Life" (1903) was part of the lectures done by George Simmel and his associates. It discusses the diverse features of social urban life at the turn of the 19th century. It espouses some of the features of modern urban culture at that time.
Key to note in this article is the individual's place in the big city and his psychological coping. George Simmel points out that the urban life is one which is subjugated by objectivism. Objectivism is the tendency to lay stress on what is external to or independent of the mind. To him subjectivism, the doctrine that all knowledge is restricted to the conscious self and its sensory states, had no place in the big cities. (Simmel George, 1903)
Unlike in small communities the human interactions in the metropolis have become short and helpful, not having the personal and emotional involvement. In the city, an individual is compelled to be rational and helpful in his interactions especially the social. This happens because of way the sensory stimulus is stimulated in the city. This forces one to sieve much of the stimulus if he is to be able to cope up with the rate psychologically.
This makes the mental life in the metropolis basically an intellectual one and not an emotional one. Many individuals are imprisoned working under the clock, which is time. Simmels points out that all things in the metropolis measurable. The qualitative value of an item is narrowed to quantitative and this gives what Simmel calls a "blasé." However, Simmel depicts the metropolis as a place of liberation from the enslaving mentality of the small community. This gives the person more liberty and space defines to him selves independently. He cites that the complexities of the contemporary city create new attitudes and new social bonds towards others. These big cities were changing humans. The cities gave them a fresh relationship to time and space. It instilled in them a "blasé attitude", and thus altering the foundational perceptions of liberty and being. (Simmel George, 1903)
In the urban life Simmel cites that things do not have the intrinsic value which would make them more worthy when compared to others. These things are measured only by the external objective value of time and money. Money being an impersonal measure of value, it usually institutionalizes rational but impersonal ties among people. The use of money brings about a detachment of individuals from objects. It also gives the mechanism of trouncing this distance. It permits much for individuals in the society. The individuals for example, travel greater distances and thus conquer the person-to-person limitations. Simmel points out that spread of the money form gives individuals liberty of sorts by allowing them to put into practice the kind of individualized control over "impression management." This was not possible in traditional societies. The recognized identities have been discarded. (Simmel George, 1903)
In the traditional settings, the impressions of others are built up on the basis of habit. They are built up progressively over time. Most of these impressions are less conscious and are made on more deeply felt and emotional relationships. In the cities however, there is sharp discontinuity, single glances, a multitude of quick impressions. According to Simmel, the contemporary society frees the person from and traditional and historical bonds. This creates much higher individual freedom although the individual also experiences a great sense of detachment within the culture of urban life. (Simmel George, 1903)
The number of people in the big cities and their obscurity makes the individual more reserved. Reserve is the external feature of an individual’s innate aversion and indifference to other people. This reserve causes lack of development of the habitual and regular interactions between individuals and other people. This leads to an increased sense of liberty and individuality from group demands. (Simmel George, 1903)
Thus, according to Simmel’s, individuals in the cities are so reserved and are always individualistic in their pursuits. Their concern would not be the spreading of propaganda since it is everyone on their own. The media on the other hand would have a great impact on people’s tastes, opinions and quests. Thus political ideologies spread through the media would have sporadic effects on people’s lives. Simmel views the society as one made of interactions between and among individuals. The social forces are do not necessarily constrain the individual, it is rather the people who reproduce the society‘s every living moment through their interactions and actions.
Nazi propaganda and violence
At the onset of the Second World War II, Germany implemented a variety of propaganda strategies through various communication media. This measure was important for various reasons. These reasons which aimed at creating an inexistent aura around Hitler’s administration included;
- a. Convincing the public to go to war
The propagandist Goebbels aimed at coercing the strong to join in the war since war was the only result. The propaganda used by the media was aimed at causing admiration for the nation for various events. During the pre-war period in Germany this admiration to the Hitler administration was important to drive the main agenda of the Nazi government. According to the propagandist German cities were protected and could not be bombed, Britain was weak and could be easily conquered and the continued talk of some weapons which would enable Germans to conquer their enemies.
However, as much as the propagandists tried to achieve the much needed motivation of Germans to war the truth concerning the number of casualties in the warzones was noticeable. This had the effect of lowering the morale of the soldier as well as the new entrant’s morale. The main goal of the propagandist was to shape public opinion towards supporting the affluent Nazi’s policies. This had the effect of creating a self imposed dictatorial regime.
- b. That it was necessary to engage in war
According to the propagandist Goebbels, the war was important in wiping out the enemy. This was meant to push citizens to sacrifice their precious and comfortable life’s to join the war for the glory of the German nation .This propaganda through national radio was aimed at creating extreme patriots of Germany. This effect the propagandist aimed at achieving through the media was to promote the unification of the peoples will with the government actions. The propagandist Goebbels portrayed all those involved in the government mission as national heroes. (Ernst Kris, Speier Hans 1944)
The use of propaganda was necessitated by the need to get public support after taking power from socialists. These required Hitler to utilize persuasion methods to encourage more individuals to support the war. Propaganda however did not work effectively because Hitler employed various media to reach the nation apart from talking to citizens of Germany directly. Hitler in contrast to previous socialist leaders only talked to the military urging them to fight on. The propaganda strategy however, failed as the citizens realized the truth of the matter when the war begun. For example as quoted from the article in 1939 Goebbels used to announce German’s military actions only for Germany to the citizens to further their goal of pushing Germans to fight but the consecutive defeats of the German army had the opposite effect .This had the effect of lowering morale among the Germans. (Ernst Kris, Speier Hans 1944)
The propaganda strategy had become a failed project with the Hitler administration resulting to other unorthodox measure to create awareness of Germans might and gain public support. This led to discrimination of individuals on the basis of race which resulted to killing of the Jews. Nazi propaganda and violence failed since this tool was used to portray all parties opposed to Hitler’s rule as enemies. This caused a great divide in Germany and the eventual fall of Hitler’s administration. According to the writer of this book the propagandists succeeded in achieving their two main objectives however, they had caused more harm than good to Germany and all the countries Hitler had gone to war with.
The part played by people
People have played a major role in shaping democracy in the USA in the past decades. This was made possible through social interaction between people and the media. Over decades the people have played a vital role in the growth of the USA democracy and other important and socially benefiting institutions of society.
People play a vital role in society by involving themselves in activities of national interest’s thus promoting democracy. Some of these roles played include;
a) Getting involved in the electorate process to get the rightful leader.
b) Using the media to encourage people to vote wisely
To encourage the industry worker and military man during the World War II these major goals of the mass media have been of great importance to the society and to the nation’s democracy. These had the aim of promoting the dissemination of reliable information in contrast to the Nazi propaganda and violence spread through the mass media.
Contrast of both writers
According to Ernst Kris’s argument the media is portrayed as an institution that can be utilized by the government or the rulers to further their agenda. This writer brings out the negative Image of media and the catastrophic effect that wrong decisions can cause on the nation and its people. On the other hand the writer Warner brings out the beneficial theme of media .The media is viewed as contributing towards positive change within society including promoting democracy. Democracy is developed through informing voters on which candidate for a given post really deserves to clinch the given position. According to Warner the main role of people in mass communication is to encourage and promote positive results.
Comparison of the four authors
All authors have brought out the theme of media and the impact media has on the various stake holders within society.
Media according to Kris and Speier media can serve the selfish interests of the countries elite .For example the Nazi administration had the media use false and exaggerated information to motivate individuals to actively engage in the Nazi administration .The effects of the media were more harmful than good to the German nation and the neighboring states .This was as a result of massive losses in terms casualties and economic losses resulting from destroyed industries.
According to George Simmel in the article Metropolis and mental life, the author portrays the media as an institution that can work towards bringing social change within our societies. The media plays a major role according to the author George in shaping the life of the individual in the urban setting .The media being an informative platform shapes lives through defining lifestyles .Through the media various cultures are discarded paving way for the urban culture. According to Simmel the media promotes creation of identity by members of a given metropolis.
According to Bernays, Edward media manipulation is viewed as important so as to ensure people’s opinions are directed towards constructive development in society. Media manipulation when done in a positive manner promotes development of democracy. This is achieved especially in the process of choosing the right leaders for a given position.
According to the author of the article “Part played by people” involvement of people in mass communication can build or destroy democracy. For example in the Nazi administration, the involvement of propagandists was beneficial to the administration but harmful to the people. This only created a tyrannical administration that cost Germany dearly.