The Rise of Political Propaganda in America’s News Media

I was in 7th grade during the historic 2008 election between current President Barak Obama and Senator John McCain. I can vividly remember arguing with a couple of liberal friends, who were trying to convince me that Obama was the right choice. These battles became so heated that a gruff sound would overtake our high- pitched voices and saliva would be visibly spewed. Despite our clear differences in opinion, we had a few things in common: our opinions were completely uninformed and purely based off influence from our parents, peers and the media.

During that election cycle, my dad was a moderate-conservative, who watched The O’Reilly Factor every night. I would watch with him and gain my nightly dose of partisan political information. What I did not know at that time was that I was a victim of the vicious game of politics, where young minds are easily corrupted and swayed.

Bill O'Reilly, host of #1 rated cable news network show "The O'Reilly Factor"
Bill O’Reilly, host of #1 rated cable news network show “The O’Reilly Factor”

Now, 6 years later, thanks to technology and the availability of a variety of media sources, I am fully aware about the partisan games that are being played in the modern political media. I developed a mostly liberal viewpoint on politics, as I finally explored other media resources. But, despite my newfound liberal view, I still find myself wanting to listen to conservative radio and watch right leaning news television.

In Politics as a Vocation, Max Weber claims that to write a good piece of journalism is as “demanding intellectually as the achievement of any scholar.” Weber stresses the journalist’s extremely high “responsibility”, surpassing a scholar’s responsibility. But, because of the “irresponsible pieces of journalism” that have emerged in recent times, this component of journalism is overlooked. Weber proclaims that journalists are beginning to lose their values. We can see this in the reporting on the largest cable news networks in America.

Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes, President of the Fox News Channel, is the one who really revolutionized modern day political propaganda. The Fox News Channel, despite its reputation for releasing partisan propaganda, its constant history of reporting misinformation and half stories, is still, by far, the most viewed news network on cable television. And I have to admit; I am still one of those loyal viewers. I cannot take my eyes off it. Murdock found a way to play with the viewer’s emotions to a point that they will have them coming back to watch. Just to watch the clear output of politically biased media on a channel that proclaims itself “Fair and balanced” is just so infuriating, yet also invigorating. I hate everything that Fox News stands for, yet I think how Ailes plays with the masses in order to increase revenue and gain viewers is genius.

Politics is all about the back and forth. We all like those arguments at family dinners covering political topics. It is part of the culture. Fox News Channel captures that essence better than any other media source. You can clearly see how MSNBC attempted to follow suit with the liberal propaganda machine to answer Fox New’s conservative propaganda machine. MSNBC has not been nearly as successful based on viewership because it is just not nearly as intriguing or eye-catching as the Fox News Channel, but it did jump CNN for second in cable news network ratings. Until 2002, CNN was the #1 rated cable news network program until Fox News swooped in to take the first spot. CNN is the least biased national news station in relation to the two other big powerhouses, but it fell to the bottom of the big three in ratings in 2009.

cable-news-ratings

These cable news viewer ratings clearly show that propaganda on television is higher than it has ever been. Controversy and entertainment sells in this country run by commercialism. We, as viewers, are also part of this propaganda problem. And as technology continues to advance and we as people continue to become more obsessed with popular culture, riveting entertainment and our attention span continues to shorten, these propaganda machines will continue to grow.

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One thought on “The Rise of Political Propaganda in America’s News Media

  1. Jordan,

    I think your blog is very interesting and captivating. I wholeheartedly agree with you that many media outlets are trying to sway and influence the minds and views of many Americans, particularly the youth.

    With that said, I believe there is one fallacy in your blog that is a bit misleading. Yes, FOX News has a reputation for being conservative and MSNBC has a reputation for being liberal, but does THAT reputation make these the two most watched news networks? Also, is CNN the least watched of the Big 3 because it is the least biased? In theory, shouldn’t that make it the most watched? I think you’re assuming that the biases bring in viewers based solely on their political views, which is definitely true in some cases, but false in others. For example, my dad is definitely more conservative in his views, but he hates FOX and watches NBC. My point here is that I don’t necessarily think media biases bring in viewers, as you suggest. Rather, I think the perceived quality of the show by the viewers is what draws them to specific networks (as you said, you don’t like the “bias” of FOX but watch it anyway). I do think conservatives are more likely to find FOX the highest quality of the news networks, while liberals are more likely to find MSNBC better, but I don’t think it is automatic.

    Overall, though, this was an excellent blog post that definitely got me thinking. Very good job.

    -Korey Burdman

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