May the weak force be with you: The power of the mass media in modern politics
European Journal of Political Research, 45, (2), . (doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.2006.00296.x).
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The idea that the modern mass media have a strong and malign effect on many aspects of social and political life is widely and strongly held. Television is often said to undermine democratic government popular support for leaders and institutions. In spite of all that has been written about media malaise, however, both theory and evidence suggests that the media are a comparatively weak force whose effects can be deflected, diluted and diffused by stronger forces. These include bedrocks political values associated with class, religion, age, gender and education, as well as social networks and discussions, distrust of the mass media, and personal knowledge and experience. Equally, the variables that mediate the media may also magnify its effects so that what appears to be a large media effect is, in fact, the result of an interaction between the media and other forces. This article lays out the argument of the media malaise literature that covers government and politics, then outlines the social forces that mediate the media, and finally provides some evidence to illustrate the argument that the media are generally a weak force in society.
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