Examples in U.S. Government

In the United States, lack of information occurs all the time, but is overlooked because governmental manipulation of the media does not expose it. The people, who should be controlling the government, are instead controlled by faulty reporting based on government hearsay. Even in the beginning of American history, the government was not always completely honest with the people. To avoid a public uproar, presidents and their appointed administrations manage to steer the media away from scandals or horrific events that could influence public opinion.

For unrestrained government manipulation, the cabinet needs an “in” with the media. If a member of the governmental cabinet working on a secret project plan purposefully “leaks” information while acting for the President in a manipulation attempt, the media would believe it and cover it, which misinforms the public. Jackson’s utilization of the media was similar to that manipulation scheme as described above. Aside from cronies in his cabinet, Jackson had close ties with reporters. This “kitchen cabinet” was not only self-developed to keep his public image elevated, but he also sought advice from them. Having the newspaper’s support, maintains Jackson’s connection with the public (Jackson). This idea of the government influencing the media to in turn affect the public has been utilized since early presidencies.

Another example of government manipulation of the media is Clinton’s success in refocusing the public’s attention away from the United State’s engagement in a war on terrorism. The President’s personal life was exposed to the public. An affair with Monica Lewinsky began in 1995. It appeared to deflect the media from the unsuccessful bombings in Sudan to find Bin Laden (Cable News Network) . The media had a top story, covering the affair, so without air time dedicated to war reports and investigations, the war flew under the radar gun. The sex scandal became more important than world affairs. Unfortunately for Clinton, although the affair lessened the coverage of the war, many do not condone sex scandals. The Republican Party in 2000, used the scandal to their benefit in 2000, and created a moral campaign with President Bush, a born-again Christian, as their candidate.    

Even the most recent history links itself to government manipulation. The best way to manipulate the public is through the media. With breaking news, every network wants the scoop. The headlines read, “Seventeen American Soldiers Removed from Duty in Iraq for Torturing Prisoners.” The news broke out in April 2004, which was seen as a threat to the upcoming Presidential election. The War in Iraq was already a controversial issue, so with horrific pictures and stories of torture, Americans were vulnerable media targets. Even though the torture of Iraqi prisoners may not have been on the level of the beheadings and other atrocities committed by terrorists, the media cast doubt on the entire American army. In August, the torture case was rehashed for trials and sentences. Election Day was only months away, and Bush needed to refocus the public’s attention (CBS).

Coincidentally, the Swift Boat Ad’s were exposed. Notwithstanding the fact that actual members of John Kerry’s Swift Boat team stated repeatedly that he was a hero, the ads did their intended damage. People generally believe that what is stated on television and continually reinforced must then be fact. Even Kerry’s supporters were implanted with that seed of doubt created by constant audio and visual degradation of his abilities and leadership skills in the Swift Boat Ads. What is most ironic about the entire situation is that whether or not Kerry was a war hero, he served in actual combat in Vietnam, while his opponent had not. This clearly indicates that the media neutralized Bush’s lack of any military combat, while Kerry’s combat experience became an extreme negative. A clearer example of media manipulation, whereby the opponent’s strengths are used against him, would be difficult to find (Washington Post).

The above examples clearly indicate how the media has swayed, molded, and manipulated public opinion. In fact, what is amazing is that the media’s view blends into actually becoming public opinion. Water-cooler chatter often times is merely mimicking or parroting the previous nights coloring of the news, with little or no analysis by the general public. Obviously, government manipulation of the media is quite dangerous, as the general public may not have the necessary time or skill level to differentiate between fact and fiction. This issue is of great concern in a democracy where voter knowledge is quite important to the outcome of elections and future leadership of our country. The news media presents these slanted and often-erroneous viewpoints, and the presenters of the information pay handsomely for airtime. To allow the media to unilaterally or arbitrarily inform the public with what should air and what should not, is an even more detrimental solution. This solution could actually curtail the right of free speech to factions of our society that are not in the inner political circle of wealth.