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Mass media versus social media

In this guest post George Von Waidkuns reflects about the role of the mass media in the creation of public opinion, and the interaction with the social media in terms of political and socio-cultural issues.

Generally, it can be said that mass media plays an important role in the creation of public opinion. Recent studies show that there is a close relationship between mass media and social control.

“The mechanism of control generally exercised by media proprietors is through the appointment of editors, ‘who become the proprietor’s “voice” within the newsroom, ensuring that journalistic “independence” conforms to the preferred editorial line’ (McNair). The power of the media is not just in its editorial line but also in covering some issues rather than others, some views but not others. It is this power that makes politicians so reluctant to cross the large media moguls and regulate the industry in the public interest. So while politicians would like to regulate against concentration of media ownership they are not as tough as they would like to be on this score.

Like earlier periods in the history of mass media communication the rise of radio, and then television, the birth of the Internet era has generated extensive speculation about the potential consequences of this development for older news media, for political campaigns, and for civic society.

As the Internet has taken off, research has explored the consequences for parties, candidates and election campaigns; for new social movements, interest groups and organizational activism; and for the policymaking process and governing in an information age.

We are witnessing a clear competition between mass media and social media in the creation of public opinion and public direct participation in political and social issues.

Mass Media and Social Control

The impact of the mass media on the consumers’ mind cannot be ignored; television, radio and newspapers make this by imposing social trends, informing, forming and misinforming the political opinion of the masses.

According to recent researches we can affirm that the mass media manipulates the mind of its consumers by using subliminal advertising and other techniques serving in the creation of public opinion and their political opinion. Mass media controls the political opinion of the masses constituting by this an invisible “government” of the “democratic” societies.

In essence public opinion is created by mass communication media and as a result of it most people delegates their own vision of the political reality to what the mass media is imposing on them. We are not thinking, the mass media think for us. We are not what we think; we are what they think we are.

Government and Control of Public Opinion, the Australian Case: Public Servants Banned from Political Opinion

The current Australian government threatened its public servants with disciplinary measures including dismissals if they make comments or if they express political opinion on social media.

The government is prepared to spend more than $4.2M to control social media and investigate cases where political opinion is adverse. This is a clear invasion of privacy and a restriction of freedom of speech.

An Australian renown academic, John Lord, said “the government could save that money by asking for my phone number straight away”.

Social Media and Participation

One of the most relevant characteristics of social media is the direct and instant participation of users in the political, social and economical reality. Users are exercising real power by interacting through online comments, blogs and publication of articles on independent websites.

The online participation of common citizens in the social and political issues, balance or to some extent neutralise the power of old means of mass communication, because citizens are now not passive spectators of reality but part of it. Citizens did not have the right to exercise their power by expressing their opinion on social issues. On the contrary they were selectively ignored by mass media.

People today extensively are losing faith in the mass media because they can test reality by their own means online. People are becoming part of reality rather than mere viewers.

Social Media and Hope

There are many hopes and fears surrounding the “virtual” democracy in the emerging of the Internet Age. Much debate revolves around whether the distinctive structure and interactive format of the Internet will provide a genuinely new form of political mobilization, enticing the dissent into public life, producing a more egalitarian democracy, or whether its primary function will be to reinforce those who are already most active through conventional channels like social organizations, community groups and parties.

We believe that public participation on social media is making a more authentic democracy as people can express their political views in a direct way and by making it public.

Social Media and the Church

In front if this new reality, even the Catholic Church has been giving green light to social media, Pope Francis recently confirmed it:

“The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the Church is the home of all”.

“Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.”


In view of the presented above, social media with the participation of citizens in the social and political reality constitutes a new cultural phenomenon which challenges the other reality presented by the mass media. It is time then to see our socio-political reality in a new way, perhaps in a more democratic and truthful way, free from manipulation.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    I was taught the fourth estate could be see as gate keepers. Maybe, we are better off without them,

    hew web is powerful Look at Abbott’s RC Imagine the affect they would have if we had to rely on MSM for information. Now in thousands we can tune in, not missing a thing. Seeing what is happening in context. At the same time, there is immediate reporting by text to the entire world.

    What’s more, once it is out, warts and all, even in video, it cannot be covered up.

  2. Anne Byam

    Interesting article George … thank you.

  3. Anne Byam

    @ Florence … trouble is, not absolutely everyone follows the same kind of interest on the Internet. In my entire family … and that’s a lot of family, I am the only person ( bar one ) who follows political comment and …. joins in.

    As for the MSM … same thing applies, it appears to me. People read their newspapers, watch TV, but ‘switch off’ when it comes to politics – to a disturbingly large degree.

    Haven’t a clue what to do about that … the Internet is not going to solve problems, or do us any favours – unfortunately.

  4. George Von

    Thanks Anne, I hope people can see how the mass media keep then asleep.

  5. June M Bullivant OAM

    For years people who have an opinion could not share that view, the internet has allowed the people who are concerned with community issues to share their problems, in many areas the issues are very worrying and many have been insurmountable. With social media we have been able to join with thousands of people, help them with theirs and them us. Thus local issues now become State one’s and can then move into the National issues, we have lost faith in the print media because unless you have an editors favour you do not get into print, and television little or no hope. But let us loose on social media our problems are shared. You only have to look at issues affecting NSW, at CLOL we have been collecting and sharing our community problems, the CSG and mining problems are huge, all we have got to produce a map with flags on all the issues. There are literally thousands learning to share their problems, this is going to be a huge problem for politicians as more become aware they are not alone.

  6. billy moir

    great piece george wip??? do you consider sunrise, abc breakfast and the other morning shows social or mass? The rabbott controlled the questions the morning shows asked gillard and labor which was hamstrung by simple questions that needed complex answers. qed election even on facebook economic explanations seem beyond labor who leave supporters helpless against those who believe???? Little billy is unable to reciprocate. this morning pyne had a ball with albanese over sue lines for saying the bleeding obvious and again the rabbott drives the question agenda. qantas is complex morning show autocue readers pontificate from the dark for the requisite 10 seconds.

  7. mars08

    June M Bullivant OAM:

    For years people who have an opinion could not share that view, the internet has allowed the people who are concerned with community issues to share their problems…

    And for years fools, bigots and simpletons have been able to spread fear and hate with the click of a mouse button. For years halfwits have been able to tale American Tea party hate mail… change to context slightly… and use it to infect Australian minds.

    Social media is very much a two-edged sword…

  8. Kaye Lee

    In my various stints at university I have many times railed against the requirement to reference my work. I empathised with the graffiti that said “knowledge isn’t private property so stop putting footnotes on your essays.” But I have since learned the importance of investigating the credibility of the source. With the wealth of information available to us via the internet, this requirement has become even more essential.

    People like Lord Monckton are put forward as experts and promoted by self-serving morons like Jo Nova and her overly-sensitive husband David Evans, both of whom have enough scientific background to KNOW what they are spouting is crap but it makes them money. People like Henry Ergas, Maurice Newman, Cardinal Pell and Dick Warburton, who do NOT have a scientific background, lap up the rubbish that is published by people who make money out of being deniers and then feel qualified to advise governments on climate change policy even though their every word shows that they do not have a clue what they are talking about.

    The internet is a tool that can be used for good and evil – Aliquam sit cavendum

  9. stephengb2014

    Agree with this article but also consider the double edge sword affect described by mars08 above
    For me spcial media has opened up a new look at the political minds pf both the Left and Right leaning commentators!
    As for myself I have made some pretty silly gaffs in my comments but knowing that others are the same gives me encouragement to keep reading and putting my two penneth worth into the mix.

  10. stephentardrew

    Social media is a powerful weapon in the hands of those who are intent upon disseminating facts and finding solutions based upon equity and social justice. I have a strong feeling that artificial intelligence is going to change things quite dramatically. A self-referring, self-organizing artificial intelligence based upon a foundation of science and logic, with specific sanctions against harming others, will radically undermine magical mythical thinking, punitive victim blame and unsupportable and unwarranted retribution. The scientific facts are self-evident if one understands logic, causation, the lack of choice over initial conditions and the necessity for communitarian mutual obligation to free the marginalized from injustice and inequality.

    Phase one sentience has some serious flaws built into it through the evolution of an out of control emotional (lymbic system).

    Our voices may be muted however we can set the foundation for a new phase of evolution in which all intelligence is seen as worthwhile. I envisage a cohesive matrix of unfolding potentialities that will inevitably change things for the better. Objectivity and scientific rationality does not kill off subjective space, imagination, magical mythical thinking or our abstract wishes, hopes and desires, however what it can do is put scientific facts into perspective while enhancing the degrees of freedom in subjective space. To a large degree this is already happening with the evolution of universally connected information space. Unfortunately the entrenched conservatism of primal magical mythical thinking, divorced from rational foundations for scientific facts, keeps alive irrationality and unfounded primitive judgment, blame and retribution.

    Evolution is a slow and tedious affair however with the degrees of freedom in information space accelerating exponentially (Ray Kurzweil) we will soon transform many of our biological limitations, including emotional tooth and claw habituation, into new more rational complexes in which we interface objective facts and logical necessity while enhancing subjective imagination and the heart felt need for a feeling of purpose and belonging. Subjective space is the abstract domain of emergent freedom, artistic creativity and evolution of dynamic potentialities. Rather than magical mythical primitivism or scientific nihilism evolution is opening up new pathways of vast potentiality.

    Promotion of rational thinkers, with a deep commitment to justice and equity, is incredibly important and will eventually have a profound impact upon our survival, social infrastructure and philosophical underpinnings. There is a vast matrix of very astute scientific advocates working to change the cultural paradigm and in the end the facts will win out simply because the cost of ignorance is untold suffering and misery for the poor and marginalized.

    Though we seem to be struggling with the almost overwhelming forces of ignorance we can and will make a difference. To some degree we must trust the processes and keep on keeping on setting the foundation for change to occur.

    My experience is of a body of very thoughtful and intelligent people asking the right questions and screaming for social justice and rational change. That is a great place from which to proceed.

  11. Anne Byam

    Mars08 …. I agree completely. Social media is very much a double edged sword.

    And hate mail from the conservative extreme right wing in U.S. politics is not confined to social media either. I get loads of it in my email addresses. It is full of hate.

    Don’t use social media too much any more, except to keep in touch with a few friends.

    And I only rarely look at political comment there too. Used to make comment, but found myself embroiled in confrontation on many occasions. I now very rarely make comment on anything much to do with politics on Facebook.

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    One does not need all to be influence to change opinions. perceptions or government.

  13. Cassmiranda

    Most people do not go seeking out political discussion on social media. It is something that I find important but others are way too occupied by life in general to worry about the source of information. Social media is a great tool for free speech but the majority of the population read the first few pages of the paper supplied at coffee vans etc to find out what to talk about that day. I think the issue is that not enough people are savvy enough to understand that the MSM sets the agenda and unless more people wake up nothing much will change..

  14. I Am God

    I set the agenda, bye the wayeth. Thus spake, why hath lefties not done so? What is thy failing? What is thy weakness? Better still, what is thy strength? What hath thine to offer? What is thine pear and why hast thou not offered it with the seduction of the ophidian?

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