martes, 11 de abril de 2006

Media and Public Agenda

Daniel Franco

Government 2301-2460

Dr. Eileen Lynch

April 2006

16. Media and Public Agenda

What is the relationship between political information and democracy? Is control of information a mechanism for maintaining political power?

One of the primary concepts that I learned when I studied basic computer programming principles in a college class was that one must distinguish between data and information. Data, we were told to memorize, was the collection of straight forward facts that even in these collected format could not convey a message. In contrast, information was the coherent grouping of data with a purposeful intention and specific focus, which main concern was the usage of its data to support the message one wanted to convey. With this concept in mind, I approach the questions for this exercise with a predetermined notion.

The free access to political information is paramount to the well-being of a democracy. This has been made apparent throughout history in the examples provided by the demise of many other forms of government when their choke hold on political information slipped their grubby grasp and the subjects of said forms of government found themselves in possession of information that their erstwhile government wanted kept away from their prying eyes. Dictatorships and monarchies alike suffered their timely demise every single occasion when political information was out in the open. Sometimes it was information that painted a grim picture of economics or of military weakness. But history has also shown us that the availability of the same political information has been one of the main strengths of democracy, because when people are kept well informed and in possession of facts (data) they have been able to better choose the representatives they need in order to better serve the needs of their own society. In our representative democracy steps have been taken to virtually guarantee that the flow of information remains open with the establishment of the Bill of Rights that has as its first item Freedom of Speech, and the recent Freedom of Information Act that allows private citizens to gather data and compile their own information concerning the elected representatives and other functionaries of government.

In the video lesson we are shown several ways in which this flow of information can be staunched in order to gain a degree of political dominance by a cadre willing to maintain its political power. We are treated to the historical notion that many of the main political players even from the beginning years of the free United States have had a controlling interest in the communication media of their days. The inherent conflict of interest between owning a newspaper and running for public office is expertly explored in the movie “Citizen Kane” (arguably the best movie ever made), and also played out in the melodramatic real-life situation of Hearst. Even now days one can witness the difficulties news media has in keeping controlling interests out of the editing room. Financial pressures are brought to bear in many levels of the news broadcasting media, and independent outlets are being edged out of circulation more and more as economic pressures are applied against them.

Out of the blue and like a thunder strike from jolly Thor, the Internet brings a new level of contention against the willing or coerced lapdogs of controlling interests by allowing every person willing to learn the facts first hand to research his own facts and create his own political information, finally allowing the private citizen to become the watchdog for political information freedom and the well-being of democracy. I believe we are heading for a new era of political party development in Texas, where controlling interest have long been able to quell the “boat-rockers” and maybe in the near future we will see a multi-faction, if not a multi-party, new democracy shape itself in Texas in response to the pressure applied by better informed citizens.

Sources:

Texas Politics, 9th Edition, Richard H. Kraemer, Charldean Newell, David F. Prindle, Thomson Wadsword, © 2005

United States and Texas government I. Programs 1-26 [video recording], Presented by Dallas TeleLearning DCCCD, © 2005

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