May 10, 2007

Media Disconnectors

Mass media is usually viewed as a connecting force but a recent article by Fred Thompson made me rethink the assumption to take the dynamic to a finer granularity. Sometimes media can be a disconnecting force.

Sarkozy’s victory over anti-American political forces was not just decisive; it was far more of a mandate than our own current congress claims. In his first post-election speech, he went out of his way to say, “I want to call out to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship.”

So what’s happening here? Could it be that we’ve mistaken the French media for the French people? Might the same be true of Germany, where pro-American Angela Merkel beat a critic of the U.S. to become that nation’s leader?

I've written before about the very obvious problem I've seen about how many foreign observers mistake the visible US media for the american people instead of the ideological and cultural sectarian, coastal elites that they actually represent but it struck me that the problem may just be that mass media in general is not aligned with the ideas and aspirations of their national and local populations anywhere. Other than the occasional Sarkozy type breaking through their national media's bias on their election eve victory speeches how can ordinary people tell? Almost all information we currently get is filtered through these media, leaving a profound effect on our foreign dealings and even more so in countries where large constituencies actually care about foreign policy (in the US, this constituency usually hovers at or below 1% of the voting public).

Certainly blogs can be a canary in the coal mine, giving faces and voices to alternate viewpoints that don't make it into the international scene much no matter how popular they may actually be among the people. However, individual independent voices raise their own problems of determining how popular the alternative presented is. I love Iraq the Model but have no idea how popular their collective viewpoint actually is in Iraq.

A wikipedia scale effort could probably outline the factions and what they think is important but would not be able to give reliable figures on popularity. Partisanship would be too tempting, inflating "my side" and minimizing "the other guy". Polling could sort out the various faction strengths but it suffers from the defect of being expensive and also tending not to ask the same questions and not the same way, leading to "apples and oranges" comparison and more distortion masquerading as data.

All of that distortion weakens connectivity and collectively threaten to break it. The stress placed on the atlantic relationship between europe and america these days stems in part to media created/enhanced distortions on the political, economic, even cultural realms. Ultimately either the distorting/disconnecting forces are rendered irrelevant by being worked around or you get Great Schism like break which takes a very long time to mend. It's a challenge that's going to have to be met and overcome decisively but we just don't have the tools yet.

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at May 10, 2007 02:38 PM