Influence of Media on the Ideas of People

Topics: Mass media, Marshall McLuhan, Media studies Pages: 5 (1779 words) Published: February 5, 2011
An essay on the influence of mass media on the ideas of people The mass media including television, radio and newspapers have a massive influence in shaping the minds of people. Let us pause for a moment and examine the statement made. The statement written above claims that the minds of people have been shaped and moulded by the media used to communicate information to the masses – not as much by the message being communicated. In essence, this means that these channels of mass communication either magnify the influence of the message being communicated or bear within themselves the power to influence the ideation and decision-making abilities of people. To put it in everyday language, the mass media has the power to take an average bedtime story and drive millions to the point of suicide. When understood in this sense, I am in complete agreement with this concept. This is not a concept merely based on ignorant assumptions, but is an idea that history itself has borne witness to. Travel with me back in time, seventy two years ago in the first week of November, when Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on The Air performed a radio broadcast version of H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds. The broadcast, enlivened with simulated but realistic-sounding journalistic reporting, told the story of a Martian invasion that was presented as actually underway in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. An absence of commercial interruptions convinced some of the listeners that the drama was in fact a nonfictional account, and ensued in reports of panic – the New York Times front page headline read “Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact”. Scholars claimed that as many as 1.7 million listeners (the portion of the six million estimated to have heard the broadcast) “believed it to be true,” of whom 1.2 million were said to be “genuinely frightened, some even considering suicide.” Surely, this instance demonstrates the ability of the mass media to toggle with the brains of its audience. For those who believe that this is an exceptional case, think again. We are living in a day and age wherein mass media has such a power to influence that even a simple forwarded SMS stating that the following day is likely to be a holiday can get a person thinking - not as much due to the power of the message, but due to the power of the media through which it is getting disseminated. Whether we like to admit it or not, messages in the mass media have a subliminal ‘Trust Me’ tag, that all of us have the tendency to buy into. The mass media toys with a theory that is overly simplistic – “if so many people believe something is what it claims to be; then it ought to be true”. So the job of the mass media is simplified into portraying things as though agreed upon by the general populace. A similar principle works with celebrity endorsements, wherein the mass media uses a well-known person to influence people. The mass media survives on such credibility. The television channel ‘Colours’ recently shot to the top of the TRP chart in India after Amitabh Bachchan appeared on the famous Big Boss show. Nike signed Tiger Woods in 1996, and saw a $50 million revenue growth in that year merely in the sale of Nike golf balls. This brings us to another interesting thought. We have quite unwittingly attributed to the mass media the right to define certain key aspects. The mass media has been given the power to define ‘beauty’ as a slim n fit woman or ‘cool’ as a trigger-happy teenager with an impetuous attitude. Simply take a glance at the way we dress right now, it was probably something we picked up at the movies, on a television serial on the internet or magazines. The influence of mass media shapes our concepts of who we are, what is important to us, and how we live our life. We cannot escape the reality; media is present in our everyday life in the form of internet, newspaper, magazines and television. We could well discuss the long list of negative impacts the media has...
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