Why the Mass Media Is Negative in Regards to the Public Sphere

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In Paper #1 of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton calls on the American public to engage in a process of “reflection and choice”. By this, he means that he would like to see Americans foster political reflection in a public sphere. The face-to-face debate clubs and small-scale pamphleteering described by Benjamin Franklin in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is much more effective at promoting political reflection in the public sphere than the current mass media. The small-scale efforts were more effective because they encouraged personal debates. The mass media on the other hand, can tend to digress from the important issues and not delve enough into the political spectrum. The debate clubs and pamphleteering that Benjamin Franklin described were effective due to the fact that they made an influence on everyone involved. The debate clubs were made to spark intense person to person debates. These discussions weren’t made for the sake of winning, but for the sake of compromise. Instead of arguing to a point, a consensus was made. Due to this personal involvement, anyone involved had the opportunity to make a political impact. One downside of these clubs was that the rich, educated, minority had most of the power to make a political impact. The difference, though, is that when improvements were made to the educational system, a wider debate forum may have possibly been accomplished; On the contrary, mass media somewhat informs the public, but the rich still have most of the political power, with no opportunity for change through this system. The mass media can digress from the more important political stories due to the fact that it is as much an entertainment venue as an informational venue. Due to the fact that mass media is in the business for profit, the stories they put out are sensational. Articles and headlines are usually presented as conflicts, and with flashy titles containing some sort of wordplay, such as “Terror on the Tarmac” , the current...
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