Introduction Today,in the digital age, voters interact with unprecedented quantities ofpoliticized information on a daily basis. Staying informed and up to date oncurrent events is a necessary yet arduous commitment for citizens participatingin democratic processes. as they prepare to fulfill their most important civicduty, they face informational challenges. This study seeks to address thoseinformational challenges by shedding light on why political content isstructured the way it is, in the world today. This study theorizes that thelack of self-reflection among partisan groups and their failure to acknowledgetheir own susceptibility to partisan bias, has gravely damaged the trust andconfidence the public once had in receiving political information frommainstream media sources.
By evaluating the propagandistictechniques corporate media organizations employ when presenting politicalinformation to consumers, this analysis serves to prove that bias isinescapable because “partisanship is at the center . . . of democraticsocieties.”1Despite the inescapability of bias, when voters expose themselves to a widerange of biased content from across the political spectrum, they aresubconsciously training themselves to identify different levels of politicalbias, thus allowing them to better gauge the intensity of each newsorganizations’ partisan spin.
As a general assumption, voters who frequentlynavigate through a sea of conservative and liberal biases, are less likely tobe swayed by propagandistic techniques. Hypothesis Mainstreammedia organizations, in today’s polarized political landscape, have becomefinancially dependant on bias. The steadfast commitment to partisan bias,inherent in most published political content, has become an essential elementto news media organizations’ monetization. Selectively catering to a particulartype of target audience demographic has resulted in viewerships consisting ofnarrow political beliefs.
By catering to viewers expectations of routinepolitical messaging and providing them with selective content of which theywill likely find agreeable, media organizations are backing themselves into acorner wherein they will be unable to deviate from the norms that they haveestablished amongst their audiences. Consequently, any news outlet thatsubstantially deviates from the ordinary boardcase of politically biasedcontent would affect the makeup of viewership demographics and therefore spuruncertainty in advertising revenue forecasts. From the corporate perspective,consistent political ideology among viewers translates to financial stabilityfor media organizations whose main source of revenue is derived fromadvertisers who broadcast information regarding their products and services toa targeted consumer. Theoretically, any significant change in bias will lead toa subsequent change in viewership demographics and therefore a shift inadvertising and sponsorship revenue.
By binding themselves to biasednarratives, mainstream news outlets have become the tip of the informationalspear, leading the charge on behalf of their respective base. Corporate newsmedia’s financial dependency on advertising and sponsorship revenues, coupledwith bipartisan obstructionism, is unsustainable because it further polarizedthe American political landscape while the political informational crisisfesters. Thisstudy incorporates social media data from mainstream and independent news mediaoutlets whose core viewership ranges from liberal, to moderate and conservativedemographics. The analysis of the compiled social media data will show thatpropagandistic tactics are used to increase audience engagement for the likelypurpose of maximizing monetization. As you evaluate the data and consider thepsychological impact that language bears on listeners and readers, you may cometo the conclusion that news organizations with partisan bias politicize aparticular subject matter in an efforts appeal to their audience’s respectiveconservative or liberal ideologies ultimately to preserve their relationshipswith advertisers and sponsors.PredictionsConsidering that C-SPAN(Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) is a private non-profit company whoserevenues are not derived from advertising,2 mostwould agree that the network has been able to provide political news reportingwith minimal bias.
As a consequence, the absence of biased reporting in C-SPANnews coverage, likely explains why their audiences are not motivated to engagewith their content. In contrast, FOX and CNN are much more likely to permitsignificant amounts of biased content in their reporting due to economicincentives which drive them to achieve high user engagement among theirviewers, to generate revenue which can be attributed to their “for-profit”business model. Similar to mainstream mediaorganizations, independent news outlets such as Breitbart and The Intercept arelikely to disseminate content that is overwhelmingly biased.
This is probablydue to the fact that most independent media organizations are unable tobroadcast their content at mass scale via cable television programming. Intheory, without substantially biased content, outlets like Breitbart and TheIntercept are not as likely reach new audiences and grow their viewership,given that audiences tend to only engage with content that they are emotionallyinvested in. Therefore, independent and mainstream news outlets typically mustengage in partisan-biased reporting because without a consistent viewership demographica news organization would be powerless in sustaining financial viability. Leveraging Information for Power”Power involves the ability of anactor to produce outcomes consonant with his perceived interests. . . . Insofar as knowledge is power, communication systems are power systems.
“3To supplement the notion that the media’s control of knowledge is a control ofoutcomes, Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) argue that informal leaders of the massmedia act as gatekeepers, controlling information through interpersonalinfluence.4Social media platforms such as, Twitter, a microblogging service, allow formaland informal leaders to engage with other users on a mass scale, yet at aninterpersonal level. Selective Information and the Illusion of ControlAccording to a study conducted byPew Research Center, 79% of U.S. adults feel that having a lot of informationgives them feelings of control over things in their life.
5 In1986, University of Santa Clara psychology professor, Jerry Burger, published astudy in the Journal of Research inPersonality analyzing the effects of familiarity and sequence of outcomesand how they relate to man’s desire to control.6Burger conducted two tests that yielded similar results: (1) subjects playingcard games are much more likely to place large bets when dealt familiar hands,and (2) subjects who experience success in anticipating the outcome of acoin-toss at the beginning of a sequence are much more likely to believe theyare going to win the next coin-toss. In summary, subjects from bothcontrol groups who interacted with familiar information or familiar structureand sequencing of said information, were more susceptible to the illusion ofcontrol. This effect can be attributed to man’s natural psychological reflex wheredesired results are expected to manifest in correspondence with pastexperiences. Applying Burger’s conclusions about the innate desire humans havefor controlling outcomes, it can be inferred that democratic participants whowish to feel in control, will seek out familiarity regarding the content andstructure of political information which coalesces with their preexistingbeliefs. 1 Groenendyk,Eric W., Competing Motives in the Partisan Mind: How Loyalty and ResponsivenessShape Party Identification and Democracy. New York, Oxford University Press(2013).
pp. 224. http://ourpoliticalnature.com/PoliticalScienceQuarterly.pdf2 FAQs, “Howis C-SPAN funded?” https://www.c-span.
org/about/faq/3 Pettigrew,Andrew M. “Information Control as a PowerSource” Sociology, vol. 6, no. 2, 1972, pp.
188. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42852925.
4 Id. pp. 1875 Horrigan,John B., “Information Overload” PewResearch Center (2016). http://www.
pewinternet.org/2016/12/07/information-overload/6 Burger,Jerry M., “Desire for Control and the Illusion of Control: The Effects ofFamiliarity and Sequence of Outcomes” Journalof Research in Personality. Vol.
20, Issue 1, (1986). pp. 66. https://doi.org/10.1016/0092-6566(86)90110-8