Are we Influenced or Do we Influence?
The question posed by an article posed for the class is whether or not American values are shaped by the mass media? We are given two points of view to critically compare and then to reflect upon here.
Herbert I. Schiller states in The Mind Managers “that mass media institutions are key elements of the modern capitalistic world order”. Schiller goes on to say that, “it is up to the citizenry to understand the myths that act to sustain this existing state of power relationships.” So in short Schiller believes that mass media has become popular due to their appeal to citizens and in turn citizens place them a power seat in which they can direct those items which create culture.
Alternatively, James W. Carey states in Communication as Culture” Essays on Media and Society that “communication is not simply a process of sending a message as the transmission model would suggest”. This intern describes the fact that in order for ritual and cultural ideas to be formed it is not by one party sending but a dialog of another receiving and sending back to create these cultural ideas.
While both made compelling arguments I am constantly caught in the dueling philosophies. My immediate reaction to the question is that obviously the corporations create our culture as we are constantly inundated by advertisements, articles, and shows that portray the American society we should strive to become. On the other hand my want is that if there are these giant conglomerates and entities who are pulling the strings over the very fabric of who we want to become and who we think we want to be. Then it begs the question why are we not all the same?
It is here where I find my answer. We are not all the same and why is that? If we were all raised to be like GI Joe or Barbie then how come we are not? We would have all watched and been exposed to the same mass media for our generation. It is because those of us who are fortunate enough to have families reinforce the traditions and customs of those who came before us. Yes mass media does influence buying trends and societal values but only on a surface level. We were taught first by our family and not by media of what is important in life and what we should hold dear. It is this point that is important to remember because if we fail to pass on the traditions and values to the next generation then the only values they have to rely on is those presented by mass media.
Herbert I. Schiller, from The Mind Managers (Beacon Press, 1973)
James W. Carey, fuom Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (Unwin Hyman, 1989)