The media has always been and will always be a powerful agent of change. It’s not in the medium or words, but it’s the spreading of ideas that’s powerful. The movie Inception explored the notion that planting idea into someone else’s mind could make them do just about anything. That’s why so many books were burned throughout history. It isn’t the pages that are dangerous but the possibility that someone could be inspired to action by the words the pages contain.
Many governments censor the media. In the article Revolution in a Box, Charles Kenny notes that in a 97 country survey, about 60% of the top five TV stations are state owned. The appeal with censorship is that if you control the message you control the people. In North Korea all media is controlled by the government. My friend Jill is from China and she shared a story with me about a time when the government temporarily shut off the internet. Governments want to monitor and control media to stop what is called cultural imperialism. This is a concept that a dominate culture is introduced to an area and consequently disrupts the long standing culture and norms of the existing culture.
Governments use censorship so that it can establish some sort of social order and organization. Many times we think of the government as “picking on the little guys.” But, to the government, those little guys are a threat to the general population’s well-being. For example, we think of the Founding Fathers as revolutionary heroes, these were men who stood up to England’s tyranny and prevailed. Benjamin Franklin used his newspaper to spread news about injustice throughout the colonies. But to King George, these were a bunch of rebels that didn’t want to pay taxes, swear loyalty or contribute to England’s prosperity so that the whole country could flourish.
The media is something that cannot be ignored. Many politicians have used the old adage “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” and have created pseudo-events (events staged for media, ex. ribbon cutting ceremony) to bolster their image. Most government employees treat reporters well in hopes of getting favorable coverage. Often times the pressure to look good for the camera, sound good for a bite on the radio, or be quotable has produced a façade of what is really going on in our world.
Many new media outlets are trying to shatter this façade and bring real change.