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READING: CHAPTER 9 Public Media and US Foreign Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "READING: CHAPTER 9 Public Media and US Foreign Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 READING: CHAPTER 9 Public Media and US Foreign Policy

2 Guiding Questions How do we define media and public opinion as it relates to foreign policy? Should US political leaders listen to the public? What frameworks exist to examine media effects on foreign policy? What are their strengths? Weaknesses?

3 Foreign Policy and Public Opinion Robinson 2008 Media: refers to the mainstream media (network TV, cable news, newspapers, etc.) Typically claim to be objective Supposed to perform a watchdog role and provide information necessary for intelligent debate Free market model: US media not controlled by government Public opinion: aggregation of individual beliefs within the body politic Isolationists vs. internationalists American foreign policy decisions in the post 9/11 era conducted in the spotlight of US and global media. Raises questions about the extent to which public opinion (both domestic and international) shapes US foreign policy Debates over the role of public opinion in foreign policy are shaped by two theoretical models Pluralist vs. elite models Both have different views of the ability of public opinion to bolster or constrain foreign policy

4 Should The Government Listen to the Public? Ray 2008 No: The public neither knows about nor understands foreign policy issues. The public bases opinions on incorrect assumptions. The opinion of the public is shaped by a number of biased individuals through the media. Surveys show that the public generally believe things that are simply not true Robinson 2008 Typically associated with realism Ray 2008 Yes: While it is true that individuals often hold incorrect views, in aggregate, the public tends to act rationally. Individuals take cues from several, not just one, source and form opinions from those cues. In general, the public, while uninformed about specific facts, generally holds a correct collective opinion. Robinson 2008 Typically associated with liberal institutional or critical theories

5 The Pluralist Model Robinson 2008 Assumes that: 1) Power is dispersed throughout society No single interest can dominate 2) US public is capable of rationally assessing information Can form their own opinion 3) Mainstream media sufficiently independent from government 4) US political system is sensitive to changes in public opinion

6 Types of Effects Robinson 2008 Direct (policymakers directly affected by the media) vs. indirect effects (media affects citizens which in turn influences policymakers) exist Four categories 1) CNN Effect: 24 hour news cycle shapes decision to adopt a specific policy May be exaggerated 2) Accelerant effect: media attention speeds up policymaking process Same decision reached, just reached more quickly 3) Enabling effect: media attention builds support for a policy Public reporting of 9/11 and Bush policy on terror 4) Impediment effect: fear of negative coverage kills some policy options Vietnam Syndrome Many factors shape policy making (including public opinion and media attention) Influence of media is subtle and focuses primarily on procedural rather than substantive grounds Influence not as obvious as typically claimed

7 Criticisms of the Pluralist Model Robinson 2008 Four main criticisms are levied against the pluralist model: 1) Overestimates individual agency while underestimating institutional influence Journalists have free speech (thought to influence debate) but are embedded within an institutional context which may limit this freedom (e.g., media as business, etc.) 2) Overestimates citizen intellect and underestimates US responsiveness Focus on procedural vs. substantive issues 3) Advocates focus on rare events which prove the model rather than the reality Watergate, etc. 4) Ignores the fact that journalists receive information from the government and the government spins information

8 The Elite Model Robinson 2008 Posits that relatively small groups within the US hold an inordinate amount of power Power is not dispersed as pluralist models indicate Foreign policy experts, business, think tanks, etc. dominate the foreign policy debate Foreign policy debates are framed in ways which benefit elite interests Media is a tool for elite interests Agenda setting, priming, framing The media is tied into these elite interests through political and economic incentives Policymaking process is immune from non-elite influence Size of the attentive public is limited; those outside cannot hold a valid opinion (Almond 1950) Example: Hussein and Bin Laden ties to 9/11

9 Framing and Foreign Policy Media accounts are framed in ways which are compatible with elite interests But elite interests are not always monolithic Even disagreement is managed Hallin 1986 Elite agreement occurs within a sphere of consensus Elite disagreement occurs within a sphere of legitimate controversy Views outside this latter category exist within a sphere of deviance Media only reports from the first two spheres Bennett 1990 Indexing ensures media portrayals fit elite framework Herman and Chomsky 1988 Even critical accounts occur within bounds set by elites

10 Criticisms of Elite Models Robinson 2008 Five criticisms often levied against elite models 1) Overemphasize political and economic constraints on journalists and the public Both are capable of forming opinions outside elite consensus 2) Individuals can resist dominant frames 3) Exaggerates the level of elite consensus Government and business do not always see eye to eye 4) Exaggerates the monolithic nature of the media 5) Ignores opportunities for non-elites to take advantage of media opportunities to criticize foreign policy

11 Conclusions: Media and Soft Power? Robinson 2008 Focusing solely on domestic effects ignores the fact that the US government attempts to shape not only American but also international public opinion Hard power vs. soft power Soft power provides opportunities for the US to shape citizens of other countries who, in turn, shape the beliefs of their leaders New technological and international media sources can impact attempts at international public diplomacy Examples of technology/social media: Twitter, Facebook, digital cameras, etc. Examples of new media sources: Al Jazeera Imagery can be sent internationally both quickly and inexpensively Forces the US government to respond in different ways Domestic news sources may be able to shape US opinion about foreign policy, but international sources may undermine the ability of American administrations to shape international public opinion

12 Next Unit Theme: US Foreign Policy and 9/11 Cox and Stokes CH 18 and 20 Bush: Obama: Lake (Rational Extremism): Pape (Suicide Terrorism): Optional Background: Carter CH 1

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