PoliSci1020E December 6, 2011
Political Culture, Political Socialization, and the News Media
Communication and Symbols
The Propaganda Model
Are we being informed?
Political Culture Defined
Political culture refers to the thoughts, attitudes, assumptions, and values of individuals
and groups. It is a mindset that makes clear what is acceptable and unacceptable in
terms of how we deal with society‟s problems. We are not born with these mindsets – we
learn them. Thus political socialization is very important. It is the process through
which people acquire these thoughts, values, and assumptions fo their political culture.
This is often done through the media.
Our thoughts and feelings are told to others through communications – through
symbols. A symbol is anything that communicates the thoughts and feelings that are in
our minds. Sometimes they refer to things that we actually see. Sometimes they express
emotions (e.g. poverty is wrong and must end – you see it, but an emotional response is
also triggered). Other times, thoughts and feelings can blend together. Symbols include
photographs, painted pictures, spoken words, and written words. While symbols express
thoughts and feelings, they also generate thoughts and feelings in the viewer.
Symbols are mediums (“middle”). It is something that stands between you and
something else (can be physical or non-physical). It is through the medium that
thoughts and feelings are communicated – “media” derives from the word “medium.”
Thus media is something that transmits thoughts and feelings.
Mediums are not neutral. They shape certain understandings. A person speaking, for
example, can be talked about in terms of as a medium. How you say something or what
you say can shape the understandings of the person(s) you‟re speaking to.
News – any story or issue that has legitimate social consequences.
Media in political culture opens up the question whether or not media can be objective.
Objectivity – the ability to study the facts without adhering to previously forms opinions
and judgements. To be objective is to give both sides of the story.
What might prevent objectivity from happening? Many believe it is an impossible ideal.
o It is impossible to separate opinions in re-telling a story.
The Propaganda Model
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman.
Propaganda – Communication practices that mislead people, and get them to do
things that they wouldn‟t do if they were adequately informed. This is done to benefit
the interests of those voicing the misleading message. Even in a free society, we see propaganada all the time, put forward by the news media.
It is propelled by those who own the media and those have the power to shape what the
media says (the state).
There is no formal agreement on what will be reported.
Instead, they say that all news passes through 5 filters. We only see and read what gets
through the filters. Filters:
In modern democracies, newspapers, radio, and television stations can be
owned publicly (CBC) or privately. Public ones are funded through
Canadian tax dollars (2011 – $1.1 billion for CBC). They are not told what
to say by the government.
Privately owned networks (CTV, Global, National Post). They are owned
by large companies and corporations. Their job is to report the news, but
they are more concerned with bringing in viewers – to make profit.
How has ownership affected the Canadian news world?
By his own admission, he was in the business to make money –
not to serve the public good.
He owns dozens of newspapers across the country.
He re-created the National Post, and wanted to create a paper for
classical and liberal conserves.
He hired editors (assign stories to journalists) that held his
opinions (of how to run the state and re-shape society). Those that
didn‟t share his opinions often quit.