is able to remain intact, and attention is diverted to a new social problem. The power to define the problem therefore is the power to ascribe
blame, the power to divert blame, and the power to define the locus of
social change-the individual or the system ( Salmon, 1989).
In general, the spiral-of-silence model can make some important contributions to our understanding of public opinion phenomena. The
model may overstate the degree of "silencing" that is likely to occur
in many public opinion situations, and it may underestimate the media's role in maintaining the status quo. As is the case for all depictions
of social reality, this one is rooted in a particular worldview, a particular
ideology. But the essence of the model -- that individuals' perceptions
of their environment do have some bearing on their communication
and behavior, and that the mass media play an important role in influencing these perceptions -- is incontestable. Further, the many ways in
which the media portray a consonant ideology -- particularly that of
individualism -- are subtle and veiled. By consistently structuring problems in certain ways and by accepting the inevitability of existing political and social institutions, the media contribute to the delimiting of
human potential by failing to seek and legitimize alternatives for meaningful change. It is up to future generations of researchers to further
elaborate on these ideas, to further our understanding of the intricacies
among media influence, social pressures, and individual freedoms.
Incidents involving Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder and
Al Campanis, the
former a CBS sports commentator and the latter vice-president of the Los An-
geles Dodgers baseball team, provided perhaps the most dramatic examples of
the power that can be exerted on individuals who express opinions that are
racially offensive. Both were fired from their jobs after making statements about
black athletes. Similarly, individuals who smoke cigarettes have been threat-
ened with loss of employment if they continue their habit. Although Noelle-
Neumann has not explored the use of economic sanctions against individuals
whose opinion expression violates social norms, it is an interesting avenue to
pursue because it forces us to take into account different value systems of
different societies. Hence in a culture in which social integration is highly
valued, "fear of isolation" may be the most powerful sanction; in contrast, in
a culture in which money and materialism are highly valued, a financial penalty
may be the most powerful sanction, and hence the most effective for inducing
To her list, we can add the writings of W. Phillips Davison ( 1958), who
described a very similar notion in his description of the public opinion process:
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Public Opinion, the Press, and Public Policy.
Contributors: J. David Kennamer - Editor.
Publisher: Praeger Publishers.
Place of publication: Westport, CT.
Publication year: 1994.
Page number: 159.
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