Political Communication in a New Era: A Cross-National Perspective

Political Communication in a New Era: A Cross-National Perspective

Political Communication in a New Era: A Cross-National Perspective

Political Communication in a New Era: A Cross-National Perspective

Synopsis

This book seeks to provide readers with a cross-national perspective concerning the art of political communication. Contributors offer perspectives from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and the United States.

Excerpt

Philippe J. Maarek and Gadi Wolfsfeld

Someone once said that social scientists should confine themselves to making predictions about the past. Even then, many would argue, they are just as likely to get it wrong as right. Attempting to make such predications in the field of communication represents one of the most perilous challenges. It is humbling to recall for example that videophones were invented in the 1960s. It was assumed that these marvelous inventions would quickly become as commonplace as radios and televisions. It turned out, however, that most people do not really want to be seen when they talk on the telephone. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The problem becomes even more acute when we consider the interface between communication and the world of politics. Communication is and always has been a central component in political processes whether it is leaders communicating with the public, candidates competing for votes, combatants struggling for international attention and sympathy, or citizens debating public issues. Changes in communication technology inevitably have a significant influence in all of these areas. Our ability to predict the direction, intensity, and form of that influence, however, is rather limited. Like many financial investors, by the time we understand where the trend is going, it has already begun to change.

Consider for example the proliferation of the Internet, clearly one of the most important technological developments of the last decades. At first sight, the Internet represents a revolution for democracy. Citizens and groups have greater access to political information than ever before, and there has also been an exponential rise in the ability to distribute information, views, images, and sounds around the world. Everyone with a computer can become a mass medium. It would seem clear that this would lead to a certain redistribution of political power as the public becomes less dependent on either leaders or the mainstream media.

There are, however, equally good reasons to believe that the Net may push societies in a very different direction. As with any technology, those with resources are in a much better position to exploit the Internet than those without. Thus, governments and wealthy corporations are able to

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