Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action

By Frederick R. Lynch | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND THE MASS MEDIA

The television in the average American home is now on more than seven hours each day. More than 60 percent of Americans indicate that television is their primary source of news. This suggests that both commercial programming and television journalism have enormous power to shape perceptions of reality. As Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian have pointed out, the mass media authenticate the facts and determine which issues are important ( 1987: 191-202).

In determining which issues are important and real, the media determine which topics will be debated and which points of view can be legitimately expressed. The media thus influence the formation and life of "publics," groups crucial to Western capitalist democracies. Publics are groups interested in, but divided about, an issue ( Turner and Killian, 1987). According to Alvin Gouldner ( 1976), the free and rational debate of issues in publics has been a keystone of the dynamic character of capitalist societies. The bane of such freedom, of course, is censorship. Publics thrive only with free discussion and open debate.

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann has emphasized that the mass media provide people with the very words they use in debating an issue: "If the media fail to provide them, then there will be no words. . . . The media provide people with the words and phrases they can use to defend a point of view. If people find no current, frequently repeated expression for their point of view, they lapse into silence" ( 1984: 172-173).

David Altheide has suggested a strong connection between television news and perceptions of everyday reality. Citing data to support this contention, Altheide holds that there is a "relationship between what people see

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