Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Television and Politics

The latter half of the 20th century imposed the acquisition of a new skill set on United States politicians: personability. Power now means being able to engage viewers around through visual media -- appearance and public speaking to the masses became a crucial necessity to a successful campaign. As politicians entered living rooms, the essence of power as simply the ability to write well and be the brains behind policy and leadership has faded into the distance. This change has brought enthusiastic and energetic young politicians in the limelight: "as Michael Robins observed: "the changes in the media have given younger members and maverick members more political visibility -- and hence greater power -- than ever before" (38). Smith writes: "Quite clearly, television has offered a fast track to those with political sex appeal and a knack for personality politics" (37). Politicians must be actors. And as we have seen, some actors are destined for politics: Ronald Regan, Arnold Schwarzenager, Al Franken, Clint Eastwood, among others.

Now, everyone wants air time. Comedians, talk show hosts, politicians, and many many more people can now speak their mind on television to the masses of the United States. The array of channels and choices a modern viewer of US politics has also comes with biased opinions and most often slanted news. News channels are commonly known to sway stories in order to favor political parties and news is seldom straight facts anymore. Reading published, written media through newspapers declined as television shows with political information climbed -- at its peak in 2002, 82% of Americans got their news from television.

Now, the internet is the new television. With politicians using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other forms of newsfeeds, no one, political figure or average Joe, can be blocked from posting their beliefs and opinions for the world to see. Is the political world prepared to see, respond to, agree with, and combat the millions of Americans exercising their right of Free Speech?

picture: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2011/01/11/more-americans-get-their-news-from-the-internet

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