Sin Min Chew

The essay, Mass Media’s Influence on the Transformation of the Mexican Political Regime, by Gabriela Palavicini argues that the mass media in Mexico has evolved to become a political player and was thus crucial in producing a political regime change. The mass media also wields power in terms of the political developments that it can create and shape. Their current role evolved from and is built upon their original role as a provider of information about politics and its developments to the public. These days, political columnists provide opinions and reviews on the political process and decisions made by the government. This not only informs citizens, but shapes their outlook on the performance of their government and its credibility and legitimacy. A judge of the political practice, the mass media makes power legitimatization one of its primary actions. It can strengthen or weaken the democratic regime. It wields a double-edged sword that can potentially bend the people and politicians to its will.

It was known that communication is necessary to retain political power and crucial to democracy as well. Thus, politicians embraced and employed the use of mass media to reach out to the populace. Results of a questionnaire conducted on the Mexican population to test the theory that news sources can induce political change showed that “people think that television and the press are judges of political behavior because they are able to manipulate information and take sides when they communicate events; they are considered as “partial.” Mexicans see the mass media as a political player, in the sense that they perceive mass media as the link between people and government. To be constantly informed is part of active citizenry. Given access to what is happening with political elites, the people thus have the power to define the political image. Yet others believe that the media can influence people because of their ignorance and “lack of culture” and because the media constitutes the only parameter that society has. People are forced to believe what the media shows and to consider its point of view because the media is closer to politics and politicians than society is. All that they are shown comes from media sources. This opinion reinforces the idea of a relationship between mass media’s influence and the educational level of the people. A highly educated population is not able to be easily influenced when they are aware and critical of the information presented to them.

As mass media was given a greater role in society, it slowly gained influence and currently has greater influence on politics than politicians do, and in various situations, is able to take charge of the unfolding of events. It used to be that the political party legitimized power and the elites’ decisions. Now, mass media has obtained that power, influencing decision-making by deciding when and what information the people receive. The mass media is the first filter and the citizens are the second one. A political candidate with no media coverage has little possibility of being voted into a public position. Media makes politics, influencing people’s behavior, making judgments, and informing in different ways. It is important to govern with the mass media and not without or against it. Influencing citizens’ point of view about different events, the media has the power to lead them to lose confidence in political players, which results in a weaker democratic regime. The media also judges politicians’ actions, critiquing leaders under democratic codes and confusing the judgment with free speech. Government regulation on media space during elections, giving the same opportunities to all political parties by awarding them the same amount of time to present proposals during a political campaign then reinforces the democratic process.

The paper concludes with a new hypothesis that “the more the media becomes objective, timely, and truthful, the more important the place it holds beyond the one it has achieved on the political scene, both in determining collective decisions and in undermining political players.” With the loss of confidence in politicians, elites and political institutions a gap is growing between them and the general population and the mass media is well-poised to occupy that space. With this power, however, comes responsibility, and the media should adopt its responsibility as a communicator to be more objective and communicative, not allowing its interests to prevail over ethics and values. Consolidating the democratic regime in Mexico requires all three players (mass media, government and the people) to reinforce their confidence in each other. Ultimately, the media is not strong enough to achieve the democratization process or to consolidate it. However, it can develop an active citizenship with a strong civil society that should be the one to demand and carry out the strict application of democratic principles and in the medium term, consolidate the regime.

The new power of the media was also witnessed in the three films we watched in class on Venezuela and Chile. In Venezuela, after the legitimate government regained control of the presidential palace, it was crucial that the media stepped in to broadcast this information to the public and re-establish the primacy of the Constitution over Venezuelan politics with the people’s acknowledgment. The power dynamic could be seen as the people who had gathered outside the presidential palace first held the power, but that was later handed over to the presidential guards as they held the key to successfully regaining the presidential palace. The return of the Chavez’s government signified another power transfer and the media briefly held power too as they needed television coverage to consolidate their power. Additionally, the people were first mobilized because they were politically active citizens, aware and kept engaged in Venezuelan politics through Chavez’s active use of mass media, including his radio talk shows. In the film on Chile too, the political war between the Yes and the No faction was played out on television for the public to witness. Aaron Swartz was able to prevent SOPA, an Internet censorship bill, from being passed by launching an online campaign that gained the support of major websites who participated in the SOPA black out. The media holds great influence today and even greater potential to be harnessed for great positive developments in society. It is a tool that needs to be governed by ethics to actually benefit the people.

Mass media can be used to strengthen the democratic culture in everyday life, which is an essential complement to democratic institutions and the creation of true democracy throughout the world. It cannot happen without the participation of the people, who are often passively accepting information presented to them and the world as it is. The media platform allows for ordinary people to respond and engage in developments that occur anywhere in the world, as long as they have an online presence. Just like Aaron Swartz has shown, the ability to write code and program also presents great power to induce change and subvert existing red tape and restrictive bureaucratic systems. The world stands at a time of great change, especially by the most ordinary of people, as long as they are enlightened to their true basic and unalienable rights and understand that we can pursue these rights. I think mass media today is a great revealer of the true strength of the people.

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