TheInternet and Political Space
Thediscovery of the internet is hailed as the biggest invention done inthe modern age dominated by technology. The use of technology has nowbeen globalized through the internet, especially in regard to media.While the internet is a great medium in the world, there are believesthat the use of the technological media could be worse for thecountry. Some media analysts and opinion leaders have reservations onthe use of the internet by the political class and the government topropagate. While some believe that the internet will make governanceand politics better, there is a significant concern for the abuse ofthe same. This discussion will discuss the functions of the internetand prove that they are potential for both good and bad use.
Oneof the main functions of the internet and the tools of the new mediais communication in the world. Part of the communication functionthat makes the internet a potential tool for political use of theability to broadcast information to the masses. Hermanand Chomsky (1), argue that the mass media serve the purpose ofcommunicating to the general population, in terms of messages andsymbols. Inthe current day, this is the main advantage of the new media that haspotential to be used to promote certain interests of the politicalclass and shape the opinion of the society (Sunstein4).This is because the internet provides a significant channel forpassing information from one person in the whole world, more than anyother media available.
Theimpact of the use of the internet to control the masses through masscommunication is based on the people who control it. According toHermanand Chomsky (1988), the control of the new media is what is moresignificant in influencing its use. When it comes to control, thepeople who have the power in the society are more likely to controlthe use of the new media. The internet is an example of the new mediathat is being used by the people in control to influence the massesthrough mass communication from those in power. According to Hermanand Chomsky (1),the internet contributes to the awareness of the current affairs andthe political arguments. Horrigan,Garrett and Resnick(1)further argue that this contribution to the political awareness ishigh and is increasing with time.
Accordingto the research by ThePewResearch Center, over 40% of Americans that use internet, receivedpolitical content online in 2004 (Horriganet al 1).The same research reports that the number had increased by 50% fromthe number that received political content in political campaigns in2000 (Horriganet al 1).In the current day, more and more people are receiving politicalcontent on through the internet. The internet serves as a channel formass dissemination of information, ideas and opinion, just like thenew media channels (Sunstein4).This shows the potential of the internet to not only pass politicalinformation, but to be used to disseminate content directed toinfluence the masses politically. The threat is that the extent ofinfluence is growing as the online community grows, and politicianscontinuously seek to control the opinion of the people.
Theuse of growth of the internet provides an alternative option of a newmass medium that can be used without following the regulations of theprevious conventional media. While conventional media like theTelevision, Radio and print media uses certain regulations that barthe extent of abuse by the political class, the internet is lessrestrictive. The risk is that consumers of information take any newswithout questioning the authenticity of the source, especially whenit involves an opinion or propaganda (Lyengarand Morin 1).Because of the less restrictive measures, political class andgovernance tend to prefer the use of the internet as the vehicle toinfluence the opinion of the people. Therefore, the media can be usedfor the bad reasons and for the wrong intents.
Lyengarand Morin (1)argue that there is little evidence to show that people evaluate thepolitical content that they consume or deciding the sources that theyget news from. As a result of this weakness, the new media tend to bemore trusted than other conventional media, because of theeffectiveness and efficiency of passing information to the masses.This makes the news media is positioned to influence the democraciesand governance structures in the world and from the societal setups.At the same time, the new media can be used to present both the rightcontent and the bad content. The use of the internet is limitlessbecause of the potential that the new media has to be applied inevery aspect of the modern life.
Thepotential of the internet to be used in political debate, influencegovernance and shape political opinion is influenced by its growth.The internet is growing by the day because of the number of peoplewho are joining the online community daily. According to Herman andChomsky (1), the use of the internet has grown prominently among thepublic, commentators and the opinion leaders. This use exposes peopleto the information about what is happening in the political setup ofa country. The awareness is not much welcomed by those in powerbecause they feel that their dominance is threatened by the increasedknowledge by the public. As a result, they seek more control over theinformation shared on the internet by participating in passing whatthey want the people to know other than the right information.
Thepotential of using the internet to spread propaganda is thereforecaused by the desire of those in control to spread the informationthey want. The greatest function of the internet is to passinformation to the masses, but this functionality is used by thepolitical class to pass propaganda. The use of propaganda in the newmedia is based on the quest to model a state of inequality and focuson the wealth and power to affect the interests and choices of thenew media (Hermanand Chomsky).This is the way through which those in power influences the internetand internet users to not only receive propaganda information, butalso spread it. According to Taking advantage of the application ofthe ease of access and communication in the internet is the maindrive that influenced propagandists to use it for their individualpurposes.
Thefunction of the internet to pass information is strongly significantbecause of its characteristic feature of anonymity. The internet cantherefore be used by anonymous or unverified characters to not onlyspread unverified information, but also shape the wrong opinion. Theapplication of the internet as a unified global mass media allowspeople to post information online without proper verification oftheir identity or interests. This means that any person can spreadinformation for any reason, and with diverse intentions. Theanonymity function is abused if the information passed is notsanctioned for correctness or for unwarranted implications.
Thefast spread of information on the internet offers a great potentialfor promotion of a good cause and spreading good opinion. However,the function gives a perfect tool for the spread of politicalinformation that may benefit those who are in power. For instance, ifthe internet was strongly instrumental in passing information aboutgovernment policies, the Bush administration could have used it forspreading antiterrorist ideas. According to BarstowandStein(1),the Bush administration had tried to influence the public opinion tosupport the government through TV. Sotang(1) further explains the challenges of understanding the concept thatAmerica is at war, against a unique opponent in the face ofterrorism. Proper use of the internet could have made the campaignbetter because one of the main potential functions of the internet isto hold information and disseminate it over time.
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