Essay on Media in Politics

Discussing one of the plotlines of the “Uncounted: the New Math of American Elections”, we can state that the most common methodology of influencing voters used for the hidden impact on the consciousness and subconscious of people is a group of techniques based on cognitive laziness of man. Social psychologists have repeatedly recorded in their researches that people are cognitive lazybones (Gerbner, 2002, p. 139-140), i.e., they usually prefer to take ready-made formulas and judgments than to think independently and spend their mental energy on a comprehensive understanding of the information.

Every person has the ability to think; one can approach critically any information, and seek for additional arguments. However, this property is not always skillfully managed (Cheminant and Parrish, 2010). The passivity and unwillingness to rationally evaluate information make man an easy prey for manipulators. In addition, public perception and evaluation are very important for each person; and everyone is committed to maintaining the integrity of one’s self-image. For such a case a manipulator uses a trick that allows him to play on this weakness of people: e.g., “How can an honest man stand aside when everyone rises to fight against …” – followed by an indication of the specific evil that a decent man simply cannot help fighting against (e.g., this method was applied by Democrats in 2006, by announcing mistakes in US policy in Iraq and 2004 elections frauds). It is difficult to resist such an appeal to someone who would like everyone around consider oneself an honest man.

Objects of political manipulation are usually people who do not have strong political views, do not have a penchant for critical thinking, and rational explanation of facts (Cheminant and Parrish, 2010, p. 56). Their categorization of political objects is usually based on emotionally perceived characteristics, and the very categorization is made on a “like-dislike” and “good-bad” principles. The bigger the number of such people in society is, the higher the proportion of manipulative technologies is in the motivation management in political campaigns.

Emotions in the election campaign act as an intermediary between the information effect on the voter and one’s behavior on the election day. In our view, the emotions of voters in the election campaign of 2004 and 2006, as well as in other cases, have the following functions (based on Cheminant and Parrish, 2010; and Gerbner, 2002):

  1. Reflect and evaluate the importance of politicians and political parties in general for one’s own life.
  2. Help figure out which personal goals of voters can be reached and which tasks can be solved with the help of certain qualities and characteristics of the politician.
  3. Provide selection of the information that is important in the life of the voters.
  4. Provide the active behavior of voters.
  5. Form a pattern of behavior on election day according to the importance of the results of election for one’s future life.

Person’s memory fixes the emotional tones of different influences, which are then incorporated into the mechanisms of perception and representation (Cheminant and Parrish, 2010, p.75-77). This implies that at the beginning of the campaign the first perception of a politician and the emotional tone of this perception are especially important for us. The emotional tone of the first exposure will “color” all the information that comes to the voters throughout the election campaign. It turns out that the more positive emotions occur at the first meeting of the voters and the politician, the more positively the further information about him/her will be perceived, and vice versa (which, in fact was the effect practiced on mistreating Gorge Bush and criticizing his policy before 2006 elections and further addressing towards Clinton’s approaches).

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