Module 2 Week 2 Reading Response Post

May 23, 2015

Propaganda Is the New Frontier for Fake Social Media Accounts

The idea of using fake social media accounts to spread information appears at first like the next iteration of propaganda distribution. How is this any different that distribution of single-argument pamphlets or similar collateral?

Are we surprised the US government would try this type of program? There’s an interest in keeping a positive perspective of our government, and especially our soldiers, in many countries where we have, or could have, Americans deployed.

These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media In America

With the consolidation of media outlets, this isn’t surprising. However, with both content creators and distribution networks becoming the business model of media (Comcast owning NBC Universal, Disney owning ESPN and ABC), it’s harder for smaller news outlets to break out and thrive.

Isn’t this indicative of big business as a whole and the consolidation of smaller companies into one? Cable companies are trying this, with limited success (Time Warner and Comcast, Bright House Networks and Charter Cable), but also within the Airlines industry, food manufacturing, etc.

The Payne Fund Studies: The Effects of Movies on Children

“… it was the coming together of two major social changes in the American society – the development of a more precise research capability in the social sciences and the deepening public concern over the mushrooming growth of the movies – that gave birth to the scientific study of mass communication.”

Interesting that nearly 100 years later, we’re still trying to ascertain the effects of movies and the media on youth.

“The main finding was that on the average, children in 1929 and 1930 went to the movies once a week. … these figures caused considerable concern.” and to think I went to the movies that often at the same age in the 1990s.

First ever content analysis; essentially Google scanned the material to determine themes, context, and categorization.

“The subjects reported that they had imitated the movie characters openly in beautification, mannerisms, and attempts at lovemaking.”

It’s interesting how the studies measured the impact of a single movie, specifically with the study of high school students in Crystal Lake, Ill., where they were shown the racially insensitive movie, Birth of a Nation, and the aftereffects were both measurable and sizeable in shifting the attitudes of the participants negatively. The subsequent study of qualitative research into the actual behavioral changes children in the game play or make believe and continuing on into adolescence and adulthood as a form of education for societal behaviors or norms. “‘… I began to use the movies as a school of etiquette. I began to observe the table manners of the actors in the eating scenes. I watched for the proper way in which to conduct oneself at a nightclub ….’” The research goes on to state this type of mimicking is not uncommon for youth as they age, but had been largely an observation of actual societal members within a community and was now being influenced by observing the fictitious relationships and aphorisms on screen.

The Payne Fund studies are fascinating that effort and involvement for the first-of-its-kind research and analysis of the impact of mass media on society. Today, the research stands as not just a genesis of mass media research and study, but also a moment in time when only one or two forms of media had an impact on consumers. Today’s society has numerous ways of interacting with a variety of forms of mass communication. Narrowing down or isolating one true medium as a factor is significantly more challenging today than in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Invasion from Mars: Radio Panics America

With the events of the radio broadcast not actually being able to physically occur in real-time, is there really a three to five percent of the population that can be classified as “sheeple” believing whatever they hear? If approximately one million people became panicked, that’s a larger percentage of those who were listening to the show. One million of three to 12 million possible listeners panicked. Interesting.

Haha, “dial twisting” or “channel surfing” on today’s networks.

“The occurrence of the great panic suddenly presented [The Office of Radio Research of Princeton University] with a rare opportunity. Social scientists could study, for the first time, panic behavior triggered by a mass communication event.”


While fraught with challenging measures to gauge, lag in time to survey, and trustworthiness of participants to respond, the analysis of the data captured around the event is both fascinating and tell-tale. The fact that the FCC implemented a new policy around the type of content that can be used for dramatic programming is of significant interest, either as an overreaction to the events that followed from the broadcast, or as a way to calm the public fear/concern toward a future type of program.

First study of panic behavior triggered by mass medium.

This week’s reading focused on two themes; the impact of messaging through mass media formats, and the potential, either purposely or inadvertently, of propaganda distributed within these channels.

The chapter pertaining to 1938 broadcast of the adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by CBS illustrated the power of radio as a form of communication during the late 1930s. While the content was properly positioned and reinforced as fiction to the audience, because of the timing of those warnings, nearly one out of every six listeners of the broadcast that the world was in fact under attack.

The intention of CBS and the programmers was not to mislead the public listening, but it’s easy to see a potential opportunity for mass hysteria or misinformation through the medium should maliciousness have been intended. The post research of this panic phenomena is of interest as it was not only was the first of its kind, but also demonstrates a trait we continue to see today in society of readers/listeners/watchers to react first, ask questions later with an almost instant trust of what we read, hear or see.

Next, we see the impact of an entirely new form of mass communication on a large society that had been without a dynamic form of media. The studies of the impact of movies on youth and adults are not only of note for their findings and results, but also in that it was unique to the time with only one or two real forms of mass communication available to the public. As the conclusion of the article states, today’s society has far more forms of mass communication to which individuals are bombarded by with various forms of messaging and advertising. It’s far more difficult today to isolate a specific format and its impact on society or a social strata/demographic.

The two non-academic readings of the actual engagement of the US government in propaganda techniques through social media, and the consolidation of media outlets by nearly 90 percent in the past 30 years presents the increased likelihood of propaganda distribution without much, if any, watchdogs or controls. If government is seen as the watchdog through entities like the SEC and the FCC, but that same government is conducting itself in similarly questionable ethical actions, who then does society turn to to ensure someone is watching the watchers? I’m not sure I feel threatened or worried about either action, but know that the opportunity exists for misuse or misconduct by both the private and public sector.

  1. With more and more forms of communication and methods for interacting with both each other and scripted content, how do we isolate the impact on society of one form of mass communication from another?
  2. Advertorial content is increasing in popularity by both advertisers and with media outlets. How do we as consumers know this is isn’t “vetted” or journalistic information, and how do we as mass communication practitioners ensure this form of advertising or propaganda is clearly positioned as such to our audiences?

Post Tags:

Fake News, MMC6400, Social Media, Web Theory,