Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy Paperback – Dec 15 2003
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From the Inside Flap
To succeed in foreign policy, U.S. presidents have to sell their versions or framings of political events to the news media and to the public. But since the end of the Cold War, journalists have increasingly resisted presidential views, even offering their own spin on events. What, then, determines whether the media will accept or reject the White House perspective? And what consequences does this new media environment have for policymaking and public opinion?
To answer these questions, Robert M. Entman develops a powerful new model of how media framing works--a model that allows him to explain why the media cheered American victories over small-time dictators in Grenada and Panama but barely noticed the success of far more difficult missions in Haiti and Kosovo. Discussing the practical implications of his model, Entman also suggests ways to more effectively encourage the exchange of ideas between the government and the media and between the media and the public. His book will be an essential guide for political scientists, students of the media, and anyone interested in the increasingly influential role of the media in foreign policy.
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In Chapter Two, he compares the media handling of two similar events: Korean Air Lines 007, shot down by a Soviet jet in 1983, and Iran Air Flight 655, shot down by a US ship in 1988. The first was judged as a murderous attack, `wanton, brutal and deliberate', proof of Soviet moral bankruptcy, portrayed with pictures of the dead and much empathy, outrage and generalisation. The second was seen as a tragic accident, `understandable, mistaken and justified', a technical glitch, described in the passive voice, in abstract language, with no pictures, no generalisation and no blame.
In Chapter Three, Entman looks at the media treatment of the US attacks on Grenada, Libya and Panama. The media presented coherently only the administration's view. Typically, CBS's anchor Dan Rather said they were "not sure exactly what was happening but knowing the teams. It was the US against Qaddafi". Entman concludes, "The analysis demonstrates how journalists served as more or less loyal conduits of U.S. government propaganda in wartime." It seems that the first rule of the US state's news management is `lie early and lie often'.
In Chapter Four, Entman examines the media's `great debate' about the war on Iraq, which, it appears, was between those who wanted war at once and those who wanted war later. 71% of the Americans who appeared on camera were pro-war, just 3% against.
Entman shows how the state portrays the enemy as a threat, then uses a brief `wave of patriotism' to rubbish dissent. The state pretends that it is responding to public opinion, and claims that the media reflect public opinion: both notions support the ruling pretence that the public governs. In Chapter Six, Entman disproves all these myths by showing how the US state, with media assistance, beat back the hugely popular movement for a nuclear freeze.
Mr. Entman proposes an original theory for understanding media power. The author's "cascading activation" model explains how issues are passed down from the White House to elites, news organizations, and the public, as well as how pushback can be activated from lower levels to the top. Mr. Entman explains the importance of framing issues but contends that promoting a particular political objective has become increasingly difficult with the demise of the Cold War. For example, Mr. Entman cites a paradigmatic case where the U.S. and USSR each mistakenly shot down passenger planes in the 1980s; as might be expected, Mr. Entman discovers that the media treated the U.S. incident as a tragic error whereas the USSR was overwhelmingly condemned for an apparent act of evil. Clearly, the media's reporting of events was shaped by the dominant Cold War cultural schema of a public that predominantly believed in a well-intentioned U.S. versus a systemically corrupt USSR. Today however, the author contends that the current Iraq War offers evidence that a more sophisticated Internet-enabled public and media can offer at least some critique of the administration's policies at least some of the time.
However, Mr. Entman offers a sober assessment of the seemingly insignificant role that public opinion plays in influencing foreign policy. Mr. Entman discusses how the Reagan administration manipulated the media to influence public opinion in favor of increased defense spending but did not reduce these expenditures when opinion later swung towards increasing domestic programs. In fact, Mr. Entman shows that political leaders are more concerned about spinning news events to achieve the desired outcome than with fact, concluding that in practice democracy is all but limited to voting. Therefore, Mr. Entman believes that the media would do well to safeguard the public interest by creating "liaison editors" who might be able to better analyze news and construct challenges to administration spin, as well as to have "designated statesmen" available who could articulate opinion on policy matters. The author hopes that these kinds of mechanisms might help to activate resistance to poor policy choices by enlarging the scope of debate within the media.
I highly recommend this interesting and highly readable book to everyone interested in media, politics and democracy.
Entman convincingly argues his emerging theory of an interactive, multi-directional relationship among presidential administrations, policy elites, the media, and the public. Important conclusions include how politicians who claim to be supporting public opinion rarely know what that public opinion really is, and that "public opinion" itself should be more accurately labeled "polling opinion" which is simplistic and inaccurate by definition. Ultimately, we find that it is impossible to delineate a one-way relationship among media, public opinion, and policymakers, and that the media are less likely to push an ideological agenda than they are to over-emphasize simplistic jingoism and underplay cases of nuance and ambiguity. So while the media are not completely innocent in affecting public opinion, and therefore policy, neither are they more guilty of bias than all the other parties in the equation. So if you care enough about these issues to seek knowledge on how media discourse really operates, don't listen to simple-minded and opinionated pundits. Unlike those clowns, Entman and his colleagues know what they're talking about. [~doomsdayer520~]