Week 1 Reading – What Do the Media Do to Us? Media & Society

O’Shaughnessy, Michael, and Jane Stadler “What Do the Media Do to Us? Media and Society”

Media and Society: An Introduction, Third Edition. Sough Melbourne, VIC: Oxford Press, 2006, 229-248

In discussing the role and the working functional elements of the media, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler have raised questions related largely to the interactions between the media and society. Instead of resolving these various questions, the authors have instead aimed to incite further debate amongst this issue of the actual role of the media. Primarily though, the authors attempt to raise the awareness of the reader, by revealing the extent to which it has been integrated into our society.

The two key arguments or concepts that are proposed are two opposing models of the media and society. The first portrays the media as a reflection of “the realities, values and norms of a society.” an image of society as it is, and how people act, think, behave and feel. However, in the opposing ‘effects model’ these ‘values and norms’ have been instead created by the media.

In debating these two differing views, an interesting idea raised is the apparent correlation between violence and sex in the media with actual violent and sexual assaults in the real world. The authors have pointed it out to be absurd though, as there are many other social factors that contribute to crime (such as family issues). If this simple correlation was true, then you, I and any person who ever watched television or read a newspaper would be convicted felons. This is obviously not the case. Rapes and murders occurred long before the media existed. In fact, the media may have even curbed crime, as the media generally shine a negative light upon it in its news and a current affair broadcasts. Only in fictional shows are violence and sex shown to be glorified, but it is assumed that us the audience has a responsibility to know the difference between fiction and reality (a point raised by the authors). Just because I enjoy action films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would enlist in the army to go on a Rambo style rampage against terrorists in the Middle East or so.

In this case, it was not the media creating the problem of crime, as O’Shaughnessy and Stadler state, “blaming the media is an excuse that denies our responsibilities.” Here, perhaps the media is now being used as a scapegoat. We blame it for all our social problems. Perhaps the problem lies with us humans as we are far from perfect entities. Let’s return to the media’s portrayal of violence and sex. Bluntly, we enjoy them, despite them being listed on the Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins as crimes against God himself (maybe a testament to the imperfection of humans?).

To put thing historically, are the violent movies shown in cinemas today really any better than the Coliseum in Ancient Rome (a time before today’s commercialised media network) where god knows how many soldiers, slaves and animals were slaughtered? The Coliseum spectators demanded violence, much like today’s movie going audience. Through blood sports and various decrees, the Roman Empire was largely supported by the masses through maintaining consent (a point raised in the reading). Apart from border expansions, they enjoyed relative peace within the empire for centuries. Life expectancy also increased. So perhaps by this definition, the media is just a device used to help maintain law and order within society.

Whether this is true or not is not up to me to decide. All I have done is raised one point defending the reflection model. There are many others for the effect model that will almost definitely be discussed throughout this course.

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