Remote & Controlled: Media Politics in a Cynical Age

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Westview Press, 1999 - Social Science - 174 pages
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Given how the media portray the political system, how can we educate ourselves about politics without feeling alienated? The amount of information now available to the public about government is without precedent, and contemporary media bring the political action closer than ever before. But in an age when reports on the manipulative behavior and character flaws of public figures appear as frequently as coverage of policy issues, many people are tuning out.Remote and Controlled examines the issue of widespread cynicism in an era of abundant information, asking whether it is possible to consume a steady diet of mainstream media and still understand and respect the political process. Starting with central examples of television’s political coverage and the media’s focus on the president, the author explores a variety of media—from newspapers and radio to MTV and computer networks—and political events and institutions. Both electoral politics and governance are explored through examples that range from FDR’s fireside radio chats and the Kennedy-Nixon television debates to Vietnam and Watergate, on up to Clinton’s war room, Perot’s infomercials, C-SPAN and Congress, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.Against a historical backdrop of political, technological, and institutional change, the text raises critical questions for a society plugged into Rush, Oprah, and USA Today: How do the media both magnify and undermine the president? Can televised town meetings replace the real thing? How do politicians seek to control the flow of information, and what do the media do about it? Does the information explosion provide greater diversity or simply greater convenience? The second edition of this acclaimed text has been revised and updated to examine media coverage of recent events including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and other high-profile stories. In the process, the author sheds light on the ultimate dilemma of whether an informed public will participate in a system in which campaigns are portrayed as if they were war, policymaking is depicted as if it were a campaign, and none of the participants—reporters included—appears particularly noble or worthy.

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Incentive to Change?
Discussion Questions

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Popular passages

Page 39 - I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking — with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking but more particularly with the overwhelming majority who use banks for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks. I want to tell you what has been done in the last few days, why it was done, and what the next steps...
Page 157 - I'd like to ask you where you usually get most of your news about what's going on in the world today — from the newspapers or radio or television or magazines or talking to people or where?
Page 33 - A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog...
Page 44 - We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular.
Page 47 - But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
Page 10 - If you got conflicting or different reports of the same news story from radio, television, the magazines and the newspapers, which of the four versions would you be most inclined to believe—the one on radio or television or magazines or newspapers?
Page 47 - ... we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last gasp before negotiations.
Page 78 - It has become a spectacle without equal in modern American politics: the news media, print and broadcast, go after a wounded politician like sharks in a feeding frenzy. The wounds may have been self-inflicted, and the politician may richly deserve his or her fate, but the journalists now take center stage in the process, creating the news as much as reporting it, changing both the shape of electionyear politics and the contours of government.
Page 20 - New York Post" UNITED STATES Cherry blossom time, 1962, Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC. Domestic Affairs "The economy will face difficult moments in the months ahead," President Ronald Reagan declared in his State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Jan.
Page 14 - The government in Washington is pretty much run for the benefit of a few big interests rather than for the benefit of the people." 26 .35 .30 "Most politicians can be trusted to do what they think is best for the country.

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About the author (1999)

Matthew R. Kerbel has been writing about the news media ever since he stopped writing for the news media. A one-time radio and television newswriter and employee of Public Broadcasting, he is author of three books on television and politics, and is professor of political science at Villanova University. He lives in Wayne, PA with his wife Adrienne and his daughter Gabrielle.

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