Модуль 3. Политические аспекты масс-медиа


G. Yankova-Dimova

(Great Britain, Cambridge University)

The paper explores the ways in which the rise of the media has shaped the role of the public in a way that is increasingly incompatible with the conventional model of electoral democracy. The dominant prism for viewing the role of the media in politics mostly focuses on the relevance of policy information that that the media provide to the citizenry. This view is entirely limited to the electoral model of democracy as the purpose of media information is to help the public make up its mind on Election Day.
The paper suggests that there are two largely neglected ways in which the media change democracy - through the processes of de-politicisation and diversification. Instead of emphasizing the quality of information about policies, as the conventional model does, depoliticisation and instrumentalisation focus on the character of the politician and the cost of acquiring information respectively. Depoliticisation and instrumentalisationaffect democracy through influencing the public’s demand to be represented by its political representatives. The media depoliticise the public’s demand for representation through enforcing a process of personalization in politics. The media diversify the public’s demand for representation by instrumentalising the media as a low cost platform for political participation. The point is that a diversified and depoliticised public will can no longer be accommodated by the conventional model of legislative representation and delegation.
This shift in the perspective in which we view the role of the media has profound consequences for the way we view democracy. The paper examines critically the debate about the way in which the rise of the media has contributed to the metamorphosis of democracy. It pins the conceptions of audience democracy (Manin), aesthetic representation (Ankersmith), descriptive representation (Mansbridge) against the models of ocular democracy (Green), digital democracy (Grossman), plebiscitary leader democracy (Weber) and the concept of monitorial citizenship (Zaller). The paper argues that fears that mediatisation has rendered the public a passive spectator, as Manin, Mansbridge and Ankersmith suggest, are not entirely grounded because depoliticisation and instrumentalisation enable rather than impede the public in two important ways. Depoliticisation shifts the focus from delegation to critical observation and monitoring of the political elite. The ability to observe critically has been grossly underestimated by democratic theorists but this theme is developed by Weber, Green and Zaller, and partially by Thompson. Instrumentalisation also allows the citizens to participate in politics more actively. Although the value of instrumentalisation of politics has been questioned by Pitkin, Sunstein and Hindman, it has important implications about the advent of digital democracy as argued by Grossman and Shah. The bottom line is that mediatisation has shaped the role of the public in a way that is incompatible with the conventional model of electoral democracy.
Part I: Media-Malaise vs. Virtuous Circle and the Limited View of the Demand for Representation
The conventional view of the role of the media in politics holds that there are two competing schools of thought about the role of the media - video-malaise and virtuous circle. The bone of contention is the quality of information about political issues that the media furnishes to the public. In the video-malaise account, the important policy-relevant information is high-jacked by irrelevant sensationalism and personal information. In the virtuous circle account, the media provide important information that makes citizens more aware of the political issues. The opinions about the relative empirical hold of these opposing theories are split. More empirically based studies favour the virtuous circle hypothesis, whereas more theoretical studies, which claim to be in the majority, favour the video-malaise hypothesis. Van Zoolen concludes that: some “empirical refutations notwithstanding, “television malaise” remains the dominant academic, political and journalistic discourse to look at contemporary political communication both in the United States and Europe.”
What these two theories have in common is that they perceive the role of the media mainly as a device for dissemination of information. Scholars of the media malaise and the virtuous circle hypotheses are primarily concerned with the media’s priming, framing and agenda-setting role. They study how the frequency of media consumption and the type of media- newspapers versus television, public versus commercial- affects the quality and type of information. But this view of the media unnecessary limits the media’s influence to the confines of the electoral model of democracy, where the citizens need information to make up their opinion about the suitability of the candidates for office. More importantly, it ignores salient developments within the media, whose effects on the demand for representation and the respective models of democracy have never completely been traced. This chapter suggests that the personalization and instrumentalization of politics through the media have replaced the focus from the information about government politics to the character of the politician and the cost-effectiveness of the process for acquiring information about the government policies. These two new perspectives point to two very different concepts of selecting leaders. The focus on the character of the politician brings up a very Aristotelian view of politics. The focus on the cost-effectiveness brings up a very functional criterion for the participation in politics that is well-articulated by Sieyes. These shifts in the criterion for measuring the media’s influence on politics have important repercussions for the models of democracy, which I discuss below.
“Personalization” points to a tradition of character distinction that goes back to Aristotle. According to Aristotle, the best claim to rule is education, virtue and wealth.

“Instrumetalization” points to a tradition of functional distinction that can be traced to Sieyès. According to Sieyès, representative government is necessary because people have scare resources of time and professionalization.

Part II: The Personalization of Politics Depoliticises the Demand for Representation
The personalization of politics through the media is an important but often neglected mechanism for affecting the demand for representation. This part of the chapter first aims to explain what personalization is and how it is achieved. Then it discusses how personalization is linked to a passive form of public demand for representation in a model of audience democracy by Manin and a model of aesthetic representatation by Ankersmith. Finally, it emphasizes the depoliticization effect of personalization and links it to the notion of ocular democracy by Green.
The personalization of politics in contemporary democracies means that “the construction of political leadership is driven by communication strategies with greater emphasis on image over substance and personality over ideology.” The personalization of politics is usually perceived as having social and economic roots, not so much as a media-related phenomenon. I contend, however, that the process of personalization of politics was greatly facilitated by the rise of the mediated visibility introduced by the media. Mediated visibility breaks down the barriers between the private and professional life of the politician to engage the politician and the citizen in three constitutively new modes of relationship. One is the elevation of the politician above the citizen, the other is the lowering of the politician to the level of the politician, and the third is the denigration of the politician below the level of the citizen. But while these three relationships are just variations of the mode of electoral representation between an elector and elected, the personalisation of politics through the media de-politicises the demand for representation, i.e. makes it impossible that the elector is represented through a representative. In this way, the depoliticisation of politics makes it less compatible with the notion of representative party democracy.
The logic of the personalization and the intimisation of politics through the media is that it centres on the character of the politician as the decisive factor in the politician’s entitlement to government. This is in contrast to the video-malaise hypothesis, which is centred on the quality of information about government policies. The idea of the character of the politician as his entitlement to rule is ancient. Artistotle introduces the term “virtue arête,” which is the moral and intellectual ability needed in a statesman, who rules in the interests of the whole state. He also talks about phronêsis, the Practical wisdom needed for a ruler to govern. Artistotle best describes this idea of virtue as the only ticket to ruling in the “Politics”: “Where a man is preeminent in virtue. Men will not say that… they ought to rule over him, for that will be like claiming to rule over Zeus… It only remains therefore to let nature take its course; he will govern and we will all gladly obey him.”
The requirement of this “virtue arête” places a diving line between the ruler and the ruled. Mediated visibility reveals a moral and intellectual character of the ruler. If the character of the ruler is revealed to be on par with or higher than that of the citizen, the citizen will be less likely to circumvent the conventional channel of representation through accountability. His demand for representation outside of the representative system will be lower because he likes his representatives. He identifies with them. Vicariously, he rules through them. This is achieved through the processes of celebritization, showfication and commodification.
If, however, the media reveal the politician to be of a lower moral standing than the citizen, the citizen will want more from the system of representation. This is a less common effect of the processes of personalization and intimization. But once again, it is important to show that in all these cases personalization created a qualitatively new type of demand - the depoliticized demand.
2.1. Celebritization, Showfication and Commodification Decrease and Depoliticise the Demand for Representation
Celebritization, showfication and commodification manifest this part of mediated visibility that arguably distances the self-perception of the individual from the aura of the ruler. The essence of these processes is to present the ruler as more deserving and sacred than the masses. In the course of elevating the ruler above the ruled, the demand for representation should decrease as those that are ruled envision the rulers as a special breed of people who is not accessible to the common man.
Celebratiziation elevates the politicians to the rank of the “chosen one.” It conjures up the images of the monarch. Mediated visibility recreates symbolically the same distance between the ruler and the masses that existed between the monarch and his subjects. The difference is that the monarch only rarely spelled his glory over his subjects by sharing the same physical locale, whereas mediated visibility allows the politicians to recreate virtually the conditions of physical co-presence. The similarity is that in both cases the ceremonies are meant to re-affirm the higher status of the rulers vis-à-vis the citizens. One can generalize that personalization has reached such a peak that “within Western democracies, modern political leaders are now fully seen as celebrities.”
Here is how Thompson extrapolates the celebratory character of ancient ceremonies: “There were occasions when rulers (emperors, kings, princes, lords and other power-holders) appeared before wider audiences…These occasions included major public events such as coronations, royal funerals and victory marches. The pomp and ceremony of such occasions, the extravagance of the apparel and surroundings, the aloofness of a figure who could be seen but not heard or touched or confronted as an equal: all enabled the ruler to maintain some distance from his subjects while enabling them temporarily to see and celebrate his existence in a context of co-presence. The maintenance of distance attested to the sacredness of power. The ruler was above-both literally and symbolically- the subjects over whom he ruled, and his existence was both mortal and divine.”
Showfication has the same effect as celebritization in terms of putting the ruler in a glorious environment that elevates his status above the ruled. “Spectacles are media constructs that are out of the ordinary and the habitual daily routine which become popular media events, capturing the attention of the media and the public.They involve an aesthetic dimension and often are dramatic, bound up with competition like the Olympics or the Oscars and they feature compelling images, montage and stories.” Showfication creates an aura around the ruler. One example of showfication is when politicians arrange their appearances on the background of popular music and popular musicians to create an elevated image of themselves.
Commodification is the third way of elevating the image of the ruler. Whereas celebritization and showfication emphasize the exclusivity of the ruler because of his story or surroundings, commodification elevates the status of the politician because of his material well-being. Mancini argues that nowadays “people want to vote for and to support someone who may improve their lifestyle and who personally embodies the level and way of life to which they aspire.” Mancini also suggests that “‘in their approach to politics, citizens have become more like consumers (instrumental, oriented to immediate gratifications and potentially fickle) than believers.’ [Berlusconi’s example] is another confirmation of some kind of universal tendency. What are these values? Wealth, consumption, holidays, beautiful and elegant men and women, fun, popular music (Berlusconi himself is an experienced singer, and is always accompanied by his personal musician, Mariano D’Apicella), dancing, jokes (Berlusconi tells jokes on every possible occasion).”
It seems that celebritization and commodification are entwined as the general public's desire to associate with celebrity is connected not only with the desire to associate with material success, but also to associate with the material symbols of success which provide a “model of self-differentiation which furthers an economy in which product consumption is thought to bestow individualism and personality.” As Marshall puts it, celebrities provide “a peculiar form of public subjectivity that negotiates the tension between a democratic culture of access and a consumer capitalist culture of excess.”
2.2. Humanization of Politicians Decreases the Demand for Representation
Whereas the personalization of politics through celebritization, showfication and commodification decreases the demand for politics by distancing the rulers and the ruled, the personalization of politics through humanization decreases the demand for representation through equating the ruler and the ruled.
Humanization is a process where the politicians are made to look more like ordinary people. The conventional wisdom is that that Berlusconi is so popular “because he has identified, and identified with, the stereotype of the Italian man: a womaniser, brilliant, amiable and jokey.” Mancini suggests that “Berlusconi’s political power is further bolstered by his character and actions – he has enjoyed playing the parts both of a showman and of someone who is ‘ordinary’ and who has the same reactions, desires and even prejudices of the man in the street. Mazzoni and Ciaglia suggest that the wife of the former Prime Minister Mario Monti adopted a stategy meant to show that ‘the Montis are ordinary valuable people.” The authors suggests that the magazine picture displaying how Mario Monti is “shopping with his children is aimed to show a piece of that leader’s routine, to make him more human, less institutional, and, as a result, less alien to ordinary people’s eyes.” As a result of humanization, people identify more with the leaders, and their dissatisfaction with representation decreases. So does their demand for representation.
It is interesting that humanization and celebritisation are two mutually opposing sides of the personalization of politics, yet they have the same effect on the demand for representation. The reason is that trust is a flexible double sided notion. As Dunn writes: “Trust as a human passion may rest on close familiarity or massive social distance. Many have trusted their Queen (or Stalin) as implicitly as ever they have trusted their spouse or favourite sibling.” Mancini argues that trust in Berlusconi is essentially an ‘extrapolitical’ trust…The trust which people invest in the present Italian Prime Minister has many of the same facets as trust in a spouse or favourite sibling; Berlusconi has been able to embody values and aspirations that are part of everyday life, composed of the feelings, passions and dreams of a large part of Italian population.” Thus trust through humanization is the opposite side of trust through celebratization.
2.3. Denigration of Politicians Decreases and Increases the Demand for Representation
The denigration of politicians through the publication of their misconduct can also make the politicians less worthy in the eyes of the public. Political scandals can damage the politicians’ reputations. Thompson suggests that the depletion of reputation could have long-term consequences as people come to distrust not only particular politicians but also the system and party with which individuals are associated. This distrust can lead to “a withdrawal from the political process, which may be expressed by a lack of interest in political issues and a disinclination to vote.” Through the denigration of politicians, the aura of the ruler disappears.
Although the denigration of politicians has the same overall effect as celebritization and humanization, it has a different causal path. Whereas celebritization and humanization decrease the demand for representation by assuaring the voter that the rulers are suitable, denigration decreases the demand for representation by disappointing the voter to the degree that he does not want to partake in the electoral situation at all. The distance that celebritization creates is a positive distance of satisfaction, whereas the distance that denigration create is a negative distance of resignation.
But Thompson also points out that the scandalization of politics “can ensure that the activities of the political representatives are regularly scrutinized and rendered more accountable to the electorate.” Dowding and Dewan also point out that there is threshold point where the denigration of politicians through media scandals leads to their dismissal, which is a form of accountability. This is an indicator that denigration of politicians increases the demand for representation.
2.4. The Personalization of Politics: “Audience” versus “Ocular” Democracy?
As the paper demonstrated above, the processes of celebritization, showfication, commoidification, humanization and denigration are mainly thought to decrease the demand for representation. This line of reasoning goes hand in hand with Frank Ankersmith’s ‘aesthetic’ conception of political representation. Ankersmith argues that “artistic representation does not copy or reflect reality but places us in opposition to it, and only through opposing reality are we capable of objectifying it… In politics, it is similarly not the identity but the opposition between representer and represented that provides the source of political will formation.” Ankersmith further suggests that “the idea of popular sovereignty must be rejected since its identitiarian bias conflicts with the ‘nature’ of representative democracy itself. The state must create sufficient distance from society in order to be capable of acting”
Because of aesthetic representation, “politicians are not longer required to be at one with the electorate, but acquire a distinct professional profile and a larger area of discretion.” It seems that for Ankersmith, aesthetic representation decreases the demand for representation: “Citizens no longer need to be educated to the level of ideological competence and personal commitment of the politician, but savour their independence and preserve a healthy distance from professional politics.”
Ankersmith’s notion of aesthetic representation is similar to Mansbridge’s idea of descriptive representation. Mansbridge suggests that “in certain historical moments, when citizen interests on a given set of issues are relatively uncrystallized and the political parties are not organized around them… the best way to have one's most important substantive interests represented is often to choose a representative whose descriptive characteristics match one's own.” In other words, Mansbridge suggests that descriptive personalization is a substitute for the lack of political representation under some circumstances.
This aesthetic tradition of representation achieved through celebritization, showfication and commodification presents an inherently elite-centred vision of democracy. It renders the citizens mere spectators of politics. It takes the initiative away from them. This is exactly why these functions of the media decrease the demand for representation. In this respect, the aesthetic representation introduced by Ankersmith is so similar to the audience model of democracy coined by Manin. According to Manin, audience democracy with its emphasis on leaders replaces party democracy and parliamentarusm:

In the previous forms of democracy – parliamentary and party – there were strong contributions by actors other than the single political figure, who assisted and sometimes led in constructing and defining electoral platforms. In audience democracy, voters are mere spectators of that which is put on the stage by those politicians who are the initiators and the central, dominant figures. Audience democracy is made up by a receptive public, a ‘reactive public.’
Manin’s idea of audience democracy, Ankersmith’s idea of aesthetic representation and Mansbridge’s idea of descriptive representation conflict with the model of “ocular democracy” presented by Green. All of the previous models are premised on the assumption that the public can voice its demands of the political representatives only through electoral delegation. Green argues that in an ocular democracy, people rule not through their voice, as in a representative democracy, but through their gaze. Green’s paradigm indirectly challenges the binary choice of exit (in a market) and voice (in politics) that Hirschman posits and that characterizes the conventional thinking about modern representative democracies. Green calls ocular democracy a post-representational theory of democracy.
Green reinvents the value of gaze versus voice. Gaze is a positive occurrence as it allows the public to watch politicians during what he calls candid events. A candid event cannot be managed or rehearsed by the politicians. Thus in ocular democracy, politicians are constantly and candidly inspected and scrutinized. In addition, gaze builds bonds between the people and creates a collective notion of the People in a way that elections with their rare occurrence and divisive results cannot.
Green believes that current notions of democracy essentially deny “the inequality between leader and ordinary citizen” either by neutralizing it by claiming that it is overstated or by seeking reforms (such as redistricting, compulsory voting, or economic justice). Unlike its predecessors, the ocular model of democracy does not deny or cancel the gap between the political elite and the citizen but recompensates the citizen for his role in this model. This recompensation is achieved by demanding that the decision makers are not in control of their publicity and that they accept a “vastly heightened level of surveillance” and that they are “subject to public investigations, contestations, and other struggles unimaginable as requirements for ordinary citizens.” Whereas for Manin the personalization of politics distances the rulers from the ruled, Green sees this distance and spectatorship as conditions that transform the perception and role of popular power. The People are not audience but auditors. Whereas for Manin the people are disadvantaged spectators, for Green, the people are privileged auditors.
The idea that spectators can not only passively observe, but actually coerce, train, educate and restrain the elite while observing goes back to Foucault and Weber. Green compares his ocular force to Foucault’s “compulsory visibility” which can mould and train the character of subject. Ocular power has the same effect as Foucault’s “coercion by observation”.
But Weber, in Green’s interpretation, is the true forefather of plebiscitary elite democracy and charismatic leadership. Weber did not share the dominant perspective that elections and public opinion are key devices through which the People control and direct their representatives. Elections are too rare and too limited in the choice they offered and additional accountability mechanisms are too rarely used. Public opinion is too passive and there are way too many unexpected situations for which there is no prior popular will. According to Green, Weber refuted the whole enterprise of representation as largely unattainable in large-scale states. Since representation, i.e. the vocal module of democracy, was not an option, the ocular notion needed to be acknowledged. Since Weber reckons that it is an unattainable option for the people to make policies and decisions, he reasons that the people can be instrumental in building the character of the incumbents.
In contrast to Manin’s audience democracy, plebiscitary leader democracy by Weber and ocular democracy advanced by Green narrows the gap between the rulers and the People. Through observing the incumbents, the people have three kinds of power that narrows that gap. First, the people build the character of the politician during the process in which the leader campaigns for their votes. It is important to note that in this post-representative model of democracy, the campaign is prioritized over election. Campaigning builds the character of the leader, elections just express the passive recognition of the People gained during campaigning. Second, through observation, the People restrain and incite the passions of the leaders who make frequent public appearances and need to adhere to make a favourable impression on the spectators.
Third, Weber (in Green’s interpretation) argues that by observing the politicians the People hold them responsible. Weber calls this form of accountability public surveillance (Verwaltungsoffentlichkeit), public inspection (Verwaltungskontrolle) and continuous observation (die staendige Verfolgung). In Weber’s paradigm, the personalisation of politics through charismatic leadership transforms the capacity of the People not simply by depoliticising the representative process, but by transforming the essence of democracy from representation to responsibility through observation.
Part III: The Instrumentalization of Politics Diversifies the Demand for Representation
The essence of the instrumentalization of politics is to make politics look more accessible in the eyes of the public. This is an entirely cost-centred view of the role of the media. This is the cost of acquiring information about politics. Instrumentalization decreases the cost of acquiring information in two ways: through infotainment, which makes politics more entertaining and through digitalization, which makes politics more accessible in terms of time and financial resources. The combined effect of infotainment and digitalization is that people are more likely to be more demanding of politics. They are more likely to participate in politics. If politics seems more accessible and understandable, the barriers to entry for various segments of society are lifted. Consequently, the demand for representation is diversified as it explicates the wants of more people.
3.1. The Abstraction of Politics Decreases the Demand for Representation
Hannah Pitkin suggests that mediatization distances the voters from politics: “Watching television from infancy, people not only acquire misinformation; they become habituated to the role of spectator. The line between fantasy and reality blurs (indeed, the line between television image and one’s own fantasy blurs… All this does not bode well for democracy, either.” This mechanism widens the psychological gap between electors and the elected. In this respect, Pitkin’s idea of the abstraction of politics is similar to Manin’s idea of audience democracy.
3.2. Politics as Entertainment Diversify the Demand for Representation
One view of politics as entertainment, or politicotainment, is that it diversifies the demand for representation because it decreases the cost of acquiring information and accessing politics in general. Infotainment is meant to re-package politics in a way that is understandable and enjoyable. It supposedly provokes people’s interest. This idea has been challenged because political entertainment has been thought to deliver snark instead of satire, to undervalue the importance of political questions, and to caricature complex issues. Denby argues that politicotainment breeds cynicism instead of constructive criticism. Edelman argrees that political entertainment is destructive because it activates the sleeper effect where the audience views the political talk shows less critically than viewing a news program and this light-hearted attitude substitutes important critical judgements with less well-thought out arguments.
Both Denby and Edelman, however, use the wrong criterion for assessing the effects of political entertainment. They are right to conclude that it does not improve the quality of information about politics. What they miss, however, is that political entertainment is an instrument for making politics more accessible. This view of the media is entirely functional. The media fulfils the function of decreasing the cost of inquiring information about politics. The archetype of this criterion could probably be traced to Sieyes: “The more a society progresses in the arts of trade and production, the more apparent it becomes that the work connected to public functions should, like private employments, be carried out less expensively and more efficiently by men who make it their exclusive occupation. This truth is well known.”
In contrast to Denby’s and Edelman’s views, Riegert argues that fake news and humorous political talk have proven themselves viable forms of alternative reporting. He suggests that the evolution and maturation of political entertainment television, such as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report, provides for an informed, active, and meaningful citizenship.
The most spirited and convincing defence of the view that politicotainment increases the citizenship involvement with politics is put up by Zaller. Zaller actually bases his claim on Downs’s theory of the electoral marketplace and more recently on Schudson’s theory of the Good Citizen. Zaller suggests that in a very specialized society, problems are too complicated and require a lot of time and skill to be properly understood. Politicotainment provides heuristics for deciphering this complex matter by providing enjoyable and low-cost summaries of the main problems. Politicotainment responds to the citizens’ choice to be rationally ignorant. Zaller’s concept of the Monitorial citizen directly opposes Manin’s conception of the citizen-spectator.
Zaller’s idea is very similar to the fire-alarm concept by McCubbins and Schwartz but Zaller starts from Downs, who says that political information is costly and that “most of the costs of gathering, selecting, transmitting, analyzing, and even evaluating data can be shifted to others.” Downs makes the case for specialization that in its functional aspect is very similar to the one made by Sieyes above and in its treatment of complexity of politics is opposite to the one made by Pitkin above:
In any highly specialized society, many areas of decision pose literally incomprehensible problems for those who are not experts therein. Yet non-experts often must have opinions concerning the aptness of policies in these areas in order to make important political choices. For example, the nature of national defense . . . is so complex that almost everyone who does not specialize in [it] must rely for his opinion upon those who do.
Zaller argues that “an intense, dramatic story that keeps up a ”critical mass” over one or several news cycles in all information media - TV news, mainstream and tabloid newspapers, entertainment, late night comedy, talk TV and radio - breaks through the fog of disjointed news and engages the attention of the Monitorial Citizen. People talk, think, learn, see the big picture, and form opinions”.

3.3. Political Consumerism Increases and Diversifies the Demand for Representation

The mediatization of politics diversifies the demand for representation and decreases the cost of participating in politics by providing platforms for an easy, low-cost access to a big audience. Shah establishes that conventional and online news use encourages political consumerism indirectly through their influence on political talk and environmental concerns. Grossman suggests that digital democracy is the third transformation of democracy (after direct and representative democracy). According to him, interactive technology allows “millions of widely dispersed citizens to receive the information they need to carry out the business of government themselves, to gain admission to the political realm.”
Obama’s presidential campaign is a case of instrumentalization of politics through the media. Obama raised an unprecedented amount of money on the Internet, generated more than two million friends on Facebook and 866,887 friends on MySpace, and reportedly had a campaign listserver of over 10 million e-mail addresses, enabling his campaign to mobilize youth and others through text-messaging and e-mails. Videos compiled on Obama’s official campaign YouTube site were accessed over 11.5 million times and his the YouTube music video “Obama Girl,” featuring a young woman singing about why she supports Obama interspersed with the images of his speeches, received well over 5 million hits and is one of the most popular in the site’s history.”
In the “Myth of Digital Democracy,” Hindman challenges Grossman and the idea of digital democracy by saying that the Internet has not given greater voice to ordinary citizens because powerful elites channel internet traffic to just twenty most popular sites. Sunstein suggests that the diversity of websites allows people to visit only those that support their initial views, thus hindering dialogue. But even if the social media sites function as “echo chambers”, where ideas are reinforced but not challenged, they still serve as a popular virtual meeting space.
This power of the social media as a political instrument (along with the resentment of party politics) explains the rise of Beppe Grilloin Italy to power. Sunstein may be right to doubt the social media as a place for challenging and refining the quality of discourse about politics. But the point here is that the criterion is not to judge the quality of information but the cost of accessing politics. In this respect, the instrumentalization of politics through the media has diversified public demand for representation because it has lowered the threshold for access to politics to various segments of society.
3.4. The Instrumentalization of Politics Depoliticises the Demand for Representation
There is another aspect of the instrumentalisation of politics that depoliticises politics by rendering the old model of political parties inadequate. Schudson says that the media diminish the importance of political parties inadvertently simply by not paying enough attention to them. Schudson suggests that the press “has unintentionally adopted an anti-party stance itself- not on the editorial page, but in the pattern of news coverage. The press regularly takes value positions without even knowing it. An anti-party stance is probably one such position.”
Meyer and Hinchman come up with the idea of topofication of politics through the media. They sugest that media decrease the importance of the parties by creating a sense of urgency that could not be resolved the party model. Topofication accentuates the topos. i.e. the common place and time. According to Meyer and Hinchman, media time does not allow solutions to mature, because media time insists that everything is current and up-to-date. It is a ceaseless accumulation of unconnected “nows.” The media’s presentism shows no patience or understanding for politics’ slower pace as it methodically considers programs for action…Modified temporal relationship plays a consequential role for political parties as it renders them too slow and irrelevant to keep pace. Only the people with ample free time can attend party meetings and keep up their membership in the party. This means that the party condenses the views of just a tiny fraction of the population. This process monopolizes the channel of influence, pushes away the intermediary organizations between the state and private sector.
IV. Conclusion
The rise of the media has undoubtedly changed what people want from their representatives and from representative democracy as a whole. Most studies suggest that the media has made people less demanding of politics because they get used to watch politics from a distance as they watch TV. The latter (TV watching) has silently transformed into a passive form of watching politics. Parliamentary democracy has slipped into a mode of audience democracy, descriptive and aesthetic representation, as Manin, Mansbridge and Ankersmith will argue. The only way in which the media have invigorated the democratic demands of the people has long been considered to be confined to the channel of information. The media disseminate information, frame agendas, and thus supposedly change the minds of the electorate about their politicians.
This paper seeks to enlarge the framework of examining the role of the media on democracy. It suggests that beyond information, the personalization and instrumentalization of politics through the media also have an important but often neglected effect on the models of democracy. Contrary to studies which think that the media renders the public passive spectators, the paper suggests that the audience may be a more active democratic citizen than studies suggest. Through the media, the public can monitor the political elite. This is in line with Zaller’s view of monitorial citizenship and Green’s model of ocular democracy. This more active type of citizenship is arguably bringing democracy to another post-representative form, but it is a much more positive development than Manin’s audience democracy prescribes.


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9. Cass Sunstein. 2009. Republic.Com 2.0. Princeton University Press.
10. Matthew Hindman. 2008. Myth of Digital Democracy. Princeton University Press.
11. Not all aspects of personalisation and instrumentalization point to this new form of extra-electoral and extra-parliamentary demand for representation. Personalization of politics through the media is a very complex process and includes the celebritization, showfication, commodification, humanization and denigration of politicians. Instrumentalisation, in turn, encompasses infotainment and the use of the social and digital media as a political platform. The chapter discusses in detail exactly which aspects of these broad processes of personalization and instrumentalization relate to the demand for representation and in what way.
12. Here are some examples of the vicious circle between the media and voters: In “Vanishing Voters,” Thomas Patterson argues that media bias is one of the major factors for the decreasing electoral turnout in the US. In “The Press Effect,” Hall and Waldman argue that when political campaigns refuse to engage the facts of the opposing side, the press often fails to step into the void with the information citizens require to make sense of the political give-and-take. In “Tabloid Terror,” Francois Debrix suggests that tabloid populist media create and develop a one-sided view of international relations.
13. This view is best defended by Norris. 2000. A Virtuous Circle. Cambridge University Press . See also Vincent Hutchings. 2005. Public Opinion and Accountability. Princeton University Press.
14. Toril Aalberg and James Curran. 2011. How Media Inform Democracy: A Comparative Approach. Routledge.
15. There is the additional problem that the conventional view of the role of the media produces an unclear division between the media’s effect on the demand versus the supply side of the democratic deficit. The democratic deficit, as defined by Norris, is the difference between how much people value democracy in principle and how much they are satisfied with the functioning of the state in practice. The problem is not clear whether the media affect the aspirations to democracy or the satisfaction with democracy. But the democratic deficit is defined as the gap between democratic aspirations and satisfaction with democracy, therefore it is not clear why if both increase, as the quote reads, the overall difference between them would be smaller, i.e. the deficit will increase. This should be the case only if the aspirations increase less than satisfaction, i.e. if the demand is smaller than the supply, which is not discussed in the book.
16. Artistotle. 2000. The Politics, Book III. Pearson.
17. Emmanuel Sieyes. 2003. Political Writings: Including the Debate Between Sieyes and Tom Paine in 1791. Hackett Publishing Co, Inc
18. Donatella Campus, 2010. Mediatization and Personalization of Politics in Italy and France: The Case of Berlusconi and Sarkozy,” in “International Journal of Press/Politics”, Vol.15, No 2, pp. 219-235.
19. It should not be forgotten, however, that the personalization of politics was not an entirely media-related phenomenon. The media certainly facilitated it, but they did not entirely created it. The personalization of politics has its roots in post-modernization. As Bennet argues, in the 1940’s and 1950’s there was a mass over-identification with grand symbols of nation, belief system and regime. The advent of new forms of economic and social life broke down this over-identification with mass forms and instituted a de-identification with common institutions, symbols and authorities. Some of these developments included women leaving home and entering the workplace, jobs becoming more insecure, children spending more time with professional care-givers. “The old mass dilemma of loss of self in the conforming crowd has been replaced with the ‘identity project,’ with its daily choices about managing one’s persona, lifestyle, fashion statements.” (Bennett. 2003. Lifestyle Politics and citizens Consumers in Media and the Restyling of Politics: Consumerism, Celebrity and Cynicism, edited by John Corner and Dick Pels. SAGE Publications Ltd, pp.137-138)
20. Artistotle, The Politics, Book III, xiii, p.215-216
21. Marco Mazzoni and Antonio Ciagla. When Politics Has Got No Color. The Popularisation of Politics in the Technocrats’ Era. Paper presented at the PSA Conference in Cardiff in 2013.
22. Insertion in brackets is mine.
23. Italics mine.
24. John Thompson. 1997. The Media and Modernity. Polity Press, p.135
25. Liesbet van Zoonen. 2004. Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, p.16-17
26. See E. Miller-Jones. 2011. Silvio Berlusconi: Flamboyant Politics and Massive Wealth. Beau Bassin: VDM Publishing House.
27. Paolo Mancini. 2011. Between Commodification and Lifestyle Politics. Does Silvio Berlusconi Provide a New Model of Politics for the 21st century? Reuters Institute, p.24
28. Mancini, p.25
29. David Marshall. 1997. “Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture” University of Minnesota Press
30. Marshall 1997, “Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture”
31. Mancini, p.1
32. Mancini, p.2
33. “An important part of Berlusconi’s political success lies in his idea of television as a tool that dissolves the difference between real life and dreams, a tool of endless amusement, producing happiness and optimism.In an interview in 1977 he addressed the difference he saw between ‘his’ television and public service broadcasting – ‘reality offers too many
occasions that cause anxiety: mine will be an optimistic television’.3 This is one of the basic formulae of his political success: he removes the barrier between virtual success (the imagery spread by his television) and being himself a successful person. Real and virtual overlap in his personal experience.” Mancini,p.22
34. Mazoni and Ciagla, p.4
35. Mazoni and Ciagla, p.1
36. John Dunn.1990. Interpreting Political Responsibility: Essays, 1981-89. Polity Press, p. 27
37. Mancini, p.13
38. John Thompson 2000. Political Scandal: Power and Visibility in the Media Age. Polity Press, p.250
39. Thompson’s claim is questioned by Norris who says: Overall, while providing some limited support for the claims that scandal can damage confidence in government institutions, the lack of consistency among the two cases means that the results cannot be regarded as highly robust. The analysis therefore suggests the need for considerable caution and for further research into any general claims about how negative news or scandal coverage impacts public opinion.”, Norris, chapter 8, p.13
40. Thompson 2000, p.256
41. James Stanymar. 2012. Intimate Politics: Publicity, Privacy and the Personal Lives of Politicians in Media Saturated Democracies, p. 162
42. Thompson 2000, p.254
43. This view is countered by Miller who contends that public opinion focuses on the performance, not the character of the politician. David Easton’s.1965 A Systems Analysis of Political Life lays the ground for this view.
44. Ankersmith quoted by Pels, pp. 49-50
45. Mancini also cites the seminal works by Debord (1967), Schwartzenberg (1977) and more recently by Meyer (2002) which point out the transformation from a community of active citizens to a community of passive spectators.
46. Summary of Manin by Mancini
47. Green, p.17
48. Green, p.20
49. Green, p.6
50. Green, p.26
51. Green, p.6Green, pp.152-157
52. Pitkin 2004, 342
53. K. Riegert (ed.). 2007. Politicotainment: Television’s Take on the Real. New York: Lang.
54. David Denby. 2009. Snark: It’s Mean, it’s Personal and it’s Destroying our Conversation. Picador
55. Maurice Edelman. 1996. From Art to Politics. University of Chicago Press.
56. Sieyes, p.48
57. Anthony Downs. 1967. An Economic Theory of Democracy, p. 222 cited in Zaller, p.119
58. Downs, 1967, pp. 230–231
59. “However, media use may also have some suppressive effects by reducing the desire to protect others from harmful messages. Results demonstrate how communication practices and consumption orientations work together to influence political consumerism beyond previously delineated factors. Implications for declines in political and civic participation and youth socialization are discussed.” D. Shah et al. (2007) Political Consumerism: How Communication and Consumption Orientations Drive ‘Life Style Politics’, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (611), p. 217–35
60. Lawrence Grossman. 1996. The Electronic Republic. Longman, p.6
61. Douglas Kellner. 2009. “Barack Obama and Celebrity Spectacle,” in “International Journal of Communication”, Vol. 3, pp. 715-741.
62. Matthew Hindman. 2008. Myth of Digital Democracy. Princeton University Press
63. Cass Sunstein. 2009. Republic.Com 2.0. Princeton University Press
64. Serena Danna. “Why Beppe Grillo Won in Italy: It Wasn't Because of Social Media” in The Guardian, available at: 66. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/08/beppe-grillo-success-italy
65. Michael Schudson. 2011. The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life. Free Press, p.218
66. Thomas Meyer and Lew Hinchman. 2002. Media Democracy: How the Media Colonize Politics. Polity Press, pp.107-108
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