Introduction is inescapable because “partisanship is at the

Introduction

            Today,
in the digital age, voters interact with unprecedented quantities of
politicized information on a daily basis. Staying informed and up to date on
current events is a necessary yet arduous commitment for citizens participating
in democratic processes. as they prepare to fulfill their most important civic
duty, they face informational challenges. This study seeks to address those
informational challenges by shedding light on why political content is
structured the way it is, in the world today. This study theorizes that the
lack of self-reflection among partisan groups and their failure to acknowledge
their own susceptibility to partisan bias, has gravely damaged the trust and
confidence the public once had in receiving political information from
mainstream media sources. 

By evaluating the propagandistic
techniques corporate media organizations employ when presenting political
information to consumers, this analysis serves to prove that bias is
inescapable because “partisanship is at the center . . . of democratic
societies.”1
Despite the inescapability of bias, when voters expose themselves to a wide
range of biased content from across the political spectrum, they are
subconsciously training themselves to identify different levels of political
bias, thus allowing them to better gauge the intensity of each news
organizations’ partisan spin. As a general assumption, voters who frequently
navigate through a sea of conservative and liberal biases, are less likely to
be swayed by propagandistic techniques.

Hypothesis

            Mainstream
media organizations, in today’s polarized political landscape, have become
financially dependant on bias. The steadfast commitment to partisan bias,
inherent in most published political content, has become an essential element
to news media organizations’ monetization.

Selectively catering to a particular
type of target audience demographic has resulted in viewerships consisting of
narrow political beliefs. By catering to viewers expectations of routine
political messaging and providing them with selective content of which they
will likely find agreeable, media organizations are backing themselves into a
corner wherein they will be unable to deviate from the norms that they have
established amongst their audiences. Consequently, any news outlet that
substantially deviates from the ordinary boardcase of politically biased
content would affect the makeup of viewership demographics and therefore spur
uncertainty in advertising revenue forecasts. 

From the corporate perspective,
consistent political ideology among viewers translates to financial stability
for media organizations whose main source of revenue is derived from
advertisers who broadcast information regarding their products and services to
a targeted consumer. Theoretically, any significant change in bias will lead to
a subsequent change in viewership demographics and therefore a shift in
advertising and sponsorship revenue. By binding themselves to biased
narratives, mainstream news outlets have become the tip of the informational
spear, leading the charge on behalf of their respective base. Corporate news
media’s financial dependency on advertising and sponsorship revenues, coupled
with bipartisan obstructionism, is unsustainable because it further polarized
the American political landscape while the political informational crisis
festers. 

            This
study incorporates social media data from mainstream and independent news media
outlets whose core viewership ranges from liberal, to moderate and conservative
demographics. The analysis of the compiled social media data will show that
propagandistic tactics are used to increase audience engagement for the likely
purpose of maximizing monetization. As you evaluate the data and consider the
psychological impact that language bears on listeners and readers, you may come
to the conclusion that news organizations with partisan bias politicize a
particular subject matter in an efforts appeal to their audience’s respective
conservative or liberal ideologies ultimately to preserve their relationships
with advertisers and sponsors.

Predictions

Considering that C-SPAN
(Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) is a private non-profit company whose
revenues are not derived from advertising,2 most
would agree that the network has been able to provide political news reporting
with minimal bias. As a consequence, the absence of biased reporting in C-SPAN
news coverage, likely explains why their audiences are not motivated to engage
with their content. In contrast, FOX and CNN are much more likely to permit
significant amounts of biased content in their reporting due to economic
incentives which drive them to achieve high user engagement among their
viewers, to generate revenue which can be attributed to their “for-profit”
business model. 

Similar to mainstream media
organizations, independent news outlets such as Breitbart and The Intercept are
likely to disseminate content that is overwhelmingly biased. This is probably
due to the fact that most independent media organizations are unable to
broadcast their content at mass scale via cable television programming. In
theory, without substantially biased content, outlets like Breitbart and The
Intercept are not as likely reach new audiences and grow their viewership,
given that audiences tend to only engage with content that they are emotionally
invested in. Therefore, independent and mainstream news outlets typically must
engage in partisan-biased reporting because without a consistent viewership demographic
a news organization would be powerless in sustaining financial viability.   

Leveraging Information for
Power

“Power involves the ability of an
actor to produce outcomes consonant with his perceived interests. . . .
Insofar as knowledge is power, communication systems are power systems.”3
To supplement the notion that the media’s control of knowledge is a control of
outcomes, Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) argue that informal leaders of the mass
media act as gatekeepers, controlling information through interpersonal
influence.4
Social media platforms such as, Twitter, a microblogging service, allow formal
and informal leaders to engage with other users on a mass scale, yet at an
interpersonal level.

Selective Information and the
Illusion of Control

According to a study conducted by
Pew Research Center, 79% of U.S. adults feel that having a lot of information
gives them feelings of control over things in their life.5 In
1986, University of Santa Clara psychology professor, Jerry Burger, published a
study in the Journal of Research in
Personality analyzing the effects of familiarity and sequence of outcomes
and how they relate to man’s desire to control.6
Burger conducted two tests that yielded similar results: (1) subjects playing
card games are much more likely to place large bets when dealt familiar hands,
and (2) subjects who experience success in anticipating the outcome of a
coin-toss at the beginning of a sequence are much more likely to believe they
are going to win the next coin-toss.

In summary, subjects from both
control groups who interacted with familiar information or familiar structure
and sequencing of said information, were more susceptible to the illusion of
control. This effect can be attributed to man’s natural psychological reflex where
desired results are expected to manifest in correspondence with past
experiences. Applying Burger’s conclusions about the innate desire humans have
for controlling outcomes, it can be inferred that democratic participants who
wish to feel in control, will seek out familiarity regarding the content and
structure of political information which coalesces with their preexisting
beliefs.  

1             Groenendyk,
Eric W., Competing Motives in the Partisan Mind: How Loyalty and Responsiveness
Shape Party Identification and Democracy. New York, Oxford University Press
(2013). pp. 224. http://ourpoliticalnature.com/PoliticalScienceQuarterly.pdf

2             FAQs, “How
is C-SPAN funded?” https://www.c-span.org/about/faq/

3             Pettigrew,
Andrew M. “Information Control as a Power
Source” Sociology, vol. 6, no. 2, 1972, pp. 188. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42852925.

4             Id. 
pp. 187

5             Horrigan,
John B., “Information Overload” Pew
Research Center (2016). http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/07/information-overload/

6             Burger,
Jerry M., “Desire for Control and the Illusion of Control: The Effects of
Familiarity and Sequence of Outcomes” Journal
of Research in Personality. Vol. 20, Issue 1, (1986). pp. 66. https://doi.org/10.1016/0092-6566(86)90110-8