The 1997 film Wag The Dog tells the story of individuals from the White House using Hollywood filmmakers to construct a war to win the public’s favor in order to re-elect the president. The film addresses the journalistic issue of media manipulation.
One side of the argument says that constructing false news stories is wrong and that the media is responsible for presenting the world and news exactly as it. Another side of the argument says that the media constructs story because the media constructs the reality as we see it. In the key concepts for media literacy the first concept states, “All media are constructions. This is arguably the most important concept. The media do not simply reflect external reality. Rather, they present carefully crafted constructions that reflect many decisions and are the result of many determining factors. Media Literacy works towards deconstructing these constructions”. This side of the argument says that constructing stories are apart of creating the world as we see it.
There have been many cases of the media being manipulated. For example, In a 2005 article by the New York Times it discussed how the federal government was creating news segments for local TV news stations. The article stated, “In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production”.
If I was a “fixer” for the president of the United States and he wanted me to manipulate the media and create a war to win the public’s favor I don’t think I would be able to do it. Physically I believe I could make it happen, probably not as easy as the movie made it look but I believe it could be done. But emotionally I would be far too afraid of what the media could actually accomplish by faking a war. Media manipulation is not simply reporting history, but it is creating history- which to me is not what the media is built for.
Before this film I would not have thought media manipulation was a big issue for journalism. But after our class discussion and research into media manipulation I am very terrified of how big and how current of an issue this is for journalism. News stories provided by any source- whether it is the government or a big corporation, any story created by an outside source is inherently bias. And presenting that news as unbiased and not stating where that news comes from damages media outlets credibility and loses the public’s trust in journalism.
Media Literacy Key Concepts
New York Times Media Manipulation