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John Stuart Mill's On Liberty as applied to an issue of modern times - Essay Example

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John Stuart Mill's On Liberty as applied to an issue of modern times

He was concerned that this majority would stamp out diversity, repress individuals whom failed to conform to herdlike values, and stifle dissenting views.
The mass media presents a complex study because it involves an interplay between a tightly controlled corporate elite and masses of citizens whom too often turn to and rely upon the mass media for facts and information. How the mass media presents events is critical to American citizens attaining the intellectual and physical sovereignty to which Mill referred as constititing the foundations of their liberty and freedom. This essay will argue that, viewed through the principles articulated by Mill, today's oligopolistic mass media undermines and stifles the ideals to which he aspired for American citiens; as a result, notions such as the legitimacy of diversity and the sanctity of variety have been dealt a critical blow.
As a preliminary matter, before discussing Mill more particularly, it is necessary to place modern American mass media in context. ...
In democratic societies the manner by which the media system is structured, controlled, and subsidized is of central political importance. Control over the means of communication is an integral aspect of political and economic power" (McChesney, 1997: 6). The irony is that, although the mass media is privately controlled, it is structured in a way which more resembles a non-democratic oligopoly or military junta than a democratically-structured disperssion of media outlets. In short, from a structural point of view, American mass media is controlled and delivered by a wealthy corporate elite, economic and political barriers often bar entry to new participants, and American citizens receive their news from this structural mass media creature.
In addition to structure, it is important to discuss the more substantive features of American mass media. A superficial analysis might yield the view that American mass media, as a corporate enterprise designed to generate profits for corporate shareholders, reflects like a mirror the diversity and the variety of the American citizenry. If the mass media oligopoly didn't give the American consumers what they wanted, this logic goes, then the consumers would switch allegiance and the corporate profits would dry up. There are two fundamental flaws with this argument from the point of view of a theorist such as Mill. First, how the corporate mass media decides to present programming is often a product of detailed surveys and focus groups (Carper, 1995: D-19.2); in effect, the mass media is appealing to the majority as a primary justification for the selection of suitable subject matter and viewpoints. Rather than making programming decisions independently, based on ...Show more
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Summary

Were John Stuart Mill to witness American modern mass media he would no doubt be appalled and frightened. That American mass media is constructed and carried out as a corporate enterprise, beholden to both political and economic stakeholders, would no doubt strike Mill as the sort of tyranny of the majority which makes notions such as liberty and freedom illusory and disingenuous goals…
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