Mass Media Influencing in US Foreign Policy


The mass media and communication process have become very significant elements in the politics of US foreign policy. More importanly mass media has become the forth pillar in the US democracy. Besides, US mass media has high relative freedom other than its democracy partners. Two accounts for this: (1) people have greater need for information about national and international affaris and (2) communications revolution makes it possible to rapidly communicate events and information instantly anywher. General importance of mass media is people will always rely on the sources of events and informations from radio television, internet of newspaper before they eventually shape and voice their opinion publicly. The american public, both mass and elite publics have become dependent on the news media for information and uneestanding of national and international affairs. In many ways, media coverage today is better than ever before. However, regardless the rapid development of mass media throughout US, Americans have less attention on international affairs in which they are more interested with issues concerning domestic issues about their own government. But above sentence does not close the possibilities of American on thinking and shaping their opinion in international affairs. Then, this makes the US media’s concern on international affairs is partially pays greater attention to the countries which are economically affluent, politically powerful and culturally similar to the United States. As an exact example, there is one foreign affair devoted cable television spesifically raises discussion about foreign affair on nation-state issues, it’s CNN—Cable News Network that has already had covered on more thatn 120 countries in the world. The influence of mass media can be vary according to the aspects or issues where lots of audiences or viewers are interested to hear, listen nor read. Those can be concerning about health, social security, financial and others, but we are going to focus our discussion on how mass media will help to give affect on foreign policy decision making.

Foreign policy decision making can be influenced by the action takes based on what is delivered by the mass media.

Most of american media focus on the local and national news with little attention given to international news. There is indirect approach as media seeks to influence foreign policy that is using pblication and broadcastst to try and change the beliefs and policy preferences of mass and or elite audiences. There are two historical examples in which mass media can lead to influencing foreign policy.

First, Foreign policy decision making is also influenced by the actions the public takes based on what is represented by the media, or just the simple influence the media itself has on the government. An example of this is the “CNN effect”, a phenomenon where the broadcasts of cable news organizations spur the action of the U.S. government and foreign policy officials. The term was coined in response to the footage of starving children in Somalia, which weighed highly on officials and prompted them to send military aid there. Then the footage of Somalis dragging the dead body of an American soldier though the streets was aired, and this represented a case that led to withdrawal. Here it is admitted that foreign policy officials often learn of trouble spots abroad from cable channel coverage. With this at hand, one can assume that, if it is in the media’s interest, it can be used in various forms, such as convincing propaganda, to directly influence foreign policy. The media, whether by choice or by accident, influences the public, and in the U.S., the public plays a large part in the election of foreign officials, although it is indirect. After the initial success of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with a quick defeat of the Iraqi military and the capture of Saddam Hussein, the public was bombarded with images of fallen soldiers. A gradual shift of public support of the ensued as the media relayed the “facts” about the conflict. When the notion that the war was not proving successful spread, a public effort against the war began. Protests rang out in Washington, and some officials were forced to speak against the war in order to keep their popularity. A resistance to the war in Iraq erupted, and the foreign policy decision making was strongly influenced. The original reason for entering the war, the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, transitioned to the claim that terrorist groups that threatened national security were operational within Iraq. They also made a hard case for the freedom of the Iraqi people, stating that if the U.S. was to withdraw its forces, Iraq would once again fall into the hands of a regime ruled by another dictator. As exemplified here, the government was forced to change its foreign relations with Iraq to counter opposition to the Iraq War, as a result of the public reaction from what was disclosed by the media. (2) it will be talking about the lack of exact information provided by mass media could lead to the failure of foreign policy needed to solve the international problems in the extent of international relations in making a more peaceful world. The example is the failure of the media to fully report on the genocide that claimed esetimated 800,000 lives in Rwanda during 100-day periond in 1994, made it easy for Western governments to ignore the ciris that they preferred not to acknowledge untill long after it ended.[1]


Therefore, we can assume that mass media has played critical role in shaping public opinion and then become a political actors in which they cover area to influence foreign policy. Due to Americans are deendent on the media as source of information—national and internationl affairs, news media have a major impact on public knowledge in the politics of US foreign policy. Therefore, mass media has become the desireable access form competing groups of interests in influencing and controlling nor shaping public opinion as well as to arrange foreign policy.


Carrauthers, Susan. 2000. The Media at War. New York: St. Martin’s Press

[1] Carruthers, Susan. 2000. Media at War published by St. Martin’s Press


About Renny Candradewi Puspitarini

Lecturer at Panca Marga University Faculty of Social Science and Political Science Department of Public Administration

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