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Politics and Media

Brian McNair


In 1922 the American journalist and social commentator Walter Lippmann wrote that “the significant revolution of modern times is the revolution taking place in the art of creating consent among the governed” ( Lippmann 1954 ). From his vantage point in the early twentieth century, just four years after the end of World War I, Lippmann was drawing attention to the fact that politicians were entering a new era in which the role of the media was going to be central to effective government. Henceforth, they would have to know and understand how the media impacted on public opinion. Such knowledge, he predicted, would “alter every political premise.” And so it has turned out. Politics in the twenty-first century is inconceivable without the part played by media institutions. As reporters, analysts, and interpreters of events to mass electorates the media are integral to the democratic process and no politician, party, or government can afford to ignore or dismiss them. This entry examines how the media came to acquire this role, and its implications for how politics is conducted in modern societies. Since the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the late fifteenth century, media have driven politics. Early correspondents were employed by monarchs, bishops, aristocrats, and other elites in feudal societies as sources of information, be it from the far reaches of the kingdom, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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