Blog Post #4

Blog Post Weeks 7-8

User generated content published on web 2.0 has enabled political messaging in the public sphere to be reactive to current events. Content creators can publish political commentary almost simultaneously with mainstream media outlets. Concurrence with the mainstream media is necessary for social relevance. For example, the show South Park has been socially relevant in the public sphere because it parodies current events. The show’s crude animation style allows the showrunners to release episodes only days after the episode’s inception. In the early 2000s before the onset of web 2.0, South Park released an episode parodying the Elian Gonzalez custody case involving the governments of Cuba and the United States. However, political relevance is currently not relegated to those in the mainstream media and prominent creators such as the showrunners of South Park. The ease at which users can now create and broadcast content enables larger participation from more diverse demographics in political discussions.
The expansion of the public sphere enabled by Web 2.0 has vast implications for America’s military ventures. Strong public support is still a prerequisite for starting and continuing war. The initial popularity of the Iraq war enabled our government to start the conflict. The later unpopularity of the Iraq war undoubtedly influenced the de-escalation of America’s military presence there. The web was still in its infancy during the start of the Iraq war: thus, the public received information primarily from the mainstream media. At the start of the Iraq war, 71% of American sources were in favor of the invasion. 26% of American sources were neutral and 3% of American sources were against the war. The expansion of the public sphere from web 2.0 has allowed for greater exposure of media sources that counter the interventionist rhetoric of the mainstream media and the Pentagon.
Recently, the conflict between America and North Korea has dominated the news cycle. Right now, it is speculated that although North Korea does not have the capability to reliably strike America, military action against the Kim regime would result in millions dead in North and South Korea. I chose to cover this conflict for my video because of its political relevance and my familial ties to South Korea. As evidenced by the projects we have watched for class, a short video can send a very powerful message. The video about the teacher remembering her Muslim students who were killed in a shooting was especially poignant. Content such as videos, podcasts, etc. published online may change public opinion enough to influence the government’s actions during this conflict. Hopefully they will deter public support for costly military intervention before it’s too late.

Post #3

Blog Post #3

In this blog post, I will elaborate on the role of social media and alternative media outlets in forming an independent “public sphere” that Habermas idealizes. Habermas’s public sphere hinges upon 3 main qualities: inclusivity, independence, and rationality. According to Habermas, the public sphere should include representation from diverse demographics, exist separately from the government and economic entities, and facilitate rational discussion. However, Habermas argues that the public sphere has disintegrated because of the expansion of the capitalist economy. The mass media, once a platform of political information, became corrupted into a platform for specific political agendas and corporate advertisement. Mainstream media outlets such as MSNBC are owned by large corporations such as Comcast. On top of that, mainstream news outlets have become heavily politicized echo chambers rather than objective messengers.

Many argue that the Internet has become the new public sphere in the 21st Century. The Internet is not a perfectly impartial medium, but I believe that it offers enough freedom to harbor the discourse essential for a modern public sphere. The Internet is especially pertinent for the discussion of American militarism because of the mainstream media’s reluctance to criticize America’s military pursuits. Mass media not only says what happens but, directly and indirectly, says what you should think about what happens. Every media outlet does this to a certain degree. Alternative media outlets on Youtube such as the The Young Turks, Jimmy Dore Show, and Secular Talk also report with a biased perspective but one that is contrarian to the mass media’s perspective. The mantle of discourse is instead hosted by forums, comment sections, and the discussion sections of websites like Reddit.

Another important way the mass media diverges from the public sphere is through selection of coverage. Simply put, mainstream media outlets do not cover topics proportionally to the public’s interest in them. A study done by an editor on Richochet using data from Bloomberg and Media Research Center revealed that the mainstream media does not base their coverage on the concerns of the public. For example, 35% of respondents cited health care as their most pressing concern but only 4% of mainstream media coverage is related to health care. Foreign policy with Russia was cited as the most pressing concern by only 6% of respondents but consists of 75% of mainstream media coverage. Online activity, whether through social media or creative platforms, gives the public the ability to engage in discourse on issues of its choosing. Granted, the online public sphere does not have an overarching consensus on any issue, but a relative consensus that is often at odds with the mass media. For example, polls show that around 60% of Americans support single-payer healthcare but a single-payer proposition is infrequently touched upon in the mainstream media’s healthcare coverage.



Second Post

This week I tweeted out 2 videos related to my podcast and reached out to all my classmates to follow me on Twitter. I followed each of my classmates’ Twitters as well. Although my podcast relates to the same overarching issue that was discussed in my infographic, it has a very different focus. Rather than analyzing the economic and human cost of America’s military ventures, my podcast examines the current situation in Aleppo. Online media outlets such as The Jimmy Dore Show, The Young Turks, Secular Talk, and The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity have also discussed this issue through podcasts and talk shows.
The mainstream media has largely discontinued coverage of Aleppo since the Syrian government seized control over the city last December. There are 2 primary explanations given for the mainstream media’s dearth of recent Aleppo coverage. Firstly, the mantra of “it bleeds it leads” broadly applies to mainstream media outlets. Secondly, the relative calm of life in Aleppo undermines the legitimacy of American foreign policy in Syria. The American government has consistently voiced hostility towards the government of Bashar Al-Assad. The Trump administration has maintained the hardline stance that a ceasefire negotiation is contingent upon Assad relinquishing his position as president.
Malcolm Gladwell’s column argues that the revolution will not be tweeted because activism proliferates from close networking. Gladwell cites that Martin Luther King’s bus boycott in Montgomery needed discipline and strategy to succeed. He makes a fair point that social media cannot provide the organization that traditional activism requires. However, he neglects the importance of social media’s role in shaping public opinion. In an article published by The Guardian, Cory Doctorow argues that the Internet fosters freedom by lending a voice to dissidents. He points out that the open nature of the Internet makes it difficult for authoritarian governments to control public discourse. This is reflected by the influence of online activity throughout the 2016 election cycle. As I stated in my initial blog post, mainstream media outlets are biased towards either democratic or republican establishments. The conversations taking place online that question the political narrative peddled by mainstream media outlets do reflect a broader social “revolution”. Doctorow also acknowledges that the internet gives a platform to bigoted individuals. Nonetheless, he concludes that the equalizing power of the internet is a positive thing for society.
Asking my classmates to follow me on Twitter is, in a way, the social activism through networking that Gladwell advocates for. However, while Gladwell dismisses Twitter discussions as frivolous, Doctorow embraces the proliferation of online conversation. The continuing influence of online media well after the conclusion of the 2016 election vindicates Gladwell’s perspective. Internet activism is here to stay. In my opinion, online activity’s role in the next social revolution is a question of when not if.

My First Post

First Blog Post: Ideas and Goal Statement


This blog will cover my foray into social media activism through Twitter, WordPress, and other platforms. The 2016 presidential election exhibited the influence that social media can have on influencing public opinion. Additionally, the 2016 election also catalyzed the rise of alternative media sources disseminating user generated content. These two developments gave unprecedented agency to voters. The internet gave consumers a plethora of options to consume information and express their opinions. Thus, producers of content had access to an unprecedented audience and sphere of influence that could extend well past their initial viewers.

This proliferation has unsurprisingly weakened the monopoly of main stream media sources on public opinion. In Lev Manovich’s analysis of Internet phenomena, he notes how the economics of media has changed. He points to research on long tail phenomena that demonstrated in many industries the collective revenue amassed from unpopular items exceeds the collective revenue of the top 40 items. Although Manovich’s analysis was published nearly a decade ago, his insight has been validated by current trends. The share of total news consumption from alternative media has risen. Furthermore, trust in the mainstream media has diminished, with 65% of voters polled believing that the mainstream media pushes a lot of “fake news”. This mistrust was exhibited across the political spectrum, with 80% of Republicans, 60% of Independents, and 53% of Democrats expressing this idea. Nevertheless, only 38% of Americans “often” get news online while 57% of Americans “often” get news from TV networks, which are mostly comprised of mainstream outlets such as Fox News and CNN.

Which brings me to the origins and aims of my WordPress. I based the title off the universally recognized truism that with great power comes great responsibility. Web 2.0 has granted individuals great power and with that power comes responsibility as well. Through social media I will encourage those in my sphere of influence to take advantage of Web 2.0 and  expose themselves to a variety of opinions and ideas. My outreach will specifically focus on the issue of American militarism which the mainstream media almost uniformly promotes. For example, the only action of Trump’s to receive universal praise from mainstream outlets was his strike on Syria’s Assad after an alleged chemical attack. The alarming militarism under Trump is reminiscent of the 2nd Bush administration, with Iran, North Korea, and Russia forming the new “Axis of Evil”. Foreign policy is an extremely complicated issue and mainstream media outlets either celebrate or ignore America’s interventions. Most Americans have an entrenched perspective on foreign policy in line with the mainstream media, which is why I think online activism on this issue is very important.

I have only taken basic steps in my activism so far. I created a twitter account following prominent politicians, mainstream media outlets, and alternative media outlets. I then enlisted two of my friends to follow me and also follow the alternative media outlets I followed to broaden their perspective.