Every day, whether we realize it or not, the messages we receive are carefully selected and filtered for us by many different outlets. In a modern and progressive era, it is becoming increasingly important to analyze which content is being modified and by whom. The definition of censorship is “the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society.” Living in a democratic society, it is all the more necessary to take a critical eye to the information that is relayed through media channels and consider the different agents that are acting upon the resulting message.


When television was in its early entrepreneurial stages in the 60’s and 70’s, countless studies were conducted about the effect of the new nationwide phenomenon that was television. It was understandably daunting at first, to think about such a small box with so much power; there it sat in the homes of nearly every family in the nation, a perfect channel to reach the unsuspecting masses. At first, the theories developed by these somewhat alarmed social theorists were a bit gratuitous, assuming that the wide audience of television viewers could be swayed and essentially brainwashed by the small box in their living rooms, receptive to its every word. “The Cultivation Theory” emerged during this time period; it was a prominent ideology in the social sciences that assumed that the long term viewership of television would eventually cultivate a certain viewpoint in a frequent audience.


Now, with more sophisticated research methods at our disposal and a more extensive knowledge and familiarity with television as a medium, we realize that television is not as powerful as that. Tendencies in viewership like “selective retention,” which says that people only internalize the information that corresponds with their pre-existing views, allows us to better understand how people process and consume media messages. However, even as we begin to better understand the role of television and mass media, we must continue to be critical of media messages that reach us in our daily lives.


Take the news, for example. Millions of people depend on prominent news sources, such as MSNBC or FOX News, to dictate to them what is going on around the world, and within our own country. What many people do not realize is that the sources where we get our news, whether it is specified television programs like FOX or CNN, or even social media, like Facebook or Twitter, are not objective. Every news outlet is censored and tailored to convey a certain message and present the issue through a specific lens. We, as a collective audience, need to be aware of the fact that there is no such thing as an unbiased media message. Every news story or piece of information is framed in a specific way. If not by fabrication or embellishment, simply by the information that is included or omitted in the grander message.


As individuals, there is nothing that we can do about censorship. As an often unintentionally receptive audience, consuming media at every turn whether we realize it or not, we must be wary of the messages we consume and choose to believe. Television is not an evil box with hypnotic or brainwashing metaphysical powers, but these media channels present to us the information that we must be constantly processing and analyzing on a day-to-day basis. Next time you watch the news, or read a news story on Buzzfeed, or even this article, think about who is behind the message, choosing what gets presented to you, the viewer.


What do you think about media censorship? Share what you think by posting in the comments below or send me a tweet @JenksUOhMeASoda