Mass media and American foreign policy…. how does one even begin to narrow the focus of a project that considers a relationship of this magnitude?
Well, let’s start with what’s certain. I know that I want to write a paper. I also know that my independent is happening under the auspices of the history department, so a significant part of my paper would probably need to be devoted to combing through the history of America’s relationship with . . . which country? Never mind that, which region?
It didn’t take me long to center on the Middle East — after all, it has long been a choice “theater” of American military intervention, and has enjoyed wall-to-wall attention from the mass media since September 11th, 2001 — and after some cursory research, I determined that America’s foreign policy towards Israel would provide the richest history. Add to that the fact that many large-scale media outlets focus on this relationship as well as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, and I have ample sources for my paper-to-be.
At least, that was my mindset at the beginning of last Saturday. Later that afternoon, I spent the better part of two hours working with my off-campus mentor, T. Olga Vilceanu (she teaches about media, advertising, and PR), through the sometimes painful process of paring down my . . . extensive, shall we say? scope of focus with respect to media.
What types of media outlets would I include? Large? Small? Print? Broadcast? Independent? Corporate? How would I do actual analytics, what software would I use, because I sure as hell wasn’t doing that by hand, no sir. And on and on.
These were only a few of the questions she asked — rapid-fire — that made me see that I needed to narrow my focus waaaay down in order to come up with a reasonable thesis. It soon became clear to us that to research the “what” and the “how” of the role mass media has in molding public opinion of government foreign policy in order to justify it would mean conducting my own extensive analytics on media coverage of the State of Israel, something entirely infeasible considering the time frame of the independent.
In the end, we decided that the best course of action for me was to stick to my guns, as it were, and have the main focus of my paper be the history of America’s relationship with Israel. However, we couldn’t let the idea of the mass media’s influence on foreign policy go completely, so instead of burying myself in the exhaustive process of analyzing the language used to describe this foreign policy, I’ll come up with a theoretical basis — a model, if you will — describing why a platform in far-reaching large-scale media outlets would be useful to the American government in justifying foreign policy in the first place.
So now I have a manageable thesis, one which I can reasonably expect to thoroughly research and argue in a single semester.
And what is that thesis? To develop a theoretical model that defines why large-scale media outlets naturally serve as a legitimizing loudspeaker for the American government’s foreign policy towards the State of Israel, itself based upon historical relationships going back more than a century.
Here are a few of my prospective sources — they should keep me busy for the next few weeks.
Sic incipitur, I guess.