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Impact of Social Media on US Political Campaigns

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3255 words Published: 6th Oct 2017

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Mass Media as a Representation of the First Amendment in Hillary Clinton’s Current Campaign

In a recent video, Hillary Clinton has declared that she will indeed run for presidency in the year 2016. And while her usage of mass media is not unique to her presidential campaign, one could argue that hers is by far the one with the greatest reach — internet users around the world grow by the thousands each day (Internet Society Global Internet Report) and is a perfect representation of how mass media has played an important role in her political campaign. The media, as you will see, can influence politics both foreign and domestic. Political figures, such as Hillary Clinton, use mass media as a tool to promote desired agendas in a presidential campaign. As the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Kluwer XXXV). In many ways, social media, and mass media as it is consumed today is a 21st century version to this foundational law, as it provides a platform for people across all social classes to interact and share their opinions, virtually and vicariously assembling without having to physically come together. She is certainly not the first, but Hillary Clinton’s usage of mass media epitomizes the representation of First Amendment in modern day society as a foundation to their campaign.

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Mass media is a diversified technology made to reach a large number of people by mass communication. Such technology is used to convey information electronically through a number of devices, for instance television, radio, recorded music and film. As well, Social media attribute to web-based technologies that provide platform for individuals and community to share, exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities like Facebook and Twitter.

Politics has grown to be integrated with mass media since the development of one of the first successful newspapers ever, (Boston Newsletter) which was created over a century ago by John Campbell in the year 1704 (Baran). This was the beginning of an inevitable change in global communication. Since then, other media friendly devices have cemented their spot in the industry such as the television, the radio, cell phones and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube). It is with these tools, protected by the First Amendment that people peek into what is going on in the world around us, from business to warfare, from sports to political events.

One of the most renowned political events in history happened to be televised. “The great debate of 1960” between John F. Kennedy vs. Nixon on September 26th (Matthews). It was in this classic debate that both the world and all political figures had realized the importance of telegenics. Americans nationwide had a front row seat to the tremendous transformation of both society and politics and its cohesive relationship through television broadcasting (Baran). “Richard Nixon did not understand the power of television” (Matthews). Nine out of ten American families had a TV set in their homes by 1960 (Matthews). His misunderstanding led to his lack of personal preparation. It was documented that Kennedy rented out the top two floors of Chicago’s Ambassador East Hotel and studied homemade note cards filled with probable questions put together by his staff (Matthews). On the contrary, Nixon who is well known for his debating skills chose to sit and wait until the day of the debate. Moments before the debate, one of Nixon’s trustees, Henry Cabot, warned him to “avoid being his own Herblock caricature, the swarthy bully of Alger Hiss and Helen Douglas. “Erase the assassin’s image!” (Matthews).” Sources say that this was the final blow to Nixon’s defeat. As millions of Americans watched from the comfort of their home, his persona was shot down, what made Nixon the great debater, was now watered down into a spitting image of Kennedy’s gentlemen-like behavior. According to sources, Nixon’s angry focus is what might have been the missing ingredient in order for him to win over Kennedy and his TV friendly tactics (Matthew). Minor things like Nixon’s notorious 5 o’clock shadow might have been overlooked by the public even though it gave him a distinctively negative look as opposed to Kennedy’s clean cut nonchalant mien (Matthews). This debate was seemingly equal in verbal content but the favoring persona belonged to Kennedy because of his telegenic preparation. It is not only about how one looks on television, it is also about what is said, how one says it and how everything is presented before the public.

Hillary Clinton, unlike Nixon, is not ignorant to the importance of appearance positioning before the public through mass media. She uses television mass media and print media, such as the New York Times, to her advantage. Focusing even more on appearing confident and qualified for the presidential position. Hillary Clinton announced her official presidential candidacy on Sunday April 12th, 2015. John Podesta, a long time ally to Clinton also sent an official email to her supporters, then she launched a YouTube video to promote her campaign ad to the public (National Public Radio). This is the major relevancy of mass media and its recipients. The evolution of media has brought forth the bridge between the people and politics. Hillary Clinton’s campaign sets her strategy to further progress her public image and to improve her perception in the eyes of the public through social media among other public mediums.

Clinton’s presence in the media, however does not begin during her presidential, and even her secretarial position in Congress. Born in Chicago, Illinois on October 26 of 1947, Hilary Clinton is the daughter of Hugh Ellsworth Rodham and Dorothy Emma Howell Rodham (National First Ladies’ Library). Her parent’s firm emphasis on the importance of status and prestige, but most importantly, appeal and charisma before the public complemented her collegiate excellence at her various universities, particularly leading her to graduate as Senior Class President from Yale Law School and was an active democratic supporter (National First Ladies’ Library). She found a breath of inspiration in her early years to work in public service because of a speech delivered by reverend Martin Luther King (National First Ladies’ Library), a perfect representation of the First Amendment. In 1974 after the Nixon Presidential term was over she became a staff member of the University of Arkansas Law School where she met her future husband Bill Clinton (National First Ladies’ Library). She was later married to the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton and became the 67th U.S Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013 (BIO). Although Hillary has had a colorful past in her career and in the public eye, she endured a taste of media publicity that most people would have rather left hidden. In 1998 the spur in the news about the Monica Lewinsky Scandal involving then president Bill Clinton and his affair with the 21 year old at the time was certainly not advantageous to her position in the public sphere. The media was engrossed and in and particularly at fault for the escalation of the events that had taken place.

In addition to political media, it correlates with the First Amendment. “Protection of civil liberties and civil rights is perhaps the most fundamental political value in American society”(American Government). The ability to speak freely under minimal legal boundaries is a right known as Freedom of speech. This is one of the most protected liberties since it gives leeway for individuals to communicate their ideas. These ideas can be delivered through the various platforms described in earlier content. Prior to the construction of this amendment there was a limit to freedom of speech which suppressed people from becoming informed and spreading their ideas and involving their opinions in politics. “It was until the 18th century that freedom of speech was recognized in America as a shield against despotic government” (Germani). This was a step towards the right direction and a perfect example of freedom to petition. This includes the United States “ethics reform” bill which was intended to enable “grassroots lobbying”. This generally means a movement to enable members of the general public to communicate on matters dealing with the government or inspire and influence the other members of the general public to do the same. Mass media is playing a great role to bring about fulfillment of freedom of petition as a First Amendment. It achieves this by enabling citizens to focus government attention on unresolved issues in society; provide information through appropriate media channels about common policies, expose corruption, misconduct, incompetence and popular frustrations without harming the public order (Newton).

This was the era mass media had established itself and it is evident when colonial newspaper publisher, John Peter Zenger, used his journalism to speak against the oppressive New York governor William Cosby (Germani). The First Amendment and freedom of speech has become imperative not only to the political world today but also to non-profit or third sector organizations because they allow people to prepare, speak freely and operate within wide limits.

Hillary Clinton uses media to express her freedom of speech and appeal to many people especially the youth. The media helps her display her agenda to the public. A video released on Youtube Sunday 12, 2015, reveals Clinton’s plans to bring about new improvements in America involving the middle class portraying a positive image to her viewers. The Youtube video featured a black couple expecting a child, a young American-Asian woman and two men claiming to be getting married. This media platform in relation to freedom of speech helped her to bring about her main agenda.

These individual rights come together to express, pursue, and defend our ideas. Mass media plays a great role in bringing about freedom of assembly through social media, television and radio. If we take a closer look at the political world in America, we see just how influential the media can be in creating awareness and perception that lead to critical evaluations by the public for public figures such as Hillary Clinton. In continuation, this freedom applies to all not only public figures, in which it could be manipulated into the reputable comedic parodies created by John Stewart and The Daily Show and their ability to portray Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton without punishable action or consequence, for example, or Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. These are the same rights that enable an individual to make complaints or have the sovereignty to deliver such a message without fear of reprisals.

In Hillary Clinton’s recent presidential campaign, she addressed all group of people regardless of their religion. Some societies find it difficult to appeal to voters across different religious lines but this is completely different in America where it includes all people in political process, whether they are members of large. Powerful religious groups, religious minority or subscribe to no religion. Therefore through media, voters are encouraged to make their decisions based on their personal assessment, integrity and ability of an individual to lead people in an appropriate manner across the nation without bias based on religion. The candidate for election plays a great role in setting a great tone and example to be a leader of America through non biased religious campaign.

History displays a restriction of freedom of assembly that limited people to be able to pursue and influence ranging groups of people; but with constant pursuit of the constitution and liberties covering mass media, there has been a significant change allowing individuals to gather and associate with any group of interest. Additionally, according to the records of colonial assemblies, there were no freedoms of petition until the period when mass media was reformed to address the issue. In the past, petitioning was in form of public dialogue but with the development of the constitution and media; the First Amendment has been adopted to enhance public views. In her current political campaign, Hillary Clinton addressed the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world. She had also addressed the same issue in her “Free and equal in dignity and rights” speech during the international human rights day at the United Nation’s premises in Geneva on December 6th, 2011. Therefore she will be running the presidency as a pro-LGBT rights candidate.

In this attempt to be the face of this new, up and coming era in gay rights, the public will provide analytical feedback through today’s modern technology like never seen before (Chahal). The inevitable accumulation of analytical data serves as a representation of how far media has taken us in politics and how social media has fortified Hillary Clinton’s popularity in her current presidential campaign. In less than 24 hours after launching her Facebook page, on Sunday, 12 2015, she was able to accumulate more than 600,000 page views and 2 million video views. This is one of her campaign strategies used since she had earlier mentioned on the importance of social media and data in the 2016 general elections. According to observations made over time, social media and its massive interconnected sources, also known as “big data”, influence election decisions. For instance, “social data drove the 2008 general election and big data drove 2012 general election” (Chahal). Therefore, the “marriage” of the two data is expected to be the drive of 2016 general election (Chahal).

To conclude, mass media plays a very important role in the election process, since most candidates who embrace technology and mass media, especially in a presidential campaign, normally have high chances of winning the election. There is a great change in the society with the innovative advancement of mass media to give rise to social Medias like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube which provide great platform for freedom of speech and assembly. Actually, politicians running for any kind of election no matter locally, statewide or nationally should plan their campaign properly by setting appropriate media devices to disseminate information and reach all people across different social classes and religion. As well, media plays an essential role in communication with voters; therefore, the media should represent standards by which people can evaluate political candidates. Finally, the First Amendment plays a great role in enhancing the freedom of press and media in the process of distribution of information. It has opened a way for people to understand how the political world works hence election of sound and competent leaders. Whether Hillary Clinton successfully wins her presidential campaign relies heavily on her preparation before the public eye – media being the sensory vehicle used to connect with her — it’s the closest thing one has to shaking hands.

Works Cited

American Government. “Liberty and civil rights.” 1 June 2014. ushistory. 16 April 2015 <www.ushistory.org/gov/10.asp>.

Baker, Gerard. “The Clinton Affair: Gerard Baker Explains Why the Allegations over Monica Lewinsky Present Such a Threat to the US Presidency:: [London Edition].” Http://search.proquest.com/. 17 Jan. 1998. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://search.proquest.com/pqcentral/docview/248541187/328F64E34D024E06PQ/8?accountid=9715>.

Baran, Stanley J. Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2014. Print.

Chahal, Gurbaksh. “Election 2016: How Big Data Social Data Will Determine the Next President.” Election 2016: How Big Data Social Data Will Determine the Next President. 26 June 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <https://www.benton.org/node/154506>.

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Germani, Steve. “Learning to Give, Philanthropy Education Resources That Teach Giving and Civic Engagement.” Learning to Give. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper28.html>.

Hillary Clinton To Announce Presidential Bid On Sunday. NPR. NPR, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/04/10/398729997/hillary-clinton-to-announce-presidential-bid-on-sunday>.

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Kluwer, Wolters. “The First Amendment.” The First Amendment. Fourth ed. NY: Wolters Kluwer Law and Business in New York, 2012. 799. Print.

Matthews, Christopher. “GREAT DEBATE NIXON AND KENNEDY STAGED THE FIRST TV PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN DEBATE IN 1960 – AND CHANGED POLITICS FOREVER.” San Francisco Examiner April 28 1996. ProQuest. Web. 21 Apr. 2015 .

Newton, Adam. “FREEDOM OF PETITION,PETITION RESEARCH.” 10 October 2002. firstamendmentcenter. 17 April 2015 <www.firstamendmentcenter.org/petition-overview>.

Thomas, Ken. “Hillary Clinton Announces Her Second Run for the White House.” PBS. PBS, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/hillary-clinton-announce-official-run-president/>.


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