Free «The Ubiquity of Mass Media and Social Media Creates a Limiting Effect on U.S. Military Policymakers, Leaders and Managers» Essay

The Ubiquity of Mass Media and Social Media Creates a Limiting Effect on U.S. Military Policymakers, Leaders and Managers

Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.
                                                                                   —Douglas MacArthur

When the founding fathers of the United States of America came together in order to initiate the process of nation building, they could not have envisioned the role of the U.S. military as it is today. It was impossible to think beyond the borders of the U.S. when they deliberated on the basic features of the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, by a stroke of genius some of them made a deliberate attempt to ensure the freedom of the press. It is this single act and addition to the legal framework of the Constitution that paved the way for the management and control of the U.S. military under a civilian governance structure characterized by the idea that it is a government of the people and by the people. Be that as it may, the principles that governed the expression of thoughts and opinions through mass media and social media continue to create obstacles and challenges for the U.S. military. It is however, the knowledge and appreciation of the freedom of expression, as guaranteed by law, that U.S. military leaders, policymakers, and managers are compelled to make the necessary adjustments so that they can still perform their duties without sacrificing the transparency required for it to operate in a free society.

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Checks and Balances

U.S. based mass media outlets, news organizations, news specialists, journalists, bloggers and even users of social media sites to disseminate, discuss, analyze, and interpret the news are allowed to operate on the basis of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is interesting to note that the very first amendment to the most important legal foundation of America was focused on enhancing the capability of American citizens to engage in healthy discussion of issues and problems.

As a consequence of the legal framework that assumes the freedom of expression and, subsequently, the freedom of the press, mass media outlets and various stakeholders are made aware of its responsibilities, especially when it comes to an uninhibited and robust wide-open discussion on some of the pressing problems the country is facing at the moment. In other words, it is the responsibility of journalists, commentators and even bloggers to engage the general public in discussion so that they are not only well-informed about crucial issues, but also affected by media influence and impact as manifested through their decision-making.

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The ubiquity of the media and its far-reaching capabilities are positive attributes, but the U.S. government and the U.S. military are oftentimes conflicted when it comes to the freedom of the press. There has always been an uneasy relationship between top policymakers, government officials, and top brass in the U.S. military and those that represented the idealized version of the freedom of the press.  Henceforward, one can see the collusion between the U.S. government and the U.S. military when it comes to the need to stifle the flow of information from mass media and social media platforms and into the general public.

It is not hard to understand why a negative response can be expected from the military top echelons. It must be made clear that the U.S. military scope of work and excellence are not limited by domestic problems and national concerns. When the U.S. military gets a front-page news about recent activities and recent plans, one can argue that top military brass is uncomfortable seeing critical information and issues that are being discussed in the open.

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Consider, for instance, how the U.S. government tried to intervene in the issues concerning the publication of the controversial Pentagon Papers and the desire to print the instructions on how to build a hydrogen bomb in The Progressive magazine. In both cases, the people behind the attempt to disseminate information to the people secured moral victories when both sets of information were published. On the other hand, it must be made clear that the intervention of the government pushed the publication date behind the scheduled release.

The Response of the U.S. Military

With regards to the U.S. military, the oftentimes contentious relationship between them and mass media platforms was made evident when it came to U.S. involvement in international wars. Top leaders from the U.S. military were rightfully concerned that the coverage of the news made it possible for the opponents of the U.S. military to use top quality reporting as a basis for their countermoves.

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It is not only the leakage of sensitive information and the broadcasting of troop movements that caused a great deal of frustration within military circles; it is also about the release of information or graphic images about the conflict that damaged the credibility of the U.S. military in domestic and international realms. For example, the image of a dead soldier dragged around the streets of Somalia painted a thousand words that screamed military incompetence. It is this kind of debacle exacerbated by media reporting that can oftentimes discourage military leaders to take the initiative, especially when they no longer feel that they are relevant or important; they decide to shirk from their responsibilities if they can find a justification not to get involved. Thus, in the Rwandan genocide that triggered mass murders U.S. military officials were not enthusiastically building a response team to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the said country. One of the examples on how mass media coverage affected the U.S. military can be seen in the way policymakers created stricter guidelines when it comes to the decision to participate in future conflicts. As a result, the U.S. military now being careful in participation and future actions are being weighed through the following criteria: 1) costs; 2) risks; 3) military readiness; and 4) U.S. public support.

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It is easy to explain how the U.S. military abhors the release of sensitive information about tactics and troop movements to journalists and bloggers. Nonetheless, top military personnel and policymakers are also aware of the fact that they live in a free society, and there is always a price to pay for enjoying that kind of freedom. As a consequence, the U.S. military had to make a compromise by allowing greater accessibility to less sensitive information. For example, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army are now leveraging the use of social media sites to create more profound interactions with the general public, especially to connect with the family and relatives of soldiers and other military personnel.

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The U.S. Army recently announced the availability of a website that encourages the participation of stakeholders in social media. For example, there is a link that encourages servicemen and their families to include their websites into the said network. However, the compromise is that the U.S. military sets forth limitations and filter mechanisms to make sure that the statements and images found in the said websites are not going to hurt the image of the U.S. military.


U.S. military officials are not at all pleased with the way mass media outlets are able to access sensitive information and turns around to share it to the world. Nevertheless, the U.S. military understands that this type of inconvenience forms part the price it has to pay to co-exist with other agencies and other people groups within a free society. Thus, the U.S. military was correct in its analysis that by allowing outsiders and journalists to engage with them through social media and other similar means improves the relationships between the two. It must be made clear that the U.S. military has also expressed the impact of mass media to their commitment to fight injustice and oppression in other parts of the world if the U.S. public fails to express their support on similar issues.

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