…vs. mass media

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “mass media?”

The media‘s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

 — Malcolm X

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” — James Madison

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” — Jim Morrison

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” — Joseph Stalin



Media essentially is Latin’s plural word for medium or medius (Latin for middle layer).


In the 1600s, people began using it to refer to an “intermediate agency.”


Later, and more specifically, mass media became a technical term used in advertising in the 1920s.

Remember how propaganda also referred to the “building of layers upon layers?”



Whether we’re talking about the word medius in terms of plants, measurements, membranes, or people who communicate with the dead, it all boils down to something that is between or in the middle of something else.

This leaves things pretty open, and begs the question, “The middle of what?” It must be that we’re talking about a medium that communicates between the powerful elite (or collective consciousness– or someone?) and the masses. Hence, the proper term to distinguish what we mean in this sense is mass media. In other words, the medium (or media) that is used to communicate with the masses.

If you look it up in any dictionary, you’ll find something like…

mass media: refers collectively to any means of communication that have the capacity to reach large groups of people (the majority, perhaps?) in a short time

Newer dictionaries tend to mention several specific types of communication tools (that have the capacity to spread fast information to lots of people) as being forms of mass media. With continuously new technological advances in the way we communicate, our definition of media has been forced to evolve along with it. As humans, we are constantly developing ways to communicate messages to masses of people.

television, radio, books, video games, newspapers, internet, magazines, skywriting, music, social media websites, flying billboards, blimps, blogs

Synonyms — communications industry, broadcasting, news, press, publishing, messenger, catalyst



Is mass media, at its best, supposed to be neutral? Somehow remain in the “middle” of the road?
Even if that is the ideal, information must be reported by someone, for some reason, and naturally has some bias…

But, even in the overwhelming age of information, we are not doomed to biased information.

First, if we want to know the connection between mass media and propaganda, it is important to see the distinction:

propaganda = selective or manipulated information presented as an argument, statement, or fact intended to influence public opinion and behavior

mass media = a set of tools, or some catalyst, used to communicate information to lots of people very quickly

Second, it is important to consider the purpose someone might have for of using mass media to communicate their message:
  • advocacy
  • entertainment
  • public service announcements
Third, it is important to consider the source, as well as the intended audience.
Perhaps you ask yourself: what is it that they need from me?
Although I think that media is a tool that can be used to further propaganda, it is also a mechanism that has equal potential to diffuse true knowledge.
This leaves the responsibility with the consumer.

Here is a CBS news broadcast about Rolling Rock’s so-called “Moonvertising” in 2008, and the New York Times article about it that you might take a look at.