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U.S. National Security. Wag the Dog and the Media. Wag the Dog : Discussion Questions. What point are the filmmakers trying to make with this satire? What threats are portrayed? Threats to whom? Who/what is threatening? Why was war the go-to diversion?

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u s national security

U.S. National Security

Wag the Dog and the Media

wag the dog discussion questions
Wag the Dog: Discussion Questions
  • What point are the filmmakers trying to make with this satire?
  • What threats are portrayed? Threats to whom? Who/what is threatening?
  • Why was war the go-to diversion?
  • What role does emotion - specifically fear - play in the movie?
  • Analyze the scene with the CIA agent.
scene with the cia agent
Scene with the CIA Agent
  • “There is no war.”
  • “Of course there’s a war - I see it on TV.”

…And to go to that war, you've got to be prepared. You have to be alert, and the public has to be alert. Cause that is the war of the future, and if you're not gearing up, to fight that war, eventually the axe will fall. And you're gonna be out in the street. And you can call this a "drill," or you can call it "job security," or you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: you said, "Go to war to protect your Way of Life," well, Chuck, this is your way of life. Isn't it? And if there ain't no war, then you, my friend, can go home and prematurely take up golf. Because there ain't no war but ours.

wag the dog discussion questions1
Wag the Dog: Discussion Questions
  • The film portrays many trappings of war, such as songs and propaganda. What are the implications of these in real life?
  • Which elements (actors, relationships) of domestic politics are important, and why?
  • Similarities/differences with the president’s actual relationship to the media in regards to national security?
the media
The Media
  • 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
  • Press = Link between the president and the people
    • Media and president are mutually dependent
  • T. Roosevelt: began meeting with reporters regularly, built a pressroom in the White House, and had an aide give daily briefings
  • Wilson: began holding regular press conferences
media and innovations
Telegraph --> wire services

1920s: Radio

1950s: Television

1980s/90s: Cable and Satellite

1990s/00s: Internet

2000s/10s: Cell phones, social media

Each innovation -

Increases potential # of potential news sources

Allows the president to communicate more directly with the people

Media and Innovations
media and innovations1
Rise of television

1959: 19% of people get most of their news from television alone

1997: 69%

2003: 86% cite TV as main source of info about Iraq war (only 4% cite Internet)

2013: 55%

Rise of cable

1995: 23% of Americans watch cable news daily (62% watch network news daily)

2008: 40% (34%)

Rise of Internet

1995: 3%, daily news source

2008: 31%

Media and Innovations
problems with the dominance of tv
Problems with the dominance of TV
  • 2013: 55% say TV is main source of news
  • Even important stories only receive ~75 seconds of coverage, on average
  • Stories that are more exciting are privileged
  • General lack of in-depth reporting due to concern for ratings
  • E.g.: Presidential sound bites
    • 1968: 42 seconds, on average
    • 1996: 7 seconds, on average
cnn effect
CNN Effect
  • The idea that CNN (and, later, its competitors) influences US FP significantly
    • Agenda-setting
    • Impeding policy
    • Speeding decision making
  • 1980: CNN
  • 1996: Fox News and MSNBC
cnn effect1
CNN Effect
  • Gulf War (Peter Jennings)
  • Gulf War (BBC)
  • Iraq 2003
problems with the rise of the internet
Problems with the rise of the internet
  • Anyone can post.
  • Images can be altered.
  • Stories move so quickly that fact-checking is often left behind.
  • Junod (2003), “The Falling Man”
  • Krug and Niggemeier (2013), “Enhanced Reality: Exploring the Boundaries of Photo Editing”
  • Mermin (1997), “Television News and American Intervention in Somalia: The Myth of a Media-Driven Foreign Policy.”

“…by that time [2003] it was clear that despite the best efforts of the American government and the American media, the legacy of 9/11 was not going to be moral clarity but rather moral unease — an almost vertiginous sensation of the ground giving way beneath our feet, along with just about everything else. That sensation, alas, has never gone away, and it is what has been mined brilliantly by the makers of Mad Men. If, in 2003, America was finally able to look at a two year-old photograph suggesting that it had to revise what it thought it knew about how people died on 9/11, by 2007 it was primed to watch a prime-time melodrama suggesting that it had to revise what it thought it knew about how people lived in 1960. It was ready to hear that what it had always regarded as American exceptionalism got its start as American entitlement, and was always fated to fall back to earth.”-Tom Junod, “Falling (Mad) Man” (2012)