Louis Wirth makes many excellent points about mass communications in his essay Consensus and Mass Communication but it was his writings on global mass communication which I thought had a very good point, especially in an age such as today where any form of media, no matter how remote the location, can unite, inspire, mobilize or shock the world.
Wirth wrote, “The instruments of mass communications, particularly the radio, and, it seems soon, television, combining the faithful transmission of the voice with that of the visual image of the human face and gesture, are particularly well suited to supply the means of understanding across the borders of sovereign state” (pg. 252).
Two examples which prove that point along with, “…these products of mass communication have a way of reaching the great inert masses of the world, for making them restless and mobilizing them for action, or at least for making the dominant groups in their respective societies more responsive to their pressure” (pg. 253) are the reactions across the world in newspapers during 9/11, and the enormous use of social media to spark the protests and movements in Egypt in 2011.
Global reactions to 9/11 were, just as Wirth wrote, without border due to a common understanding of grief and tragedy. Numerous countries across the world, despite any tensions or diplomatic issues with the United States, unified around those affected by that day’s events. This was exemplified by the power of newspapers and the headlines they ran, many which supported the United States such as France’s Le Monde which ran a headline reading “We Are All Americans.”
Secondly, mass communications has the power to mobilize large groups of people, and no better recent example of that being than the use of social media in Egypt to not only cover the country’s daily events, but also to spur protests in the face of a powerful regime. As Wirth wrote, the dominant group in that society did do something about it as the Egyptian regime shut down the Internet down in numerous parts of the country before it was eventually restored. Just the fact that such measures had to be taken shows the raw power of mass media communications in today’s world, further proving Wirth’s point of mass communication’s role.