Interest groups seek to influence economic activity through public and private politics. Public politics takes place in the arena of public institutions, whereas private politics takes place outside public institutions often in the arena of public sentiment. Private politics refers to action by interest groups directed at private parties, as in the case of an activist group launching a campaign against a firm. This paper presents a model of informational competition between an activist and an industry, where both interest groups seek to influence public sentiment and do so by advocating their positions through the news media. Citizen consumers make both a private consumption decision and a collective choice on the regulation of a product that has an externality associated with it. In the absence of the news organization, the collective choice is not to regulate. The activist and the industry obtain private, hard information on the seriousness of the externality and provide favorable information to the news media and may conceal unfavorable information. The news media can conduct investigative journalism to obtain its own information, and based on that information and the information it has received from its sources, provides a news report to the public. Because of its role in society, the media has an incentive to bias its report, and the direction of bias is toward regulation. Its bias serves to mitigate both market failure by decreasing demand and a government failure by shifting votes in favor of regulation. The activist then has incentive to conceal information unfavorable to its interests, whereas the industry fully reveals its information.
Once the media presents something to the public, it won’t be along until their attention is absorbed by it. What they do or don’t focus on is then being defined by an outside source and this is an example of how the media can control people’s minds. This could mean that one is focusing on something important or it could mean that one is focused on something irrelevant. One is then not simply being informed; they are being misinformed and distracted. If something good has happened in the world or closer to home, it probably won’t see the light of day. Yet, when something ‘bad’ happens, there is a greater chance that it will appear in the media. Human beings are hardwired to focus on what is negative and this is due to the fact that if one doesn’t notice a threat, it could lead to their demise. On the other hand, if one doesn’t notice something positive, it is unlikely to put their survival at risk.
So the media plays into this and this is partly why people can end up being hooked into what the media is selling. It can also be a sign that one is carrying trauma and that they are therefore unable to experience life in a balanced way. There are things taking place in the world that can make one think it is getting worse and then there are things that can make them think the opposite. In order for one to maintain a balanced or realistic perspective of the world, it is going to be important for them to take a step back from time to time. Believing that the world is a complete mess and that there is no hope is one thing that can take place through being exposed to the mainstream media and there are many other consequences. The media doesn’t just cause one to have an inaccurate perspective though; it can also cause them to regress. One way this can take place is through one being conditioned to not only want things, but to want them straight away. The media is then speaking to the child within an adult and bypassing their ability to think critically.
This can be seen in media through the ‘buy now pay later’ option that is often put in front of people. It is not only the words they use that play a part, it is also the kind of imagery they use. As a child, one would have wanted everything straight away and this is because it wouldn’t have been possible for them to wait. However, at this age, it would have related to needs that needed to be fulfilled instantly, such as being fed and held. But as time passed and providing one got their dependency needs met, one would have gradually grown out of the need to have everything straight away. It would also have been important for their caregivers to refrain from giving them want they wanted all the time to enable them to develop their ability to delay gratification. If people are able to delay gratification (and this is not to say that this should always be the case), it is going to have a negative effect on the companies who are trying to sell things.