Cultivation Analysis and Spiral of Silence theory are both instrumental in understanding the effects that mass media has in contemporary society. Both demonstrate how television is so pervasive and instructive to society in how to think and act in a unified, dominant culture.

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Cultivation Analysis is based primarily off the research by George Gerbner and his colleague Lawrence Gross in the late sixties and early seventies, studying the pervasiveness of television and mass media consumption by society and the resulting effects of both. Cultivation Analysis maintains that people in society watch television as though they were attending church, except that they were more faithful to television. The primary basis of the theory is that of a causal argument – television causes and shapes perception of reality. As a result of persistent and frequent consumption, people explain and understand the world around them directly through their experiences of television and mass media.

Some basic premises of Cultivation Analysis include the televisions’ ubiquity (aided by the fact that television is free after the initial cost of the set) and that television shapes our society’s way of thinking and relating. For instance, between 1993 and 1996, homicide rates dropped 20 percent nationwide, however television viewers thought that the crime rate had actually risen exponentially, due to the fact that news networks increased reporting of murder stories by over 700 percent. This false perception of reality was prevalent in those who watched the most television, but also had a ripple effect to those close to heavy television watchers.

Cultivation Analysis theory has shown that the difference in between light and heavy viewers of television hold directly conflicting perceptions and beliefs sets about the world – their world views are shaped by television – or a lack of it. This is the basic of definition of mainstreaming – that heavy users of television may believe in the culturally dominant reality that is more closely related to television culture that any genuine, external reality. For instance, heavy viewers tend to believe that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is, or that all politicians are corrupt, or that the crime rate is at an all-time high. In my experience, this holds very true: close friends and family have views and anecdotes that directly derive from knowledge gained through watching television. What they know (and what I know, admittedly) is what the television tells them for the most part.

Cultivation Analysis helps explain the direct implications of television viewing habits, and shows the correlations and causations between social interactions with mass produced media transmitted through television, which has proven to be a not only accurate, but popular model.

Developed as a theory in the 1970s, the Spiral of Silence maintains that those who hold an opposing viewpoint or worldview from that of dominant culture reinforced through television will tend to remain in the background, either staying quiet about their minority viewpoints or at least constrained to speak up about their beliefs. In effect, these people will be less communicative and less assertive about their views, and therefore a break in effective communication occurs. Meanwhile, those who hold views in-line with dominant culture and television are emboldened to speak up and confirm what the television has already taught them.

There are three assumptions to the Spiral of Silence theory that are scarily accurate, even today:
Society dismisses or even threatens individuals with isolation, sometimes creating fear.
Fear of being isolated makes people to pay more attention to public opinion.
Public behavior is directly affected by public opinion.
In essence, because of the pervasiveness and ubiquity of television and mass media, a dominant culture and public opinion is established. Those that do not fit into that mold of public opinion are automatically at risk of becoming castaways, which in turn could lead to more drastic consequences such as shaming or ridicule.

I’ve personally witness this particularly in the clash between left and right in politics. It is well-known that most political stations on television as well as political magazines, journals, and newspapers lean to the left of center, with some even on the fringe. Therefore, political climate in the United States seems to (at least prior to the recent election of President Trump) be dominated by leftist thinking and policy.

The moderate and extreme right in the country are probably just as numerous as those on the other side, but because it is not the “popular” culture position to take, they seem to have less of a voice than those who espouse leftist ideas and policies. In fact, politics typically becomes very heated, especially with the rising popularity of social networking sites, where people really let loose on those with whom they don’t agree. A perfect example is how obsessed the left is with mocking President Trump, whether on late night television or elsewhere.

In conclusion, contemporary society is indeed shaped by exactly what it is told. Television shapes our worldviews, beliefs, and opinions based on happenings around the world that we ourselves are not directly experiencing. One could see what a manipulative propaganda tool mass media has been and can continue to become if society as a whole ignores critical thinking when consuming television en masse.