How can money alone for public opinion?
Here in Colorado, fracking has become a large part of the local economy and has also put many environmental and political pressures on local communities. How do we re-shape the debate in order to get the ball rolling? We start by addressing how proposition 112 — an initiative to force fracking to increase the distance from communities — failed, and what the future may look like regarding renewable energy implementation. According to Ballotpedia, two committees were registered to support the measure and they raised $1.67 million. Six committees were registered to oppose the measure and together they raised about $32 million. With not only this in mind but also all the tools media use to influence the public, it’s clear to see that in this case there is a wave of information flowing at the public in Colorado coming from mostly one viewpoint. It’s important to remember the power and influence the media has over us.
I remember listening to the radio during the time when proposition 112 was up in the air, and I remember constantly hearing commercials on the radio for Colorado Rising — the driving force behind pro-fracking. This had a huge influence on me because they used language that made it sound as if I were pro-environmentalism if I supported their movement. This media technique to me reflects on much larger ideas talked about by people like Ott and Mack in “Critical Media Studies.” In their ecological analysis portion, Ott and Mack describe how “our judgments about the world have less to do with what we think about something and more with how we feel about something.” This ties deeply into the idea that Interpretive Sociology – the meanings people attach to their social world – is leveraged by the media. My attached meaning, in this case, is that when I hear a commercial on the radio that talks about protecting Colorado’s environment and local economies, I attach a pro-environmental and philanthropic relationship to that commercial. Colorado Rising is a great example of a group that can leverage media tools and strategies.
These bombardments of information are most likely nothing new but seem to be increasing as time goes on. Whether political or otherwise, most news these days comes in massive waves from multiple media sources. Typically, we see a bombardment when one group wants something to be done. In our home state of Colorado, it’s clear that the six committees that raised over $31 million dollars had the goal of reaching the most people and influencing as many as possible before the voting time came around. The idea that hearing something more tends to bend your opinion may have more credibility than thought before. As Hoffman states in a well-described analysis of the effect that limitation of information can have on us, “By filtering our information sources, issues or events that receive greater attention are disproportionately easy to recall and receive greater weight as we form our opinions.” (Hoffman, 17). So, the more that this information circulates in our social circles and social media circles, the stronger our opinion forms regarding the topic. The following is perhaps an unfortunate realization to come to, but maybe a crucial one: money in media forms public opinion.
As time goes on in Colorado’s fracking debate, the idea of “environmental racism” comes to the surface quite often. It’s evident that communities of native background and also communities that are predominantly people of color experience the negative effects of these “natural” processes. How will media form public opinion on steps forward? We know that with each and every step forward, we must realize that the opposition has a stronger foothold in this state. In order to offset that initial foothold, the goal for a future without the need for fracking is one that involves reaching across the aisle and finding solutions that satisfy what the other side is really after…money. Once there is a financial alternative that offers them a “greener” future, Colorado Rising will be on board. Until that time comes, the approach for environmental activism will still come from articles and word of mouth that speak unheard truths about this issue. Although $32 million was spent on the opposition to proposition 112, word of mouth and cultural shifts create largely unseen change.