The Magic Bullet Theory

Another theory that relates to ‘The Media Affects Theory’ is known as the ‘Magic Bullet Theory’. The word ‘bullet’ in this theory name is a metaphor for information injecting into the audience minds, firing a bullet into the public’s mind, in a sense. It injects it into them, exploiting any opinions of their own and manipulating us, hereby changing our behaviour and transforming our minds to reflect what we see in mass media. This then results in them having an immediate reaction and are powerless to resist the message and the impact it has.

In short, ‘The Magic Bullet Theory’ is a model of communication that suggests a message is directly accepted by the receiver. Information from a text passes into the consciousness of the audience and challenges their opinions and intelligence. It is believed that mass media has a direct effect on the public. Some scholars do not agree with it due to it not having any scientific evidence to support it. It is purely based on assumption. The reaction from the mind of the audience is knowing what the message is without hesitation.

An analogy one could use regarding this theory is that media acts like a needle. It then injects a message into the spectators minds and can easily persuade and interchange their usual opinions and behaviours. They are affected by this because they can not escape from the world of media of which we surround ourselves in our everyday lives. A hint of vulnerability is shown through this idea.

‘In 1938, Lazarsfeld and Herta Herzog testified the hypodermic needle theory in a radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds” (a famous comic program) by insert a news bulletin which made a widespread reaction and panic among the American Mass audience. Through this investigation he found the media messages may affect or may not affect audience.’ –

By doing this, it showed Lazarsfeld and Herta what kind of reactions the people will have when unexpected occurrences happen. Every person is different, therefore their reactions would also be different in the event of different circumstances occuring. In Germany and the United States, during World War Two, media played a large part in influencing peoples opinions. A number of factors contributed to this theory. Examples of this are the rise of popularisation of television and radio and Hitler’s monopolization of mass media, which unified the German people behind the Nazi take over. Media manipulated them from a young age to believe what Hitler and the Government wanted them to believe, and thus, making them believe that fighting and mistreating the Jews was right.

Some may have a negative outlook regarding this theory, but others may see it as a positive one, depending on their outlook of life and their upbringing. For example, Lazersfeld and Katz also introduced the two step flow model of communication in 1944. This is when ideas from the mass media flow into the leaders and then to the general public.

A book called Public Opinion, which was written by Walter Lippmann (1922), stated that all the pictures in our heads are shaped by media. This theory also explains how it represents sex, violence and abnormal behaviour which results to it affecting the younger generation. This was founded by Frankfurt school of social researchers in the 1920’s.

Of course there are always strengths and weaknesses to this theory. One strength is that statistics can show how reliable something it is and gives evidence to support opinions. It also involves numerous participants and can extend over a long period of time. A negative for this is that it can be too simplistic, audiences interpret information differently.


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