Reading: consult your notes for details. Text: Squire and others, Dynamics of Democracy,
Chapters 2, 5, 6, 7; Postman and Powers, How to Watch TV News, (entire book); essays on the
net site: political philosophy, the mass media, and elections.
Try to keep in mind a couple of points. First, think about general principles or ideas or
propositions and then apply them to specific questions. (Example: I have repeatedly said that the
media generally do not and cannot provide mirror images of reality. Thus, any question asking
about the quality of news will probably have an alternative that reflects this argument. Pick it, if in
doubt.) Second, if possible, read a question and anticipate a response. Then look at the list. The
response closest to your anticipated answer is may be the correct one. Finally, pick the best
response; don't analyze a question to the point of losing common sense.
Sample questions regarding interpretations of the constitution.
- Madison's two main concerns (his two "tyrannies") were
- King George and Lord Palmerston.
- state governments and judicial review.
- the government abusing political rights of its citizens and majorities abusing the rights of
- the presidency dominating the legislative branch.
- The image of the "shattered glass sword" refers to how the framers of the Constitution
- fragmented political power.*
- destroyed individual liberties.
- pitted one state government against another.
- gave political power to themselves.
- The doctrine of "judicial review" means
- that the courts have the right to review acts of the president or his cabinet.
- that the courts have the right to review the acts of local police officials.
- that acts of Congress or state governments can be declared unconstitutional by the
- none of the above.
- I discussed so called parliamentary or unitary political systems such as the one in England.
Which of these statements best describes my feelings about this kind of government?
- It is extremely undemocratic because so much power is placed in the hands of the prime
- It is as democratic as our system even though the prime minister or leader has enormous
power over the members of the House of Commons. The reason:
citizens know who to reward and blame for policy successes and failures.*
- It is as democratic as our system because the prime minister or leader is elected
separately from the members of the House of Commons.
- It is not as democratic as our system because neither the prime minister nor the
House of Commons has any real power compared to the House of Lords.
Sample questions regarding the media, public opinion, voting and elections.
- Realists (Hamiltonians) are __________ about the average person's qualifications for self-government.
- One of the points made in the film on news narrated by Bill Moyers ("Illusion of News")
- both newspapers and television news programs are now gradually starting to
emphasize hard news over entertainment.
- although television stresses entertainment, newspapers continue to present hard
- both television and newspapers stress entertainment over hard news.
- despite their shortcomings both television and newspapers supply the public with
the information they need to become informed.
- Studies show that the press in America tends to cover
- the "horse race" or "game" aspect of elections.
- the issue stands of the leading candidates but not the positions of the minor ones.
- the issues positions of the major parties but not the candidates themselves.
- the general election but not the primaries.
- The "strategy of ambiguity" means
- politicians work behind closed doors.
- candidates try to hide or obscure their positions on controversial issues.*
- politics is confusing.
- none of the above.
- The term "partisan press" means
- the press mainly describes conflicts between the major parties.
- publishers used to (before about 1900) take sides openly on partisan issues.*
- newspapers never try to be as open-minded and fair as possible.
- none of the above.
- Postman and Powers describe a Kuwaiti "refugee" who testified before a congressional
committee in full view of television cameras that Iraqi troops took infants out incubators
in a hospital and put them on the floor to die. According to the authors, this story
illustrates which of these statements?
- Unlike newspapers television has to present news as it occurs no matter how
gruesome or disgusting.
- Television loves to sensationalize news.
- Television reporters and editors frequently don't check facts and hence can present
misleading or false information.*
- The mass media act as "watchdogs" over public officials.
- How to Watch TV News claims that
- television has so much "live" news to present that it doesn't need to stage or
- television news programs sometimes present reenactments as though they were
- television has higher ethical standard than other forms of media.
- since television provides mostly pictures and images of reality, it doesn't distort
news a much as the print media.
Go to American government page
Go to H. T. Reynolds page