Essay On Social Problems Prompted By Powerful Groups
As a species, humans are inclined to have problems in their personal lives as well as in the larger system of society. The topic of the discussions in the essay will examine how dominant groups like politicians, religious leaders, and media play a considerable part in exacerbating many of these issues into significant social problems. The writer will focus on two events in particular as examples to understand the dynamics of how the influential groups make matters worse for society. The recent problem of the media's role in reporting the outbreak of Ebola, causing disruption in society is one the examples to explore. The second social problem the writer will examine is on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by politicians in 1996, and the challenges it created in society.
The Media on Ebola
Disease and illness are a natural concern for societies throughout the world. In America, the citizens are often fortunate in avoiding many of the infectious diseases through availability of proper health care, clean water, and other necessities. Countries such as Africa are vulnerable to infectious diseases at a much higher rate than countries like Europe and the U.S. In 2014 stories of a deadly virus called Ebola made big news in the United States. It was enough of an issue to cause panic in society, creating social problems because of the fear felt by people throughout the world.
Naturally a fear of Ebola makes sense considering the symptoms of severe internal bleeding, organ failure, and death are associated with infected persons. However, Ebola is not a new phenomenon. The virus has been around since 1976; at least, that is when the first reports of Ebola were recognized. The cases were found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Since the first instances of Ebola in 1976, the disease continues to infect people yearly, primarily in African countries and a few instances in other parts of the world.
The question remains, why the worldwide fear exploded in 2014 for a disease known to exist for over 35 years. The answer, from a sociological standpoint, is the media. The media became the instigator of the Ebola driven panic causing social problems for the American public. The current influence of social media plays a large part in the power of media on the social responses of people. Information, whether factual or inaccurate, travels at a faster rate than in the years of televised reporting. The media must be much more accountable in what they deliver to the public because of the misinformation that spreads through social media outlets.
The exaggeration of reporting methods of the media caused extensive frenzy in society that could have been minimal in comparison. One significant problem was that the media highlighted the small number of cases that befell individuals in the United States. According to the CDC, the total numbers of confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S. are four cases, with only one case resulting in death. These figures did not warrant the mass hysteria that the country experienced. Unfortunately the reporting on Ebola was focusing only on the few instances that did occur, and exploiting the severe symptoms of the disease. If the media emphasized the public with more factual figures on worldwide cases of Ebola from the onset of the disease, the response might have been appropriate for the actual reality of the situation. Instead, the media shared only the frightful symptoms of the Ebola virus and spoke incessantly about the individuals who contracted the disease.
The problem became widespread because of the word of mouth reporting that social media generates. Between Twitter and Facebook alone, the rate at which news spreads is substantial to older forms of journalism: newspapers and televised news reporting. The media must be mindful of the consequences in what they highlight while reporting stories. An appropriate option, which some reporters (not many) chose to provide was fact based and inclusive of the actual statistics of the Ebola risk in the United States. Ultimately the fear of the spread of Ebola in the U.S. was minimal compared to the dramatic reports the media portrayed, which caused a country-wide social problem.
Political Power- DOMA
The second groups of influential members to affect the social condition are politicians. Politicians make the laws that the citizens are required to follow; this puts them in a very powerful position to dictate the social environment throughout the country. The writer will describe the effects perpetrated by the passing of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act by politicians. The conservative politicians exceedingly supported the ideas that DOMA defended, however, liberals expressed that social problems would ensue from passing DOMA.
Leon-Guerrero (2014) stated, “The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denies federal regulation of same-sex union, defining marriage as a legal union only between a man and a woman.” Regardless of one's political or religious views on the topic of sexuality, the fact remains that the world is diverse with more than just heterosexual relationships. When law dictates the rights of people based on their sexuality, this can undoubtedly become a societal problem. As a matter of fact, it is an issue for every individual no matter what position one may support.
The conservative and liberal groups both had competing views that influenced public perception. One side was justifying their case for heterosexuality because it is what is natural according to religious and traditional mindsets. The conservative group’s belief that allowing anything but heterosexual marriage would send the wrong message to families and children condoning an “anything goes” attitude, which was against many of the conservative Christian beliefs. The concern that their children will choose a lifestyle that they do not approve of because it is normal and acceptable in society was a primary factor that they fear.
On the other hand, liberals argued in favor of allowing all individuals the right to marry so that people can be treated equally. The idea that people who are homosexual, bisexual, or any other preference would be excluded from many of the benefits that married couples have, seemed unfair. The other issue that liberals worried about is that individuals in society would shun those who are not heterosexual, and perpetuate an unpleasant attitude about a group of people who does not fit the "norm."
Both groups had valid arguments that were bound to influence public perception on the subject of marriage. Unfortunately, one group was going to be left satisfied, and the other was not. The supporters of heterosexual marriage would have the impression that their beliefs are not valued and be upset. However, the other group would feel they are treated as less important in society if their rights to marriage are not acknowledged. The dilemma is a difficult one no matter which side of the argument one agrees with. The politicians, however, get to dictate the ways in which the message is delivered to influence society that often leads to social problems.
The examples the writer disscusses are just an example of the influence powerful groups can have on society. Some of these issues, when dictated by politician's, can affect citizens' rights that lead to social problems. In other cases media can manipulate the perceptions of societal responses to events that occur, or how they choose to sway the majority out of self-interest. Religious groups were not explored in the essay; however, that is another powerful group that influences the outcome of many people’s views. This is no more evident than in the countries that are struggling with Muslim extremist groups, such as ISIS.
As one recognizes the power of these large groups, the depths of the complications in society are further realized. Awareness of the various aspects is necessary for formulating a comprehensive knowledge on the subject of sociology.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease). Retrieved
Leon-Guerrero, A. (2014). Social problems: Community, policy, and social action (4th ed.).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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