Now days, people seem to love to “label” other people.  Often, we use labels to identify people’s characteristics, including their dress or lifestyle or the way they behave in public or in private.  Even here at school, we hear such common labels as “jock, geek, nerd, or preppy” used by people to identify others who are not like us.  Often, political labels are used in our larger society to label and categorize people’s belief systems – to describe them by their ideology.
The terms “left” and “right” are quite often used by the media and political commentators to describe points of view and the people who hold those views.
The influence of the mass media on creating or manipulating public opinion in the U.S. is reflected in these statistics – and the fact that news, so-called “infotainment” programming, and politically-oriented talk shows are quite ubiquitous in our society – they are virtually everywhere, and these stats do not include the fastest growing segment of news, online from the World Wide Web and the Internet.  Anymore, it’s almost impossible to NOT be around the news, whether it’s local, state, national or international…… it’s always there, it’s always available.  Even more importantly, the media industry as a whole saw many smaller companies being bought out or merged with large, mega-corporations such as Viacom, AOL/Time-Warner, and more – a trend that has resulted in fewer sources of news and practically NO independent news sources.  This obviously has a huge impact on the creation of public opinion in America, and certainly offers the danger of a greater degree of the manipulation of the public’s opinion through the “management” of the news by fewer and fewer powerful individuals and corporations.  Public officials at the national level often have staff members keep an eye on the output of the mass media and report back to them what the news outlets are saying, so as to help keep tabs on the public’s opinion on a variety of issues.
Just television-watching alone has played a role in the making of public opinion in America – with the average American watching about 30 hours of TV each week, after a year’s time it amounts to a total of 65 days of TV-watching.  And many viewers don’t often think about the accuracy of news reporting, either.  This makes it increasingly important for public officials to watch what’s happening on the news shows and the political talk shows, to get a feel for what is being “fed” to the public through the mass media, and to gauge the public reaction to that programming.
In modern times, what Aristotle called a “polis” has developed into the state – an independent political unit.  Most often states are called “nation” or “country” or “nation-state.”
During your time studying government in this course, this use of the term “state” should not be confused with the term as it applies to those sub-governments within the United “States” of America.  In the early days of this nation, each of the original 13 states was actually its own mini-nation, with all of the powers of independent states.  However, with the ratification (legal acceptance) of the Constitution in 1787, the term “state” came to mean a smaller part of the U.S.A. – but such states are now under the over-all sovereignty of the national, or U.S. government, and are no longer entirely independent of the rest of the nation.