The concept of public sphere by Jurgen Habermas can be considered as a social circle that enables everyone to take part in and freely discuss any common societal topics , in which public opinion is formed and then influence the political actions. Back in the 18th century, Jurgen Habermas explained the public sphere term via the government representation in Western Europe when the growth of press, salons, coffee house was noticeably increased. Media played a pivotal actor as “means in transmitting information and influencing people who received it” and thanks to it, public sphere can be maintained.
Karl Bucher said that the press has changed dramatically from a mere news publication to public opinion leader (Durham and Kellner, 2006). Public freedom expression could become known via many means, newspapers still remained extremely imperative and seen as political weapon. The press allowed people to become more active and critical and through that, people reject or accept laws or regulations more easily. T they would inform about the laws, policies decided by public authority to general population and a communication bridge between citizens and the states. It seemed pretty ideal as it was a sign of democracy and equality, however, Europe capitalism was still oppressed and controlled the mass media and reduced public sphere as a result. In addition, the main purpose of the press was profit that “It became the gate through which privileged private interests invaded the public sphere” and the press turned out to be “an agent of manipulation” (Habermas, 1991:185). So can we trust the news on newspapers?
Back to the present, many people argue that public sphere can be revitalised and public democracy will be developed because of the dissemination of Internet and global connectivity of social media and other electronic media platforms. From my perspectives, new media just makes the situation even worse. Social media acceleration has opened a public space that enables everyone to join in and discuss the same interested topics via closed groups, online pages, comments…it seems like the Internet has been doing such a great job in getting people involved in a social circle and claimed that public sphere can be achieved without relying on conventional medium and government leaders as people will ‘automatically’ talk about any issues when they are online. But, in fact, to me and as we have debated in class last week, public sphere is unattainable, especially on such global space like social media sites. Firstly, not everyone has a chance to get access to the Internet. People don’t use same social media platforms, for example, Chinese people use their local social network Weibo. Also, different biased ideas depending on culture and background easily leads to misunderstandings and arguments. Besides, hostile groups can make up rumours from public opinion, frame it into a negative and destructive way which might cause discrimination, chaos or violence. Discrimination on Muslim people resulted from overreacted attitudes of public opinion on ISIS. Moreover, public relations are thought as public opinion distortion. PR practitioners use news sensation to attract attention and create fake versions of the truth. Webster argued that public relations violated the truthfulness and disguised the interests that public debate represents (Webster, 1995:105)