Sociologists and others use the term “agenda setting” to describe the way that the media focuses our attention on some things and not others. In this way, media actors may not control how we think about things, but they may very well control what we think about.
This instance of agenda setting involves SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Media Matters put together this figure illustrating the relative number of television segments given to SOPA and other issues — the British Royal Family, the football player Tim Tebow, Casey Anthony and her missing daughter, Alec Baldwin’s behavior on a plane, and the Kardashian divorce — between October 26th, 2011 and January 12th of this year.
Data like this is often used to explain why Americans tend to be quite uninformed about important issues. For more examples, see this post comparing the covers of TIME and Newsweek in the U.S. and elsewhere. See also: Setting the Agenda on Trump and Setting the Agenda on Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Failure.”
Thanks to Dolores R. for the tip! Via Socialist Texan.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.