Narcotizing dysfunction and gatekeeping

Discuss the effects of the narcotizing dysfunction and gatekeeping on social behavior in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq.

Narcotizing Dysfunction, as described by Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton, is the term given to the unintentional inaction or unresponsiveness exhibited by the public as a result of excessive exposure to particular news or a social cause. This apathy stems from overexposure by the media causing the people to think that they are ‘acting’ and ‘working to improve’ the cause when in reality, they are merely ‘talking’ about it. This can be seen by the video footages shown by the media and news channels taken during the Iraqi War, where they show the US troops breaking down into houses in Baghdad, firing at buildings and cars etc. They also show Iraqi civilians cleaning streets or acting recklessly indicating that Iraq still requires the USA to bring discipline. Such footages have been bombarded to the common public so many a times that gory scenes of war no more shake them up. People don’t get moved by the brutality shown and they remain disengaged due to overexposure to the same kinds of scenes over and over again. The same is exhibited in the aftermath as well when Iraqi insurgency rose. The general public was unknowingly immune to the excessive terror activities by the Iraqi groups. While information in the right amount can encourage the public to act responsibly, excessive information leads to narcotizing dysfunction and they become socially inert and apathetic.

Gatekeeping or blocking complete information from reaching people or prioritizing certain stories more than others is another issue which results in inappropriate action by the general public. For instance, during the Iraqi war, the journalists did not have access to all the information needed, and most of their conclusions resulted from personal judgments. In the aftermath of the Iraqi war, the insurgents had the ability to produce news that interested the general public a lot more than other news in the country as they knew the media focussed more on exciting information with high fatalities, and the insurgents, therefore, had the power to influence media gatekeeping and use it to their benefit.

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