Obama and the CNN effect

Speculation about the likely foreign policy agenda of Obama in the past week has touched at times on whether the US will be more likely to intervene in situations of genocide or ethnic cleansing, for example in Congo. This brings to mind debates about the 'CNN effect'. In the 1990s the emergence of satellite TV stations like CNN suddenly increased the scope for live broadcasts from zones of conflict and catastrophe, making audiences demand "something must be done" and politicians being pressured into intervening (or pulling out). Many politicians anecdotally suggest they did feel some pressure. When political leaders lack a clear policy, media could expose this, leading to policy on-the-hoof, without due consideration. But what we've seen in the last week is a different kind of media pressure. These commentaries may be preparing the US public, or other publics around the world, such that when Obama does command an intervention, nobody is too surprised. This is a more subtle and long-term media effect, as the parameters of the "thinkable" and "do-able" under an Obama presidency are sketched out.