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When formal institutions prove unable to discharge indispensable social tasks, functional equivalents develop. Consider the institutional fact-gathering procedures of the international legal system. Because they are underdeveloped or ineffective, authoritative decision makers must depend, to an astonishing degree, on the private media for the images that lead to provisional characterizations of norm violation and the initiation of international action. Even where the intelligence and invocation functions of decision are institutionally developed and effective in high degree, independent and vigorous media are not redundant. Their presence and activity supplement and police official fact-gathering procedures. In the United States, media frequently initiate decision by provisionally characterizing certain behavior as improper. This latent role of private national media is even more urgent internationally.

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