The Top 5 Media Manipulation Tricks

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

In dealing with any issue, first and foremost, one needs to acknowledge the problem. Instead of running away, or pretending that all is well, we need to distinguish and accept deviations. This statement is true for political, psychology, or media field. One way or another, every day we are bombarded with information, and it is worthwhile to distinguish between different kinds of data in the news flow.

The first step in order not to fall prey to media manipulation is accepting that both international and local media uses manipulation techniques. Moreover, those techniques are put to use quite effectively.

Even when journalists and reporters are confident that they are providing truthful and unbiased content, there is something called news feed context, which fragments and tailors data so that it benefits certain financial and political circles. Media wants to direct us, and we can either follow obediently or at least do so consciously.

Media manipulation tricks are many. Decades ago they have been recognized and meticulously explained. Here are some of them.

  1. Diverting attention/ Red Herring

This is a main manipulation trick that helps to divert public attention from important issues to irrelevant events. The media field is constantly saturated with new insignificant events, followed by opinions and commentary. As a result, not only public is diverted from a serious issue but is also deprived of the chance to hold a discussion on a possible solution.

Diverting attention helps combat psychological resistance in social life. People seem to always follow the news feed, they are well-aware of what is happening, they discuss the issues, they argue in social networks, in short, they consume their part of daily media. However, the media they consume has no value, since it has no influence over political and economic decisions made by the elites.

It is beneficial for the elites to divert public attention from social issues and injustices and to flood their brains with secondary issues and scandalous news, in short, to confine people to the world of non-significant issues.

It might be a good idea to once in awhile snap out of it, shake off the chains of small insignificant news and by doing so to expand our horizon.

  1. Be Like Everybody Else

When people find themselves in complex, complicated and ambiguous situations. they start to search for the truth. Since ambiguity is foreign to human nature, it cannot last for a long time and needs to be resolved. In similar situations, “do-what-everybody-does” principle comes to rescue. Buy that latest mobile phone, watch that movie, believe those sources, because that is what the majority does. These appeals are some sort of social proof.

If the majority says something, you need to say the same thing because you don’t want to be an outsider.

According to this principle, if one thing (regardless whether true or false) is repeated thousand times, people start to believe it because they want to be in the majority.

In the media field, this trick is used during information wars, describing people and phenomena functioning outside of the main flow. The media constantly feeds the same idea to the audience, at the same time reminding them about the dangers of having an opposite opinion.

It is a good idea to try and form opinions on your own, and to avoid conformist and dogmatic points of views. After all, the absolutely truth simply does not exist.

3. More emotions less logic

Emotional overwhelm is a classic trick that helps block the audience’s ability to analyze and criticize. Radically emotional content does not allow space or time for rational thinking. It directly affects people’s subconsciousness, arousing hidden fears, desires, and anxieties.

As a result, emotionally overwhelmed person, incapable of rational thought, will be much easier to manipulate to follow the behavior dictated by the elites.

A news feed that intimidates (when it is all about conspiracies, wars, enemies, pain, blood and betrayal) is a wake-up call that people are being persuaded to believe that the only reliable and true position is that of the authorities, and we should be thankful for them.

In such cases, there is an increase in pathetic speeches and statements which dominate the media flow and result in the non-rational understand of the issues.

If you feel that emotional manipulation dominates the news feed, try to distinguish between information and commentary. In other words, get to the bare fact and then ponder about it.

4. The Gradual Strategy

When there is a need to make an unpopular decision, it is done gradually, step by step, first as suggestion, then, as opinion. Afterwards, the decision is rejected, to be confirmed a few days later.

The information is placed on a swing and is swung back and forth. It is not getting resolved, but is constantly kept on the agenda at the heart of controversy. It might never get resolved, and the audience gets to accept that situation.

People tend to believe in tomorrow and they want to delay an unpleasant decision. Media managers use that extensively by bringing arguments and employing a vocabulary that suggests that they are old and wise while the audience is teenage youth.

This helps to maintain social control, because if you are addressing your audience as children, the people in the audience starts to perceive themselves as children. In other words, the audience recognizes that the news feed is managed by people far more intelligent and knowledgeable, who know the way out and are willing to show it to them.

The Information swing makes the audience infantile by delaying and deferring events. Do not get in that swing, it is not going anywhere.

5. Circulation of Certain Characters

Media makes certain characters and behaviors fashionable and popular by constantly circulating them in the news feed, TV series, and various shows.

Often the characters, that are being circulated over and over again, are average, uneducated, and overall miserable. And if you can see that those characters resemble each other (they can be naive, noisy, violent, unhappy, and poor), then that is how media managers wants to see us.

In this case the audience is being persuaded that surrounding injustices are natural and to be expected, since the low-level of the society does not allow a change. As a result, instead of rebelling the audience becomes inactive.

It is clear that if people’s self-esteem is low, they are easier to manipulate, therefore they are prone to media (mostly TV) addiction.

In this case, the best thing to do is to turn the TV off. Obviously, life is more promising and bright than its illusion on TV.

Nune Hakhverdyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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