Art critic, journalist
Droplets of news fall from every door, window, and crack. We constantly consume news, then the fresher updated one, then the more emotional and urgent one, then we watch and listen to those who are opposed to it, and the new commentary which denies and defames it.
Living in this endless cycle causes us to have a real addiction to fresh news (we are upset if we do not see what is happening right now).
Everyone tries to get out of this situation on their own without sustaining serious injuries and by avoiding news traps. And these are everywhere because commercial interests are also added to political interests. You are being sold the news, and the price is your reaction.
And it doesn’t matter what kind of response, approval, trust, suspicion or disgust. All media outlets write and shoot videos for the accumulation of responses.
When the issue of resisting fake news and media manipulation in Armenia became urgent and announced by the highest official, the most important thing became not the punitive actions (with the involvement of the NSS), but the role of the audience.
When speaking about fake news and manipulations in Armenia, it is worth remembering that no institution, body, even the highest official and philosopher cannot claim that it is clean truth and it doesn’t have the intention of persuading the audience.
The news is written, opportunities for news are being created, taking into account what people and what media are about to spread, enjoy, use, criticize, stone, and curse it.
Nowadays there are several important points in Armenia’s media field that are worth taking into account.
The media and public opinion creators which have the same goals and (for the most part) ownership work in tandem.
One news outlet is referring to another, and the other is referring it to them (me for you, you for me). Then the two are referring to, for example, an active social network user, which becomes the basis for those few media outlets.
Although, of course, this practice is not new, the situation has slightly changed recently. The media working in one tandem mostly do not spread the materials of other media outlets, even if they are explosive and important. Mutual links are not shared sometimes, but always. It even leaves the impression that it is necessary to have the material of another in their own.
Thus, they emphasize a narrow circle of their peers. And often the audience needs to know which media outlets are within those frameworks so that they understand who is giving us news and what is expected of us.
Mostly they expect us to behave exactly as they predict. We can be confused and deluded to hear this or that news.
The most demanded product of the media field is fear.
Fear and anxiety are mainly concentrated in the news when it is necessary to awaken an instinct in the audience to react quickly. Did you read? Get to work. That’s essentially how the platforms of news outlets are built.
It’s worth remembering that the media which instantly leaves an impression with their audience does not respect its readers, but instead monetizes the psychological state of our minds. First, it generates that state of mind, then it makes money.
After all, we can never make the right decisions out of fear, we need a cold, rationally working head.
There are some vulnerable and delicate topics that awaken the audience’s fear in Armenia that periodically start circulating and push for certain irrational actions.
One of those fears is the mitigation of church worship, the homosexual attack or the conspiracies about external forces.
For example, the media platform or the media individual may constantly appeal to the audience saying that the “enemies” (homosexuals, other genders, public officials, those with red skin) will come and threaten the Armenian identity.
The topic of vaccinations as recently been added to this list of fears, which seems to be the connection for all fears (external forces, the danger of losing Christianity, conspiracies).
At all times, the alarmed audience has more value in the media market than the balanced one, as anxiety and those alarmed can be guided.
Another manipulative trick is born out of anxiety, announcing not what is happening, but what is to be expected.
For example, it is said that a decision was made to dismiss all school principals, or there is an agreement that the authorities want to seize a business and hand it over to their friends.
Or it is said that a singer can win the competition.
Speaking about potential as if it is fact or, at least, a news item, which not only increases the media format of so-called “from our sources,” “reliable but anonymous sources,” but also breaks the consciousness of people.
People are not accustomed to reading something that is time-consuming. Even in fiction literature, it is not accepted. For example, the hero doesn’t go, discuss, decide what step they are going to take, rather, went, discussed, decided.
The media uses the threat of time to show that they are still aware of confidential information, and are more alert than their readers.
Sometimes it’s just a competitive move, but more often, it is a thought-out structure.
To make a reference to the future, in a situation when we should be talking about the present, deprives the information of storytelling. How can you talk about that which hasn’t happened yet?
Any piece of information is also a sentence
News readers will do the right thing if they look at the news from the perspective of grammar. That is, they decide the tense of the verb, the subject and predicate of the sentence. It would also help to distinguish the main and secondary.
For example, if the media wants to hide something that cannot be concealed, it will try to blur the news, pushing the foreground to the background and making the secondary the basis of the news.
In the case of sensitive topics, the news will make use of larger, blurry and untrustworthy concepts (nation, Christian nation, the fighting nation) and adjust it to the occasion (vaccination, transgender speeches in the NA or a sick child).
Sometimes it is helpful to break apart the news and see what is being identified with what, and how the causality chain is built. If the author of an article or report quotes someone else's quotes on something that there is an aim to destroy the Armenian nation and throw it into hell via a vaccine or a book, then he most likely wants us to fear and spread this fear.
Reading news is a more complicated job than ever, as there is no monopoly or responsibility to create a media agenda. And the agenda is created at the expense of the audience.
Like vampires fed with blood, so too news outlets with political interests are fed with emotions. And fear is the “most valuable” one.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.