“It Seems As Though People Have Learned To Live In Spite Of The Media Noise And Flashing Propaganda”

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

The truth is something we seek to know because it seems to be a key to freedom that we have unwittingly fashioned and stored somewhere. 

Psychologist and social scientist Sona Manusyan says that in today’s information-unfriendly ecological environment, where scenarios of events are written, changed, and edited, it becomes an important aspiration (even primary) to create the truth independently and “forward.” Even define and formulate what it is. At least as a state. 

Sona Manusyan calls it “doing the truth.” Not to know, but to do. 

We live in a conflicting, contradictory information field. Someone writes one thing, then says they meant something completely different. Something happens, then it is denied, then confirmed again, and sometimes by the same person. In other words, is the truth only situational? 

The relationship between the truth and the media is always complicated, it’s not like the media used to let that truth be known directly. But the desire to know the truth itself has become a tool of media manipulation today. 

I think that this human desire to know the truth is very strong and basic, it is an internal demand in the subjective field of a person. After all, even the most dishonest person always speaks for the truth. 

It’s just that in the conditions of today’s information overproduction, everything is done in such a way that you cannot even know the truth. Or to show it, saying: look, this is it. 

But we continue to look for it and at that very moment, we are being manipulated. One says: I will tell you the truth, the other says: no, only I will tell you the truth. In the same way, as they say, welcome this way. 

And it is done so quickly, self-confidently, so convincingly emotionally, that we don’t even manage to understand that it is not about the truth at all, but about getting off the hook. 

What should we do? Become a truth seeker? 

I remember that during the days of the 44-day war or not long after that, an article caught my eye in which Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov warned that there would soon be cyber chaos. Naturally, he indirectly blamed the Western forces for this and called on countries to unite, develop a plan and jointly fight against it. 

It is interesting that at least one of the main actors who spread influence through that cyber chaos spoke about it, and the most intensive one at that (throws in the media, “material” in the Russian media, involvement of specific people to produce hatred, 180-degree reversal of meanings, etc.). 

So, everything is so mixed up that the baseless person speaks lies, the one who oppresses the truth acts in the name of its protection, and so on. 

After 2020, I am constantly thinking about what our role is in these conditions. Perhaps now, taking into account the goals of the main actors, which are not known to us until the end, we cannot even find the truth. Not so much because it exists and is carefully hidden, but because it is determined, changed, and adapted. 

And so, we can maybe go a step further and not try to find out, but to decide what the truth, and what reality should be. 

At least participate in those “decisions.” 

To designate the truth?  

And that truth can be outside of these fluid, constructivist, thousand-and-one kinds of claims. Even if it is the reaffirmation of the old and solid truths you have. 

But it is important that you decide it yourself because if you use all your strength to try to find the truth presented or hidden by others, you become their tool. And they use your desire to know very well. 

You are also a tool when you deny or prove something obvious just as a countermeasure. For example, the city of Jermuk is located in Armenia. 

The big actors mostly want to show that they are influential and control the chaos, but it seems to me that they themselves have no idea what this will lead to. And as a result, some, such as Putin, begin to deceive themselves and those who still believe in them, saying that the events are still going according to their desired plan. 

I would not like us to become an actor that adds its portion to that chaos. But at least let’s be an actor who takes into account that this is chaos when taking their steps. 

Of course, after these certain blurrings of our times, the truth will be re-established (also in a scientific and philosophical sense). I believe that we will come again to clearer truths, more honest and human. 

But at this stage, searching for the truth seems to me quite pointless. 

Enduring uncertainties also means simultaneously postponing that search. Especially we often fall into the trap of finding cause-and-effect connections. Still not understanding what happened, we immediately ask why? 

All the same, we won’t be able to know why it happened until the end. For example, the end of the 44-day war. But from what we know, we can at least decide what should and should not happen in the future. And at the same time, to conduct our speech in the same way. 

For example, Aliyev is trying to advance his aggressive goals just like that. He creates a media event that his country was shot at and that they fired back. He does it regularly and clearly, that is, he decides that this is how it was and will be like this, or at least he tries to do it. 

In other words, stage the truth? 

Yes, Aliyev is staging and directing, and it doesn’t matter how many people believe in him in his own country or in international structures, the important thing is that he is trying to position himself one step ahead in his relations with us. 

And we mostly just react. For example, we constantly read: the Ministry of Defense denies, the Ministry of Defense denies… The Ministry of Defense should stop denying and say something related to our scenario. But we continue to remain in the role of the responder. At least until recently. 

Now it seems that the situation is changing a little, thanks to the fact that we started saying more often what could happen tomorrow and not what happened yesterday. 

Aliyev does not really care about the goal of convincing his society, he is more trying to maintain the script and image of being one step ahead. 

And do we even have a script? 

I don’t know. No one knows, and that’s the most disturbing and stressful thing for me right now. 

It is possible that not having a specific script at this moment is not even bad if at least it is not a delusion, but the rule of one’s own conscious game of not having a script. 

I still don’t understand it well myself. In any case, at the verbal level, it seems that we still do not have subjectivity, or proactivity, although sometimes there are some signs. 

I notice that the bigger players (in the West) have started to encourage us to show that we are really a subject. 

I have always paid attention to the communication style in American culture and noticed that they start communication by showing that they respect you until you prove otherwise. 

For example, this struck me the most in Nancy Pelosi’s speech. She said something along the lines of, we have brought our love for the Armenian people and respect for the Armenian government. 

She made that very message audible, saying “I respect you, you are a subject,” implying a completely opposite picture of the Russian approach at the level of official communication, where you are not a subject and can be degraded by the reminder of threats (if you noticed, on September 21, there was no mention of the word “independence” in Putin’s congratulatory message). 

And that was a message to us in all this “anti-respectful” and even disrespectful rhetoric. To keep ourselves worthy of respect, that we can be stronger and independent, and get out of the bent position. At least, I noticed it, and I think it was more important than various political games that we don’t know about. 

It is difficult to say to what extent Armenia will use that chance, our political field still needs time to become a subject. 

A few days after our conversation, Levon Ter-Petrosyan spoke in his interview about not fully understanding the real picture. Can we tell where the rupture comes from, when we don’t know, but we have to choose? 

In Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s rhetoric, there is too much emphasis on realism, especially on national issues. He always urges us to be realistic and do only what is within the given limits. 

But the thing is that when it is not possible to see and know our reality, the concept of reality itself becomes the most unrealistic thing. 

And on the contrary, in this crisis and extremely ugly situation, it is not only possible but also necessary to do something new, instead of starting from the existing point. That is the logic of the crisis, the task. 

The interesting thing is that this time Levon Ter-Petrosyan clearly admitted that he does not know what is happening. But by saying that it is necessary to choose between the bad and the worst, he was again starting from the premise that there is already a formed, unchangeable reality, and information that we just don’t know. 

It is true that he spoke again about the people, Armenia, and not with the people, that is, he did not subjectize Armenians. But at least he accepted his ignorance and the complexity of taking steps. 

And what is the main problem of our media field? 

I would put it like this: our media problem is now more ecological. It is of that scale. Even if you know that the air is bad, you still realize that you have to breathe because you live in that environment. 

Sometimes there is an impression that people do not believe in the media, but have learned to live in spite of media talk and propaganda. So, how do you try to breathe in an oxygen-poor and dirty environment? 

It’s just that there is a sector that becomes the creator of this environmental disaster and pollution. And in a broader sense, all of us, regardless of intention, already participate to one degree or another in the deterioration of that ecology, just like when using a plastic bag or a car. For me, the media is rather comparable to that image. 

The media has become not so much a tool of direct influence and opinion forming, but a universal ecological living environment, where the noise is so much that it cannot even influence in any specific direction. 

The important thing here is to realize that your ecology is not good. 

What should the professional media, which has an editorial policy, principles, and compassion, do to be competitive, instead of remaining a quoter of thoughts about uncertainty? That it is really necessary. 

I ask myself a similar question in parallel, trying to understand what we as researchers and social scientists should discuss and research so that it makes sense and can be used. In other words, how to not add noise to the noise. And in general, do we have a chance to become something other than a noisemaker or not? 

I think that all this effort to remove the truth from us or to declare that it is the time of post-truth will not succeed until the end, because people will still have a demand for certainty. Therefore, providing as comprehensive information as possible remains the task of a caring media. 

But at this stage, it is perhaps equally important that the media empowers the individual, the public, in the midst of news production. And for that, they should talk to them, not about them. 

For example, it is very scary for me that, starting with the number of deaths from the coronavirus, and ending with the number of bodies of soldiers, we already receive the news as usual in the style of a constantly updated data stream. Let’s say, we read that 18 dead bodies were taken out, then in a few hours another body will be added, and then a few more. 

It’s as though we are reading purely arithmetical and cold report-style texts. 

I don’t know what the media should do, but such news, where a person is just a number, leaves a bad impression. Not because they scare, but on the contrary, they tame. 

You are a double object in such news. it is not only the manner of conveying the news that is personal but also the news in which you are an object. Maybe even this kind of media material is worse than listening to a manipulative and large audience and aggressively speaking live broadcasters and influencers. 

You will not fulfill the requirement of neutrality or transparency by quoting factual data, you need to add something else to it. 

Of course, there is also the opposite picture: parallel to the style of giving numbers, the media can build a very exciting story where all soldiers are heroes. It also sounds a bit false, somewhat dishonest, because the word “hero” seems to close all questions and debts, and makes the information about death digestible. 

Since there are many consecutive disasters and deaths, adaptation takes place, and people do not manage to react with their mental or even physical resources. 

It is not surprising to me that people seem to quickly forget another disaster (for example, Surmalu). the incident is out of memory, but it will be mumbled about for a long time. 

The experience of facing disaster and death remains in the subconscious, is compounded by the previous ones, and we cannot say what consequences it will leave. But the fact that it cannot be in the conscious field all the time is understandable and even necessary. 

In fact, it may be good for society when a certain section is apathetic sometimes because those people are able to resist with their thick skin, and insensitivity, to put it bluntly. 

During the war, they criticized those who went to shops, restaurants, etc., but such a segment is also needed if we look at it not from a moral point of view, but purely from the point of view of the functionality of society and the kind of struggle for survival. 

Aggression, which is accumulated especially in social network conversations, has increased quite a bit. Does it still have a functional meaning? 

When we are concerned about aggression in the media, we compare the existing picture with a better situation, when aggression was not so much. And we think how terrible it is now, for example, Dog-ism, foul mouth-ism, saying whatever you want to each other to the bitter end. 

But what we have can also be compared with another possible scenario. if we didn’t have a virtual place to curse at each other, it might have been worse. 

If you are able to shed the pain and dirt accumulated in you somewhere, even if it is virtual (of course, there are also real people in the networks and you can also insult and offend a real person, but this happens in a different communicative environment), then by doing so, you mitigate to some extent the possible physical aggression towards the other, the signs of which, by the way, are still there. 

We are a society that has been through traumas and is going through it, where it is almost impossible for people to secretly hate each other. And the aggressiveness pouring out into the media may play the role of a safety cushion. 

Anyway, this point of view can also be taken into account. 

Our dirty media today is really a cushion against even worse. 

Also, we see attempts to regulate the media field by law, with stringencies and fines, which, if we look deeply, are always fruitless. 

If we discuss media influence, for example, from the perspectives of social learning theory and psychoanalysis, we will see the differences. 

Of course, aggression is habitual to a large extent (roughly speaking, they learn what they see), therefore the bad should be limited on the screens, especially in the case of children. 

And psychoanalysis says that a person has that aggression in them, and they should release it somewhere. It is better to do it in some symbolic field (say, in the media) than to pour it on the other person. And this point of view also has the right to exist. 

Although, of course, today the media is very polluted, there is a lot of stupidity and dirt, but it will not be regulated by laws. 

It is necessary to understand and change the forms of public relations, and what internal agreements, rules, and goals exist. And as long as our current political field needs this media aggression, neither the authorities nor the opposition has the right to criticize and regulate it. 

They too are fishing in this polluted media ecology. 

Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan 

Add new comment

Comments by Media.am readers become public after moderation. We urge our readers not to leave anonymous comments. It’s always nice to know with whom one is speaking.

We do not publish comments that contain profanities, non-normative lexicon, personal attacks or threats. We do not publish comments that spread hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *