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Media manipulation

The process of media manipulation is based on the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and is used by some individuals or groups of individuals with influence to suppress information or points of view by crowding them out of the media, or by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or simply by drawing their attention elsewhere.

  • Distraction by nationalism (see transfer within the article propaganda): A variant on the traditional ad hominem and bandwagon fallacies applied to entire countries. The method is to discredit arguments coming from other countries by appealing to nationalistic pride or memory of past accomplishments, or appealing to fear or dislike of a specific country, or of foreigners in general. It can be very powerful as it discredits foreign journalists (the ones that are least easily manipulated by domestic political or corporate interests).
    • Example: "You want to know what I really think of the Europeans?" asked the senior United States State Department official. "I think they have been wrong on just about every major international issue for the past 20 years." [1] (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16059) As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, to call the statements of US government representatives "American arrogance".

  • Straw man (see Straw man fallacy): Lumping a strong opposition argument together with one or many weak ones, to create a simplistic weak argument that can easily be refuted.
    • Example: Grouping all opposed to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq as "pacifists", so they can be refuted by arguments for war in general. As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, to group all those who supported the invasion together and label them as "warmongers" or "lackeys of the United States".

  • Distraction by scapegoat (See scapegoating within the article propaganda): A combination of straw man and ad hominem, in which your weakest opponent (or easiest to discredit) is considered as your only important opponent.
    • Example: If many countries are opposed to our actions, but one of them (say, France) is obviously acting out of self-interest, mention mostly France. As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, attempting to discredit George W. Bush in order to discredit the entire coalition against Iraq.

  • Distraction by phenomenon : A risky but effective strategy summarized by David Mamet's movie Wag the Dog, in which the public can be distracted, for long periods of time, from an important issue, by one which occupies more news time. When the strategy works, you have a war or other media event taking attention away from misbehaving or crooked leaders. When the strategy does not work, the leader's misbehavior remains in the press, and the war is derided as an attempted distraction.

  • Marginalization (See Appeal to authority and Bandwagon within the article propaganda): This one is widespread and subtle: Simply giving credence only to "mainstream" sources of information, which are also the easiest to manipulate by corporate or political interests, since they can be owned or sponsored by them. Information, arguments, and objections that come from other sources are simply considered "fringe" and ignored, or their proponents permanently discredited.
    • Example: "I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the way I do, but haven't wanted to come forward because they're afraid of being identified with a fringe group..." Langley said. "I don't believe in all the things that all the (anti-war) groups stand for, but we all do share one thing in common: I do believe that this war is wrong." [2] (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0304-08.htm) As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, Jacques Chirac calling the leaders of several European nations "badly brought up" for supporting the US.

  • Demonisation of the opposition (See Obtain disapproval within the article propaganda): A more general case of distraction by nationalism. Opposing views are ascribed to an out-group and thus dismissed out of hand. This approach, carried to extremes, becomes a form of suppression, as in McCarthyism, where anyone disapproving of the government was considered "un-american" and "Communist" and was likely to be denounced.
    • Example: The consignment of almost all dissent to the "International Jewish conspiracy" by Nazi Germany. As with most persuasion methods, it can easily be applied in reverse, in this case, the consignment of voices supporting action against Iraq as being "Hawks".

  • Googlewashing: A newly coined word by Andrew Orlowski[?] of The Register [3] (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/30087) in April of 2003 to describe the alleged practice of changing the meaning of a meme (in this example, Second Superpower) by web-publishing a well-linked article using the term in an inoffensive manner, stripped of its political significance.

People concerned about media manipulation have promoted the teaching of media literacy to teach about the above techniques and thus make them less effective with people thus educated.

See also



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