This article is the next in an ongoing series to explain how Americans are affected by media, to hopefully stop the wholesale manipulation of our feelings, to the detriment of America as a nation. My last article was on fake news. This article is about use of propaganda techniques in the media. This link to a wikipedia synopsis of 55 propaganda techniques should be bookmarked. You should become familiar with it. You will see an opportunity to use it almost every time you listen to a “news” outlet.
I’d like to reiterate that media is a profit center for the corporations that own them. Never forget that. They profit by publishing the most sensational version of the facts. Another item to remember is the difference between an editorial or opinion piece, and the news. Most of cable media is devoted to editorial and opinion, NOT the news. It should not be thought of as news. I am not bashing these shows, there can be value added by providing context or perspective, which must come from some point of view. The problem is that most of these shows are in fact employing propaganda techniques to influence you.
Politicians as well use these techniques, as even a casual inspection of their words show. And while this isn’t helpful for an unbiased understanding of a situation, we’ve come to expect this from our politicians. Their campaign rhetoric is almost nothing but propaganda. The most common techniques I noted in both campaigns were:
Appeal to authority, Appeal to fear, Appeal to prejudice, Bandwagon, Beautiful people, Big Lie, Selective truth, Common man, Cult of personality, Demonizing the enemy, Exaggeration, Fear and doubt, Flag-waving, Guilt by association, Half truth, Intentional vagueness, Loaded language, Managing the news, Non Sequitur, Oversimplification, Quotes out of context, Rationalization, Red herring, Repetition, Scapegoating, Testimonial, Virtue words
The techniques I see most on media outlets are:
Appeal to authority, Appeal to fear, Appeal to prejudice, Big Lie, Selective truth, Demonizing the enemy, Exaggeration, Fear and doubt, Flag-waving, Guilt by association, Half truth, Intentional vagueness, Loaded language, Non Sequitur, Oversimplification, Quotes out of context, Repetition, Virtue words
These techniques fall into two categories, direct appeal to emotions, and “spinning” facts. The direct appeals to emotion are:
Appeal to authority, Appeal to fear, Appeal to prejudice, Demonizing the enemy, Fear and doubt, Flag waving, Loaded words, Virtue words
The “spinning” techniques are:
Big Lie, Selective truth, Exaggeration, Guilt by association, Half truth, Intentional vagueness, Non sequitur, Over simplification, Quotes out of context
Each of the techniques above deserves its own space, but due to space constraints, in this article, I will just take one of the direct appeals to emotion, namely the appeal to fear. Liberal shows highlight loss of rights, and loss of the social safety net. For conservative shows, it is loss of income through big and corrupt government, loss of personal safety through immigration of radical elements, and loss of gun rights. Each side will tell you that you don’t want to act after there is a problem, you should act now. Of course, the nature of this approach is that that you can’t measure the effectiveness of your actions. In Illinois, I can say I wear alligator repellent to keep me safe from alligators. When told there are no alligators in Illinois, I can say “See how well it works? You should thank me.”
For conservatives, let me substitute this with “Obama is coming for our guns. Let’s fight! Well, Obama didn’t get our guns. See how well our fighting worked?”. For liberals, try “Trump is going to take away all our rights. Let’s fight! The independent judiciary upholds American rights on legal grounds. See how well our fighting worked?”.
I’m not suggesting that fighting for what you believe in is wrong or unnecessary. I’m saying that you can’t always tell if your actions prevented the consequences you feared. This technique heightens your fear without informing you. Great for manipulating you, great for ratings, great for contributions.
Please bookmark the wikipedia link, and get familiar with how this works, so that you can get off the media treadmill.