Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Media manipulation - Wikipedia

Used very often in war contexts, these rhetorical techniques may also be used whenever a someone wants to defend a point of view in a non-objective way.

The process of media manipulation is the way in which individuals or groups use various tricks in dealing with the media in order to create an image of their side of an argument that is most favorable to the receiver.

Such tricks are based on the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and are often used by suppressing information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or simply by drawing their attention elsewhere. Many of the more modern manipulation methods are types of distraction, on the assumption that the public has a limited capacity for attention.

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].
Example: "Your idea sounds similar to what they are proposing in Turkey. Are you saying the Turks have a better country than us?"
Example: "The only criticisms of this trade proposal come from the United States. But we all know that Americans are arrogant and uneducated, so their complaints are irrelevant."

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.
US President Clinton's involvement in Bosnia is often cited as an example.

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, or accused of having their own agenda.
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]

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 or hated 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.
Example: Labelling all those opposed to Neocon policies as left-wing, making use of existing prejudices against Communists.

Googlewashing: A newly coined word by Andrew Orlowski of The Register [3] 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
Ann Coulter
Bill O'Reilly
Censorship in the United States
SourceWatch (formerly Disinfopedia)
Edward Bernays
Front organization
Gatekeeper (politics)
List of topics related to public relations and propaganda
Michael Moore
News management
Noam Chomsky
Robots exclusion file
Spin doctoring
Under color of authority
Media transparency


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