Bright Side

10 Ways the Media Manipulates Our Opinions


Almost 30 years ago, Noam Chomsky, a famous intellectual, wrote about the manipulation strategies the media uses. It's been quite some time since then, and now we have things like the internet, Twitter, and Facebook, so the media has many more ways to influence us. Unfortunately, the influence is not always positive.

Bright Side will tell you about the methods newsmakers use to manipulate our consciousness.

Create a diversion.

Creating a diversion is the media's favorite strategy. Important information isn't noticed amongst a huge number of smaller stories. The internet didn't solve this problem: we constantly switch our attention to funny pictures and jokes. The only difference is that today we at least have a choice: you can easily filter the information you want to receive to avoid unimportant information.

Exaggerate a problem.

Sometimes an imaginary or exaggerated problem causes very serious reactions from society. In 2016, NASA published an article saying that if astrology were scientific, the zodiac signs would change their positions. For example, Virgo would become Leo. Cosmopolitan presented this as a scientific discovery and claimed that 80% of people would have to change their zodiac sign. The article spread so fast that NASA had to publish a retraction.

Gradual strategy

In order to form a certain opinion, you can publish materials on the topic gradually. This strategy is used to form an image of a person, a product, or an event. For example, in the media of different countries, only certain food brands are mentioned. The brightest example of using the media for promotion was probably the popularization of smoking in the middle of the 20th century.

Postponing strategy

To convince people to make hard or unpopular decisions, the media can present them as "painful, but absolutely necessary." And then they tell people that these decisions need to be made tomorrow, not today. Future sacrifices are easier than ones you need to make today. Examples include independence referendums or dictatorships in developing countries, based on propaganda and authoritarianism.

Being very kind

Some advertisements use language, arguments, symbols, and intonations for children. Such communication makes people less critical. Brands use the imperative form, and they aim for the simplest feelings and impulses. The media has a patronizing tone of voice because it definitely knows more than we do.

More emotions, less thinking

News and emotions always go together, and there is nothing good about it. Emotions don't let you perceive facts critically and objectively. They block the rational part of your mind. This often leads to a distortion of reality. This is the reason why the term "information warfare" is not forgotten but is actually often used. Users from all over the world try to figure out how to steer clear of it.

Keeping people uninformed

The media and the government can manipulate a society if the society doesn't understand the techniques. And this happens due to a lack of education. Chomsky thought that access to information was very different for the elite and the ordinary people. However, times have changed, and the digital era gives us a chance to find any information we need. And education level can't be a factor here.

Encouraging people to like mediocre products

The media is totally content to tell people that it's cool to be stupid, vulgar, and rude. This is why we have so many TV shows, sitcoms, movies with sequels and prequels, tabloids, and so on. They are not just for recreational purposes but also for switching attention away from truly serious problems.

Making people feel guilty

The point of this strategy is to make people blame themselves for local and global problems. People blame themselves for wars that were started by governments, not them. In 2014, a photo of a boy who was lying between his parents' graves went viral. The photo was presented as a photo from a war zone. In fact, the photo was part of a project that was dedicated to love for relatives. The author of the picture was shocked by the way it was used in the media.

Knowing more about people than they know about themselves

The media often tries to know everything about everyone, but they often cross the line. In 2005, the British tabloid News of the World was caught wiretapping celebrities, politicians, and even members of the royal family. The information that was received in this disgusting way was used to write exclusive articles that gained a lot of readers. The lawsuits from celebrities and ordinary people ended with the closing of the tabloid, which had to pay huge amounts of compensation.

What is your opinion on the information in the media and viral news in social networks? Tell us what you think.

Preview photo credit haralddoornbos
Illustrated by Leonid Khan for Bright Side