Media manipulation

From ArticleWorld

Media manipulation is a set of tactics used by certain individuals and groups--especially those who have enough political power or money to control the news media--to discredit those who oppose them. Media manipulators use a variety of schemes to sway public opinion in their favor. Ultimately, most of these schemes are based on logical fallacy, and can be revealed by an astute observer. These tactics are essentially propaganda.

Manipulation tactics


One of the most common methods by which public opinion is manipulated is by creating a "straw figure," which is easier to attack than the real opposition. An argument that has credibility and merit may be conflated with a weaker fringe element of opinion. For example, those who oppose the army recruitment clause in the No Child Left Behind Act may be identified with those who oppose the act altogether. They can then be criticized for being "against educational reform."

A similar method is scapegoating or demonisation. In this case, problems are blamed on a small group, vilifying them. Those who disagree with the scapegoaters are accused of being a part of the scapegoated group, discrediting them. Before and during World War II in Germany, economic problems were blamed on a "Jewish conspiracy," and anyone who opposed the Nazi regime was accused of being a part of this conspiracy. Minority groups are especially likely to be victims of scapegoating.

If a scapegoat is not available, then manipulators may engage in ad hominem attacks. In this case, criticisms will be ignored entirely, and the person or persons bringing the criticism will be attacked as individuals. An example of an ad hominem attack is to say, "It doesn't matter what George Bush says about improving the state of education, because he was only a mediocre student himself."


There are two major ways in which distraction can be used to manipulate the media. The first, as exemplified by the 1997 film, Wag the Dog, is a created by way of a conveniently timed major event. A political leader will start a war or create another large incident to divert the public attention from certain issues that threaten the regime or leadership. In the case of Wag the Dog, a president creates a fake war to draw attention away from a sex scandal with a teenage girl.

The other common type of distraction is created by appealing to national pride or patriotism. This scheme is similar to the straw fallacy. Any criticism that comes from outside national borders will be dismissed out-of-hand because it comes from "outsiders." Furthermore, any dissent within a nation will be attacked if it agrees with outsider criticisms. As an example, someone may invoke patriotic distraction by saying, "You think that we should adopt a healthcare policy like they have in China. Do you really think the Chinese know better than us about healthcare?"