Did you know that the media contributes the largest share in shaping your beliefs based on what you read, hear and watch? But, what if the media you follow is actually manipulating you? Let’s have a look at the various news manipulating techniques to help you figure out if the media you follow is genuine or simply a fake news vehicle
Don’t we often hear a friend or a colleague saying: “I m sure of my facts and I trust my media source, I am aware of what I read and I form my own opinion on those topics by myself.” Well… This is simply not an accurate statement anymore. Each of us has or still can become a victim of manipulation spread in the mass media.
In the old days, media manipulation was mainly carried out by government propagandists and the hustling publicists. Today with the widespread of alternative and social media, hardly anyone can escape media manipulation, especially since the techniques used currently are so sophisticated and no longer even noticed by us.
Tragically, the mainstream media, once a reliable source of information for the public, has now lost all the barriers that made it reliable. For example, many people are more likely to believe a story on a random blog that is half as reliable as a New York Times article that has been checked, edited and reviewed by multiple editors. All you have to do is watch an online news buzz, to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire… and the unreal becomes real.
Why do I know this? Because I am a media manipulator myself. My job, as a Public Relations Professional, is to use the media to sell you stories. Make you believe or disbelieve. Make you buy a product or disapprove of it.
Public Relations Professionals and Marketers, are all over the place, behind the curtain, pulling the puppet strings. Shaping or re-shaping your beliefs. That’s why we’ve created this series of articles to help you better understand these manipulation techniques when you encounter them across any mainstream or alternative news source.
Tell me which media you follow and I will tell you who you are!
But what is news manipulation? It is simply the act of shaping a story in favor of biased interests. This can be done under multiple forms, however, most of them will focus on leveraging emotional reactions.
The followings are the most common techniques used to spread propaganda and false information:
- PRESENTING AN OPINION AS A FACT
This form of misleading news is actually very common, especially in politics, passionate ideologists frequently get carried away and present opinions as facts. You may have noticed already that people no longer use the words “I think” or “In my opinion.”
Instead, it’s common to see otherwise reasonable people presenting opinions as facts. It doesn’t matter if a position is exaggerated, extreme, indefensible, or improbable – there seems to be a growing sense that if you believe something with enough fervor, it must be true.
As such, while reading an article, a social media post, or watching a debate on TV, ask yourself: Is it is a fact or someone’s opinion?
- DISTORTING A FACT
Distorting facts by changing, twisting, or exaggerating them. We take the example of an old story by Russia Today claiming that Jewish people were fleeing Kiev due to anti-Semitism by the new Ukrainian government, citing Rabbi Mihail Kapustin.
After searching the original story, the research showed that he wasn’t a rabbi of a Kiev synagogue, but instead the rabbi of one in Crimea. Having called for the defense of both Ukraine and Crimea from Russia, he was fleeing Crimea due to the new Russian government there, Stopfake.org found.
- PRESENTING COMPLETELY MADE-UP INFORMATION AS FACTS
Let’s take the example of the “crucified boy” from 2014 in Ukraine that has many similarities with made-up stories we come across today: A woman appeared on the Kremlin’s official TV Channel One talking about a public execution. This woman turned out to be the wife of a pro-Russian militant. A lot of reports about so-called ISIS training camps in Ukraine appeared in Spanish-language media in 2017, but Advanced Google searches revealed no evidence for this, Stopfake.org reported.
- TAKING QUOTATIONS OUT OF CONTEXT
Taking a statement or remark out of its context, meaning without mentioning the circumstances in which it was said, or misreporting it, so that it seems to mean something different from the meaning that was intended. In fact, this technique is used often by both media and social media propagandists.
- PUBLISHING A TRUE PIECE OF NEWS UNDER A FALSE TITLE
Many people repost articles on social media after reading the headline, but without reading the full text. Putting a misleading headline on a real news story is one of the most common fake news techniques called ‘clickbait‘.
Clickbait sites will often use misleading headlines to lure in readers and clicks. Before sharing a story with an outrageous claim, keep reading – what’s the whole story? Did the author bury the lead in the effort to make the story more attractive? Were credible and trustworthy sources used to back up the claim made in the headline?
Typically if a story is shared on social media with a misleading headline, readers will voice their frustration in the comments without reading the full story. If you read a headline that sounds too outrageous to be true, oftentimes that’s because it is.
Finally, we would like to invite you to give us feedback and supplement this information with examples you’ve come across.
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