This essay on media manipulation is designed to help men understand when creators of printed, audio and video media are trying to manipulate you with styles of persuasive writing and video editing. This is a vital skill needed to thrive in the current socio-political landscape, as if you do not know how to recognize when journalists, book authors and even just random people on Twitter, Facebook, reddit, etc. are seeking to manipulate you with these kinds of tactics.
Last year in 2020 was an election year, so we’ve saw a lot of this kind of yellow journalism in the media, and it’s only likely to keep getting worse until enough people can recognize these actions and boycott media companies that utilize these techniques designed to manipulate them into making choices against their own interests.
At its root level, manipulation in the media is achieved the same way that a stage magician manipulates the viewer; by drawing their attention to something the magician wants you to focus on while distracting you from what they are actually doing that would expose the truth.
Social media frequently is designed to manipulate your emotions. Typically, non-profits are used by manipulators to shield the actual corporations that are engaging in manipulation, since being perceived as a non-profit company has a social clout image associated with it. Most people mistakenly believing that non-profits are 100% volunteer operations when in reality non-profit executives tend to be among some of the most highly paid execs in the world and usually are specialists in PR. Many non-profits are really just a type of PR company that uses its money to hire contractors to make token efforts to fulfill its mission, while pocketing the rest as salaries for employees.
Here is an example from a non-profit that spent $18M to build 180 so-called “tiny homes” but in my opinion are really just cheaply made huts. Tiny homes, while trendy, are basically built like sheds and in fact many tiny homes began as the same models of sheds you can buy at Home Depot. These are not the same quality of materials as those used to manufacture a home and tend to be built like travel trailers, which can also have very shoddy craftsmanship to them which is why they rapidly lose value over time.
Now the local Austin newspapers tend to consider this non-profit a darling, and always positively talk about them. They launched several years ago with 180 homes, and presently after several more years they have increased to a total of 200 homes. Yet if you do the math of what the non-profit has spent into development you get a cost of $100K to make each one bedroom “house”. This is ridiculous, as there are actual real houses you can buy in the area that cost $100K which have multiple bedrooms. In fact I owned a 4 bedroom two bath, 2 story home just outside of Austin city limits a few years back, and it cost me $105K to purchase it ( I sold it for about $110K when I moved). So during the same time frame they built these ridiculously expensive “tiny homes”, that money could have instead been spent to purchase existing high-quality homes. But it wasn’t because the objective wasn’t to provide good housing to the homeliness; the objective was to do a land development deal.
Now some people might point out they likely did not spend $100K into construction costs of each home, but this is only something those with little understanding of business costs would think. The salary costs of employees necessary to manufacture a unit should always be calculated into the final cost to build that product — in this case, the product is the tiny homes so it’s more than just the cost of materials, land, permits, etc. — it’s even the cost of laborers and part of that labor is above the line personnel, such as the managers of the nonprofit and the salaries they received for their time running the non-profit. This is why the cost is $100K per home, because they spent $18M and got 180 homes.
So this nonprofit is merely a grossly over-priced land development deal that price gouged using homelessness as a ploy to get people to ignore the facts of what their deal actually is; which is pretty much what every nonprofit in the country that claims to be working toward “solving homelessness” is doing. They try to “solve” homelessness by price gouging housing and charging donors — usually via state and city grants. So basically the tax payers are being ripped off, city managers are mismanaging funds and the local media assists by never bothering to look at what the deal actually is.
Also the problems that lead to homelessness isn’t a lack of cheap housing; the actual problem is drug addictions and mental illness. Many corporations want people to think cheap housing is the reason so that they will fall for these fraudulent cheap housing scams when in reality the housing they build is not cheap, it’s just shitty.
There is somewhere around 25,000 homeless people in Austin. That means it would cost $2,500,000,000 to give them each a hut — and even this won’t actually solve homelessness because the underlying behavioral reasons why they are homeless are not resolved. These people aren’t mentally stable enough to maintain employment in the first place, that’s why they end up on the streets. So to call this housing deals “scalable” is abuse of the English language. These are just land development deals exploiting social issues for the developers to make a buck. Also homelessness in Austin has risen as well and violent crime even rose 23%. If homelessness in Austin continues to scale as it has been doing, there will be 2,500 new homeless people in Austin every year. So an ongoing cost of $250,000,000 per year to give them each a space they cannot actually afford since they cannot maintain employment since their problem is drugs and mental illness.
The most popular form of non-profit that uses these tactics is the ‘think tank’, which do ‘”research” to advance certain ideas. They are predominantly funded by exceptionally wealthy families to convince politicians and the general public of supporting issues that serve the financial interests of the ‘donators’, who actually see their donations as as an extension of public relations for their private business dealings.
How media uses language to manipulate viewers
Journalists frequently play semantical games in an effort to manipulate the public.
Here is an example of this from a New York Times article,
Here is the article via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. The first three paragraphs of the article demonstrate why this headline is disingenuous and manipulative,
Did you spot the reason yet? The manipulative tactic here is that the actual event in the story are the charges the judge did not toss out, not the one that was dismissed. The more serious 2nd degree murder charges remain and only the 3rd degree one was dropped. 2nd degree murder is a more serious charge where intentional recklessness led to the death of someone, whereas 3rd degree murder is an accidental death. Yet writer John Ismay has reversed the importance of the events and made the dropping of a lesser charge the newsworthy event that he wants people to focus on, as he knows the idea of the charges being dismissed will outrage people. So he writes about what was dropped and omits what was retained to give the appearance that all charges were dismissed. The only way you’d know otherwise is by clicking out of Facebook, Twitter, reddit, etc to read the actual article — which to be frank, many people do not do.
I have mentioned before ways that journalists engage in yellow journalism to get clicks and mislead people. Here I provided an example from the New York Times, but CNN, ABC, NBC etc. all of them do this if you pay attention. In fact both CNN and Fox news had similar headlines for their articles covering this incident until they edited them to be more accurate, but the NYT is still using the disingenuous manipulative headline to this day. A statement can be technically true but also disingenuous based on what info it omits when that omission is intentional to distort the event.
The headline here is yellow journalism because it is designed to evoke an emotional reaction based on the implication the charges were dismissed against him; in fact the majority of charges were not dismissed, and he’s still charged with second degree murder charges. It is also routine for prosecutors to bring multiple charges on principle, and for judges to dismiss the charges which have little supporting evidence for making a conviction. It isn’t unusual for 3rd degree murder to be tossed out if you’re also trying to convict someone of 1st or 2nd degree murder. You can’t really have it both ways.
And what was the consequence of this manipulation? Well, people rioted under the belief that the “charges were dismissed”. They didn’t read the entire articles, they only focused on the headlines. This is why it’s a disingenuous tactic for journalists to lead a story with a misleading headline. They lead with charges that were dropped, and not the more serious charges that were retained. The news article should actually have been focused on the remaining charges, not the ones that were dismissed. This is textbook sensationalism and it resulted in misleading many people into burning down their own city in outrage. Then the NYT had the gull to write an article about “why Minneapolis was burned down”, citing frustration of the masses. This frustration was created by the NYT to begin with via its intentional manipulation of the facts for sensationalism. The NYT then further profited with more sensational articles covering all of the riots in Minneapolis and elsewhere; all a consequence of misleading the public about what was actually taking place in the criminal case.
Another tactic media companies use is the creation of infographics that are designed to lend credibility to their claims but in truth are completely meaningless. An example is the ‘media bias chart’ designed to convince viewers to trust some sources of information while not trusting others. This video breaks down why the entire concept is fallacious and designed to manipulate people.
More examples of the manipulation of language to lie to the public can be found in this presentation by Sheryll Attkisson, author of the book, Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism.
It will take more people recognizing that media companies often are driven to manipulate the masses to service political agendas and to cease their patronage of publications with long track records of deception in order for companies to finally cease this behavior. So long as they continue to profit from manipulation they will continue to do it.