Malcolm X once said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” The manipulation of media is not a creation that came with the 21st; century it was around long before in different forms, such as propaganda. In George Orwell’s book 1984, he created a totalitarian government that controlled what information got passed to The Party who were the citizens of Oceania.
Much like in George Orwell’s book 1984, in today’s society the media is used to manipulate the public into believing the information they are given, which is similar to how Oceania’s Ministry of Truth manipulates The Party.
In 1928, Edward Bernays published a book called Propaganda, in which he discusses how propaganda is used to manipulate what people think and how it was necessary to keep the government in control.
Bernays discussed how the country was becoming more democratic than what the country had been in the past and how it was allowing a lot more people to vote, and more immigrants were coming in. He said, “Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think” ( Bernays, Edward. “Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928).”Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928). History Is a Weapon, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2016). Later in the same book, he discusses how propaganda is seen in a negative light, how it is all around us, and that it does affect how people think.
Bernays later said this in his book while discussing who controls propaganda, “The invisible government tends to be concentrated in the hands of the few because of the expense of manipulating the social machinery which controls the opinions and habits of the masses” (Bernays, Edward. “Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928).”Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928). History Is a Weapon, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2016). Bernays is often thought of as the creator of media and propaganda manipulation and is held in high esteem because of it. He brought attention to what society was already receiving and placing it in a good light by discussing how manipulation is needed to control a society and keep it running.
According to Michael Parenti, there are nine methods of media manipulation: Suppression by omission, attack and destroy the target, labeling, preemptive assumption, face-value transmission, slighting of content, false balancing, framing, and learning never to ask why. Michael Parenti describes suppression by omission as the media leaving things unmentioned to the point where vital details from the story is missing. He wrote, “It is suppressed with an efficiency and consistency that would be called totalitarian were it to occur in some other countries”. What he called “attack and destroy the target” is used when ignoring the issue is no longer working so the media switches to attacking the story. The media will do that through misrepresenting the story to the point where the public believes the misinformation over the actual story. The third method of manipulation is labeling which is when the media gives a story a positive or negative tag without explaining it, such as when they use words like stability, a strong defense, or reform; which leads people to form a negative or positive opinion about the topic.
The next method of media manipulation is Preemptive Assumptions which is when the media will only focus on the topic, and not shed any light on what that topic has already received or debate rising up against it. The fifth method of media manipulation is face-value transmission, which is when the media shares what is known to be official lies and passing them to the public as true. Slighting of content is when the media seems to feed people a lot of information when they are actually telling one nothing at all. When sources that are supposed to be covering different sides of the same story don’t line up is what Parenti labeled as “false balancing”. The second to last method is framing, which is when the media bends the truth instead of breaking it, which allows them to achieve a desired impression without destroying the appearance of objectivity. The last method is learning to never ask why. More often than not, more things are reported then explained, and the viewer is made to accept it without question.
Michael Parenti’s nine methods of media manipulation aren’t the only form of manipulation the media is using. Samuel Lopez De Victoria, works as a psychotherapist in a private practice with a Ph.D. in the field, came up with some of his own theories on how the media manipulates the public. He wrote “All that is necessary to destroy a person’s character publicly is to take that person and overtly or covertly associate them to something the masses will reject. Never mind if it is true or not, simply to question it or make the association sufficient” (Victoria, Samuel De Lopez, Ph.D. “Media Manipulation of the Masses: How the Media Psychologically Manipulates.” World of Psychology. PsychCentral, 06 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2016). Victoria continued to write how all the media had to do to destroy someone’s public image is to associate them with something bad, such as connecting them to a criminal or a corrupt organization so that people associate that person with the negative situation instead.
The second manipulation he discusses is verisimilitude, which he explains as mixing a bit of truth with lies to make a person appear better or worse than what they actually are. Making the person look like a complete joke or causing people to not take them seriously is another form of media manipulation. A technique he labeled “making sandwiches” is when the media places a bad event in between two good events which causes the person watching to view it in a better light than before. This can also be used the other way, and leave people with a negative opinion on what was a positive event. Stacking the experts is exactly what it sounds like it is when one side brings in a lot of experts that agree with them, while leaving the other side with only a couple of experts that agree with them.
Ridicule and labeling is his sixth form of manipulation. He explains it as placing a label on the story to form a negative or positive view on the topic, “We hear words like “racist,” “Nazi,” “?-phobe,” “pin-head,” “antiquated,” “irrelevant,” “killer,” and more. By applying these labels on that person, what happens is that you freeze, isolate, and polarize that person. You make them out to look like they are part of a dangerous, scary, and insane fringe” (Victoria, Samuel De Lopez, Ph.D. “Media Manipulation of the Masses: How the Media Psychologically Manipulates.” World of Psychology. PsychCentral, 06 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2016). The seventh kind of media manipulation is repetition of the lie to make people believe it as true. The last kind of manipulation is what he called, “make the devil look like a god and god look like a devil” which is when the enemy makes themselves look like the hero by destroying the other person’s reputation to the point where they seem like the villain.
In George Orwell’s book 1984, the way Oceania’s Ministry of Truth manipulates The Party is different then how today’s media manipulates society, but it is still manipulation, just not in the same form. The Ministry of Truth already has The Party in a position where they are willing to accept what The Ministry of Truth tells The Party to believe without question. The Ministry of Truth uses their slogan, the two minutes of hate, and Newspeak to manipulate and control The Party.
Oceania’s slogan is “War is peace freedom is slavery ignorance is strength” (Orwell 7). The slogan is a form of doublespeak; it is contradictory by nature. The first, “War is peace,” allows the people to be at peace while they are at war, and switch to being at war without a second thought. The second line “Freedom is slavery,” is intended to keep the citizens of Oceania from seeking freedom from Oceania and the Ministries, and it also implies the freedom is inherently bad and should be rejected. The last line, “Ignorance is strength,” manipulates the people into believing whatever the Ministries tell them as truth and not question it. It allows Oceania to have constant control of its citizens.
Another way Oceania manipulates its citizens is through the two minutes of hate. During the two minutes of hate, a video of Emmanuel Goldstein came up on the telescreen, and everyone is supposed to gather and become angry. Goldstein is shown as being evil for believing in freedom of speech, assembly, press and thought. The people in the room stand up, yell at the telescreen, and several people throw objects. Afterwards, the screen showed Big Brother. One woman said he was her savior, while everyone else began to chant “B-B”. The two minutes of hate caused the people to be united by a common enemy and caused them to use their anger and direct it towards something that is not the Government. The two minutes of hate distracts the people from focusing on the Government and questioning what they are doing, and allows for them to trust the Government to save them from the perceived threat. It is another way Oceania manipulates its citizens into believing what they want them to.
Newspeak is another way The Ministry of Truth manipulates people. They shorten the language people have to use to describe how they feel or even to articulate their thoughts with. It was created to stop people from forming their own opinions and thinking on their own. At lunch Winston was having a conversation with Syme about the new dictionary Syme mentioned “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” (Orwell, 46). It will almost entirely inhibit thought all together. Newspeak is another form of control that only allows people to express themselves with the words the government picks and chooses.
The Ministry of Truth manipulates its people in a similar way as how today’s media manipulates society. They both control what information they give people and how they give it despite using different methods to accomplish it. The Media goes through an indirect route such as attacking the topic constantly or avoiding talking about it completely. The Ministry of Truth on the other hand will completely change the story and sell it as true. Both The Ministry of Truth and the Media have control of society without society being completely aware of it.
In today’s society, the media is being used to manipulate and control what people think. It is drifting towards how George Orwell predicted the future would go if society continued the path it was on when he wrote 1984 in 1944. 1984 has a totalitarian government that controls and changes what information The Party receives is the same as the media knowingly manipulating what information it gives to today’s society and how it gives it. Bringing this to light could hopefully change the path today’s society is headed down by making them aware of how they are being manipulated. By being aware of how the media manipulates the public could help people notice it is happening more often and lead them to actually research the topic instead of taking the media at its word.