War, media and manipulation

Image: Lucas Vinícius Pontes
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By VANDERLEI TENÓRIO*

Considerations based on an article by Domenico Losurdo

Many times, our opinions have been cleverly suggested to us by media manipulation without our being fully aware of it. Indeed, the media uses subtle methods to implant beliefs in us, while making us believe that they belong to us, that we choose them.

The motivations for manipulating the media can be different, but most of the times they are aimed at creating submissive citizens. Those who ignore important information and do not know their rights generally do not create problems for the stability of the political and economic system.

In other cases, as is clear in the article “How the staging industry works in spectacle war, part of the imperialist war machine from the end of the cold war to the present day” by Domenico Losurdo, the dissemination of false news or the emphasis in borderline cases it serves to create divisions. The wide space given to unfounded or logical opinions disseminated by the major news agencies serves precisely this purpose.

From this perspective, the first means used to direct public opinion in one direction or another is alarmism. In consideration of this, words like alarm, war, genocide, attack, terrorism, emergency and danger are used very frequently by the world's homogeneous media. Such words serve to make people feel insecure and generate a constant subtle fear in them.

Another effective method is to focus attention on news that generates a strong emotional response. The issues that could trigger a mass reaction against the establishment they remain in the background to stimulate useless debates about facts that, unfortunately, can no longer be changed. The killing of children or violence against women is often used to divert public opinion from other issues that would otherwise be uncomfortable.

In the article by Domenico Losurdo, the conception of (false) superinformation, which is another technique of media manipulation, is clear. As a graduate student in geography and a journalist, I observe the following: Today, we talk to the point of exhaustion on a subject to give the listener the impression that he knows enough, a lot, too much.

However, in reality, the same things are repeated over and over again and nothing is explained. Why Tenorio? this is to prevent the citizen from having the desire to delve deeper, seeking information in other places and, therefore, building an autonomous thought about it.

As an example, Domenico Losurdo cites the following passage in his article: “on April 08, 1989, Hu Yaobang, secretary of the CCP until a couple of years ago, suffered a heart attack during a meeting of the Political Commission and died a week later. For the crowd in Tiananmen Square, his death is linked to the harsh political conflict that took place at that meeting (Domenach, Richer, 1995, p. 550.). In any case, he becomes a victim of the system he is trying to overthrow”.

Another structuring artifice is to extrapolate a piece of news from its context, which is useful for directing public opinion. This artifice is present in the narrative construction of wars. When this happens, please note that usually only the number of victims and locations are disclosed.

That said, the political/social/economic situation in these countries is never explained, much less the real reasons that led to the violence. Sadly, we are currently seeing this gimmick all over the national and international news throughout the Ukraine war. The artifice of extrapolating the context of the news is also seen in the third section of the article by Domenico Losurdo (The production of the false, the terrorism of indignation and the outbreak of war). When the historian cites: the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Racak massacre and the Gulf War.

Let's be honest, to manipulate what we think, all it takes is a careful choice of images, words or tone. In this way, we can automatically arouse approval or dissent for the issue at hand. This finding is present in the third section of the article by Domenico Losurdo, through the following excerpt: “In August 1998, an American journalist and a German “referred to the existence of mass graves containing 500 corpses of Albanians, including 430 children, close to Orahovac, where severe fighting took place. The news was picked up by other Western newspapers with great prominence. But it was all false, as evidenced by an EU observation mission” (Morozzo Della Rocca 1999, p. 17)”.

From this angle, even the space given to futile news and recipes on television news is part of media manipulation because it confuses people in the concept of information. It is not by chance that we never hear about certain subjects, much more important on television news and in printed newspapers – bank seigniorage, the production and export of weapons, the activities of the International Monetary Fund, to name a few.

So, thanks to media manipulation, people don't know they don't know. Watching TV, reading newspapers or getting information from social media, most of us are convinced that we know and, above all, that we are definitely on the right side. In addition, the mass media (radio-TV-Web) have become decisive in the creation of common sense.

To this end, the effectiveness of media manipulation does not depend on symbols or metaphors as such, but on its ability to create an emotional context favorable to the acceptance of commercial messages and especially political ones (these direct and indirect ones). In this sense, public opinion ends up being trapped in the web of political propaganda and receives only stereotypes, that is, partial and simplified representations of reality. That said, the media, although a tool for the development of democratic participation, becomes a potential risk to democracy.

In short, the news media and the government are locked in a vicious circle of mutual manipulation, myth-making and self-interest. Journalists, analysts and public opinion need crises to dramatize the news, and government officials of the great hegemonic powers need to appear to be responding to crises.

Crises are often not really crises but joint fabrications. The two institutions have become so enmeshed in a symbiotic web of lies that the media are unable to tell the public what is true and democratic governments are unable to govern effectively.

*Vanderlei Tenorio is a journalist, studying geography at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL).

 

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