How Does Media Manipulate You?

It is easy to imagine how someone you disagree with might be manipulated by the media they consume. But how does your media manipulate you?

Frequently, I see people referred to as sheep. The implication is that they blindly follow whatever they hear. The person using the word “sheep”, however, would never fall for such obvious tricks. Or so they believe.

Related: Listen to the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question, ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘How much is enough?’

In reality, all news, opinion, and entertainment programs use many methods to get you to believe what they want you to believe. That might include word choice, music, on-screen text, sharing only one side of an argument, or even outright lies.

While it is easy to notice these flaws in the media outlets that don’t share your worldview, it is much harder to be critical of the media — newspaper articles, cable news, web sites, and so on — that you consume on a regular basis, and that you agree with.

Related: Here is a podcast episode with the question, ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a second question, ‘What makes a place feel like home?’

Are you familiar with the rhetorical methods that are used to persuade? Do you recognize some of the behaviors that you condemn in others in your own choice of news? Can you recognize, in what you read or watch, an agenda being driven, even if you agree with that agenda? How does media manipulate you?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? What deserves your attention?

2 thoughts on “How Does Media Manipulate You?”

  1. I hold a mixture of political viewpoints. I guess I am predominantly a progressive. However, I have some tendencies toward democratic socialism and civil libertarianism with a tinge of an appreciation for the profit motive within the confines of a liberal perspective. My beliefs of how to achieve justice are predominantly class-based.

    My primary national and international news sources are the New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Nation. For local and state news, I read the Star-Tribune, MinnPost, and The Minnesota Reformer. For comedic takes on the issues of the day, I like Seth Myers diatribes in his segment called “A Closer Look.” And while I don’t watch it enough, I also love John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight.”

    Without a doubt, I choose media that runs within my comfort zone and, for the most part, reinforces my beliefs. In other words, I choose how to be manipulated. Most of these sources, except my local paper, the Star-Tribune (which is more mainstream than I am) and The Nation (which is slightly more left than I am), churn out the news that motivates me to interact with the world based on what I believe to be true.

    So, the question for me, is what are my blind spots based on the media I choose. First, I don’t read enough media that promotes critical race theory. This, I consider a significant failing on my part and one that today’s Intellectual Roundtable question motivates me to find that predominately take this approach. (Although I will say that I am reading several books — a different kind of media source — that cover this take on things.) Second, I don’t get enough of an international perspective on world events and criticisms of America’s global influence. And, third, I really should consider reading a periodical that helps me understand things from a genuine conservative viewpoint. I am not into Trumpism, but a little bit of George Will and the like would be helpful to challenge my beliefs and likely make them stronger.

  2. Some of my high school lessons touched on critical thinking, so I am somewhat aware of media manipulation and the need to consider the source and get varying points of view. I think that kind of training is even more important today with all the sources of information out there.

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