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?

What Five Ideals Are Most Important To You?

Do you know the ideals, roles, or things in your life that are the most important to you? Could you list them?

Knowing these things can help you in many ways. When faced with an important decision, having previously thought of your core values and ideals can make the choice more clear. Applying for jobs, making friends, or choosing a spouse can be made easier with your ideals to guide you.

Making a list, and even discussing that list with friends and loved ones, can be very valuable. Many of us, perhaps even most of us, may have some unspoken idea about what matters to us. However, writing them down, or speaking them aloud, can be an eye-opening experience.

Life is complicated, and so are we. As such, having just one, or even two, ideals that you want to embody is probably not sufficient. It might be helpful to think of as many as you can, but let’s start with five.

This exercise can also be aspirational. What would you like to be, even if you aren’t there yet? What would an idealized version of you be like? Once you know what that is, you can brainstorm ways you might get there.

Of course, these ideals or roles may change over time. For example, when in school, it might be important to you to do all your homework, or to get good grades. Once married, being a supportive partner might rise in importance. It’s only natural that what mattered most to you ten years ago might not bear much resemblance to what is important to you today.

But then again, there may be some things that retain their importance over long stretches of time. Being honest, perhaps. Or always giving your best effort. Standing up against injustice. Remaining true to yourself.

What is your list of five ideals that are most important to you?

Related questions: What is important? How have you changed? Do you keep lists?

How Can We Measure Intelligence?

In our society, some people are considered more intelligent than others. But what exactly does this mean, and how can we measure intelligence in an individual?

There are many useful — and several not so useful — skills that individuals possess. For example, one person might be very good at thinking abstractly. Another might be good at reasoning. Yet another might make connections between seemingly disparate things.

All of these things might be considered intelligence. But what of other skills? Does athletic ability make someone intelligent? Artistic creativity? What about someone with social skills who can get along with anyone? If these skills, and others like them, aren’t a sign of mental acuity, then what are they? And if they are, then how might we manage to measure that in a concrete way?

Currently, intelligence is measured primarily through the IQ test, where IQ stands for “intelligence quotient”. However, other than scoring well on a test, what does a high IQ actually enable an individual to do? As the example illustrates, if you test a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will fail every time.

An interesting wrinkle in this problem comes in the form of artificial intelligence, and various efforts to rate just what makes a machine intelligent. Would you consider Watson, the computer that won at the game show Jeopardy!, to be intelligent? How is it different from human winners?

How would you define what it means to be intelligent? Can we measure intelligence? Or is it one of those things we just know when we see it? Alternately, might it be present and we simply don’t recognize it?

Related questions: How important is intuition? How do you judge yourself? What is intelligence? How do you define success?

Are You Free?

In the United States political world, there has been a lot of talk about being free lately. From owning guns to wearing masks to availability of abortions, one person’s freedom is another’s oppression.

A number of freedoms, or rights, are explicitly mentioned in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In particular, the first and second amendments, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, respectively, are the most famous. Are efforts to keep protests safe limiting freedom of speech? Are all efforts at gun control an infringement of the Second Amendment?

In addition, there is also a fierce debate going on regarding voting rights, and both sides of the political divide feel that they are defending democracy. One side wants increased voting access to previously under-served communities; the other thinks that is an invitation to fraud.

At the heart of many of the ongoing arguments is that people, regardless of their political affiliation or socioeconomic standing, feel their freedoms slipping away.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the questions ‘Freedom or security?’ and ‘Is technology neutral?’


Not to mention the vanishing of privacy in the age of social media. Similarly, our personal information is becoming more available to corporations. Credit card companies, for example, know more about us than many of us realize. Cell phones allow us to be tracked wherever we go.

On a personal level, how do you feel about freedom? Are you free? Do you feel free? Are your freedoms threatened, and what can be done to strengthen them?

Related questions: Freedom or security? What are you doing to make the world a better place? Personal rights or convenience? How can we encourage debate?

High School Or College?

Did you prefer your college experience to your high school experience? Or is/was college just a waste of time and money?

Share why if you wish.

High School Or College?