OK, we want to kick off our series on Using the Power of the Media to Subtly Manipulate People by examining two recent pieces on the 2016 US elections. The first one we’ll look at ran in the Guardian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning British newspaper that most people think of as “progressive,” and the second in The New York Times, the corporatist Paper of Record that tricked everyone into believing that Saddam Hussein had secret “weapons of mass destruction” back in 2003, so that the United States military could illegally invade Iraq after New York and Washington were attacked by a bunch of Saudis.
We want to examine these two pieces in depth, and note the strategies each employs to, in this case, convince non-affluent people to actually go out and vote for a candidate who has absolutely no intention of serving their interests whatsoever, and who clearly intends to do everything in her power to enable her numerous corporate and Wall Street backers to continue to impoverish and imprison them, and to otherwise completely ruin their lives.
We’ll start off with Guardian reporter Lauren Gambino’s minute-by-minute coverage of an enormous Bernie Sanders rally in Washington Square Park in New York City on 14 April, 2016. Then we’ll take a close look at an exceptionally manipulative opinion (aka hit) piece in The New York Times, this one by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who is a master at this type of devious stuff.
As we examine these pieces in following posts, we want to focus on two very basic but extremely effective manipulation techniques:
(1) narrative reinforcement, where the “journalist” repeats, reaffirms and otherwise reinforces whatever narrative your PR team has devised in order to discredit your opponent, or to trick people into believing whatever you want. A classic example of this would be the “Iraqi soldiers bayoneting Kuwaiti babies in their incubators” story invented by Hill+Knowlton, a massive global public relations firm, back in 1990, to manufacture consensus in support of the USA’s first televised demonstration of its unrivaled military superiority after the end of the Cold War.
(2) lexical bombing, where the “reporter” carefully selects and utilizes demeaning and otherwise insulting vocabulary that she hopes the reader won’t notice to describe your opponent and/or his or her supporters, or anyone else you want to discredit or seriously damage the image of. This lexical bombing is best used sparingly, and with a degree of subtlety that Ms Gambino is not quite able to manage, but her “reporting” provides us with an unusually blatant example of the technique at work.
Now, before we get started, we just want to note that, as effective as each of these tactics can be in isolation, to really maximize the damage you inflict on your chosen target, you’re going to want to get a kind of corporate media “echo chamber” going, where the majority of the mainstream media is constantly reinforcing your narrative, and dropping slimy little lexical bombs on your “bad guy,” until eventually your made-up story and mischaracterizations of your opponent start to feel like just “the way things are.”
All right, let’s get to that Guardian piece now, and see how these two techniques work together to subtly manipulate people …