This article has been written with an aim to help raise awareness and educate people around the psychological manipulation tactics that are currently being used by organisations such as the mainstream media in order to create a particular narrative and shape the perception around current events.
For the purposes of this article, what is generally being referred to is articles or news clips released by the mainstream media companies, but it can also be applied to any form of communication released by any entity or person.
The way these techniques work is by inducing a strong emotion about a particular event (typically fear or anger), and framing it in such a way that it makes it seem to be a bigger problem than it actually is, along with only presenting one viewpoint or side of the story. This in turn shapes your perception about the event which makes you more likely to take action and do things like vote for politicians that are pushing certain policies in relation to those events. The media owners may also have ties to other organisations that want to push a particular product or service that serves as a remedy to the said issue.
The very big problem with this, is that it’s this form of communication that influences people in their day to day lives and can very often lead to massive division and even conflict, if what has been said evokes a strong enough emotional reaction. For this reason it is extremely important to understand how language is weaponized and as a collective raise our awareness to see through it, so that we are less able to be manipulated and end up performing actions we later on come to regret. It is important we understand the full picture before taking any form of action.
On the contrary to weaponised language, people such as politicians will often use disarming language as a method to lower emotions and prevent action being taken when emotions are high and people are demanding change.
The same tactics will be used to shape people’s opinions about individuals that speak contrary to what the preferred narrative or agenda may be. This very often takes the form of a smear campaign, that aims to discredit a person’s character and label them as some form of reprehensible character that should not be listened to, rather than address the ideas they put forth solely on the merits of those ideas. Likewise disarming language will be used to make you think better of a person who is facing scrutiny.
The first and most important thing to understand is that there are generally 3 main motivations behind any form of article or story released by the media:
- An attention grabbing, curiosity or emotion evoking headline which is known as ‘click bait’. This results in more ‘clicks’ which then leads to higher page ranking and increased add revenue. The more emotion that can be elicited in the headline the higher the click through rate (CTR).
- An agenda or intention to promote a particular story/angle or narrative around what is being reported. This agenda is very often politically driven and therefore will tend to be biased towards that organisation’s political allegiance. The organisation’s political allegiance will often be determined by who the owners of the organisation ( and workers) are, or who their main funding source is. This is also applies to who the organisations business partners are, such as their main source of advertising income, or if shareholders have interests in other area’s that they want shone in a positive light.
- Smear campaigns aiming to discredit an opposing idea or rival. – For example are they a lobbyist acting on behalf of a particular corporation, trying to discredit those who are speaking against a particular product.
This is why it is important to understand who is behind the media companies and what their particular agenda is. When it comes to individuals it helps to try and understand what their motivation is behind what is being said.
How language is used as a weapon
The important thing to understand about language is that it actually programs the mind, more about how this works can be learned by studying Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
NLP is a psychological transformation technique used for therapy that was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder who were both professors of linguistics. It worked by studying the thought processes of people and how this affected their behaviour and then using hypnosis combined with specific language to reprogram the mind.
The first and most obvious example of how this works is as follows, if I say to you, think of a pink elephant, unless you are pre warned and prepared that that is what I am going to say to you, you can’t not think of a pink elephant. And this is how it works, your mind is automatically following what is being said or written, and messages can be getting embedded in the mind subconsciously if you are not aware of what is being done.
How effective this tends to be is how compliant you are as a person.
However, further to the elephant story, what that elephant looks like is going to be unique to each individual based on their own personal association of elephants and the colour pink.
NLP – The map is not the territory.
The menu is not the meal. What we tend to understand from communication is based on our own experiences and interpretations, rather than what is being said. This concept further allows for how our perception can be altered.
From an NLP perspective for this article, there are a few main concepts to understand.
Levels of abstraction
The first is levels of abstraction, at the lowest level is that of concrete, which then travels up into the more abstract. As we travel up the levels, more and more of the essence of the original subject is left out, which leaves more room for manipulation.
Concrete is when we talk about an object directly, such a book for example. If I said take a picture of a book, you would easily know what to do. But if I asked you to go and take a picture of work, you couldn’t because work is an abstract word, which could relate to any number of possibilities, from writing a book, to digging a hole etc.
Using abstract language is very useful when intending to shape perception around certain topics, as it does not involve giving specific concrete details about what is being done. For example labelling someone a particular thing, without elaborating exactly why that is, is an example of using abstract language to shape the perception about someone.
Side note: When communicating with one another, using more concrete terms and language helps us to get our message across more successfully.
The second. is that of ‘presuppositions’ which basically means unspoken beliefs.
We have presuppositions in regards to how we process information, about how humans behave; communication and learning.
In particular, the presuppositions we will be focusing on will be that of communication around that of ‘the way we communicate affects perceptions and reception’ and in particular that of ‘framing’.
The important aspect to note from NLP regarding this is that, ‘The one who sets the frame for the communication controls communicating’. When we say the frame, we mean the frame of reference we are using. The thing about framing is that it governs perception, meaning, emotion, behaviour and values.
As an example of how you can view something from different frames, take the example of looking at a picture, you can look at it in terms of beauty, do we look at it in terms of what it took to create it, do we look at it in terms of its financial value or in terms of its usefulness. If you take 4 people with each of them using one of these frames of reference, each of them would have a very different opinion on that picture.
The thing about the frame is that it typically is ‘meta’ or above the level of conscious perception. The power in setting a frame is that it occurs above the level of consciousness in the recipient. Consequently, people lack awareness of it and therefore cannot bring their conscious values upon it. It is only by becoming aware of the frame and stepping outside of it, that you can change your perception of an event.
In regards to this presentation and how this is weaponized, the frame will initially be set that x situation is caused by (abstract word y), or x person is bad because of (abstract word y) whilst withholding any further nuanced information to add context to the situation.
Once you understand that this is how most news and media companies operate, you have taken the first step to freeing yourself from the manipulation of these organisations.
Methods used by organisations to shape the narrative of their stories.
Each of these methods mentioned can be discussed in a lot more details and could be entire videos in themselves, so for this video I will just give you a brief overview. I am also avoiding giving specific examples so as not to get drawn off into tangents, or getting drawn into different sides of debates.
The first of the the language manipulation techniques is that of Combining opinion with facts – which is also know as Inference.
This is probably the most simple and easy of all the methods to spot, and the majority of people probably already understand this, but sometimes it can be hard to spot the difference between what is actually just an opinion and what is a fact.
But to make things clearer, lets take this example,
Fact: Bob is wearing a hat,
Inference: Bob’s hair was a mess so he put a hat on.
Opinion: Bob looks good in a hat (some peoples not everyone’s opinion).
The first step in untangling everything you read is to completely understand what the full facts are, and be aware that there may be some facts missing. The articles aim to appear as if the majority consensus opinion on a subject is as they portray -, this is aimed at telling you how you should feel and how you should react…
Most people tend to go with the opinion of the crowd. E.g – The world mourned, the world was angry – was the whole world angry. (Note the frame here is that this is the general consensus of the world, where as there may be many who are not mourning, but in fact happy etc).
Seeing through inference and learning to be clear about what the actual facts are, is the first step in order to avoid being blindly swept up with the crowd. If you are forming your opinion simply based off what you think everyone else’s opinion is, you the most easily lead astray.
Twisting the narrative
This involves reframing actions or situations to distort the intention or truth of what actually happened, whilst simultaneously omitting information from the story to not provide the full context of what happened. In video media this often involves editing and cutting out parts of the video to remove the context. (The context means the surrounding information or bigger/full picture).
Re- defining the meaning of words – (to include things previously not associated with said definition) and then labelling anyone who falls into that category as that definition. (with the old definition typically not having good connotations).
This is a problem because behaviour that has generally been very normal can suddenly become something people can be vilified for, without them even realising. – This also includes using definitions to label certains things which actually do not fall within that The definition of harassment.
Using emotive words – heartbroken, shiver etc.
Word play and semantics – made with 100% chicken, instead of saying made OF 100% chicken.
Labelling people as certain things and then using that label as a complete definition of someone’s character.
Conflating several very different things all under the heading of one definition or label, or associating different things as being part of that label/definition.
Using gentle/ postive words to describe aggressive/negative actions and vice versa.
Equating words with violence or a definite precursor to violence.
Using claimed ‘experts’ as the ultimate authority on a subject – you should accept what is being said even if it does not make sense. There is rarely any information about any conflict of interest around what organisations they may be involved with, and what their motivations are etc.
Defining subjective perception as objective reality, Feeling ‘Unsafe’ – just because you feel uncomfortable. – then adding lables, judgements to those who think differently.
Gaslighting – no this did not happen. Its not how you see it.
An interesting topic to think about is, Where does subjective experience end and gaslighting begin… generally gaslighting will involve invalidating your experience, without providing any additional reasonable facts or context and will not allow for sensible questions to be asked, with reasonable explanations provided to those questions.
Insuation (hinting but not directly saying something) or claiming insinuation (what you’re saying is).
Subliminal hypnosis – Repeating key words or phrases to embed the thought in the persons mind.
Logical fallacies – e.g ad hominem attacks or strawman arguments.
Cherry picking information – selecting only bits of information that support the preferred narrative.
Lets not forget flat out lying.
It is important to get a good understanding around all of these different methods used, and research yourself further in order to be able to spot and see through these techniques when they are being used.
- Look at the actions instead of words, what is actually happening.
- Look at the facts
- Ask questions – always seek the full context, research information from both sides before reaching a conclusion
- Seek clarification on definitions and meanings behind what is being said.
- consider what the underlying motivations behind why what has been said has been said – its there an element of jealousy or propaganda – do they have an agenda
- is there an element of attention seeking, an attempted justification for something bad done first by painting the other person as bad, and making themselves out to be the victim, are they trying to get revenge or bring down a rival etc
- do they just like drama
- separate the opinion from the facts, a lot of people make their opinions up based on what they think the majority opinion is.
- Look at what is not being reported and even censored altogether
- Assess the evidence or lack of
- Trust your intuition – contradicts evidence, but tells you need to learn more
All of this applies to any form of verbal/written communication – articles, social media posts, news broadcasts, face to face arguments.
The important thing to do as we do not have time to be ‘fact checking’ everything we see, or watching things such as parliamentary or court hearings as they happen.
Whenever you see something that makes you feel extremely emotional, in particularly anger or fear, learn to take a step back before you react, and once you have recovered from the initial fight or flight response, ask yourself, ‘is this the full picture, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’.
Then for that particular situation, start looking into it a bit more deeply and ensure you get the full details.
We have to be especially careful and aware when we start to see dehumanizing terms being used to describe certain subsets of people. This is the kind of thing that has lead to the greatest mass murders in history.
- SIGMUND FREUD – THE POWER OF THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND.
- EDWARRD BERNAYS – FREUDS NEPHEW WHO USED THESE CONCEPTS IN ADVERTISING.
- DA BEERS DIAMOND RING MARKETING
- WALTER LIPPMAN – MANIPULATING PUBLIC MOOD WITH SUGGESTION.
- OPERATION MOCKINGBIRD.
NLP – The Users manual for the brain
If you are interest in NLP and would like to learn about how NLP can improve your life, please check out this amazing book which got me into all of it, called the ‘Users manual for the brain’.
This book is actually about a lot more than just recognizing how media organisations try to manipulate you, it is also an amazing tool for self development, and achieving your full potential.
NLP is an extremely useful tool for re programming your own mind, to overcome things such as limiting self beliefs, and even for things such as becoming better at sales.
If you would like to get a copy, please click on the following link: https://amzn.to/3G6UKFG
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