How The News LIES To You

What you just saw was groundbreaking director Alfred Hitchcock discussing the power of the montage to influence, even change a viewer’s opinion This is known as the Kuleshov effect

Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov showed the following clip to an audience Then he showed them this clip Finally, this The audience fervently remarked how the expression on the man’s face was different in all three sequences, one showed hunger, the next sadness and finally lust, as though they were all shot independently This was not the case, the only difference between the three shots is the image spliced in between the closeup

Across all three examples, the closeup shot itself was the exact same piece of film, the man’s expression did not change Kuleshov used this experiment to demonstrate how the considered assemblance of completely unrelated pieces of film and images, can significantly alter a viewer’s emotional response This simple yet powerful technique has been used in propaganda, to wage wars, win wars, spread tyranny and keep it at bay It has been used in humanity’s greatest films to make audiences laugh, sob and scared senseless But there is one force in our modern world that holds the deftest hand, the slimiest skill, the most astute ability to rearrange information, to influence nations, change narratives and breed mass contempt

The media The ability of the press, TV news and increasingly digital media to take the truth and warp it to align with their ideological agenda is unrivalled Fastidiously straddling the legal boundaries as they do so How you may ask? I’m sure you’re all too aware of fake news Well, I’m not talking about fake news, I mean to draw your attention to a far more underhanded means of deception utilised by what you may consider the “genuine” media

Like most people, you have probably long suspected that the big six media giants that control traditional news or the new generation of digital media haven’t always reported stories to you in the most genuine and factual way But it’s likely that you’ve never quite been able to put your finger on how or why This is because the techniques they use to subvert the truth are crucially subtle They are required, even mandated by law, in certain countries, to be subtle So allow me to enlighten you with just a few of the many masterfully subtle subversions big media uses to sabotage the status quo

The media loves statistics Why? It’s not because statistics offer absolute, empirically factual truths in a concise and easily digestible format, it’s quite the opposite The media loves statistics because they can easily be modified to support the narrative they wish the current story to tell In 2005 the state of Florida introduced the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, permitting people to use lethal force against an attacker even if it would be possible to safely retreat from the situation Reuters published the following chart showing the number of gun deaths in Florida over time

“Wow” you may remark, gun deaths dropped drastically following the introduction of Stand Your Ground in 2005 Wrong Notice the y-axis has been inverted so that zero is at the top, ergo as the line-graph flows down the chart, the number of gun deaths increases This is purposely opposed to the way in which we have been normalised to expect the progression of data to invariably appear on an x/y-axis chart We naturally expect up to mean more, not less

We also expect zero to be at the bottom-left of charts So then, at first glance, it would appear that following the 2005 statute, Florida gun deaths dropped to almost zero Another trick is truncating the y-axis The news loves to use this tactic with crime statistics to make them sound more rapturously apocalyptic How many times have you read or heard news similar to this “murder rates up 100% on last year”

What they often fail to report are the actual numbers What if there was only one murder last year? If this year there are two murders, that is indeed an increase of 100% But to the dismay of professional fearmongering frauds, crime rates are usually extremely low, to begin with, except in a few rare places in the world Two murders in even a small city of say 200,000 people is not a statistic to give you cause to organise a sign-writing party with your belligerent blue-haired buddies So when you’re shown a chart such as this you would be forgiven for thinking that interest rates shot up drastically between 2008 and 2012

If this were true we would have started donating our organs to pay our mortgages by now Notice how the y-axis is severely truncated to exacerbate the most minute increments of data Plot the same data on a chart where the baseline is set at zero and what we can now observe is that interest rates, in fact, stayed staunchly static It’s not always appropriate to start a y-axis at zero Sometimes to demonstrate a huge shift in data within a far greater range the y-axis must be truncated

But always be aware when you suspect that it has been done to mislead you As it has in an even more devious way in this chart published by the Ministry of Health for New South Wales in 2013 What’s going on here is more subtle than simply truncating an axis 43,000 nurses are graphically represented by just four nurse graphics, yet 28 nurse graphics are then used to represent 46,000 nurses, a numerical increase of only 3,000 nurses Making the increase in nurses seem astronomically higher between 2010 and 2011, when in fact there was only a 7% increase

Another way that information is often misleadingly visualised is through false correlations This graph humorously suggests that there is a positive correlation between ice creams sales and murders But of course, correlation doesn’t imply causation Just because I usually take tea around the same time that the pope holds morning mass, it doesn’t mean that I am in any way persuaded by the supreme pontiff's pious utterings to enjoy a delicious pot of steeped tea leaves Nor does it imply that my tea consumption is some kind of religious ceremony

The deception that can be reeked by slapping arbitrary false correlations on a visual chart has been turned into somewhat of a fledgeling internet meme by some witty individuals As can be seen in these frankly brilliant examples A lower GDP increases penis size Using Internet Explorer leads to murder, which to be fair could seem entirely accurate to anyone who has ever used Interment Explorer And my favourite, that global warming has been caused by a decrease in the number of pirates

When the media isn’t distracted with developing duplicitous graphics then it is usually divulging duplicitous discourse One method by which journalists fool the general public is by using very broad assumptions to slap incendiary labels on individuals whom they don’t agree with Take a look at this headline by left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian This is the story that three YouTube free speech defenders, Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan “Count Dankula’ and Carl Benjamin “Sargon of Akkad” have joined the United Kingdom Independence Party “UKIP”, the party responsible for instigating the series of events that led to Brexit Now I can’t speak on behalf of these individuals’ political views, because I don’t know, I cannot definitely say whether or not any of them personally identify with the alt-right, any more than I could say whether or not Kim Jong Un believes in pamper days

Followers of these YouTubers would argue that they are simply defenders of free speech and they all seek to rationally object to the irrational ideologies of the extreme left that is so pervasive throughout contemporary culture Claims that these individuals are linked to the alt-right are widely unsubstantiated and even the most prominent rumours are pathetically flimsy But that doesn’t matter, because, sure, they have impressive support online, but the majority of the general public and especially Guardian readers, have never watched any of these three mens’ videos nor is it very likely they were aware of their existence, before reading the subject article So by writing in the headline that they are “linked to alt-right” the damage has already been done Most people will instantly conjure mental images of what we typically associate with the alt-right, pointy hood white supremacists, neo-nazis etc

etc Claiming that UKIP has “welcomed” these supposed white-supremacist hate mongers with a red carpet seeks to dexterously defame UKIP Notice also, how the carefully chosen image to accompany this headline is a particularly smug-looking Mark Meechan, who, and I’m sorry Mark, is definitely the most typically “alt-right” looking of the three men, based on appearance Why does it matter if headlines are misleading? Because multiple studies concur that a headline’s bias hugely affects the way the rest of the article is read and interpreted Headlines provide us with the setup for the story we are about to read and no matter if that story contains conflicting information we still view that information through the lens of the bias that the headline has pre-constructed for us

Clinical studies have proved that how a news headline is written positively or negatively affects our opinion of something or someone far more than the actual content does, the body of the article The wording of the headline also dictates what we remember most from the news story and how we will report it to our friends That’s assuming the person ever reads the article Researchers found that in 59% of occurrences online people read only the headline of a news story and never click on it to read the full article News outlets know this, that’s why headlines are and always have been designed to be captivating and often deceptive

Slapping unsubstantiated labels on public figures to skew the views of that individual in the eyes of the impressionable general public, thus undermining the figures’ authority is one of the most widely used modus operandi mobilized by the media In today’s heavily divided political climate “alt-right” is a particular favourite label, because, with that one short compound word, so much hatefully imagery can be instantaneously attached to an individual Even the most moderate of social commentators such as Canadian Clinical Psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson has received this treatment NBC News happily slapped the alt-right label on him in this damning piece

So apparently, having a rational, fact-based approach towards cultural and social issues and inspiring people to take responsibility for their own lives is synonymous with being a Nazi There are other examples available Jordan Peterson also famously clashed with Channel 4 journalist Cathy Newman and it perfectly illustrated another trick that journalists do all the time, use manipulative language to put words in the interviewee's mouth In this fascinating interview that has been watched by over 14 million people, Peterson carefully and logically deconstructs many commonly believed fallacies about inequality in the workplace and general life choices between the two genders To which Cathy Newman simply responds with “So you’re saying

” then a general inflammatory statement that she knows the viewers will react negatively to if she can convince them that this is what Peterson actually meant Whereas his actual meaning was something entirely different from what Newman suggests, which is perfectly clear to anyone with a pair of ears and a brain in between them Why does she repeatedly attempt to draw false conclusions from Peterson’s rhetoric? Because she is intellectually outclassed, and she knows it, she has no rational counter-argument to Peterson’s statements But she cannot do the valiant thing and admit that Peterson’s arguments hold some ground because both herself and the network she represents have a certain ideological agenda to push, so she instead attempts to put words in Peterson’s mouth, seeking to besmirch his moral character

Other linguistic tricks are commonly used by journalists when interviewing an adversary I would love to show you example clips of the following techniques in use but I’m sure you can appreciate how increasingly rigorous copyright laws make it difficult for me to do so, however, there are thousands of examples out there for you to seek out if you wish to do so I’m sure you will have noticed these in use on a daily basis anyway So, for instance, anchors and presenters, will often fall back on binary injunctions such as “Yes or no”, “just answer the question YES or NO” when the opponent gives a lengthy answer to a deeply nuanced question that cannot possibly be answered with a simple yes or no, without coming across as a belligerent fool When an opponent uses empirical evidence or commonly known axioms to support their argument it is common for the interviewer to come back with the ignorant response “well that’s your opinion”

This is commonly used when the interviewer knows their opponent just made a substantial and valid point that they cannot intellectually retort So, by instead chalking it up as “their opinion” it undermines the factual foundations of the entire argument that person just laid down When introducing a guest it is common for a news anchor, talk show host or other journalists to preface the interview with something similar to “John Smith claims he is an avian expert but his critics say he molests pigeons, let’s find out” Notice the critical syntax here “but his critics say” Which critics? It is very rare the critics who supposedly said that are actually identified

A broad generalisation such as this rarely attracts calls for substantiation and it doesn’t matter anyway, the damage has already been done In the eyes of most people watching, listening or reading, Mr Smith is now a pigeon molester When in fact those “critics” could consist of no more than the journalist who made that statement witnessing a homeless man shouting “bloody pigeon molester” at Mr Smith as he innocently walked down the street It is then legally justified for such a conjecture to exist, even if it does not represent greater public opinion Subtle phrasing such as “but their critics say” is necessary in a world with libel and slander laws, because the journalist themselves are not making the vilification, some mysterious critic is

I’ll let you into a little secret, almost every time a journalist uses the phrasing “but his or her critics say” prepended to a string of particularly incendiary pejoratives It is actually a means for the supposedly “impartial” journalist to out their personal views or that of their company’s on the character in question, without personally risking legal defamation An example can be seen here on torontolifecom “When U of T professor Jordan Peterson pledged never to use gender-neutral pronouns, he sparked a vicious campus battle The free-speech advocates say he’s combating the tyranny of political correctness

His critics say he’s a privileged, trans-phobic bigot who must be stopped” Also, if a journalist uses the word “allegedly” before a statement, then it’s usually the same damn thing, it’s just another way to say “their critics say” Subtle linguistic tricks such as this that cunningly transmute opinions into facts are especially important and thus often utilised in British news In the UK impartiality laws exist under the Communications Act of 2003 that legally mandates news in any form to exercise “due impartiality and due accuracy” In 2017 British regulator Ofcom ruled that Fox News’ Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight shows had breached these laws

But since Fox News no longer broadcasts in the UK they could not be fined News is the mechanism by which public opinions are formed and ideologies are built, it is therefore imperative that when we see wild claims and incendiary headlines that we choose to dig a little deeper, consult other sources and build one’s own balanced opinion on the matter instead of blindly copying that of a single biased journalist Especially in a world where we have misleading headlines such as this “Girls’ school still offering ‘something special’ – head” Thanks for watching

About Thoughty2

Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos, on the weirdest, wackiest and most interesting topics. Combining fascinating lists with answers to life's biggest questions.

1 Comment on How The News LIES To You

  1. A very interesting and enlightening mash-up of what most people probably really know, but are too lazy to consider. It’s easier to let someone else think for you and the danger of that is well illustrated

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