11 Sneaky Ways the Media Distorts Our View of Reality
Media savvy is allowing yourself to judge the worth and quality of media products (news and entertainment) in terms of whether it opens your mind, uplifts you and doesn’t depress your energy. It’s like being vigilant about an activity that is a potential time sink. It’s also an ability to detect the tactics the media use to desensitise awareness, narrow the mind’s focus and depress energy on several levels.
If you are spiritually awake or aware, you may notice you develop a desire to cleanse your mind of the residual effects of what you watch sometimes. Your sensitivity and fine tuning is higher and you may notice an undertone in some media products. After exposure to it, you may feel an emotion like flatness or even sadness and resignation. This lowers your vibration which keeps you in third dimension thinking (duality) instead of fifth dimension thinking (unity). You would be trying to keep your vibration higher as much as you can for all sorts of spiritual and health reasons.
As a spiritual armour, media savvy is the shield or force-field that protects your Being, the soul and ego, from being ingratiated and assaulted in an underhanded way by media messages. It makes it far easier to deflect any negative effects. Then you gain a developed awareness of how it influences our psychology and view of the world through the methods of thought control and emotional twerks the media use.
If you are already media savvy (and an increasing number of people are becoming so), there will be times when the lack of variety in choice will funnel you to consume one of their ghastlier products despite your preferences. After exposure to a vulgar product, the effect on a sensitive person is to depress their energy and lower their vibration.
To fortify your armour against media influence, covert or overt, here are eleven of the more subtle strategies media use to control and shape our view of reality.
When the media wants to force an issue to the forefront of people’s minds, all it has to do is keep repeating it. It will run the same story (or pitch) for a week in different formats in a sequence such as this:
• breaking news
• feature story on current affairs
• exclusive interview with a media celebrity show host
• radio commentary on breakfast shows
• parading social media trends (‘gone viral’)
• follow up reports when nothing has happened.
This technique is not new. Nazi Germany pioneered it to engineer support for its fascist regime. As Joseph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda) explained:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.
2. Censorship by Substitution
Every day decisions are being made that affect public interest and much of it goes unreported even though the issues directly affect the quality of our life. The news media have steadily increased the amount of air time devoted to gossip, sports stories, entertainment news, acts of violence and murder, natural disasters and other victim stories. Then there is celebrity goggling – a specialty in itself and the staging of duality politics – their pièce de résistance.
It gives the impression there is no other news to tell. This is what ‘censorship by substitution’ is all about. Instead of being blatant about it, you create enough Mickey Mouses that there is no time left for the real meaty and interesting news, not to mention the stranger than fiction stories.
In TV the tactic of juxtaposition is more deliberate whereas on the internet it is more a consequence of the technology. The search engines display credible stories side by side with those that are spin doctored and of dubious credibility. It creates a subtle impression around the credible story because it’s nested among the not so credible and outright ludicrous. This jarring effect is used in YouTube to great effect with its recommended videos on the right side of the screen of the one you are watching.
We are not used to practicing discernment at this level so we are likely to take this juxtaposition as a sign that the controversial subject we are curious about might be lacking credibility. They do the same in news broadcasts, a serious item is followed by a trivial story as if to say enough attention to this serious issue, let’s get back to entertainment.
4. Fragmented Audience
The Internet has inadvertently helped bring on the ‘global village’ because we can bury ourselves in ever more siloed specialised niche interests. The public is terribly fragmented. The only ones who have the means to get a message out to a very large number of people simultaneously is still the same old players.
The internet does not really compete with traditional media since the technology that delivers broadband to the home is ultimately owned by media giants. Then why do they ‘allow’ the alternative and conspiracy sources to flourish?
Firstly, they don’t have to worry as anyone who publishes on the internet has to work bloody hard to get noticed and few have resources to continuously market their message to gain a large audience. Some worthy products have taken years to obtain a six figure ‘views’ count.
Secondly, there is nothing like information overload to bamboozle a person into acquiescence. You can be overwhelmed by the choice with just looking at a YouTube page.
Thirdly, even the establishment has learned the lesson about prohibition that if you ban something completely you only encourage it. The fact that so much controversial information is available makes many wonder, if I can access it so readily, then it may not be of much value.
5. Lies, experts and statistics
An example is a type of sampling, like the idea that marijuana causes schizophrenia. How did they get this ‘fact’? By questioning schizophrenics in a hospital. They asked each of them how many had used dope and ten percent of them admitted to it. From this they conclude there is a ten percent chance a person who uses marijuana will get schizophrenia. Can you see the flaw in this?
When the media chooses experts to comment on an issue they prefer the neo-conservative types. There is also an assumption that opinions from industry experts have more weight, very little time is given to audience questions afterwards, if at all. This is like telling the general public their common sense opinion has no collective weight and doesn’t count.
Subject specialists are highly trained (but not educated) to view and treat their subject through a specific template. They are not always the only viewpoint worth considering. This is disempowering for people who are individually very loathe to state their views openly. Collectively it prevents us from addressing problems from another angle and worse, we can’t even exercise democracy.
6. Balance in the news
Presenting two sides to a story sounds like a balanced treatment, but it’s a technique to polarise views over an issue. The most common format is perpetrator and victim where the focus is on the behaviour of the perpetrator and the impact on the victim; but not the motivation or root cause. It forces us to think in terms of duality and victim-hood, the opposite of open-mindedness.
Panel debates usually include panellists from two opposite and extreme points of view; the common sense view gets ignored. When debate is polarised like this it makes people go round in endless defensive circles as the extreme ones and neo-cons are given precious air time to squander on promoting their biases and stir people up. It narrows important issues into a useless tossing around of different points of view.
When people can’t align with or give voice to the middle ground of common sense and innate human goodness, they are forced to take sides. In so doing, many opportunities for progress and resolution are lost. This is doubly a loss when it’s often the media open forums that are the only means different interest groups can actually get together face-to-face to address an issue.
Balance in the news is based on duality: left and right, good and bad. Notice how ideas are bucketed into ‘left’ or ‘right’. If you consider yourself ‘right-wing’ then you don’t dare go near a left-leaning idea in case you get contaminated. This makes people completely miss the point of the issue and divides them into an ‘us versus them’ outlook. Nothing gets resolved, and worse, doesn’t reach a new understanding. For example, the idea that war is an inevitable part of our culture, history and future, still goes on.
7. Subjective vs Objective and the Invasion of Personal Space
If you are under 40 years old what may not be as apparent to you as to someone from an older generation is the steady rise in the use of ‘very close-ups’ in movies and TV. If you look at older movies, say from the 1980s and earlier, there was less use of the close-up and more use of the wide-angle in filming. When you take a wide-angle or panoramic view, this is associated with objectivity. A close-up of a person’s face, so close that you can see the pores on their skin, is a subjective viewpoint.
Everyone is aware of a sense of personal space. It is that distance from your body to the tip of your finger of your outstretched arm. Say you were in a public setting and a stranger sets foot within that field of space, you tend to instinctively step back to keep your personal space or move your chair further along to keep your personal boundary.
The very close up images that you see in some scenes of a movie, if transposed in physical reality, would fall within that personal space but you can’t respond to your instinct to step back or move along. Instead you subconsciously feel confronted or invaded. You can’t step your mind back so it reacts in a subtle mesmerised way.
Because it invades personal space it’s not so easy to be objective about it. You experience it but with limited objectivity. You get an immersive experience – one that you are happy to disassociate from once the scene has moved on or the movie ends.
8. Over-focus on dark aspects of human behaviour
Bad news sells they say, but did they ever try to sell good news instead of this daily spotlighting of war zones, street crime, domestic crime, terrorists and terrorism? Then there is the use of dark symbolism and sexual debasement in most music videos. It’s quite an onslaught.
A story about a good deed or positive development is usually reported like a ‘by the way’ at the end of the news segment (before sports). It’s treated like it’s out of the norm and pretends to be light relief from the heavy negative news that preceded it. When the news reports a personal triumph it’s usually framed as an isolated case with no wider implications. Collective triumphs are rarely reported.
We’ve had TV for over 60 years, cinema for more than 100 years, yet we are still fed the same old ideological diet. War is still peddled as being part of the human psyche instead of its real nature, a heartless mass manipulation to feed an industrial war machine. [Let’s hope that a country’s military capability, so meticulously crafted over the decades, isn’t turned against its citizens one day.] Movies about crime, gun men, terrorism, revenge junkets and heists still dominate the media diet.
The worst aspect is the heavier and glutinous use of stylised violence that desensitises the mind and emotions and attempts to make violence ‘cool’. The full expression of violence in film and TV has been defended as freedom of speech but is really a substitution exercise. As if expressing strong violence and violent ideas is a freedom. As if.
In its wake, ideals are destroyed; remakes and sequels are stripped down (goodness gutted) and a darker interpretation given. They have done this with children’s stories (the classics) like Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent), and a once popular Australian teenage TV series called H2O. There are no more heroes in the sense of role models.
In the guise of showing people as they really are, human drama stories will portray the main characters ‘losing it’, families in screaming matches, characters reacting with hysterics and flailing while spraying the F-word like a backward teenager. In the past they used to care about portraying qualities like dignity and stoicism.
9. Style over substance
If a picture tells a thousand words it can be photo-shopped. No wonder our media communication is getting more visual and iconic. A majority of action and science fiction movies since the early 2000s have disjointed or no story. The in-your-face action sequences in movies forces the mind into subjectivity and undermines its ability to ‘join the dots’, or make logical conclusions. It’s also made pop out of most documentaries.
Granted there are some very good human drama films and documentaries made to this day, but often their story is boxed in by focusing on a personalised context even if it is set in historical times.
Visuals make the brain lazy, conditions it to be spoon fed and reduces mental processing.
Our mind is designed to be good at filling in the blanks and working things out for itself. If this capacity is starved then it becomes harder to do so. In the end the mind can’t discern or process an issue beyond the shallow surface and will tend to lunge towards expert opinion to be spoon fed. It gets tired and over-whelmed easily.
In TV and film, the dominant background music is used to force an atmosphere. Often the music and sound are louder than the voices. It’s frustrating to watch even the good action movies and documentaries when the dialogue is muted compared with the sound volume. Why do they do this?
10. Shorter Attention Spans
In TV’s early years, advertisers would sponsor a program and their ads would appear before and after the show. Now they chop up the program with ads every 13 minutes or so. There are more ads per break than there was 20 years ago (check this by replaying any of your old TV shows you taped on VHS) and the sly tactic of making their volume louder than the program. The longer and more ads there are the greater the displacement effect is on keeping up with the thread of a program, especially documentaries. It stimulates attention span deficits if you can only focus on a subject for ten minutes at a time.
The news format moves from issue to issue quickly, spending a few minutes on a subject. It has conditioned us to have less tolerance or staying power for ‘talking heads’. We are now fed more news bites, double-anchor newspersons, inset graphics, and live cross overs. There’s also a creeping increase in the use of pop/rock background music to documentary and serious reporting to blur the lines between entertainment and news.
Then we have the showing of reward and success but without the effort that went into it – this is a biggie. We only see the good times, living the success, with little glorifying of the dedication and hard work to get that success. This has a way of feeding into the tendency to feel spooky about silence and working alone. Some households always have a TV on in the background. That’s why TV is addictive for the young, it exploits their undeveloped self discipline and feeds teenage laziness.
11. Value Judgements
A subtle movement started in the 1980s to discredit the notion of value and quality. There was a series of people in the media (in a variety of contexts) who were asserting that it was ‘wrong to make value judgements’. I distinctly remember this as it stood out in my mind at the time. It was long before I started on any spiritual or self-help path.
They seemed to be conditioning the public to not make (value) judgements of quality and worth for artistic products like movies, books, TV shows or even behaviours of people in the spotlight. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that from that time onwards more of the quality of media started to drop and the intelligence of documentaries, news reporting, and story scripts started falling in the sense that simple stories were preferred over complex ones with subjective over objective points of view.
After that came the positioning of ‘freedom of expression’. Any mention of free speech or free expression was associated with the so-called freedom to be offensive and express violence. It had little association with the freedom to express controversial ideas or alternative points of view. It was often used to squash criticism of stylised violence, that it was an attack of freedom of expression.
On the surface it appears that the media diet is catering to a global audience (whose first language is not English). For this they abandon plot, a memorable story, and characters. Oh, and notice the shrinking vocabulary. There is a lot of verbalising of nouns. I noticed two in the national news on TV – ‘glassing’ instead of ‘lacerate’ (with broken bottle), ‘sharps’ instead of ‘syringes’. The F word is no longer merely an expletive. It’s been promoted to a noun, a verb and an adjective.
On the subject of conditioning the younger generation, I was shocked one day when I sat down with my daughter (when she was little) when she was watching TV and saw they use more ad breaks and longer ones during children’s shows. Right under our noses they are dulling children with even more frequent and longer ad breaks. This early exposure trains children to become more easily distracted instead of focused.
Forgetting to make value judgments about media products forces our sensibilities to become grosser so we are less able to pick up on or appreciate subtle things. It decreases alertness, dulls the senses, so it’s far easier to pass things right under our noses like the ramping up of these methods on the next generation. Don’t forget to tell your children about the nature of entertainment media.
If you want to know more how to guard yourself against media influence see Media Savvy to Liberate the Soul.