Media manipulation

Media manipulation is a series of related techniques in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests.[1] Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere. In Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Jacques Ellul writes that public opinion can only express itself through channels which are provided by the mass media of communication – without which there could be no propaganda.[2] It is used within public relations, propaganda, marketing, etc. While the objective for each context is quite different, the broad techniques are often similar.

As illustrated below, many of the more modern mass media manipulation methods are types of distraction, on the assumption that the public has a limited attention span.



Main article: Activism

Activism is the practice or doctrine that has an emphasis on direct vigorous action especially supporting or opposing one side of a controversial matter.[3] It is quite simply starting a movement to effect or change social views. It is frequently started by influential individuals but is done collectively through social movements with large masses.[4] These social movements can be done through public rallies, strikes, street marches and even rants on social media.

A large social movement that has changed public opinion through time would be the 'Civil Rights March on Washington', where Martin Luther King Jr. performed his 'I Have a Dream' speech attempting to change social views on African Americans in the United States of Americ, 28 August 1963. Most of King's movements were done through non-violence rallies and public speeches to show the white American population that they were peaceful but also wanted change in their community. In 1964, the 'Civil Rights Acts' commenced giving African Americans equality with all races.


"Daisy", a TV commercial for the re-election of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. It aired only once, in September 1964, and is considered both one of the most controversial and one of the most effective political ads in U.S. history.
Main article: Advertising

Advertising is the action of attracting public attention to something, especially through paid announcements for products and services.[5] This tends to be done by businesses who wish to sell their product by paying media outlets to show their products or services on television breaks, banners on websites and mobile applications.

These advertisements are not only done by businesses but can also be done by certain groups. Non-commercial advertisers are those who spend money on advertising in a hope to raise awareness for a cause or promote specific ideas.[6] These include groups such as interest groups, political parties, government organizations and religious movements. Most of these organizations intend to spread a message or sway public opinion instead of trying to sell products or services. Advertising can not only be found on social media, it is also evident on billboards, newspapers, magazines and even word of mouth.


Main article: Hoax

A hoax is something intended to deceive or defraud. When a newspaper or the news reports a fake story, it is known as a hoax. Misleading public stunts, scientific frauds, false bomb threats and business scams as hoaxes.[7] A common aspect that hoaxes have is that they are all meant to deceive or lie. For something to become a hoax, the lie must have something more to offer. It must be outrageous, dramatic but also has to be believable and ingenious. Above all, it must be able to attract attention from the public. Once it has done that then a hoax is in full effect.

The word hoax became popular in the middle to late eighteenth century.[7] It is thought to have come from the saying 'hocus pocus'. Hocus pocus means meaningless talk which is typically designed to trick others or conceal the truth about a situation. It is thought to be derived from a conjuror in the time of King James who called himself 'The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus', where he would perform a trick and call out a phrase beginning with "hocus pocus".

The key word in something becoming a hoax is "public". A lie or a deception only becomes a hoax when it is acknowledged by the public. A popular hoax that is evident in today's times would be the 'Microwave your spoon' hoax. This hoax originated from a video which shows a metallic spoon being heated inside a microwave oven. It then further on suggests that it is easier to eat ice cream when the spoon is first microwaved. This hoax has fooled many people on social media into believing that the spoon could be microwaved, only to find that their microwave was damaged. The point of this hoax was to show how gullible people can be on social media and to prove that not everything you read or see on the internet is true.


Main article: Propaganda

Propagandising is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda is commonly created by governments, but some forms of mass-communication created by other powerful organisations can be considered propaganda as well. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes. While the term propaganda has justifiably acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples (e.g. Nazi Propaganda used to justify the Holocaust), propaganda in its original sense was neutral, and could refer to uses that were generally benign or innocuous, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to the police, among others.

Psychological warfare

Main article: Psychological warfare

Psychological warfare is sometimes considered synonymous with propaganda. The principal distinction being that propaganda normally occurs within a nation, whereas psychological warfare normally takes place between nations, often during war or cold war. Various techniques are used to influence a target's values, beliefs, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behavior. Target audiences can be governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

Public relations

Main article: Public relations

Public relations (PR) is the management of the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. PR is generally created by specialised individuals or firms at the behest of already public individuals or organizations, as a way of managing their public profile.


Search engine marketing

In search engine marketing websites use market research, from past searches and other sources, to increase their visibility in search engine results pages. This allows them to guide search results along the lines they desire, and thereby influence searchers.[8][9]

Compliance professionals

A compliance professional is an expert that utilizes and perfects means of gaining media influence. Though the means of gaining influence are common, their aims vary from political, economic, to personal. Thus the label of compliance professional applies to diverse groups of people, including propagandists, marketers, pollsters, salespeople and political advocates.


Means of influence include, but are not limited to, the methods outlined in Influence: Science and Practice:

Additionally, techniques like framing and less formal means of effective obfuscation, such as the use of logical fallacies, are used to gain compliance.

See also

Related topics

Notable compliance experts

Notable media manipulation theorists


  1. Coxall, Malcolm (2 Mar 2013). Caswell, Guy, ed. Human Manipulation - A Handbook. Cornelio Books. ISBN 978-8-4940-8532-1.
  2. Ellul, Jacques (1973). Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Ch. 2.Trans. Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner. Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 978-0-394-71874-3.
  3. "Definition of Activism". Merriam-Webster. 2015.
  4. "What is Activism". Permanent Culture Now. 2016.
  5. "What is Advertising". 2016.
  6. "Non-commercial Advertising". Business Dictionary. 2015.
  7. 1 2 "What is a Hoax". Hoaxipedia. 2016.
  8. "What Is Search Engine Optimization / SEO". Youtube: Search Engine Land. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  9. Ratliff, James; Rubinfeld, Daniel (May 2014). "Is There a Market for Organic Search Engine Results and Can Their Manipulation Give Rise to Antitrust Liability?". Journal of Competition Law and Economics: 1–25.


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Further reading

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