Dealing with Fake & Manipulative Media
Who and what to trust, when you can’t trust the media.
CBS president Les Moonves said, at the end of the election in 2016, that spending so much time covering Republican candidate Donald Trump “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
2019 update, how to get the real news on your country?
Tip: To combat foreign influence Youtube now will put up warning signs with official media, from which country it actually is. Followed by a link to Wikipedia (which by the way is heavily redacted by the CIA). This is very helpful, but in another way than expected. It is help to find suppressed news about your own country. To find this hidden news, seek the foreign agencies!
All the major powers all seek to hide their own dirty laundry and expose that of the others. (This even happens within the USA where the criminal Trumpist expose the Bidens and the Biden lovers expose the Trump corruption). So if you want the real news of the USA (like the corruption and corporate takeover of their government) and the UK (like Prince Andrew’s ties to Epstein) watch RT and Al Jazeera. If you want the censored news on China (like the mentioning of the camps ‘re-educating the Turkish minority’), watch the USA media daring to affront the Chinese. If you seek the truth about Russia, try European watchdogs (like suppression of free speech or proxy wars around its borders). Etc. There’s a lot of clickbait with great conspiracies, yet Youtube helps you to find the official news media, that try to report the truth as they find it, often ignoring others truths you’ll have to find somewhere else.
Why the news offers a distorted view of reality all the time.
Suddenly the news is in the news and not in a good way. According to Gallop trust in de media sank to new low in the United States. And this is not just an American problem. The feeling of trust may be low, and there’s also good reason for it. There is a point in not trusting the news, and worse, you may also have reasons to not trust your corporate food, not trust your banks, not trust your government. Then what is left and what can you do? This post focusses on you and the media.
The media seems driven by two imperatives: 1. Scandals & Sensation (read need to attract audiences), more drama means more viewers, means more advertisements. This made Trump big. Emotions outweigh facts. And 2. Owner interests. Almost all news is political agenda driven. Protecting interests outweighs truth and nuance. If the boss of the company supports certain political stances, than those get way better positive coverage, like in the case of Hillary. Or don’t want to get into conflict with major politics. And (this time) many people saw through that bias, which increased distrust. Interest of clients count too, as revealed by a CNN reporter. Even, or especially, the government may buy airtime, and everyone pretends it’s fair news.
You may, even worse, live in a country where the government just owns or controls the media and has ideas about what you should believe and feel. In short all media is politics, advertisement, bias and inflation, or deflation of facts. There’s even rules like: no footage (of an event) may mean no air time.
Just for that matter, anyone speaking on the internet may be manipulated, convinced of their own truth or being manipulated. And it’s only getting worse ;). Hey, even in this text will be things I believe, and may be mistaken about. Or take ‘official’ websites, they’re are easy and cheap to make. Thus many so called ‘independent’ research sites, may be set up by businesses to sell their point of view. “GMO’s/Nuclear Power/Oil Pipelines/etc. are reliable and not dangerous at all, because we researched it.” Yeah, right. And since everyone who has a camera and a laptop can post video’s on youtube, quality of trustworthiness can’t be expected very much there either.
What Can or Should you Do?
So. Even when a certain news media tries to be pure and honest they face difficult choices. Many journalists work hard to write what does make a difference, in some cases with danger to their lives. And sometimes their stories get buried or rewritten. Others lack a budget and just copy what they’ve been told at the press conference or buy news from Reuters. Editors wonder what we should look at on the front page and what is only on page 7 in small print. How to distinguish conscious lies from propaganda, from bias and cultural conviction? What to do, when you can’t trust the news, can’t trust the media, can’t even trust the alternative media, that says to expose the ‘mistakes’ of the others?
Three ways to deal with unreliable media:
1. Develop Critical Thinking.
Sadly it’s not a standard part of education. We still seek to teach knowledge, of which there is a overflow, and we don’t teach enough how to process that overflow, what questions to ask when reading/watching news items.
- Read books/posts on critical thinking. There’s lots of tricks and tools to listen through bullshit sold as good sense. You can use either more philosophical approaches, police investigative approaches and or methods of investigative journalism. Follow what fits you. Find sites that give you the core concepts. You can start with media literacy here, or with personal critical thinking here.
- Use facebook to talk to locals and ask them about it. I’ve talked to Egyptians about the Muslim Mohammed Cartoon outrage, with Pakistani about terrorism, with Americans about DAPL, with Chinese about Chinese repression. These conversations always opened me to curious new insights. I especially found, most normal people, don’t want war, don’t hate the ‘other side’ and don’t shout as much as their leaders seem to want them to.
- Develop your own thinking, and yet, stay aware you might be wrong too. A trained thinker will always find new ways to look at things. See an angle others don’t. Look deeper. Look with different eyes. Try a comedians look or a child’s look or somebody with really the best interests of everyone at heart. And you’ll be less easy swept away by manipulative speeches, nor eat smooth soundbites with little sustenance.
- Learn how to read and listen to statistics. “95% of the people fear an attack”, doesn’t mean one is coming. It also doesn’t say if they would, as a consequence of that, agree on sharper security measures. Perhaps they want a fairer world. “The markets have gone 5% up”, doesn’t mean we all benefit. It only means registered businesses have more profits, perhaps by sending jobs oversee.
- Look for and listen to dissent from within. Watch video’s of former leaders, CIA agents, Wikileaks, protestors before siding with leaders that have the main stream media all too happy on their side.
- Put yourself in other peoples shoes for a moment. If I was an Arab fleeing from Syria, what would I think of Trumps decisions or any other news, would I even care? Or as a civilian living in Flint, with lead polluted water, do I see Trump helping my town becoming great again?
2. Help to world to become a better place where you are.
Rather than focussing on all the bad news, turn your attention to what gives hope and helps (locally). You are more powerful than you think. Daily gestures of hope, local ideas can even go global in viral videos, movements and new methods. Or help other locals to think twice before spreading hate and fear.
- Go help with what you can do on a concrete level. Investing attention into conspiracy theories only gets you angry and fearful. Amassing proof takes much time, during which no real difference has been made. Don’t waste that time. Live for the better world you hope for. And if there really is a conspiracy, you’ll find out when you endanger their interests. But I heard of many people fearing their government, who got actually helped by it. They got personal care, support of civilian initiatives or got to talk high up and felt listened to.
- Do Body Work! Dance, play, meet people. Hug them if you can. Really. Because body work makes your intuition much sharper. An aware body lets you hear better who you can trust and whom you can’t. It also makes you less easy to fall out of your center and get confused, angry or afraid. It also makes you way less of a push over. You’ll mind less if somebody pressures you to fall in line and act and believe the ‘norm’. You’ll dare more to raise essential questions, that underpin the leading rationale.
- And while you’re at it, get more in touch with nature. Whatever we claim, a healthy nature will sustain life on the planet, and any human damage we do, matters, even when we can’t be sure of our exact impact. Common sense that. You also don’t pollute your own house if you can’t help it. If you don’t get this, it might be because of the lead in the paint on your walls.
- Stop storytelling to yourself. Yes, indeed. The biggest manipulator of the news is you. On the one hand you hear mostly what you agree with. Or, when you not agree, your anger tells you how this news ‘idiot’ confirms your look at life. On the other hand, there’s your own storytelling. Your brain will invent, when you were wrong, a good story to keep you being right anyway, or shape the story to your believes. A lot changes when you become aware of your own bias and beliefs and how you listen to all the news. And then knowing there’s other view points too, while choosing a side, makes it all much more relative. Which is a good thing, because seriousness and conviction are the root of all fanaticism.
- Speak to a deeper truth and longing in peoples hearts. The powers that be and the media reporting it’s interests, successes and failures, may seem firmly in control. Yet, there’s enough counter forces. Even within these big corporations are people who worry. They too can get fired, get sick children or will lose their house as the water rises. Probably many who get paid to lie to the public, may secretly feel guilty, when they consider the effect they’re having. Because most of us have a deep desire to be meaningful. That’s something to build upon.
- Study the roots of everything. Get a wider and deeper look. Take democracy. You can talk about its failings from within the belief it’s the best of systems if done right. You can also look at it from a full historic perspective. You can compare it to all kinds of modern forms of decision making, like deep democracy, sociocracy or holocracy. From an whole system perspective include the influence of media, cultural convictions, lobbies and corporate interests and also consider the influence of the psychology of individuals, social behaviorism. Thus become wiser than the narrow scope that is mostly offered by the evening news or a politician trying to get re-elected.
3. Start organizing
The first two ideas were things you can start doing on your own. And they already can make a real difference in your own life and that of others. But if we start thinking bigger, we may also consciously aim for bigger impact. The interests for such a change to happen lay not with the current dominant parties. We may, no must, protest, innovate, challenge them, or even better, create the alternative.
How often do we hear stuff like: “If we all throw away less plastic bags, things will turn out alright.” Often when we criticize large organizations, they lift their hands in the air. “Well if all consumers want change, we’d be happy to oblige, but hey, you still buy our stuff, so why would we stop?” Then they tell us, it’s us each of us who should do our share. Yet my individual share is nothing compared to their huge impact, where profits could be invested to make essential differences. Sadly they put the choice with us, the by the media bombarded and distracted audience. And that isn’t right. Thus we must investigate the possibility how to let them change on a bigger scale, not just by us, being conscious consumers. A bigger push is called for.
- Don’t buy into the stories that you shouldn’t or can’t act. Massive change can only come from really different policies or structural innovations. And those will only happen, when we create the alternative strongly enough. Many voices will say you can’t make a difference or won’t succeed. Yet if we do what feels needs to be done, movements can grow. Once slavery was normal. Once women couldn’t study. Once oil energy was normal. Once human rights were ridiculous. Yet always, in many books and traditions, serving with humanity towards others and life as a whole is key.
“You may not know what can or can’t be done, but you can know what needs to be done.” Andrew Boyd. & “Odds are irrelevant.” Lawrence Lessig
- We, the masses, need to improve our own self organization and raise our voice better, for we currently have too little real influence (read this book for more on this). Because having little real influence, make all shouts to keep voting a bit more like a scam. We can become less reliant or focussed on ‘leaders’ or ‘heroes’ to be one ones we need to safe us. Become less trusting to politicians making big promises in times they want to be elected. See that you have power too. And you can organize with others. You are not alone. You just have to start organizing.
Here’s a earlier blog post on how to start organizing as ‘the people’. Start finding many more change tribes here.
- Start your own blog or channel to learn formulate your own ideas. I’m doing exactly that here. Choose your own angle. You may think, what more noise online. Yes, but diversity is key. It helps break shells of people thinking there’s but one way to look at the world.
Movements like Be the Media can help you with that in media matters. There’s many more online help with start voicing your ideas, and or build a community around an idea. But remember, ideas only work if they make sense to others, or are crazy in a good way. ;)
- And once again, apply here too: get a bigger outlook! Look at the whole system. If psychopaths better not rule, why don’t we take action against that aspect of them running every big corporation and or country? If power always corrupts, shouldn’t there be more checks and balances? Because if you only talk to alien believers, the signs are everywhere. If you only talk to football fans, football becomes the center of life. And if you only talk to rich, white males, as one of them, their ‘normal’ will infect you. Always a wider scope will help see better. If we believe thinking seven generations ahead can make all the difference, than why all the short term rewards? If our eco system is in danger of collapse, then every industrial plan adding to the damage is madness, regardless of profits. And if the news hardly ever mentions such dangers to all life, then in whose interests is the news presented? Is it us the consumers of the news that make the wrong choices or are we consciously being distracted?
Shed and spread some light.
We can choose to what we listen to. We can choose what we believe. We can choose to wizen up in the three ways mentioned above. You can learn to unravel the stories sold to us, you can focus on what you can do and we can organize a movement or voice with others seeking a to make difference.
I call this movement of everyone trying to make a positive difference ‘The Gentle Revolution’. It’s big and it’s global, even when not often in the news. Perhaps you can help it get there. :)
Here’s more help to deal with the Chaos.
Here’s another post on the same topic written by Caitlin Johnstone. And here’s an clear video on lying with statistics. And here a clip on corporate manipulations hiding stuff in plain sight.
Here’s a post on Why Propaganda is so successful, with link to Noam Chomsky’s brilliant “Manufacturing Consent”.