How They Manipulate Us

To give an example of how the media manipulate people, I’ll briefly discuss the CNN report on Ukraine I saw yesterday. Mind you, it was a single report, not two different programs. So you can’t say that two different talking heads were offering two different perspectives.

The report insistently transmitted two contradictory messages:

1. Situation in Ukraine is dire and urgent help is needed.

2. Russian troops have only managed to achieve “a minimal advancement” into Ukrainian territory.

What is a regular person supposed to think when hearing this contradictory message? “There’s something fishy going on. I can’t be bothered to unravel this mess.” Which is exactly the goal that the CNN is trying to achieve.

If the CNN said openly “don’t care about Ukraine,” many people would be prompted to care just out of the spirit of contradiction. With this primitive manipulation tactic, they achieve the goal much more easily.

By the way, the part of the programming that is a lie is point 2 about “minimal advancement.”

Stay alert and assume that what they are trying to say is the opposite of what they are actually saying.

20 thoughts on “How They Manipulate Us

  1. ” I can’t be bothered to unravel this mess”

    I can’t help but suspect that the professionalization of journalism (starting late 1970s ish) was a long term project so that the effective techniques of conveying information could be better understood… so that the whole project could be unraveled….

    In Europe they’re starting to do the same with higher education…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t understand why, with the plethora of information online, people still turn on the CNN after “fiery but peaceful protests” and Fox News after calling Arizona for Biden before any votes were counted. Is it inertia? Gullibility? Laziness?

      I’m very forgiving of people I know in person who lie but completely unforgiving of lying media. But everybody else seems to be the exact opposite. They’d go off at a relative for a little white lie but will forgive mountains of fabrications to a news channel.


      1. “people still turn on the CNN ”

        Polish media has not been…. great. Better than CNN (is it possible to be worse?) but also leaning too heavily into hysteria. Last week they had Kasparov on screeching about imminent nuclear war…


  2. OT: Recreating the USSR one step at a time, Russian banks cannot sell foreign currencies to Russian citizens…

    Currency blackmarket…. here we come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dreams do come true! Russians wanted to go back to the USSR, and here’s their chance. The younger generation that was born after 1991 only knew what the USSR was like from movies and TV series. Now they can experience it. Yippee for them.


  3. The way it is reported here, I don’t see a contradiction. Russians so far only control a small part of Ukraine and precisely because of this failure they are now attacking and killing civilians, destroying cities, shelling nuclear plants and urgent help is needed.
    I’d still be curious to know what you believe the ideal next step for the West would be, if you feel like explaining. Do you think a no-flight zone would make Putin start a nuclear war?
    I wonder if the safest thing even for the world would be to stop this war at the risk of nuclear war. Because all other long-term outcomes seem terrible and not only for Ukraine but for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Close the sky” means “give Ukrainians surface-to-missile air defense systems called Patriots. Nobody needs the US to shoot down Russian bombers. What we need is the technology.

      There is a risk of a nuclear strike by Russia. That risk isn’t related to what the West will or won’t do. The Russians will or will not deliver a strike if they feel like it. Unfortunately, that’s where we are. The largest country on Earth is filled with murderous hatred for the West. It’s not rational. It doesn’t respond to logic. I believe we are at the most dangerous time since 1953. Unfortunately, the West is pretending that if you don’t notice the problem, it will go away.


      1. Yes, I was thinking something similar. Putin is lying anyway, tomorrow he might make up a reason to drop a nuke on any city on Earth when he feels like it and the Russians will believe he was justified in doing so. So it does not make sense to try to “not give him a reason”. He does not need one. And he’s clearly past caring what anyone in the West thinks of him. (This is what freaks me out the most: in this interconnected world, why does he not care one bit about relations with the West who provide so many goods and services to Russia, buy oil from Russia etc? Why is he burning all these bridges? Does that mean he believes the West will not be there tomorrow anyway?)
        My cousin is married to a Russian and they are apparently also still thinking that Putin can do nothing wrong (and those are people who lived in here for 20 years and are now back in Russia, so they are much more connected to the West than the average Russian). It is unbelievable.
        I did not know that it was only about the technology that the Ukrainians need. In that case it is idiotic not to give it to them.
        I agree it is an extremely dangerous time. It feels like everything might just blow up.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Do you have a link to any discussions about Patriots rather than air-to-air?

        Also, I’m sorry to even ask such a question, but is the bombing in Ukraine primarily airplanes or ballistic systems such as Iskander/Tochka?


        1. Discussions about Patriots are not worth the time you spend reading them. Patriots require trained crews. Trained for months, more likely years. This is not a rifle. Since Ukraine never had Patriots, they do not have trained crews. The whole idea behind giving Ukraine Polish Mig29s was that Ukrainians are already trained to fly them.
          Bombing of Ukraine is mainly by cruise missiles and old-fashioned planes. Some Iskanders, maybe.


      3. “There is a risk of a nuclear strike by Russia. That risk isn’t related to what the West will or won’t do. The Russians will or will not deliver a strike if they feel like it. Unfortunately, that’s where we are. The largest country on Earth is filled with murderous hatred for the West. It’s not rational. It doesn’t respond to logic.”

        Your conclusion makes sense if you accept the premise. I don’t. There are lots and lots of reasons why wars start beyond ‘cra-cra.’ It’s not hard to see them at work in this conflict too.

        And even if “the Russians” are in some sense cra-cra, and that one factor alone is sufficient to explain the invasion of Ukraine, there’s no reason for the west to escalate what is already a terribly dangerous situation by becoming irrational and illogical in turn.

        International politics is anarchic, there’s no enforceable law or moral justice in the international system; Great Powers are at once law makers and law breakers; national interest is everything; and western countries can have no logical interest in escalating matters to confront militarily a nuclear power over its dispute with a smaller neighbouring country. Sad, from the point of view of Ukraine and Ukrainian nationalism, but true.


        1. You saw what happened with the trucker protests, right? A few days of the government and the media saying that the truckers are Nazis and many people believed it. Imagine 15 years of that. Nazis, Nazis, Nazis. They are out to get you. They want you dead. All day, every day, with no alternative. Why wouldn’t it have an effect? I saw it happen in real time, and it’s scary. We’ve all seen the power of propaganda in the past 2 years. And this is with widespread internet access and a lot of alternative voices. What happens without any of that?

          Scary things happen, as we are seeing.


          1. “Why wouldn’t it have an effect?”

            Because international politics operates according to completely different rules than domestic politics.

            There is no sovereign authority, it’s a perfect Hobbesian state of nature – bellum omnium contra omnes,

            This is not a controversial opinion – pretty much every school of international politics is based on this assumption.

            International politics has its own unique topography including the general rule that foreign and military policy is made by specialized elites largely insulated from the legislature and other social and economic elites. Public opinion doesn’t much matter except for the necessity to maintain morale during war.

            With this in mind, I’d be worried about Putin’s war of choice has emboldened the permanent war party and their running dogs in NATO and the other super power, the U.S. Make no mistake, this is a gift to them. They don’t care at all about Ukraine or Ukrainians, in fact the worse it gets, the more they benefit.

            So, in the end, we agree, this is a very dangerous moment. Lord have mercy!


            1. This may all be true but the people freaking out right now, murdering their neighbors and threatening the whole planet are the Russians. Somebody needs to stop them because they can’t stop on their own.


              1. “the Russians”

                This is where we disagree. I see two sides feeding this conflict – neither of which could accept the peace which should have come with the end of the Cold War.

                On one side is Putin’s revanchist gang.

                On the other side is the permanent war party/industrial-military complex in the US along with like-minded forces in the NATO bureaucracy. (These folks have a certifiably bats__t crazy view of the world e.g. Trump was elected because… Putin! and have considerable blood on their hands from the brutal and unnecessary wars they promoted in Yugoslavia and Iraq.)

                These two sides have been feeding off each other in a nuclear dance of death for the last quarter century.

                Ukraine and ordinary Ukrainians are presently caught in the middle of this and are being victimized by both sides. Both sides are using Ukraine to increase their relative domestic power.

                As make the angels weep


              2. I’m no fan of the US war mongers but in this particular situation they haven’t participated and haven’t contributed to it in any way. Let’s condemn Iraq and Lybia, as well we should, but Russia is a separate issue. Washington appeased and coddled Russia in a bipartisan way. Nobody wanted to pay attention because it was convenient to pretend there was democracy and free market in Russia.

                But being indifferent isn’t victimizing. Bombing and murdering is. While I deplore the West’s indifference, the West isn’t a culprit in this war. Russia was not “provoked.” Russia chose not to create a post-Soviet identity for itself. It chose to see Stalinism as its greatest time of glory. It chose to cultivate the narrative of hatred for the West. These were all choices made daily for 20 years.


              3. “in this particular situation they haven’t participated and haven’t contributed to it in any way”

                ““There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Kierkegaard


              4. It’s a fact, though. The West pretended that nothing is happening because it was convenient. It’s largely still pretending that things aren’t as bad as they are. We can see that as the West contribution but inaction, unappealing as it is, isn’t nearly in the same league as bombing peaceful cities to the ground.


  4. I see what you mean about the message being contradictory-seeming, but I don’t think it is as contradictory as you interpreted it. The Russians making a minimal advancement doesn’t mean the situation isn’t dire and help isn’t still needed. It could mean that the Ukrainian military are fighting ferociously and thus keeping the Russians from advancing much, but are in urgent need of help.

    Just my opinion though.


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