How The News LIES To You

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 torontolife.com
“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.