10 March 2022

Brainwashing by the media


Brainwashing by the media


Topic by James

Essay by Lawrence


The term brainwashing is highly emotional and a provocative term because it creates an air of fear due to an inability to control our brain and what we freely think and belief. But it is the term media that ought to create the most concern for us.


There are two aspects about media. Firstly, today we need to distinguish between traditional media and social media (a generic term for information obtained from the internet). Secondly, traditional media (TV, newspapers, radio, magazines) are basically either the propaganda mouth piece of a government or the profit source for a company.


For our topic, we are concerned with traditional media: we’ll be discussing social media during another meeting very soon. Government propaganda media reflects the political balance of the government: for example today the Russian government controls all media in the country and their function is to distribute propaganda about the “success” Russia is having in Ukraine. The BBC in the UK, especially for the home service, has become a Brexit centred service (news, political debate etc) when in the past it was regarded as a balanced service.


For profit media companies exist for making a profit and, therefore, follow editorial policies that would make the media concerned a profit. Unfortunately, the belief that the private media has a duty to be objective and stick to the facts is close to fiction. This is not to say that all media outlets are not objective or honest, but that some media are more likely to be guilty than others.


But traditional private media in general are compromised because they depend on licenses and permissions from the government. This means that they are subject to various forms of pressure that, as I say, might compromise their editorial decisions. Some might even cross the line and become a mouth piece, of a political party, an ideology or a government. For example, Fox News, NewsCorp in the US and the Sun, Daily Mail and the Express in the UK are all pushing for a right wing agenda. The owners Daily Mail and the Sun are also known to have funds in off shore tax havens and it should be no surprise that they also have an agenda to be out of the EU because of the EU’s position on tax havens.


But before moving on I want to consider some philosophical considerations about the topic. Indeed the topic involves a set of factors that should be more important in philosophy. Our beliefs are based on information which we promote to knowledge after we assess and analyse such beliefs and the situation we’re in. The beliefs themselves depend on information and data we possess, thus false information and data might affect the nature of our beliefs. The philosophical issue here is what role do emotions play in converting false information into accepted beliefs and the as knowledge; consider the anti-mask and anti vaccines advocates these past two years.


Brainwashing or manipulation requires implanting in people false information that is converted into beliefs and then knowledge. The final objective is for people to act according to these beliefs. But we are motivated to act either after rational conclusions or emotional impulse. Of course, we also need to distinguish between mischief makers, who want to benefit from people acting in a way (e.g. people with untaxed illegal money in off shore tax havens) and people who give in to their racial or nationalistic convictions (e.g. immigrants come here to take our jobs).


Thus media who exploit the racial and nationalistic emotions (Daily Mail, Express, Fox News) of people by publishing false information about different races are exploiting the fears and emotions of those people. For example, Brexit was the biggest racial act and discrimination in modern history. Those who pushed and advocated Brexit racially discriminated against some 500million people and 28 different nations.


But here is the problem, a rational analysis of the information we receive requires a level of knowledge to carry out such an analysis. For example those who were well informed knew that the only group in the UK who paid most National Insurance and taxes were EU citizens even taking into account many would have been exploited regarding wages. The national population were net users of social services, but this is not because immigrants took their so called jobs, but because the local population weren’t qualified, didn’t want to take the jobs available and also not viable to take jobs far away from the roots.


Today, it is also accepted that older people (50+) tend to rely on traditional media for their news and current affairs. What the war in Ukraine is confirming is that the manipulation of state media can be absolute: we have all seen the reports of young Russian people living in the Ukraine phoning their parents in Russia to tell them that the Russian forces were bombing their city in Ukraine only to be told by their parents that this is not possible.   


The problem with the term brainwashing is that it is usually associated with extreme situations, such as religious cult, spying, captive POWs and so on. But I suspect that this term is more apt for sensational media and Hollywood films. Traditional media are more into information manipulation to exploit emotions rather than brainwashing. But the most effective form of manipulation is to give no information at all. Once again those media companies who have a vested interest in Brexit do not provide news about anything negative about Brexit.


The final question is whether social media is a balance against the drawbacks and inequities of traditional media.


Best Lawrence


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