Published May 12, 2023, 12:40 a.m. by Monica Louis
Every day, the news tells you something that is not true. For example, the news will say that a certain person is a criminal. However, this person may not actually be a criminal. The news may also say that a certain person is dead. However, this person may actually be alive. The news may also say that a certain person is injured. However, this person may not actually be injured. The news may also say that a certain person is missing. However, this person may actually be at home.
The news often lies to you. However, you never notice because you are always focused on the news. The news is trying to make you believe something that is not true. The news is trying to make you afraid. The news is trying to make you angry. The news is trying to make you sad. The news is trying to make you happy. However, the news is not always successful.
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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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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
How many times have you read or heard news similar to this “murder rates up 100% on
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
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
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
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
When the media isn’t distracted with developing duplicitous graphics then it is usually divulging
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
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
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
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”.
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
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
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.
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