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17 types of manipulations

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Everyone is manipulating. So you can paraphrase the name of the first series of the cult series” Doctor House”. Manipulation today is the same element of everyday life as the usual request. In itself, it can not be good or bad, because above all, it is a tool. The main source and inspiration for this article was book Albrecht Müller ” Believe a little, doubt in everything, think for yourself:” How to see through manipulation” (original German” Glaube wenig, hinterfrage alles, denke selbst: Wie man Manipulationen durchschaut”). The following describes 17 types of manipulations with examples. I will note that the book gives examples mostly from German history, but there are situations related to Ukraine. Often the author’s view of certain events does not coincide with that which prevails in our infospace. Yes, he notes the” undermining of confidence” in Russia through NATO’s expansion to its borders. In connection with the” annexation of Crimea”, he takes the first word in quotation marks, which calls it into question. That is why the article provides more relevant and illustrative examples for the Ukrainian infospace.

1. Language regulation

Arrangements for targeted regulation of words that will be used in communication affect public opinion. These may be the definitions of some countries’ regimes” democratic”,” autocratic” or” dictatorial”. Or the use of the terms” revolution” or” coup d’etat” in relation to an event in a square in the center of the city;” Movement towards dictatorship” or” step in the fight against the oligarchy” regarding the adoption of a certain bill. Consider an example of manipulation on two conditional headers of the same event: 1.” Radical groups tried to carry out a coup d’etat” – is perceived as a threat, a cause for concern. 2.” Proponents of the country’s democratic development actively protested in the city center” – is perceived as news of a positive tone, which does not pose a risk to public safety.

2. Use terms that have strong associations

To simplify the perception of information, we think in categories. Having identified” their” and” others”, you can quickly navigate the situation, evaluate the news or phenomenon that saves effort. Therefore, terms that have strong associations are often used as labels for devaluation in the fight against opponents. It is important that they have opposite effects for different people. Examples of terms used in political manipulation are” pro-European” and” pro-Russian”,” right” and” left” radicals,” scoop” and” nationalist” views,” populist”,” traitor”,” bot”.

3. Short stories

Depending on when you start telling the story, you can come to different conclusions. Or you can tell the whole truth or shorten the story. Yes, sometimes conciseness is a necessity. However, even telling a known historical fact, it is desirable to explain the course of events not linearly. An example of an post that was viral 2019:

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In it, the complex history of the decline of the Roman Empire – a process that is still the subject of discussion – is reduced to a simple line of interaction between the comedian-emperor and the short-sighted people with an obvious parallel to the events in Ukraine in 2019. This example of manipulation is complex enough to look plausible and simple enough for a Ukrainian Facebook user to draw the right conclusions, as seen in the comments.

4. Default

Instead of telling a simplified version or part of a story, you can resort to complete silence. Actions involving special services are often overlooked, although there are other, non-obvious examples of this type of manipulation. A well-known example is the actions of the Soviet authorities during the Chernobyl disaster. Moreover, the manipulation of the default was applied at different levels of the state apparatus. Firefighters did not know that they came to put out not only the fire on the roof, but also the nuclear reactor that exploded. The parade on the occasion of the International Workers’ Solidarity Day was held in Kyiv at a time when all foreign mass media were reporting a threat to people’s lives. А recognition before the international community was obtained only after the pressure caused by Sweden’s statement. A more recent example of such manipulation is default by Uber data theft of 57 million customers. Hackers were paid $ 100,000 for not disclosing information about the incident. The burglary and ransom happened in October 2016, but it became known on November 22, 2017 thanks to the Bloomberg investigation.

5. Recurrence

This type of manipulation can be used in conjunction with the spread of falsehood and half-truths. And thus – to act as a catalyst in consolidating the desired message. An example is the constant repetition of the propaganda mantra on pro-Russian platforms about” Ukraine’s external governance” or about” internal conflict” in the East. After regularly repeating the message, the audience begins to believe in it. Remember that water grinds stone.

6. Exaggeration

To achieve a more emotional effect from the message, you can simply exaggerate. Example: ” Rabinovich: By resignation Razumkov’s government legalized political prostitution” . Apparently, several manipulations are used here, and it is an exaggeration to use the link” legalization of political prostitution.”

7. Same message from different sides

We take into account a wide range of sources: media, bloggers, experts, opinion leaders. We add social media feeds, news selections, radio, television, Youtube, newspapers, magazines. And thus from various sources the necessary messages arrive. This unification of opinions is influenced by the specifics of the algorithms of social networks. Systems can take into account not only preferences, but also every click and time spent with the publication, and based on this” smart” news feed complements the information bubble. Therefore, on Facebook you can see the same political slogans, messages, events every day – from politicians, media, bloggers, bots, etc.

8. If everyone in the group says the same thing, it must be true

When talking about this method of manipulation, it is worth remembering about intragroup favoritism, ie the tendency to promote members of your group, and respect for authority. It is quite difficult to hold the opinion of the opposite majority. If” everyone” and” everywhere” broadcast the same message, it can be taken for granted. According to the author, often even incomplete unanimity in communication is enough for purposeful manipulation. For example, when 3-4 experts (real or fictitious) on a talk show hold the same opinion, and they are opposed by 1-2 people who, representing the opposite position, may behave unprofessionally, inappropriately, scandalously. This gives the impression of a confrontation of opinions, where, on the one hand, there are respected experts (real or fictitious), perhaps in a team with a leader, and on the other hand – unprofessional behavior of incomprehensible representatives of the opposition message.

9. Swing effect

Or the effect of opposition. When we are told how terrible one side is, we may think that the opposite is good. An example of the large-scale effect of swings in Ukrainian realities is the 1999 elections, in which presidential candidate Leonid Kuchma opposed himself to Communist Petro Symonenko. The majority of the politically active population could not allow the communists to return to power, so Leonid Danilovich was able to get a second term. Another example is the Cold War-era poster . Describing how horrible the actions of the capitalist bloc are, one can impose the idea that the actions of the Communists are good.

10. Poll

Social polls can be used to influence voter opinion. These surveys can be a factor in legitimizing the promotion of ideas, messages. It is worth noting that it is not only about the ability to” buy results” or” create the necessary picture”, but also in people. Depending on the place, time, mood, number of cases per day, state of mind, interviewer, the presence of other respondents, their mood, behavior and other factors – the answer to the same question may be different.

11. Say” A” and mean” B”

Another type of manipulation that the author singles out is to claim that the subject is not really bad/ineffective, but only misperceived by the audience because he” sells himself” badly. That is, according to the report, the” Yellow Party” simply communicates poorly about its work” (A) hides the implication” So, the” Yellow” Party performs its tasks well” (B).

12. Creating or using non-governmental organizations

To give weight to the subject of the message broadcast, it is possible to strengthen its status by position or involvement in non-governmental organizations. There is also room for manipulation when working with grants: for example, using the grantor’s resources, a non-governmental organization can use public relations tools – to publish articles in the local media – and thus promote manipulative messages.

13. The sum of the hints turns the half-truth into the truth

An example is the submission of information by telegram channel on the death of People’s Deputy Anton Polyakov:

Such a chain of allusions suggests premeditated murder, although the Kyiv police did not confirm the information about the switched off video surveillance cameras. And in itself, the statement about the testimony in NABU fits into the opposition-critical rhetoric of the faction’s ex-member and will not matter much in the proposed version.

14. Experts help to manipulate

However, in the media space, the word” expert” is already quite discredited, and people who have such a status may be impostors. And their common feature is often political involvement. Yes, the average Ukrainian may not understand the principles of economics or the importance of economic indicators, or even the limits of the duties and responsibilities of officials. And this is a fertile ground for the use of” experts” as a tool of manipulation. One such” experts “.

15. Linking names and using them to impose a rating

To equate people or positions to others or to allow negative thoughts to spread to others, they can be equated by putting them in a row. Example description of a video:” If you put everything together and see how the coalition is formed in Ukraine, the future union will look like this: Vladimir Zelensky, Yulia Tymoshenko, Putin’s godfather Viktor Medvedchuk, Yuri Boyko and Igor Smeshko. It is Zelensky, Tymoshenko, Boyko, Medvedchuk and Smeshko who will form a coalition with their parties after the next parliamentary elections.”

16. Targeted use of emotions

Instead of turning to logic, turn to emotions. An emotional call can yield startling results. In fact, this type of manipulation can be found in the posters of 1917-1921: example 1 , example 2 .

17. Using conflicts

Divide and rule. Conflict portrayed in the media can be artificially created. The political system works on the principle of separation and work with the electorate. And conflicts, especially those that appear on the screens, can also be a good mix of the types of manipulations described above. Subconsciously, the viewer chooses someone’s side and ultimately supports the active action. For example, a tick in the ballot. An example is the conflict related to sprava Serhiy Sternenko. It is interesting that the assessments of citizens significantly depend on their political sympathies. If you’ve read this far, you may now be able to” see through manipulation.” Take into account details, arguments, think critically – and do not allow yourself to be manipulated.

Author: Taras Humeniuk