Manipulative media taking over the political world
Too often we see headlines and reports such as the following. “A Palestinian has died after being shot in yet another protest;” “Refugees have been forced to move;” “A Muslim was the victim of a knife wound;” “A woman wearing a hijab was attacked.”
“A Syrian child was taken to hospital after the latest chemical attack;” “A man in his 30s was killed last night under suspicious circumstances. He leaves behind a wife and a three-year-old daughter.”
“A 60-year-old man drowned today in torrential rains. The retired engineer was a loving father of two and the grandfather of five beautiful children;” “An accidental shooting by a mentally ill, unemployed man took the life of fun-loving Susan, a 23-year-old nurse who gave six hours weekly to volunteering.”
They are plastered on newspapers and social media platforms practically on a daily basis, especially from foreign media. The objection I have is the fact that the nationality of the victim dictates the way many journalists write. If the person in question is Arab or Muslim, he is barely spoken of, merely a number to be added to the many others that preceded the incident in question.
If, on the other hand, the victim is of a different nationality — without being explicit — he suddenly has a life, a family and dreams. The human factor becomes apparent and a deep-rooted level of emotional intimidation is applied. This manipulative dimension is purposely used to sway public opinion and affect readers’ judgment.
The same applies during live interviews or debates, where news anchors influence guests by planting seeds to direct the conversation into a dark tunnel of biased negativity that raises the number of viewers. So we hear comments such as “this is an extraordinary string of events,” with an inappropriately cynical emphasis on the word extraordinary.
Or “do you believe that the minister’s reaction was proportionately aggressive concerning this issue?” Opening the possibility for the guest to speak with disrespect, if not worse. Or leading toward a more provocative discussion by saying “don’t you believe that sanctions should be used,” rather than “do you believe that sanctions should be used?”
When a guest is asked to make a comment as an expert on Saudi affairs, for example, and this person has never set foot in the Kingdom and bases his argumentation on hearsay, it is unfair, to say the least. Worse are those who become tarot card or coffee cup readers, predicting the future as a form of implication to affect decision-making.
It is no longer a search for the unbiased truth. Everyone is guilty before they are proven innocent. Anchors and journalists are the judges; they are the ones who analyze — according to some money-making criteria — condemn and sentence. Some viewers may take comments on face value without questioning them, thus harboring feelings of racism or hatred toward today’s “flavor of the day” scapegoat.
In our world, politics is no longer directed by politicians; rather politicians are manipulated and directed by the media, who by extension control politics.
Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013 and is also a member of its foreign affairs committee.