Thursday, June 6, 2024

Media-Perpetrated Illusions: Crafting Perceptions and Shaping Realities

Can you believe your eyes?
The line segments are identical.

Amazing how perceptions are distorted by contexts.
The middle circles are the same size.

In today's world, the media holds unparalleled influence over public perception and opinion. The power of the media to shape narratives and construct realities can be both enlightening and deceptive. (And smetimes deoressing.) Media-perpetrated illusions refer to the deliberate or unintentional crafting of misleading or distorted representations of reality. These illusions can have profound effects on societal beliefs, behaviors, and decision-making processes.

One of the most common methods through which media perpetrates illusions is through framing. Framing involves presenting information in a particular way to influence how it is interpreted. It happens all the time.

Selective reporting, or the emphasis on certain stories while ignoring others, is another way the media creates illusions. By choosing which events to cover and which to omit, media organizations can steer public attention and concern. Even though I'm only an occasional listener I've noticed that not a day goes by without NPR broadcasting a story about climate change, always underscoring the impending doom that lies ahead if we fail to take drastic action immediately. Seldom will you hear about the risks or consequences of taking many of those drastic actions. 

Illusion on the floor of the Florence Cathedral
Media can also create the illusion of consensus, where a particular viewpoint is presented as overwhelmingly accepted, even if there is significant opposition or debate. How many times do we hear that "a majority" of women or blacks or Republicans or Red State voters are in favor of this or that. It may only 51% but it is a majority. Never mind that had the question been asked differently, the majority would have supported a contrary position.

Most issues are more nuanced than presented. But you'd never know it the way some issues are discussed, whether it be renewable energy, illegal immigration, poverty, crime, EVs or late-term abortion.

It's no wonder that the masses are uninformed or misinformed, especially when we repeatedly hear or read discredited fake news. I long ago concluded that the real conflict today is the clash between narratives, hence my essay "He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People." 

It takes work to stay informed and none of us can say we're up to speed on every issue in every field of study. The world is far too vast for that. And, as with the visual illusions at the top of this page*, sometimes we can't even trust our own eyes. 

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*Source: Vaclav Smil's Size: How It Explains the World

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