Media Manipulation and Distortion

A Reflection on Writing this Blog

This blog has greatly enhanced my understanding of the influence of media on American culture. While I knew before writing this blog that mainstream media influence was a problem, I never realized how difficult it is to write a story, especially one that is emotionally charged, from a completely objective point of view. This is an opinionated blog, and I soon realized how difficult it would be to write about a topic I am against, 

including media bias, objectively. To understand the practice of media bias and gain material for this blog, I looked for examples on my own from current events and tried to identify instances of media bias on my own, which became much easier the more I wrote for this blog. I wanted to be transparent about my intentions of uncovering media bias and striving for truth. I wanted to comprehensively define media bias so the public would have an easier time understanding the dangers of it and hopefully be more wary about consuming media and less willing to simply accept whatever they read or hear, which can lead to unfounded prejudices about topics they may not even know much about.

By pointing out media bias in famous images and headlines, I hoped to shock people into realizing they may have been unconsciously swayed by the media before. I hope to have given the public some of the tools to defy media manipulation and remind them they have a voice. We are aware of the dangers of brainwashing, seen in famous works such as George Orwell’s novel 1984. While the mainstream media’s bias is arguably not as extreme, it works on the same principle, which is important to be aware of. Through my research I have come to realize my own understanding of select topics have been influenced by the media. In conclusion, I am grateful for this opportunity of cross-cultural engagement and I hope my blog serves others as well as it served me through my research. 

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Choice in Media: The Public Opinion

Although media manipulation and distortion is a widespread problem in the United States and beyond, the public still has the choice to consume whichever types of media are best suited to them. For example, a true Republican may not watch shows such as The Colbert Report or Saturday Night Live, which present satires of Republican ideologies. Likewise, a Democrat would most likely not watch Fox News, a highly opinionated, conservative news source, for their daily dose of politics. People like to consume media they agree with, and for this reason, people feel betrayed when a typically objective news source such as the New York Times presents a more subjective view.

 As there are more and more ways for the public to create media of their own through social networking and other websites, people who do not work for the mass media are gaining power and the ability to critique these more popular news sources. As there is a wider base for public opinion, it becomes less and less likely that people are going to simply accept biased media without questioning it since they have much more choice in the types of media they can consume. New technologies truly have created “power to the people,” even at the same time as they have created new bases for professional opinionated media to advertise themselves. From my very first post, I have tried to encourage the public to remember they have a voice and personal opinions that they do not simply have to accept from these “professional” media sources, which are so often biased. Such a wide range of choice in media has the ability to alleviate some of this anxiety the public may feel. 

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Media Bias: Who is Really to Blame?

 In writing this blog, I have come to realize that the relationship between the public and the media is symbiotic. As the media creates culture through opinionated stories, the public also has some influence in the bias the media portrays. It is important to remember that media is a business, and those who are producing it are trying to make money from the public. People are more likely to purchase or agree with something that shares their own views. Thus, the media seeks to portray the overarching views of the public and attempts to convey them, usually in an exaggerated way, to the public whose business they are seeking.

image So it’s true that the media and public culture effectively create each other by exerting influence on each other in subtle ways. Much of the animosity targeting the media comes from the public upset with media bias shaping their thought. Surprisingly, much of the bias found in the media is rarely completely unfounded. The media works according to the psychology of the audience; they do not merely decide which opinion they are backing on any particular story. The definition of mass media on enculturation is defined as “the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.” (Merriam-Webster, 2009). This assimilation is apparent in the commonly positive relationship between media views and public thought. The views of the public are communicated through free speech and press, of which media is the vehicle. In conclusion, we cannot simply point fingers at the media for what we brand as “media bias;” the public undoubtedly plays a large part. 

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When Media Bias is a Good Thing

 As someone blogging about the dangers of media bias, I realized that my blog itself is opinionated. To avoid being branded as a hypocrite, in this post I will be talking about some of the benefits of media bias.


 Disaster relief is one time where opinionated media is acceptable. Especially in cases where media is being used to inspire people to donate time or money, a one-sided argument for the cause is warranted. I have recently been reading a book called Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer, which recounts the struggle in Haiti immediately after the 2010 earthquake for resources. Donation efforts were mainly spurred by what could be seen by an objective viewer as propaganda, which in this case is defined as spreading information for the purpose of helping an institution. In this case, since the media supported a cause to save human life, such opinionated reviews of disasters are arguably warranted as they inspire help and goodwill.



Perhaps the media can really only be biased on more trivial matters, which do not have to do with life or death. This is largely the case due to the set or at least semi-set code of morals in our society. For example, if the media was not biased towards the common good in instances of disaster, people may not donate their efforts even if it would lessen the chances of helping save human life.


 In the end, it is important to remember there are two sides to every argument and people should form their own opinions. Nevertheless, the media can be a relevant resource to when it is used to benefit important causes. 

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Current Event: Media Bias in the 2012 Election

I observed many instances of media bias in the 2012 US presidential election. The media does have a lot of influence on the American psyche, and both conservative and liberal media bias were prevalent from a variety of news sources.

 The below image was posted at the top of MSNBC’s website on decision night. The site had a lot of traffic, as it showed a map and a chart of which states either Obama or Romney was winning, and how many electoral votes each of the candidates had received. The picture sparked resentment as it depicts Obama in a silly pose with a phone and Romney looking more serious and business-like.

 Leading up to election night, however, the media effectively used word choice or pictures to convey opinions. For example, the two images posted below show a clear photo-shop job, re-arranging the letters on the shirts of the children to spell out “R-MONEY” instead of the original “ROMNEY.” This was posted by liberals who wanted to portray their ideas of Romney’s wealth going to his head and making him a less capable potential leader.

During the final week before election night, as the chart below shows, an unequal tone was conveyed through the news stories of FOX News and MSNBC. Granted, whether or not the stories actually portrayed Obama or Romney in a negative or positive night is subjective, but nonetheless, both sources proved themselves as not entirely objective.

 Below is a classic example of word choice, which may unconsciously sway media consumers. In this case, Yahoo! shows a liberal bias by saying Romney’s plan would “weaken” insurance protections.

 Widely circulated celebrity endorsements also have a large part in the choices of voters. In conclusion, the media had a large amount of bias circulating during the 2012 election, which was a highly emotional time where it proved difficult to remain objective and impartial. 

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Comment from Emmy Kennett

At first when reading this blog I had already known about the bias of the news, but I really liked the way she presented the information. I particularly like her post about manipulation of photography because I had recently done a project on something very similar. While all of the images were fascinating the one that caught my attention the most was the one where Hilary Clinton was air brushed out of the photo in the situation room. I thought it showed the power and importance of the culture that the news was being presented to.

What I also found appealing was how she talked about ways that people have tried to stop the bias of the media. I thought that the comparison of Hitler and Lincoln was very striking. I did not know that there was laws against bias in the media because I always here so much about freedom of speech and press. I wish she had written more about it because I would have liked to know if it was constitutional. Along with the acts I like that she gave examples of how people can find more unbiased information. Not only how to find it but also the importance of everyday people seeking the truth.

I think it would be very interesting if in another post she explores what the biases in our new say about our culture, like the picture without Hilary Clinton reflects the culture of Hasidic Judaism.

Comment from Margaret LeLacheur

First of all, I really like how images are incorporated into the text in each entry. A link is provided for each image and there is a “sources used” section in each post, which fulfill the requirement of citing your sources. In terms of content, this blog examines a very interesting and important topic. The first post describes the topic and explains why the author chose it. I think that it is very interesting that you picked a topic that you have had a personal connection to for many years. I agree that it is important for people to recognize that media is presented with a bias and that we need to learn to view things more objectively. The image in the second post compares propaganda to weapons, which reminds me of our class discussion about fighting culture in America. The post about word choice and language related directly to class as well. It explains the relationship between language and culture.

This blog also has an effective example of a photographic mini essay. I think that was a good choice given the topic, and the entry works well with the rest of the blog. It’s really interesting that even old photographs were manipulated and airbrushed. Your most recent post definitely got my attention concerning what the public can do in response to media bias. I agree that people need to be aware of the issue at hand, and this blog is a good tool for that. I know that you haven’t finished posting yet, but make sure to reflect on what you learned from this cross-cultural engagement and how your beliefs and understandings have been changed. Overall, I think this blog does a great job of following the guidelines and is very informative. The blog also provides good examples that are relevant to the topic. 

Defying Media Manipulation and Bias

How can we combat the issue of media manipulation? Several steps have already been taken, but this practice is far from becoming obsolete. In 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which prohibited newspapers and other forms of printed media from publicly opposing any law or presidential act. Political figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler accused newspapers of bias in favor of their enemies, and ordered many of these newspapers closed during the Civil War and the years leading up to World War II. take matters into their own hands and make the journalists correct the errant headlines or stories. Since everyday people consume the media, everyday people should have a voice in having their news presented accurately and effectively. Those who run the media are far outnumbered by those who consume it. Why should we allow a minority to corrupt the social thought process?  

The first step in combating media manipulation is bringing the issue to light. Public recognition of this issue is extremely important, and if there is enough pushback against these media suppliers they will be forced to revise their biased methods. It can also help well-meaning journalists and reporters to recognize their own influenced views. True, with such widespread mediums of media it will be difficult to create a large change very quickly. The fact that it is also difficult to detect contributes to the issue, which is why the first order of business is educating yourself, and then others about the issue.

Sources used:

Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia

2008 The Alien and Sedition Acts. Electronic document,, accessed October 25.

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The Importance of Language: Media Bias through Wording

One major form of media manipulation occurs through the ways in which stories are worded, commonly known as ‘narrative bias.’ In an effort to present clear, cause-and-effect stories out of pure facts, journalists often look for the drama in the event and exploit it to make the story more interesting. Journalists may even seek out conflict between their “characters,” often politicians or high-profile figures, to make the story more enticing. Because of this method, the media has often perpetuated and exacerbated tensions between news figures. The difficulty in this method, apart from fabricating the truth, is that it leads the journalist to write about the people involved with the event in very set ways, as they do not want to contradict themselves. Consequently, if a major news figure has a change of heart about a topic, their new perspective may not be fairly represented in the media. is made by culture, and thus reflects personal ideologies and worldviews. Simply finding a term to use requires choosing a particular discourse, which requires taking a position, no matter how indirect it may seem. This is not to say that all journalists and writers are out to trick us. Often, journalists and reporters who make up the media do not even realize what they are writing is biased or influenced by their own views and has the capacity to influence others. As media consumers, it is our own duty to recognize that the media we observe is written by people with ideologies of their own.

Sources used:

Eveland, William P., and Dhavan V. Shah.
2003 The Impact of Individual and Interpersonal Factors on Perceived News Media Bias. Political Psychology 24(1): 101-117.

The Rhetorica Network.
2010 Media / Political Bias. Electronic document,, accessed October 25. 

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Exploring Photographic Media Manipulation

A stunning photograph can often represent an event more effectively than a full text story. Unfortunately, these stunning news images, often political, are often doctored to seem more impressive, more imposing, or to appeal to a certain crowd. Pictures can be extremely representative of situations, and the media understands the impact an amazing photograph can have. Thus, a photograph is often set up to represent one perspective, or it is tampered with after it is taken.
Below, we see the iconic shot of Ulysses S. Grant on horseback during the Civil War. This majestic shot is actually a composite of three images … the final image is not even Grant’s real body! 
Above is an example of modern-day media distortion. Both Newsweek and TIME started with the same shot, but TIME’s interpretation makes the subject seem much more imposing. 
In the example below, the left shot was widely circulated throughout George W. Bush’s presidency. However, the original photograph with the former president holding the book properly is shown directly to the right. This photo was most likely doctored by an anti-Bush advocate to make the former president seem unintelligent.
Below, this left shot of President Obama was widely circulated within his first few years as  president. This photo was most likely doctored by an anti-Obama advocate. It was thought that if the president was believed to be a regular smoker, he was incapable of successfully leading the country. The original photo on the right uncovers the truth behind the edit.
The above (left) 1942 portrait depicts Benito Mussolini in an authoritative, powerful use atop a horse.  The left portrait was doctored because the original on the right includes Mussolini’s horse handler. The horse handler was thought to detract from Mussolini’s authority over the horse, and for the larger metaphor of his control over the National Fascist Party. Thus, the horse handler was airbrushed out.
The left 1936 photograph was edited when Po Ku got into a disagreement with Communist Mao Zedong. Po Ku was airbrushed out, as Mao Zedong no longer wished to associate himself with Po Ku.
This 1860 photo comparison on the right proves that Abraham Lincoln never actually posed for this stately portrait used to advance his social standing … his head was simply placed on the body of Southern politician John Calhoun. Some words were changed on the paper in the background as well to more accurately depict Lincoln’s views. 
In 2011, a Hasidic newspaper airbrushed Hillary Clinton out of this Osama Bin Laden situation room photo from the White House. This created a stir, as Hillary was most likely airbrushed out because she is a woman. Hasidic Judaism holds a complex view of women in politics, and thus the decision was made to airbrush Clinton out of the photograph altogether. The original photo is shown directly below.
When the chief minister of an Indian state in the photograph below found himself addressing a political with an unimpressive number of people in the audience, his press department simply photoshopped some more people into the crowd. However, when the public received the photograph, they quickly noticed the editing job, as the press department had simply cloned parts of the pre-existing crowd to fill in the gaps. This has happened on numerous other occasions at political rallies over the years.

Sources used:
University of Minnesota. 
2012 Falsification of History. Electronic document,, accessed October 20.

Fourandsix Technologies.
2011 Photo Tampering throughout History. Electronic document,, accessed October 20.

2009 Politics of Photoshop: 15 Shady Edits for Political Purposes. Electronic document,, accessed October 21.

Foreign Policy Magazine.
2011 Hasidic paper airbrushes Hillary Clinton out of Sit Room photo. Electronic document,, accessed October 21.

Kashmir Newz.
2007 Photoshop to boost Kashmir CM image. Electronic document,, accessed October 23. 

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