Media manipulation is a beautifully crafted tool that is used to influence thousands of people and have them believe in something they probably didn’t even care about until they saw that medium. This actually begun as early as 515 BC with Behistun Inscription that is considered an early example of propaganda as it highlights the rise of Darius I to the Persian throne. Fast forward to today where this is used almost everywhere you go, from billboards to magazines to newspapers to TV adverts. Each medium is trying to sell one particular idea to you, almost like implanting a certain idea in your head. Then, this idea is expected to grow on you subconsciously, until you too are set on this particular opinion. The general public can’t exactly see through the fallacies at play, and fall into their trap due to their naivety.
Here is a basic example of false dilemma fallacy: “You are either for us or for them”. This is very commonly used in politics, as it is easy to manipulate voters into thinking that if they don’t vote for you, they must support something bizarre since they are voting for the other. The choices laid out are black and white, ignoring the fact that a spectrum of colours is at play. We have seen plenty of examples during the 2016 Presidential election between Trump and Hillary as they tried to prove who was better. Their speeches included a great deal of ad populum, as they tried to appeal to a common man’s views and values.
What about commercials? Let’s take a look at Old Spice ones. The commercial revolves around the slogan ‘smell like a man, man’. Each advert is specifically targeted towards men, with the manly figure in the ad being able to do impossible things like turning tickets that came from an oyster into diamonds. The brand links popular desires with the use of bandwagon, and manages to sell the product to the desired market through the use of false belief. A man who purchased their body wash is under the impression that he now will be like the figure in the ad.
A retailer’s main aim is to sell products to customers but in a market which is monopolistically competitive, brands seek innovation for higher sales. Brands like Nike sell athleticism and fitness through their ad campaigns. They don’t just sell shoes or clothes, but the sell the feeling of self improvement and a healthy lifestyle with their products. This drives the consumer to purchase their products because they believe that such a change in their lifestyle will be a cause of the product, allowing the brand to increase their revenue from $16 billion to $24 billion and be ranked #1 in the category of ‘Most valued brand in sports’ by Forbes.
So, why does this affect you?
Well, everything you come across on a daily basis is loaded with fallacies. How else to could the ‘you-really-need-this-product’ be glamorized and make you want it? The companies are no longer focused on the selling the product but they are beginning to incorporate a dream lifestyle that fits alongside the product, making the consumer feel like they will achieve that if only they buy the product. Take the ‘Good Girl’ perfume launch by Carolina Herrera. Not only is it selling a stiletto shaped bottle; it is selling a mysterious personality and a glamorous film star lifestyle as portrayed in the video.
All in all, persuasion is about influencing opinions in order to favour one thing over the other. Nike will convince the customer that they are better than Adidas and candidates will have empty promises. It is important that as a reader or consumer, we are aware of such techniques used to manipulate our views so that we can see past these fallacies and obtain the information that we seek.
Article written by Anisha Pachisia