Media manipulation: Trolls, paid anchors and opportunist politicians…..

By: Hussain Saqib 

First of the 10 strategies for media manipulation, presented by Noam Chomsky, is the strategy of distraction. The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information. Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public interest in the essential knowledge in the area of the science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics.

This strategy is in full play these days as international media, in cahoots with their Pakistani counterparts, is busy day and night in creating misperceptions about Pakistan’s security establishment and its intelligence arm. The media works hard to blame the security establishment for anything going wrong anywhere in the world.

Take the case of missing persons of Balochistan where Pakistani intelligence agencies are fighting an open war with CIA, Mossad and RAW who are arming and aiding the insurgents in a blatant manner. The media is glorifying the atrocities of the insurgents and highlighting the issue of missing persons. In effect, a pro-India section of the media is pressurizing the apex court to indict the security establishment for these missing persons. Although, a judicial panel headed by Justice Javed Iqbal has established that the missing persons are indeed missing but not in the custody of security agencies. They are hiding in the safe havens of a hostile neighbor, yet the apex court is under tremendous pressure to order punitive action against the security agencies.

Explaining media manipulations against ISI, an article titled as Misperceptions of Internal Entities against ISI appeared in an online journal. According to this well-researched piece, Indo-Israeli lobbies which are well-penetrated in US-led European NGOs, human rights organizations and media started a deliberate campaign against Pak Army and ISI, implicating for extrajudicial killings and forced abductions. While, fact of the matter is that majority of the missing persons have been killed in subversive acts like bomb blasts, target killings, ethnic and sectarian violence in various places of Pakistan, arranged by American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad and their affiliated militants groups. In case of Balochistan, everyone knows that Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and another group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have been fighting for secession of the province gets logistic support from CIA and RAW. Their militants kidnapped and killed many innocent people and the security personnel in the province, while claiming responsibility in this respect. And since 2001, a majority of Pakistanis also left for Afghanistan for Jehad purposes, without informing their families, while many people joined the Jahadi groups.

According to the article, some journalists have penetrated in Pakistan’s media in such a way that it is much difficult for the general masses to understand their real intentions as they are completing the secret agenda of anti-Pakistan elements by maligning country’s superior agency. In this regard, Pakistani TV anchors and senior journalists like Hamid Mir and Najam Sethi who also implicate ISI are serving the interests of US and India clandestinely by sabotaging the national interests of Pakistan.

The most favorite target of these elements was former head of ISI who took many steps to improve the efficiency of the agency. At that time, intermittently, the US high officials and media have been accusing Pakistan’s army and superior spy agency of close contacts with the Afghan Taliban and cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. Under the pretext of these false allegations, US top officials started insisting upon Islamabad that ISI should be restructured. There were some concrete efforts undertaken in compliance with American desires like transferring control of ISI, tabling of a draft law for taming the ISI and launch of a ruthless media campaign.

The US and its allies were against the said ISI chief because of his services such as capture of renowned Taliban commanders and blockage of the activities of Blackwater including CIA agents. Americans were annoyed because ISI interrupted covert activities of the so-called diplomats. In this respect, on the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. Taking note of ISI positive role in defending the national interests of Pakistan, American high officials, US-led India and Israel including Indo-Israeli lobbies and foreign media revived propaganda against this agency and its head, raising false allegations.

But in Pakistan, anti-Pakistan politicians and media men were rubbishing the services of the intelligence agencies without having any clue to the working of these institutions, and without having a full grasp of the American game plan. The way Pakistan’s opportunist politicians and partisan media anchors were attacking ISI made them darling of the anti-Pakistan elements and they were duly rewarded in the form of enhanced international projection and awards disproportionate to their contributions and status.

Can media anchors and politicians in the US, India and Israel dare to slate the services of CIA, RAW and Mossad the way Pakistanis have liberty to do?

The campaign against the security establishment was launched in a very powerful and professional manner suggesting that external input was handy for the internal players. If you go by the book, some of the main tactics used by the mainstream media to mislead the masses include:

a)      Lie Big, Retract Quietly: Mainstream media sources (especially newspapers) are notorious for reporting flagrantly dishonest and unsupported news stories on the front page, then quietly retracting those stories on the very back page when they are caught.

b)      Unconfirmed or Controlled Sources As Fact: Cable news venues often cite information from “unnamed” sources, government sources that have an obvious bias or agenda, or “expert” sources without providing an alternative “expert” view. The information provided by these sources is usually backed by nothing more than blind faith.

c)      Calculated Omission: Otherwise known as “cherry picking” data. One simple piece of information or root item of truth can derail an entire disinfo news story, so instead of trying to gloss over it, they simply pretend as if it doesn’t exist. When the fact is omitted, the lie can appear entirely rational. This tactic is also used extensively when disinformation agents and crooked journalists engage in open debate.

d)     Distraction and the Manufacture of Relevance: Sometimes the truth wells up into the public awareness regardless of what the media does to bury it. When this occurs their only recourse is to attempt to change the public’s focus and thereby distract them from the truth they were so close to grasping. The media accomplishes this by “over-reporting” on a subject that has nothing to do with the more important issues at hand.

e)      Dishonest Debate Tactics: Sometimes, men who actually are concerned are rarely allowed to share their views or insights without having to fight through a wall of carefully crafted deceit and propaganda. Because the media know they will lose credibility if they do not allow guests with opposing viewpoints every once in a while, they set up and choreograph specialized T.V. debates in highly restrictive environments which put the guest on the defensive, and make it difficult for them to clearly convey their ideas or facts.

There are new players of the game who are increasingly occupying the online and social media. There are Internet trolls, also known as “paid posters” or “paid bloggers.” Internet “trolling” is indeed a fast growing industry. Trolls use a wide variety of strategies, some of which are unique to the internet, here are just a few: Make outrageous comments designed to distract or frustrate, pose as a supporter of the truth, then make comments that discredit the movement, dominate discussions, give pre-written responses and accuse the opposition of subscribing to a certain point of view, even if he does not, and then attacks that point of view.

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