Every day in order to realize their goals, a person engages in communication, which can be accompanied by manipulation. We discussed this issue with Nadezhda Smirnova, Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor at the Department of Russian Language Stylistics of the Faculty of Journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University.


– Nadezhda Vladimirovna, in your work “The Language of Media and Politics: Issue History,” you cite the opinion of one of the leading theorists of mass communication, Dennis McQuayle. He believes that modern mass media perform a wide range of functions, from neutrality in providing information to manipulation and control. In this sense, is manipulation interpreted as something negative?

– I think we should begin by defining the term: what is manipulation, what does it represent? If we turn to contemporary dictionaries, we see that the word “manipulation” has many meanings. Its first original meaning is “a movement of the hand,” strange as it may seem. It is not strange if we look at the etymology of the word. It has to do with the Latin language. In Latin, manus is a hand. But that meaning is now obsolete. There is another meaning, which is recorded in the dictionaries edited by Dmitry Nikolayevich Ushakov and in the famous dictionary of Sergei Ivanovich Ozhegov. This meaning is a complex technique, a complex action, usually carried out in manual labor. And it is very close to what we are going to talk about today. 


Manipulation is a type of covert psychological influence on the addressee
in order to change their system of views, opinions, behavior
in the interests of the manipulator. 

We can distinguish the main substantive points of this concept.
  • First, it is the covert influence – a very important differential sign of manipulation, because as soon as the manipulation is exposed, the manipulation ends immediately. Accordingly, the addressee is not aware that they are being influenced. 
  • The second important point is the very nature of manipulation and influence. This is a psychological influence – the influence on the addressee's consciousness. 
  • And the third most important feature: everything is done in the interest of the manipulator. They are the subject of communication and interest. In fact, what we are seeing here is a distortion of the very nature of communication. If communication in its original form is subject-subject interaction, here the addressee turns into the object of communication. They cease to be an equal partner. This generates the negative aspects that we mention in relation to the concept of “manipulation.”


– If manipulation is the original intention, doesn't this entail a deliberately ineffective communication? Isn't this a violation of Grice's principle of cooperation, whereby each of the participants in communication makes a maximum effort to communicate successfully?

– Now we should clarify that, from Herbert Paul Grice's point of view, any successful communication is based on the principle of cooperation and collaboration. This means that people, when they engage in communication, are motivated to cooperate in a mutually beneficial way. This is an axiom for Grice. And in order to do that, you have to follow a number of rules, or as he calls them, maxims. These are the postulates of communication. These are four rules that we must follow if we want communication to be successful.

– Maxim of quantity of information. You have to say exactly as much as is necessary.

– Maxim of quality of information. We should not deceive the interlocutor; we should not lie.

– Maxim of relation, compliance with the stated topic. We should not deviate from the topic.

– Maxim of manner of speaking. We must speak clearly.

Ideally, all of these maxims should be followed, thus ensuring effective communication. Of course, one could object to Grice that often these maxims are violated and yet the communication is successful. For example, the whole language game, the use of puns and the deliberate use of ambiguity of words are based on the violation of the principle “Speak clearly.” But this does not in fact negate the operation of maxims. After all, how does our consciousness work?

Let us suppose that we receive such a message from our interlocutor: “Law is law.” If we analyze it only formally from the viewpoint of observance of maxims, we will see that the maxim of quantity of information is violated here: the statement is tautological, we repeat the same thing. Therefore, when the addressee receives this utterance, they think as follows: the maxim of quantity of information is violated here, and communication is a cooperative process. So, if the speaker violated this maxim, then they meant something special, I can try to understand this meaning. And then I understand this phrase not literally, but as a message to obey the law. 

In the case of metaphors, the situation is fairly straightforward. They demonstrate a violation of Grice's principle. It is also possible to interpret them as a violation of the maxim of quality of information.

Suppose I say: This girl is a doll. I directly identify one object with another, and the addressee, receiving such a message, sees that it does not correspond to reality: the girl is a living person and is not a doll. Again, they proceed from the principle of cooperation. If this statement does not correspond to reality, then it must be interpreted differently. A doll is not used in the literal, but in the metaphorical sense: a girl is just as beautiful as a doll. Therefore, I interpret this statement in this way. 

This is how Grice's principles work. It is a kind of model of ideal communication. If we project these principles onto a situation in which communication is in fact manipulative, we see that all of these maxims are violated. It means that we may be blatantly misled by providing us with false information that violates the maxim of quality. We may be given too much information, and our brain refuses to perceive it – the maxim of information quality is violated. Or, vice versa, we may be given too little information for us to form any kind of objective view of reality. They may constantly change the subject – the maxim of relation is violated. And here all the language means demonstrate the violation of the maxim of the manner and method of presenting the information.


– So, a manipulation is always a violation of some postulate of Grice?

– Yes, one of the postulates is always violated; or all of them are violated simultaneously. Nevertheless, we may hear or read the expression “successful manipulation” in scientific works. How should we interpret such a concept then? It seems that all principles of communication are violated, but manipulation is successful. Thus, we must determine: What do we mean by successful communication? For whom is it successful?

“... a successful manipulation is a manipulation that achieves the goal that the addresser has set for themselves. The addressee is not taken into account at all.” 

From Grice's point of view, communication is successful if success extends to both communicators, the speaker and the listener – when one speaks of successful manipulation, they take into account the subject of the speech only, the addresser alone. Thus, a successful manipulation is a manipulation that has achieved the goal that the addresser has set for themselves. The addressee is not taken into account at all. Their interests are ignored. They merely respond adequately to what the speaker has said, one who sees the addressee not as an equal partner, but as the object of their manipulative strategies.


– Is communication designed from the outset in such a way that the primary goal is manipulation? Or can such a goal arise in the process of the communicative act?

– I think it can also arise in the process of a speech act. But when it is a planned communication, then the manipulation had to be planned from the beginning. It is included in the strategic communicative settings for the creation of such a text.


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– You said that basically the recipient, the person to whom the message is addressed, is not taken into account. What about different target audiences – does the knowledge of such people count then?

– That's a very good point. What does it mean: if the addressee is taken into or not taken into account? When I say that they are not taken into account, it means that they are not seen as an equal communicative partner. The fact that their characteristics are taken into account is certain: in order to manipulate successfully, the speaker or writer must have some knowledge of the addressee, the object of manipulation. However, this will be the same knowledge that we have about any inanimate object of the world around us. This means that in this case we compare a human being to a thing. This is the essence of the fact that the addressee is not taken into account..


– By what linguistic means and communication tactics can manipulation be achieved then?

– This is a very broad question: what are the linguistic mechanisms for manipulation? 

First, it must be said that it is not only linguistic mechanisms that enable manipulation. It can be carried out in non-verbal ways as well, but this is a subject of interest for psychologists still. 

Generally speaking, manipulation is interesting, because it is an object
 that should be studied and is actually studied by the representatives 
of different fields of knowledge.  It is certainly a subject of interest
for psychologists, sociologists, political scientists. And linguists. 

Language means of the most different levels are involved in the realization of manipulation, but, of course, the most studied lexical means, meaning such words and expressions that help us carry out manipulation, covertly influence the consciousness of the recipient, lead to a change in their opinions, attitudes, manner of behavior. 

Let us turn to the most studied means. All scientists emphasize the role of euphemisms in the implementation of mechanisms of manipulation. Euphemisms are neutral or positively colored words and expressions, as we call them, that act as substitutes for words that seem tactless, irrelevant and inappropriate to the situation. Initially, euphemisms play an important role in creating effective and polite communication. 

Earlier we have already mentioned Grice's theory and his understanding of effective communication, but it should be said that Grice's theory was further expanded by using the principle of effective communication, such as the principle of politeness. It was formulated by British scientist Jeffrey Leach, who relied on Grice's theory and accepted his postulates, but said that it is still necessary to direct them to the partner in communication as a bearer of certain moral attitudes. 

The principle of politeness is also realized in a number of maxims. These are the maxims of tact, generosity, agreement, modesty, and so on. And now, when we talk about euphemisms, we see that initially the function of euphemisms is connected precisely with the tendency to polite communication. So, we avoid topics that might make the interlocutor uncomfortable. Otherwise, we present these topics in a softer form. Euphemisms do soften the situation; they present it in a more positive way. It has to do with various kinds of linguistic and social conventions, as well as the way society presents what politeness is and what polite communication is. If we look at the texts of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, we can see there that the local ladies did not say, “I blew my nose,” but rather, “I got by with a handkerchief.” This is a euphemism reflecting their idea of politeness. In Soviet times, it was considered impolite to say that a woman was pregnant; instead, the euphemism “in an interesting position” was used. 

In addition, euphemisms are related to the sacred function of language. We are familiar with primitive religions associated with the belief in a sacred animal, a totem, and the fact that this sacred animal could not be called by its real name, so people used euphemistic substitutions. Thus, for example, the word “bear” - “the one who knows where honey is” – appeared in the Russian language. This is a euphemism for the real name of this animal, which had been tabooed.

But what happens in modern communication, in mass communication, especially in the media? Very often euphemisms begin to fulfill the exact opposite function: it is not the desire for polite communication and for effective communication that is taken into account, but the desire to disguise the essence of the matter, to conceal the true state of affairs.


– Is that a manipulation?

– This is a manipulation, of course, because it conveys to us a distorted picture of reality. Let's think about it this way: how much of the content of our mental space, our picture of reality, is based on our real experience, and how much is mediated by texts? I mean, these figures cannot be compared. A person can see with their eyes and hear with their ears a minimum compared with what we receive through the texts, including mass media texts. Therefore, the picture of reality that forms in our consciousness is really formed under the influence of the texts we have absorbed. Therefore, the way an event is presented to us is the way we record it in our minds. Do you realize how great the role of the media is? Although there are scientists who disagree with this point of view. They have experimentally tried to prove that the media influence on human consciousness is not that great. But the conventional wisdom is that the influence does exist, and it is a very strong influence. No wonder, there are expressions that tell us that the media is the fourth power. This power is capable of controlling our consciousness. 

“...The media is the fourth power. This power is capable of controlling our consciousness”. 

This includes the use of euphemisms that veil the essence of the matter, distorting the picture of reality. Let us suppose there is a war. But instead of the word “war,” which will certainly cause negative associations in the minds of the audience, we are offered euphemistic substitutions, such as operations and campaigns. Therefore, the negative evaluative potential of the word “war” disappears. And we can add “peacekeeping” to the “operation.” This is a completely different picture of reality. It is indeed a powerful means of manipulation. 

So-called quasi-antonyms can be used to euphemize things. Quasi-antonyms are antonyms that are formed with the prefix “not-” and express the opposite in a softened form. For example, “beautiful – ugly” are antonyms that express opposite concepts, and “beautiful – not beautiful” are quasi-antonyms that soften the opposite. 

Quasi-antonyms are often used as euphemisms. Let's imagine a situation: a director releases a film, and we see a complete failure of that film at the box office. A journalist interviews the director and says, “What can I say, the film is a failure at the box office.” The director comments, “It's not a failure, it's just was not a success.” It would seem that “failure” and “not a success" are synonyms, both acting as antonyms to the word “success.” But “failure” and “success” are sharp opposites, while “success” and “not a success” are softened opposites. If we look at the dictionary definitions, the interpretations of these words, we see that “not a success” means failure, and “failure” is also a failure, but there is an essential addition: it is a complete disaster. Therefore, when we remove the component of the meaning “complete,” we soften the opposite and say, “No, this is not failure, this is not a success. This is already a kind of manipulation of consciousness. “This is failure, this is not a success,” – with the help of such quasi-antonyms we present the situation in a softened form.


– If we are talking about the media sphere, for example, can the audience of a particular media somehow recognize that their consciousness is being manipulated in time?

– Basically, this is one of the tasks of modern linguistics: preventing and recognizing manipulation. 

Why is manipulation possible?
It becomes possible because the addressee is uninformed.
They don't understand that they are being manipulated,
they don't understand it, because they don't know the mechanisms of manipulation.
If they knew the mechanisms, they could prevent or expose the manipulation. 

If they knew the mechanisms, they could prevent or expose the manipulation. Manipulation stems from ignorance. Thus, it is the task of the linguist to try to identify the basic linguistic mechanisms of manipulation and make them available to the audience so that they can monitor these processes.

What else, besides euphemisms, can serve as an example of manipulative techniques at the lexical level? There is such an interesting technique as impersonalization. An impersonalization is such a technique when we are broadcast a statement in which the subject is not defined, it is extremely blurred: “someone,” “somebody,” or a pronoun such as “they.” “They” is appropriate to use in speech that aims at communicative partnership when we have already named the subject behind the pronoun with an expanded naming. This means that first we should name the subject, say, voters, and afterwards we can already refer to this name and call them “they.” If we call some subjects “they” immediately, without such a preceding context, we put the addressee in a very awkward position, they have no one to relate this nominative nomination to. This correlation of the word with the person it denotes, the object of surrounding reality is called referencing. Accordingly, our communicative partner cannot carry out the act of referencing, because they are not given any indication of who exactly these “they” are. But then the text might say, “They think..., they believe...," and we begin to wonder who “they” are. Can “they” be authority figures, since “they think”? 

In this way, certain models, certain points of view, which we may eventually take as our own, begin to be embedded in our consciousness. By the way, this is a very interesting phenomenon if you consider it from a broader perspective. In fact, the impersonalization examples are examples of the creation of phantoms. I mean, we have a term, a nomination, but we don't have the object behind the nomination. It is an empty outer shell. Such words are phantoms, if we consider them in the context of contemporary postmodern philosophy. They are the simulacra. The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard proposed the term “simulacrum” to refer to a non-existent object that is embedded in the minds of audiences through the use of such verbal shells. Another term that describes the same thing is a “floating signifier.” How does a language sign work? A linguistic sign is two-sided, it has a plan of expression, which is its form, its shell – a sounding or a written word, that must necessarily have a meaning behind this shell. There must always be a dualism of a signifier and a signified in a sign. What is a simulacrum, a phantom? It is a bare signifier, there is no meaning behind it, it has no meaning in actual reality. The existence of this kind of, let us conventionally call it, entities is limited only by our imagination. In this sense, they are similar to mermaids, centaurs, and other mythical beings. It turns out that we begin to live not in reality, but in a world of myths. This mythologization of consciousness is the most powerful result of manipulation on a global level.


 – So, is this the kind of second reality that the media create?

– The only thing, it is not the reality: we live in some imaginary, fictitious world, which is created by such manipulations of our consciousness. Another interesting example of manipulation is the so-called universal statements; when an idea is formulated as if it were an axiom and therefore universally applicable.

We are told, “All men are scoundrels.” This statement is presented as the absolute truth. The word “all” – the quantifier of universality – shows us that the statement applies to all members of a given class, to all men, in this case. Or when we are told that all women are stupid. The same logic. The entire class of objects is subject to this logic. Such statements are a tool of manipulation, since they take the form of aphorisms, immutable truths, axioms, and they are embedded in our consciousness, forming there a stereotype in their turn.

Stereotypes are a powerful tool of manipulation. Unfortunately, each of us thinks in terms of stereotypes to a greater or lesser extent. What are the stereotypes? They are standard, formulaic ideas about the reality around us. And the stereotypes are imposed with the help of the media. Of course, advertising often appeals to stereotypes; often it works with our primitive ideas about reality, shaped in stereotypical forms: something is good and something is bad. These two poles, positive and negative, good and evil, are what advertising appeals to directly. Let's say, at the present stage, genetically modified products are evil, this is the pole of assessment associated with this phenomenon, and this is how we perceive it. If tomorrow someone says, “No, it's actually very good, it's healthy,” then the advertising discourse will immediately switch to this presentation of information.

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– There is also a question concerning the sphere in which manipulation may be present. It's not always about the tabloid press, is it?

– Surely not. It is clear that a quality press seeks to present information in a rational way. Let us recall the classical theory of argumentation. There are three basic types of argumentations. First, argumentation to the logos, the kind of argumentation that can only be recognized by logic; there is no other kind of argumentation for logic. From the viewpoint of logic, any argumentation must appeal to some reason; therefore, it must present logical proofs, causal relations. And that is the only way to convince a person that they are right. The use of logical argumentation is the basis of such a type of influence as persuasion. Very often persuasion is contrasted with manipulation: manipulation as a hidden influence in the interests of the manipulator and persuasion as an open influence, when the speaker immediately declares that they are trying to convince the addressee of their rightness and give the necessary arguments. Their goal setting is stated in advance. 

At this point, it is interesting to recall the structure of the speech act. The speech act presupposes the presence of communicators: the addresser and the addressee. On the part of the addresser, participating in communication requires a locutionary capacity, meaning the ability to speak and some illocutionary intention. This is a very important category for communication: an illocutionary intention. What is it exactly? It is the purpose of the utterance of the speaker. When we are dealing with persuasion, the speaker voices the intention. He may say, “I want to persuade you,” “I am persuading you.” But let's think, can the speaker state their illocutionary purpose if we have manipulation before us? No. If the speaker tells you, “I am manipulating you,” what happens at that moment? The act of manipulation will be over, because manipulation is a covert influence, the speaker cannot expose themselves this way. 

There is a very interesting concept in linguistics called illocutionary suicide. It was used by Z. Wendler. There are some words, which, by the very fact of their pronunciation, denote an action. We turn to John Austin's classic seminal work called “Word as Action.” There these words were first brought to our attention there. Austin called them performatives. A performative is a word that is equal to an action. I say the word and thereby perform the action. For example: “I promise to come tomorrow at six o'clock.” When I say the word “promise,” I have already committed the action, I have promised. Or I say, “I swear, I swear that I will not skip classes.” The act of swearing is the act of saying that word. This is a very interesting class of verbs. You can see from the examples that they are usually used in the first-person form, meaning that the speaker takes responsibility for the act. 

When Wendler talked about illocutionary suicide, what did he mean? He meant that some verbs do not allow performative use, because it would result in the speaker's suicide as a communicative partner. For example, the speaker cannot admit that they are lying. They say, “I'm lying to you,” and begin to tell you something. You realize that it is impossible to admit that they are completely ignoring the principle of cooperation. Likewise, the speaker cannot confess to manipulation. That would be the same illocutionary suicide. Manipulation must be covert.  

Locution, illocutionary intention, is something that comes from the addresser. There is a third important element of the speech act that is related to the addressee figure, which is the perlocutionary effect that which is achieved through speech. It is the effect on the listener. Ideally speaking, this is understanding: the listener understands the task that the speaker has set for them and responds appropriately to that task. Again, we run into the problem that we started with. If we are talking about manipulation, is the perlocutionary effect possible or not? If we look at the speech act from the viewpoint of the speaker, the speech producer, they had a certain, an illocutionary intention. If the listener or the reader performed the actions that the speaker expected from them, it turns out that the perlocutionary effect has been achieved. Another thing is that this perlocutionary effect for the addressee is absolutely negative. 

By the way, another interesting point of the theory of speech acts – indirect speech acts. Not always the distortion of the speaker's intention – the indirect translation of the intention – is a manipulation. The indirect speech act demonstrates it. Imagine we are in a cold room, and I want you to close the window. For some reason I can't do that. I turn to you with a question: “Could you close the window, please?” If you respond to a question according to its external form, you should answer “Yes” or “No.” However, is that what the speaker was trying to do? No, of course not. It is not really a question, but a request disguised as a question. Is this a violation of the communicative rights of the speakers? Of course not. On the contrary, this is the realization of the principle of politeness. It is a polite form of request. Therefore, the adequate reaction to such a request is to stand up and close the window.  

Another classic example of the mismatch between the goal setting and its external realization is rhetorical questions, which can use manipulative techniques. Suppose I tell you: Who doesn't want to go to Sochi for the May holidays? The question does not imply an answer. The outer form of the question hides the assertion: Everybody wants to do it. It is clear that this does not correspond to reality, this is an example of manipulation with a rhetorical question.


– If we speak about manipulation in the aspect of emotionality and evaluability in those media in which there is no “printed” word such as television or radio, what other ways are there of achieving it? Does the manipulation appeal to emotions as an argument?

– Absolutely. We began by talking about rhetorical modes of influence and finished on the logical system of argumentation. The appeal to logos is what persuasion is built on. There are two other kinds of argumentation: an appeal to pathos and an appeal to ethos. An appeal to pathos is an impact on the emotions, feelings of the audience. Manipulation uses this type of argumentation very often – an emotional argument, rather than a rational one. Resorting to emotional arguments is not logical from the viewpoint of logic. However, it is clear that logic and actual speech are not the same thing. Repeated attempts to create an ideal logical language were doomed to failure, because this kind of language does not reflect the structure of the actual reality in which it exists. This is a kind of emasculated language that only contains logical concepts. And everything related to the sphere of emotions is simply banished from it. No doubt, real-life emotions and feelings play a huge role, so appealing to them is quite an effective technique. We can appeal, for example, to the fear of the audience. That's forbidden in logic. But in real life, we often appeal to fear or to compassion. I can portray myself as a suffering person who needs help and thereby elicit an emotional response from you and achieve my manipulative goal. Indeed, the manipulation is very closely related to affectability and emotionality. 

The third kind of argumentation is an appeal to ethos, meaning moral values. This is a very powerful technique of manipulation, too. I can appeal to the universal human values by saying, “You share the view that freedom is a good thing, don't you?” It would be weird to say, “No, I don't.” So, this is also a manipulation, the most powerful manipulation – an appeal to the generally valued categories associated with society or individuals.


– Is it okay to say that verbal aggression in television and radio shows is also considered manipulation? Or is it still an overt influence?

– If we talk about the things that manipulation and verbal aggression have in common and what distinguishes them from each other, it is important to mention the open nature of verbal aggression. It often manifests itself in profanity addressed to the interlocutor. As we have figured out, manipulation always has a latent character. Nevertheless, the two have some features in common. They are non-cooperative communicative behavior. Both speech aggression and manipulation do not take into account the partner’s interests. Therefore, both of these phenomena are the examples of violations of linguoethical norms. There is a new section in linguistics – linguoethics, which studies violations of linguoethical norms, primarily in the language of the media and in the language of advertising. It could be cynicism, demagogy, speech aggression, manipulation. In this case, we are talking about the violation of the moral postulates of communication. 

Another science close to linguoethics is linguoecology, which is also interested in all these problems. Broadly speaking, these problems can be defined as the pollution of the communicative environment. Linguoecology is the study of political correctness, an important concept in contemporary culture. It is a large-scale objective for linguists, psychologists, and sociologists to create a politically correct language. And in order to create the politically correct language, that would contain euphemisms and substitute nominations that emphasize some kind of defect of the subject, related, for example, to the gender characteristic or ethnicity, are very often involved.


– It turns out that politically correct language is not free from manipulation, right?

– This is a very interesting question. Let's look at these substitutions: we can't call a person by the color of their skin, but instead call them African-American. Or, for example, we don't call a person “handicapped,” but instead we say “a person with a disability.” But sometimes it gets to the point of absurdity. If a person is short, we can't say he's short, so we're violating his communication rights, discriminating against him, and invading his private sphere. Let us call him “vertically challenged” or “vertically flawed.” These examples are perplexing. In my opinion, a brilliant commentary on what constitutes politically correct language was made by the famous Italian semiotician and cultural scientist, Umberto Eco. He said that it's not the words that need to be changed, but the social structure. People only see problems and reduce them to misnominations. Now we shall replace them and everything will be fine. No, everything will not be fine; these problems lie in the society. He also states that such politically correct language itself provokes discrimination in the opposite direction. And often the call, like “Let's be politically correct,” is simply used to silence the interlocutor. In this sense, of course, it is a manipulation. I can say, “You're not politically correct.” In today's society this sounds terrible and means that you are not following the basic rule of modern communication. In this way I am throwing you out of the communicative environment altogether.


– We have already stated that the manipulation is not always about the tabloid press. What if the task of linguistics is suddenly achieved, and the reader or listener recognizes in time that their consciousness is being manipulated, does this lower the status of the publication of the particular media, or is this a normal phenomenon?

– If manipulation is exposed, your communicative status drops drastically. So be careful when using manipulative techniques, because you lower your communicative rank by several positions at once or completely destroy your communicative credibility.  

Speaking of the fact that manipulation is not only represented in the tabloid press, we can refer to an event directly related to the problem of manipulation – the conflict between the United States and Vietnam. How was it portrayed by the U.S. media? They did this by using manipulative techniques, namely some powerful euphemisms. They were not talking about a war – they were talking about a peacekeeping action and assistance provided by the valiant American military to the people of Vietnam. And this was not the tabloid press, but the official publications, which used such a way to represent reality. Some aspects were highlighted and others were left out. Information was broadcast in a way that those who were behind it benefited from it. So, the answer to the question of whether it is only the yellow press that is manipulative is no.


– It is necessary to know the mechanisms of manipulation in order to avoid it. And will fact-checking and consuming information from different sources help protect against manipulation and stereotyping? 

– This is one way to protect ourselves, of course. We should not trust only a single source. If we choose this way, we condemn ourselves to become an object of manipulation. So, we have to get information from various sources. And they must necessarily be credible. This is one of the rules on how to avoid manipulation. And the most important rule is to treat the information you receive more critically. We must not take everything for granted.

We have to be very balanced in our approach to reality
and understand that we are receiving
a retranslated picture of the world. 

Those facts that we learn represent the result of selection already. Journalists extract individual elements from the surrounding event continuum and then broadcast them to the audience. This is an already distorted picture of reality, because it has been subjected to such selection. An extreme case of violation of communicative rights is misinformation. 

Fake news is a very urgent problem: how can we be sure that we are dealing with fake news? So far, the only advice is to compare different sources and not to trust one at a time. Many people have a sense of the magic of the media. If we hear a word from a neighbor – that's one level of trust, and when we hear the same thing on TV – that's another level of trust. Many people certainly trust the media. You shouldn't do that. You should be critical about what you hear. Another tip: don't take everything at the level of emotion. This is often what the manipulator is counting on – that we will react on the level of feelings and not put the message through a rational evaluation system. Then we become easy prey for the manipulator. Therefore, we must think critically and not trust one source, not react emotionally, but try to rationally analyze the information we receive.