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Slava the Ukrainian Socialist

Jan 31, 2024

In the dynamic and complex world of politics, it’s easy to blame the public for drawing wrong conclusions and for failing to understand that they are manipulated to vote against their own interests. Political education is suppressed for obvious reasons, as it’s easier to exploit a population that doesn’t know what is really happening in the world. Without a keen awareness of the broader context, political discourse is prone to distortion and misinterpretation. This article will delve into the crucial importance of context in politics, and how our media removes this context to shape and influence public perception, thus confusing people and leading them to make wrong choices.

In politics, context is not ancillary but rather the very fabric that binds together the intricate tapestry of political landscapes; the linchpin that forms the meaning and implications of events, decision, and policy. Unmoored from context, political moves become arbitrary and lack depth. 

Media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, and the importance of context in media coverage cannot be overstated. Out-of-context statements or events misinform people. Analyzing political news and statements in the broader context helps us make informed judgments and prevents the manipulation of narratives.

Cropped Framing

Picture tuning in to the news on TV to watch coverage of a political event. In the first media frame, you witness Palestinian children throwing stones at IDF tanks, resulting in “property damage.” In the second frame, a distant perspective of the scene is presented, with the reporter explaining that the homes in Gaza were destroyed due to the violence of the Palestinian children. The rationale given is that the IDF had no alternative but to defend itself from the attacks.

Controlled Access 

Public response to unfolding events is heavily influenced by how they are framed to construct a particular narrative. It operates like the frame of a picture, limiting our perspective by excluding the broader context that would help us understand what is within the frame. Embedded reporting is a method by which the media shapes a story based on guidelines set by those granting access. For example, Israel may permit reporters in certain areas but bar entry to others that contradict the image it seeks to portray. In short, the media becomes a propaganda tool for the powerful.

Chosen Angle

Disingenuous media framing often also involves the omission and distortion of facts. When the media produces documentaries or news, especially related to war, it is ordered to have a specific point of view and tone, discarding or distorting facts that contradict their chosen angle. Public reaction is manipulated when the root causes of conflicts are overlooked, victims are selectively chosen, and the facts are handpicked. 

Deception becomes a guiding principle of the media, especially concerning the timing of reporting. The media may remain silent when innocent lives are lost, and report only ‘worthy victims’ for political expediency or when public outrage threatens the powerful. Take, for example, the way American media reports about Israeli bombings of Gaza. They never say who dropped the bombs, but merely acknowledge an event devoid of the agent: ‘Explosion kills hundreds in Gaza.’ Yes, a spontaneous explosion just happened on its own. 

Or another one: ‘A powerful blast rocked Gaza’... No comment.

Selective Condemnation

The cumulative impact of media framing is evident in selective public grievances and condemnations. Some deaths are publicly mourned, while the media silently buries others. The public condemns only the crimes highlighted by the press, while other grave crimes remain shrouded from  public view and collective memory. Worse, the media hype to condemn certain incidents may lead members of the public to seek vengeance, responding to media narratives with evil acts. Let us not forget what happened in Chicago last October, when an angry landlord stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian boy to death and wounded his mother in a frenzy after imbibing endless, sensational news about the events of October 7th, 2023. 

Distortion and suppression of facts deprive the masses of historical explanations of how the world became what it is today. Bourgeois propaganda represents a heinous crime against working class identity, impacting our memory and history. Our concepts of humanity, justice, equality, and virtues rely on the comprehension of facts and historical events.

As the media manufactures consent, our sentiments become prescribed, reactions suggest political stances, and our humanity is stunted. In the face of overwhelming media manipulation, people must abandon illusions to maintain their integrity. False narratives from the media lull us into a false sense of moral superiority and zeal to unthinkingly condemn others. They narrow our vision so that we endorse injustice. Instead of shifting the blame to the public for having incorrect understanding of politics, our role as communists is always to strive to help our people know the facts and make proper analyses.

One of the main tools of analysis is Dialectical Materialism. The second part of this series will illustrate how we can draw on Dialectical Materialism and Marxism to analyze news and politics, so as to have more fruitful conversations with people around us.

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