Manipulationof Public Opinion by Mass Media
Publicopinion is the thought held by a society towards a given object atany given time. Manipulation is the ability to drive the broadpublic’s perception and attitude on an object towards a givendirection. Public opinion can be altered by a number of influencesincluding the media with an aim of changing the public views on amajority of life’s phases (Holiday).
Accordingto Forbes Magazine, media manipulation shapes everything that thepublic reads, hears and watches especially from the internet,“everything” (Forbes. Pra.1). It is ironical that the publicbegins to question each element of information they come acrosstoday. Due to the current developments in information technology, thepublic currently relies heavily on social media as a source ofinformation. The majority of the public believes that whateverinformation they read and hear is the truth and that it isobjectively suited to meet their informational needs. On thecontrary, mass media manipulates public opinion and hence theirperspective.
Massmedia manipulation can be comprehended from two main approaches. Thefirst involves the political arena and second, the business arena.From the business field, Mass media has caused impulse buying byleading people to spend on what they do not need. From the politicalarena, mass media is used to change and direct the public opiniontowards the politician’s interests (Holiday).
Accordingto Holiday, there are two primary pieces of evidence showing peopleare manipulated by media subtlety to buy products. First,advertisements play a role in convincing the public about the socialtrends. Second is the increasing astroturfers active in businesscompanies that make use of fake reviews that lead consumers to buyingpoorly rated products.
Throughvarious advertisements, mass media is used to establish a social atrend that once created the corresponding products and services endup becoming basics in the people’s lives. Advertising has a strongmainstreaming effect especially upon the greedy and materialisticcustomers relative to the cultural vacuum in which adverts operate(JEREMIAH.Mainstreaming).
Advertsare easily spotted at any time regardless of the place. Consequently,the merchant’s information to the public can be easily conveyed tocreate a social trend. The more that the public hears and see’s,the more it believes and trusts. Consequently, advertising hascreated a typical social behavior characterized by gender andmaterialism among the public who consume the adverts (Farah).
TheDos Equis beer advertisement is a good example of how ads havecreated gender and materialism. The advert depicts two women and twomales who are represented to be sitting on a couch as they drink theDos Equis beer. Opposite them, are two charming and alluring women,dressed in V-neck dresses with an old man who is dressed in anexquisite suit and holding a cigar. In the advert, the two women areattracted by the old man taking the Dos Equis beer compared to thetwo young men sited opposite the ladies. The advert depicts thatwomen are interested in finding a man who is both rich and powerful.In addition, the implication for men is that the males are attractedto sexy women that serve as a status symbol for the men (Holiday).
Advertisingcan be customized to serve as both a mirror and reinforcement for themyth of masculinity, and in this case, it contributes towards itscontinuous construction (JEREMIAH.Gender).The constant use of massive volumes of advertisements that emphasizeon gender and materialism in order to sell products makes the publicbelieve and trust in the existence of the exposed values. The publicends up feeling that such values are genuine and hence necessary. Asa result, the idea of sex and materialism becomes a mainstream in thesociety which consequently ends up promoting the products frombusinesses that employ gender and materialism in their adverts.Briefly stated, the selling task is always considered as half waythrough, immediately the public is aware of the various desires suchas sex and wealth. It is, therefore, a substantial observation of howadvertisement interacts with the social trends. Merchants andcapitalists are taking advantage of the public by using ads to formsocial values in their efforts to promote their products (Farah)
“Astrosurfing”defines that “Astrosurfing is the practice of camouflaging theprincipal sponsors of an advert such as an organization whetherpolitical or religious in order to make it appear as if it originatesfrom and the grassroots individuals” (Wikipedia. Astroturfing). The grassroots participants are referred to as “astroturfers”.The appearance of astrosurfers provides merchants and companies withan innovational opportunity to manipulate people into buying theirproducts or services. A typical astrosurfing activity in the businessworld is Taobao.com. It was founded by Alibaba Group on May 10, 2003in China.
TheTaobao online websites are created to provide the consumer toconsumer retail through a platform for medium-sized businesses toestablish online stores that cater to customers. Taobao Marketplaceis one of the world’s top 10 most visited websites according toAlexa. In the year 2013, the market place reported a grossmerchandise volume of more than 1 trillion Chinese Yuan (ConsciousLife News).
Avast number of people have frequently been discussing the marvelousChinese company for the past two years. However, a vast majority ofthe individuals remain unaware about the big scam behind the C2Cshopping website. Their unawareness majorly contributes to theenormous volume of business. With around 760 million product listingsin Taobao.com, we can imagine that there are strong pressures fromthe competition for the seller (Conscious Life News).
Sincemost customers would only buy products or services from high reviewsellers. It is tough and hard to get customers of new sellers orthose sellers who are used to get negative reviews. To attractcustomers, new sellers hire thousands of astroturfers who keepwriting positive reviews. Consequently, after a few months, thosesellers obtain a high review due to increasing positive comments.Astroturfing involves the posting of fake reviews on behalf of acompany. The reviews can be overly positive for the company or imagefor the competitors with an aim to manipulate the public opinion.Farah, states that astrosurfing is a common practice in the Chinesesocial media. Companies hire posters who disguise themselves inreview forums and social networks to hold scripted discussions ongiven products or services in order to influence the customers buyingdecisions (Conscious Life News).
Amiddling product can never to be a superior good with tons of fakecomments” (Thomas). In conclusion, Astroturfing can be consideredas a trick used by vendors in order to obtain markets for theirproducts and consequently, it is an indication of how advertising isused to manipulate public opinion by indicating positive reviews oninferior products (Conscious life news)
Holiday,Ryan. "What Is Media Manipulation?–A Definition andExplanation."
"Astroturfing." Wikipedia.Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing>.
"IWas a Paid Internet Shill: How Shadowy Groups Manipulate InternetOpinion and Debate." Conscious Life News. 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 30Apr. 2015.<http://consciouslifenews.com/paid-internet-shill-shadowy-groups-manipulate-internet-opinion-debate/>.
Forbes.Forbes Magazine, 16 July 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.<http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholiday/2012/07/16/what-is-media-manipulation-a-definition-and-explanation/>.
Guillemaud,Thomas. "E-commerce in China | A Social and Mobile Future."ItConsultis.16 June 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.<http://it-consultis.com/blog/e-commerce-china-social-and-mobile-future>.
Mohamed,Farah. "How Chinese Internet Censorship Works, Sometimes."The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/china-internet-censorship_n_4981389.html>.