In Part One of this series I introduced the concept of baitaijutsu (媒体術), the art of uncovering untruth in media and resisting both external and internal bias. Thus, in Level One, the “white belt” of the system, I revealed how certain unconscious axioms either keep us from or lead us to the truth. As this is a cumulative series, I suggest you read Part One before continuing in order to understand the key concepts underlying today’s post.
LEVEL TWO: BLUE BELT
As both biased (Mirror Mind) and unbiased (Fuhen Mind) thinking is axiomatic, we now must study the next level of baitaijutsu, the core axioms of what we call “news”, which the dictionary defines as newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events. We traditionally received news from television, newspaper, radio, and their related websites, so I will focus on the core axioms that drive formal “mainstream” news reporting.
Let’s say I run my own television network, DNN, the Daniel News Network. DNN should report the news of the day in a factual and unbiased manner. For example, if there was a small earthquake in Paraquay, this is what the DNN should report: what happened, where, and the ongoing effort to help the injured and repair the damage. These are the basic questions and facts that inform the viewer, and leave the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the earthquake. This what DNN should do. But in many cases, news networks are structured in such a way that, even while telling the truth/facts, will tacitly (indirectly) be telling you something else at the same time. So it is not that news agencies are lying or are inherently deceitful. Most major news outlets are credible, to the degree they follow journalistic standards. But even when telling actual truth, the mission of a network is in play: three general axioms a network wants the viewer to believe, as they tell you the truth.
When you see the news on our channel, it is always the truth.
These are the facts we reported, because these are the most important facts.
The stories we report on are the most important stories in the news right now.
Now, as the word propaganda means “information used to promote a point of view,” these three unstated axioms of media are not inherently bad or manipulative. They are also the type of axioms all businesses use to make money. When you walk into a shopping mall, the axiom of every store is “we are the place where you should buy stuff”. The propaganda they will then use to reinforce that idea are such things as “our prices are the cheapest,” or “we provide amazing service.” So propaganda is not inherently bad or good, but varying degrees of true or untrue, which is what makes it potentially good or bad. Here is where propaganda in media becomes complicated or problematic.
News corporations must make money, thus they will consider what makes them money. And when such corporations sell untruth because it sells well, then we have a problem: we are the victims of monetized falsehoods. To do this, such media outlets must then reinforce three key myths about their “news”:
What they report is objective reality, and other views are unreal; lies.
If you don’t believe what they report, you are deceived or not attached to reality.
The opinions of the reportage/reporters are unquestionably factual.
If this is the case, then we must be of the Fuhen Mind to see through the myth, through the obfuscation in order to avoid being manipulated in beliefs that serve corporate or political interests that need you to be misinformed to thrive: to mentally enslave you in your own surety; the prison of the Mirror Mind (see part One of this series).
The key deception of the three myths is based on what is known as Sophistic Objectivity. This is the act of studying many views, theories, and philosophies like one is being objective… but then using this information to reinforce the untruth they need you to believe to be enslaved: to never desire to know anything other than what they tell you, because you like it and passionately want to believe it. Sophistic Objectivity makes you feel like you are being presented with a well researched and therefore true idea, when the research has been used to create the illusion you are being told the truth. So to resist Sophistic Objectivity, you must train in the Blue Belt Level of baitaijutsu, which is studying and learning how to spot what are know as fallacies.
FALLACIES USED IN PROPAGANDA
There are many fallacies used in manipulative propaganda: deceptive arguments that make the speaker look like they are an excellent thinker, but in actual fact are not very smart, or purposely being deceptive to fool you into believing falsehoods.
This is where news panel shows are the prime mode of such mass deception, when hosts and guests participate in purposely fallacious arguments to boost ratings and placate their fanbase, guaranteeing they will never think any other thoughts than the one’s that benefit the corporation. This is why learning baitaijutsu is so vital, especially in the 21st century. Being able to spot accidental fallacies keeps one from mistakenly believing something untrue, while spotting malicious fallacies keeps one from supporting or voting for people in power whose desire is to have access to wealth and power through your ignorance; needing you to believe lies to engage in corruption without being caught. There are many fallacies to study, but it is necessary to know of the following to be able to engage in truly effective baitaijutsu.
The ad hominem attack is the most common fallacy, because it is the most useful and damaging fallacy when a society is filled with Mirror Mind people. It occurs all the time, and some news networks’ news panel shows depend on it to manipulate their viewers into emotional states so captivating, these people would almost rather die than believe otherwise. The ad hominem attack is a personal attack on someone that is designed to make the viewer think that nothing that person says can be excellent, moral, or true. It most often is a gross distortion of a person’s personal history or an outright malicious lie. For example, a significant number of women have faced ad hominem attacks while campaigning for political office or while working towards advancement at work; “Alice can’t do it because she is a woman”, “Evelyn takes anti-depressants… you can’t trust her because she is mentally ill,” or “Cheryl is not qualified to be manager, just look at her!” Women are often treated in a sexist, ad hominem manner in interviews, and are often called shrill or a “bitch” for taking a similarly strong stand as a man on an issue, the interviewer consciously trying to discredit a completely legitimate argument by pretending one’s tone is 100% indicative of how true something is.
STRAW MAN FALLACY
Another classic fallacy used in the media is the Straw Man Argument: misrepresenting a point made by a debate opponent and then trying to get them to defend this misrepresentation like it was the original point being made. For example, a common trick is to take a position a politician holds on children’s health and turn it into an ad hominem attack on the politician by suggesting that removing junk food from school cafeterias takes away choice from the children and thus the politician “hates children”. The politician then falls into the trap by defending their love for children and immediately the they are defending and debating a different point. The desire to for healthy diets for children is defined as a hate for children, and then the talking point is “so and so hates children” which Mirror Mind people take away from the debate, believing it is a fact no matter how completely false it is.
BEGGING THE QUESTION
The third most common fallacy is Begging The Question. This fallacy is actually misunderstood, because of the phrase “begging the question,” which people use to mean ”raises the question…” You’ll often hear people say things like “We forgot to buy cups… which begs the question, who is going to go the store to get them?” It doesn’t beg the question it raises it. “Begging the question” is to state a question that contains or assumes a single answer. A classic example might be for a lawyer to ask a murder suspect, “why when you murdered your wife did you feel guilty?” The question assumes he is guilty, when it has not been established. This kind of fallacy can get a lawyer banned from practicing law if they use it often enough, as it is manipulative and biases the jury toward concluding someone is guilty before they are proven so. Classic examples in the media include, “why are Liberals so corrupt?” or “Why are Conservatives so uneducated?” – both assuming either are exclusively, without exception, corrupt or uneducated.
So the goal of blue belt baitaijutsu is to educate oneself in fallacies and train oneself to spot them within our own thinking as much as they occur in the media we consume. To accept fallacies because we want to believe them (Mirror Mind) is to be enslaved by our own mind, the ultimate goal of malignant propaganda. Thus the Fuhen Mind keeps us flexible and free, because our desire to believe something or benefiting from believing something will never blind us to the fact that a thing is false.
In Part Three of this series, I will discuss the Black Belt level of baitaijutsu: Intellectual Courage.