The Silence as Manipulation

by Rosa Miriam Elizalde, from Resumen Latinoamericano,  October 2, 2018

Readers and spectators, political parties, movements of various kinds, secret services, hackers, journalists and central animators of the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, youtube, Google, Instagram, etc.) make up a vast market of manipulation. This is not coming from “communist propaganda”, but scientists from prestigious universities and independent centers in Europe and the United States, have proved to the core that the media has been hijacked to amplify stereotyped messages and use the same techniques as marketing companies.

They appeal to the Economy of Attention, an increasingly popular concept in politics that starts from the indisputable fact that there has been a very significant change in the way we consume information. In the past, when this was scarce, humans competed for the available news. Now it is information that competes for human attention.

An economic system based on the detailed monitoring of each click has been articulated. A recent study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University concluded that more than half of citizens are already informed through social networks. And of that half, more than 50% do not correctly remember the sources of the information. In other words, sources lose relevance and authority while hierarchies flatten out.

In the ultra-fast public sphere and with more information than ever – not better informed -, for many a news item caught on the fly in a social network has the same legitimacy as the serious work of a rigorous journalistic investigation.

At the same time, the so-called traditional media are trying to adapt to this logic, and an army of specters watches daily on the Internet to defend a territory sown with economic interests. Forty-five percent of advertising in the United States is now digital. The latest report on global trends in the advertising market MAGNA forecasts that the net advertising revenue of media owners will grow by 6.4% and reach 551 billion dollars in 2018. This is the strongest growth since 2010.

Any moderately serious analyst in the United States recognizes that the crisis of politics has to do, among other factors, with not being able to make visible to citizens the themes and discourses of society. The chroniclers of fallacies, the community managers of the networks, the automatic profiles that generate narrative bubbles created with the intention of installing a lie are the new tsars of the news.

That explains why Presidents of 130 nations land in New York and very few in the country find out. “The United Nations is irrelevant in the United States,” says David Brooks, a veteran correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada in New York. In the current debate of the General Assembly there was neither Latin America, nor Africa, nor Asia, nor even Europe. Only the proclaimed enemies, those candidates to be bombed in the next few days, are of any interest: Iran, for example, because the pyrotechnics of war do sell. Russia matters because of the electoral issue. China, because it is the other superpower in conflict. That explains why no one asked Donald Trump anything or almost nothing about multilateral issues, who gave his fifth press conference at the UN and one of the longest since he arrived at the White House.

“There are fewer and fewer permanent news correspondents at the United Nations. You go through the press rooms and there’s no one there. Among the media cutbacks is the UN, which you can see on the Internet,” Brooks adds.

The U.S. local media did not speak of the visit of Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel, just as they did not speak of the other presidents who were in New York. There was only Donald Trump, and not precisely because of the Emperor’s exaltations and bravado that could burn half the world, but because of the laughter he provoked in the circumspect plenary of the General Assembly when he announced that “in less than two years, we have achieved more than almost any administration in the history of our country”. The performance, the political spam, the omnipresent publicity, the requests for attention, the multiple and contradictory opinions and the irrelevant communication in all directions, provoke the ordinary citizen to live politics as an excess of noise that does not guide them, but serves to irritate or amuse them.

However, the social networks are still less oblivious to the manipulation of silence, as can be seen if you filter the tag #MiguelDiazCanel, the most used in the United States on the days of the visit. We used KeyHole, a professional real-time data tracker on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook:

The greatest attention was paid to his presentation at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, where it seemed that the American audience discovered him, and then he was left on the radar of an audience that followed him on the intense day of those days. The most shared and commented messages, according to KeyHole, were those of @DominioCuba in English. Ninety-two percent of Americans who followed these messages did so through a mobile device.

The lesson is simple; formerly public opinion was published opinion; now public opinion is shared opinion. The New York Times and the planetary Washington Post are the representation of power, but not necessarily of the people who are on the street and continue to bet on certain cultural and ethical values. A small country, but a moral giant – as Fidel would tell us – can beat the big echo chambers if it is understood with networks, connections and communities. And that is the challenge of the silenced of this world.

Source: Dominio Cuba,  translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau

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