Media brainwashing

Everything is under control

Unless you live somewhere remote, maybe in the mountains with no TV or external influences then you’re being brainwashed by the media. Some of us are being brainwashed more than others.

The degree to which media brainwashing affects you will depend on the amount of time you spend on screens. You may scoff and think this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you think you’re in control of your opinions and thoughts, but those that think like this, those that believe in free-will are the most susceptible to manipulation and media brainwashing.

What is brainwashing?

The master of media brainwashing
Edward Bernays the pioneer of mainstream brainwashing

Brainwashing according to the Cambridge dictionary is the process of making people believe what you want them to through repetition. Propaganda is brainwashing and propaganda is public relations (PR). The grandmaster of brainwashing was Edward Bernays.

Bernays’ once said, “I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace.” Bernays had to rebrand “propaganda” due to the negative connotations from Nazi Germany. Instead, Bernays promoted the term “public relations”.

“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Edward Bernays

Tools of mind control

The main ingredients for controlling mass populations are words, video and photography. Outside of things like hypnosis, media brainwashing comes in the form of news media, social media and advertising.

News media brainwashing

Brainwashing by the news media
Roger Ailes realised facts didn’t matter

Whether it’s the Daily Mail, the Guardian, Fox News or CNN it’s an unfortunate reality that mainstream media is biased. Fox News became the number one cable news channel in America, making more money than CNN and MSNBC combined. This was made possible by Roger Ailes (an expert in how TV and media works).

Ailes understood something the bigger media stations at the time didn’t: facts don’t matter and aren’t profitable, people want affirmation and entertainment. Rupert Murdoch has since replicated this recipe for success around the world and others have followed suit.

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers”

Thomas Jefferson

What’s the point of the news?

Media brainwashing history
Relevant news as a Londoner

If there’s an axe murderer in my neighbourhood then I want to know about it. This is useful information for the local community. The news, however, is a national and international circus. It serves the viewer or listener no purpose, it’s a form of perverted entertainment.

Media bias aside, one topic they all align on is fear. We’re overloaded with terrorism (now coronavirus) which petrifies us. Reenforcing our existing beliefs and making us scared is a spellbinding formula that captivates our attention and keeps us coming back for more.

Reported vs reality

Bill Gates highlighted the disparity between what the news media reports and reality with the statistics in the chart below. Terrorism sells.

The truth is boring

Steven Pinker and Hans Rosling convey what’s really happening around the world using data in their respective books: ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ and ‘Factfulness’. We have less reason to worry than ever before yet many of us are still petrified.

Media brainwashing chart
Chart from Steven Pinker’s book clearly shows we have less to worry about


The term churnalism describes what modern news has become with pre-packaged material such as press releases replacing reported news. Journalists have become churnalists and most news media websites have become content farms.

Content farm
a website that contains very large quantities of content, typically of low quality or aggregated from other sites, generated solely to ensure that it appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

Fake news isn’t new

The Great Moon Hoax

Benjamin Day (1810-89) publisher of The Sun (USA) was the first to realise that a newspaper could generate the majority of its revenue from advertisements. Readership soared by charging one penny (much cheaper than the competition) and focusing on suicide, murder and divorce.

This cheap and sensationalist formula was a major success with The Sun becoming one of the most widely read newspapers of its time. Part of this success was attributed to the Great Moon Hoax which was a fabricated series of articles that claimed the discovery of an alien civilisation on the moon.

Facebook has taken The Sun’s business model and become the biggest fake news, outrage and envy distributor of all time.

Brainwashed by advertising

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

Tyler Durden
Patent medicine “cures all”

Advertisings’ job is to brainwash us into buying things we don’t need even if it’s bad for us. This is achieved through psychological tricks and lying. This started out with patent medicine in the 18th-century with snake oil and continued in the 20th-century with cigarette advertising.

It seems crazy when you look back at cigarette adverts being endorsed by doctors. How was this ever allowed? But have things changed in the 21st-century? We’re still overrun with modern-day snake oil equivalents from multivitamins (with no proven benefits) to Pop-tarts that are a “good source of 8 vitamins and minerals”.

Social media brainwashing

Instagram brainwashing
Big Tabacco on Instagram

The lines between what’s an advert and what’s not are becoming ever more blurred. Social media influencers will peddle whatever makes money. Big Tabacco’s latest stunt for peddling death is to pay social media influencers to smoke. The e-cigarette company Juul (partly owned by Phillip Morris) was incredibly efficient at getting the American teen population hooked through the manipulation of social media.

Nazi brainwashing

Nazi brainwashing

The primary Nazi brainwashing medium was radio which was the ubiquitous technology of the time. Albert Speer was a close ally of Adolf Hitler and during the Nuremberg trials (where he was convicted) he went on to say:

“Hitler’s dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means in a perfect manner for the domination of its own nation. Through technical devices such as radio and loudspeaker 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man.”

Media brainwashing summary

You are being brainwashed whether you like it or not. However, once you’re conscious of the free-will illusion and by questioning why you think the way you do, it’s possible to make better decisions. The news media is biased and manipulative so don’t consume it or at least reduce your intake. Just as you’re selective on the food you put in your mouth, be selective with the words and imagery you put in your head.

Further reading

Churnalism has taken the place of what we should be doing: Telling the truth:

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads:

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