How to see through manipulations

STANDPUNKTE – Albrecht Müller:

Democracy sounds nice. In fact, it’s being eroded every day. We are all constantly pressured to think what others tell us to think. But you can get out of the jungle of manipulation. In my new book I describe numerous common methods of manipulation as well as cases of successful or attempted opinion making and analyse the strategies behind them. It is time to become more sceptical, to believe little and to question everything. It is time to think for yourself again and to join forces with others.

Knowledge of the methods of manipulation that are common today helps to prevent oneself from becoming a victim of opinion making. Some methods are old acquaintances, while others are based on more recent experience. Often two or more methods are used simultaneously. One of these methods of influencing our thoughts and feelings is to tell stories in a shortened form. I would now like to go into this in more detail using a few examples.

Telling stories in a shortened form: With the method of storytelling in a nutshell, many people are constantly misled. It determines the public debate for a long time. On the basis of these manipulations, political wrong decisions are made and covered up in series. Typical examples are:

When the relationship between the West and Russia is reported and discussed in this country, the fact that West and East jointly agreed in 1990 to stop threatening each other and to base the relationship on the idea of common security is often omitted. It had been agreed to disarm. Now people are acting as if these agreements did not exist, as if the whole policy of détente and peace did not exist.

And, of course, there is no mention of the breaking of mutual promises. Nothing about the fact that even the extension of NATO to the Russian border was a bad breach of trust. Nothing about the fact that the West tried to govern into Russia’s internal affairs during the term of Russian President Yeltsin, and how it did so. Naomi Klein has impressively reported on these incredible machinations in her book “Shock Strategy” (1). The book was published in Germany in 2007 and was surprisingly successfully forgotten.

It mentions all sorts of things in its assessment of Russian policy, and of President Putin in particular, but not the fact that Putin made far-reaching offers for cooperation in a speech to the German Bundestag in September 2001, partly in German (2). This does not fit into the picture, which is why it is not reported. Neither do the trodden faces of German cabinet members, from Joschka Fischer to Otto Schily, who were told that this peace offer did not fit into their minds because their American friends had and still do so in the face of confrontation.

Second example: The story of the Syrian conflict begins with the indignant story that the Syrian “dictator” – or “ruler” if you prefer – is having barrel bombs dropped on Syrian children and that the Russians are indiscriminately bombing Syrian cities, including hospitals. The story is not told: Not that the West had decided on a regime change in Syria and to that end, with the help of various Gulf States, had also paid and armed Islamists and terrorists for deployment in Syria. It is not reported that this conflict began as early as 2011 and that Russia did not intervene until September 2015 and at the request of the Syrian President. It is not reported that Germany was also involved from 2015 at the latest (3), from 2011 Germany has already participated in sanctions against Syria and helped to starve out the Syrian people. It goes without saying that neither the media nor the German government report that Germany is involved in almost all these wars because of the use of US bases. And there is also no news that Germany – together with people who rightfully call themselves refugees – has also taken in Islamists from Syria (4).

Third example: the Ukrainian conflict. Many media – and also Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (5) date the Ukraine crisis to Russia’s military support for the insurgents in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea. Virtually everything important that happened before that is omitted: the aforementioned extension of NATO to the Russian border, the attempt by the EU and NATO to include Ukraine, including Crimea and thus Russia’s military base in Sevastopol, in the EU and NATO area. It omits the propaganda and – as they call it – democratic reconstruction work that the USA has been doing in Ukraine. According to the relevant US Undersecretary of State, Victoria Nuland, you have deployed USD 5 billion – billions, not millions – in Ukraine. Nor does the narrative include the Western productions about the Maidan, the circumstances of the coup against the incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych and the influence of right-wing groups in Ukraine. Nor is it explained what role the foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany, notably Steinmeier, played in Kiev in February 2014. All these interventions can be justified, but they cannot simply be left out of the story.

Here is another example from a completely different world: a remarkable shortening is what almost everyone takes part in the discussion of free trade agreements (TTIP, CETA). That the further expansion of world trade makes sense is assumed to be correct from the outset. This ignores the fact that we already have a considerable amount of world trade and that the much-vaunted globalisation is by no means as new as is claimed. It also conceals the fact that national and international transport is causing ever greater problems, that it is an ecological burden, that we can certainly no longer control our lorry fleets, and that, in addition, transport is often subsidised, or at any rate does not bear the full costs, and is therefore not only ecologically but also economically questionable. What has become of the debate on traffic avoidance? And where is the discussion about the decentralisation of economic areas? Were these all irrelevant thoughts?

If you want to see through the events, arguments and interpretations, then you have to take these methods to heart, in this specific case the method of a shortened narrative of a story. Check again and again which facts are presented and which publications conflict with each other. Do not allow yourself to be abused by others. Ask for the whole story yourself. Here, too, Naomi Klein’s book is an exemplary way to help and encourage you to see through the whole story of a process.

Translated from German to English by Alfonso

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