We live in the Information Age, where technological innovation has led to the kingship of the media enterprise. To a certain extent, media controls us – it directs our behavior, influences our decisions, and necessitates our wants. A large arsenal of manipulation techniques are employed to sustain the effectiveness and efficiency of the media monopoly. In “’Ha ha’, he said. ‘Ha ha’”, Chuck Klosterman addresses the issue of canned laughter as a manipulative technique. He asserts that laugh tracks form the “underlying suggestion that what you are experiencing is different from whatever your mind tells you is actually happening.” In this sense, laugh tracks dictate the “what” and the “when”, effectively redefining the individual’s sense of comedy.
Labeling is another effective manipulation technique; it prefigures a subject either positively and negatively without any details of explanation. Some positive labels include: “healthy economy”, “firm leadership”, and “stability”. Some negative labels include: “Islamic terrorists”, “civil disturbances” and “conspiracy theories”. The political arena is a field teeming with usage of labeling. In John McCain’s attack ad in 2008, Barack Obama was labeled as a celebrity, intuitively suggesting that Obama was more eager to gain international fame and status, alike a celebrity’s world tour agenda, than to get things done. In this case, labeling would suggest to the audience that McCain is the relatively more capable leader, who apparently likes to get things done rather than showing off.
For the last couple of decades, “tax reform” has been used as a deceptive label that
reiterates tax reduction in higher-income families, while shifting the tax burden consistently on the lower- and middle-income families. In the aftermath of the averted debt ceiling catastrophe, Richard Cowan and Kevin Drawbaugh, both journalists for Reuters, describes Congressional deficit-cutting efforts through “tax reform”. Specifically, Congress must find at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over the next decade. However, Republicans are unwilling to concede tax increases as a viable solution for budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion. In this sense, tax reform is a euphemistic label that softens the current state of the desperate economy.
Labeling works because it is subtle and does not beg the audience to ask questions. While the technique is virulent, its immunization is effective. The most effective way to identify and combat labeling in the media is to always ask questions. What does “reform” mean? Another method would be to do research on both sides of an issue, like familiarizing oneself with the political platforms, successes, consistency, and proposed goals of presidential candidates.