Distractions and Propaganda

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  • published May 22, 2012 @ 5:56 pm EST
Katelynne Kulakowski

Print journalism major, minoring in political science at Pennsylvania State University, for now. Avid science fiction movie buff and future cat lady who loves to write.

Much of what we read from our local newspapers and watch from the local news is trivial, demeaning and sensational.

In the grand scheme of news, being broadsided by cats stuck in trees, robberies and house fires are at the bottom of the totem pole.  Needless to say these things deserve to be reported but who decided that breaking news would use scare tactic headlines and horrific background music?

Was this some sort of sick joke pulled by the government to keep society distracted from the next piracy bill circling through congress under our nose or any real economical crises? Much of what is projected to Americans through the local news is nothing but bad news, basis and exaggerations.  How did something so creditable like news reporting become like this?

Yellow journalism oriented during the American Gilded Age, dating back to the late nineteenth century  with the circulation battles between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye catching headlines to sell more copies.  Calling a newspaper “yellow” would mean it exaggerates news events, encourages scandal mongering or flourishes with sensationalism.

Today the term is used as a pejorative to decry any journalist that treat the news in an unethical or unprofessional fashion.  Usually scare headlines in huge fonts appear on the front of newspapers of often minor news events, then the pages are lavished in imagery drawings or pictures.  The run of the mill, yellow journalist usually sympathize with the “underdog” and goes against the system.

The fathers of this type of propaganda reign as Pulitzer vs. Hearst.  Hearst, an American newspaper publisher and Pulitzer, a Hungarian publisher, both set out to conquer the thriving New York audiences.  Pulitzer strove to make his New York World an entertaining paper filled with games, pictures and various contests that drew in readers. Crime stories filled the pages with headlines like “Was He a Suicide?” and “Screaming for Mercy.”

Hearst and Pulitzer are often adduced as the cause of the United States entry into the Spanish-American war due to the sensationalist stories exaggerating the terrible conditions of Cuba.  If that wasn’t already a miserable outcome, the United States decided to run with that idea and keep the same notions going which have landed us in the predicament we found ourselves in today.  Why would we settle for this?

Simple human conditioning and marketing can give us the answers to our questions.

As a society, we subconsciously thrive off of the drama, wanting to read about the bad news because perpetual happiness just isn’t good enough for us.  To explain this, fictional writers will often exemplify the French nursery rhythms, Jack & Jill, which provides a wholesome and happy ending. Society deems Jack & Jill, boring because there’s no problems therefore audiences aren’t intrigued.  Then if we turn our heads to a novelistic story like William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, there are endless problems so endless attention is supplied and audiences call it ravishing.

It’s these simple tactics that can explain why the news is filled with extreme problems and misery.  So the next time you turn on the local news, be sure to question.  Question everything ‘they’ tell you because it could very well be sheer propaganda or distraction tactics.


  • Jeremy James

    Today its about entertainment and pandering, I’ve have not watched cable news or read any of their websites in over a year now, and TBH I am much calmer and reasoned when discussing the issues of the day.