Posted in The Media

General Paper Essay : To what extent are perceptions manipulated by the media ?

Note : This essay was written by a JC2 student under timed conditions. No editing has been done. The student’s grade at the A-levels was ‘A’. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to this question.

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The media is a powerful tool that can be used to strongly influence and manipulate people’s views of things. With the many weapons in its arsenal, such as the newspaper, television, films and the Internet, the media has the power to influence and change our perceptions of not just things like goods through the form of advertisements, but can even manipulate our perceptions, our views of ourselves and others. It is of course possible to think independently and logically to stay true to ourselves and be able to resist the influence of the media. However, the media can also influence us subtly via subliminal messages that tweak, twitch and tug at our ideology such that our perception has actually changed without knowing it. Our perception and views of others, even ourselves are largely shaped by the media.

The media can and has always been influencing people’s perceptions of others. The media, in its various forms through channels like national television, news and to its extremes, propaganda, has been used throughout the course of modern history to greatly alter people’s perspective of others and even ourselves. A very good example of this would back in the days of World War II and before, Adolf Hitler gained control of Germany and managed to use the media and turn the country against the Jews. At the same time, he also used propaganda through channels like the national television and began to attempt to create a “super race” of the German race, the “Aryans” where they were led to believe that they were more superior to the other races. Although one may argue that Hitler was able to kill the Jews and attempt to create the Aryans because of the military might he held, we know for a fact that many people, the younger generations especially, had their whole perspective of themselves and others warped and they really believed that they were superior and other races like the Jews were trash.

In today’s world, we do not see such extreme examples of the media influencing people, but there are many more happenings going on that we may not usually realise. In every country, the government does have some form of control over the media to varying degrees and they do use it to manipulate our views of others and themselves. Using the more local context of Singapore, most of Singapore’s citizens feel that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been doing a very good job governing Singapore. This is largely true, but is it really as good, smooth and efficient as it seems? There is no doubt that the PAP is a good government, the fact that it has remained in power for so long means of the democratic system of voting proves it, but however, it is for sure that various government policies may not go as well as expected, perhaps with a deficit running somewhere, but the government can control the media and cover it up or perhaps, downplay the problem to make it seem more efficient. Conversely, the media can also be used by the government to change people’s view towards other groups. In Singapore, we are a multiracial society where everyone regardless race, language or religion. This is definitely in part, brought about by the media. An example of this would be in most local production of films and series, in almost every show, there will be people from different races having really good racial cohesion with each other. This form of subliminal messaging actually influences the locals to be more accepting to others, it encourages us to be more than tolerant and form friendships and bonds with people from other races which is a good thing! We do not usually realise such things but the media does shape our perspective towards ourselves and others greatly.

Of course, now with society being more educated, people do see through these little things in the media and do not resist the influence. Self-proclaimed dissident of Singapore, Gopalan Nair has raised many issues regarding the governing of Singapore which definitely stands against the news and media that are usually proposes. He does raise some valid concerns which make people pause and think logically and intelligently, and come up with their own perceptions of things. Many a time, with education we do realise that many things in the media are not what they seem. It is impossible to resist the influence that the media has on us and more often than not, we are unaware. In order to get alternative views of, for example, Singapore’s governing system, we turn from our newspapers, news television programmes to the Internet, be it Mr Goplan Nair’s site or others. Should we want to voice our perceptions, it would also be through a form of media. We can see that almost all our perceptions of ourselves and the world is shaped by media somehow.

That is all on the level of a society or a country. From the individual level, our perspectives of self and others are also manipulated. If the media like advertisements can sell products and create imaginary differences between others, the media can sell views and perceptions too! People argue that the media cannot change things like our moral values as our internal compass will tell us what is right and wrong. This is not true to a large degree however. An example of this would be the rapidly growing “emo culture” in other countries like America. The media in various places has labeled these people who are just like any other humans many various names and stereotype this group of people. On the side of people in such groups or culture, they will suffer a great blow to their self-esteem and also, parents change the perspectives on this group due to the media and prevent their children for being true to themselves. On the other hand, it changes their perspectives of the people belonging to the emo culture do not deserve to live and even incite people to be violent against those of emo culture.

The manipulation of our perspectives by the media will continue on to shape our views of others and ourselves in many various, different levels. We will only be able to free ourselves from such manipulation only if we come up with our own perspectives of things and have an unbiased point of view. The perceptions of ourselves and others, is and will continue to be manipulated by the media to a large extent and will not be stopped.

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