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Passive Manipulation — How Vulnerable Are We to Media Bias?

George Orwell popularised the notion of ‘Sheeple’. Conspiracy theorists ran with the term from then on, but just how manipulated are we by the world’s media? It seems to me, that stories about all sorts of seemingly unrelated things, from the use of the dark web, to backdated reports on climate change, that we are delivered a prepackaged sample of what our governments want us to think.

Take the motion picture, Unfriended, released in August of 2018. This sets out to use the dark web as the vehicle for a horror film. It assumes that everything within the dark web, has negative repercussions. Using browsers to access websites hidden from mainstream surveillance, is portrayed as illegal, or motivated by terrorism. It alludes to shocking consequences, such as contact with paedophilia gangs, or slasher movie type murderers.

Although most would see this as harmless entertainment, it begs the question over whether those backing the film steered funding to deliberately reinforce sensationalist myths. Was their real aim to scare the average person away from investigating the benefits of transferring to the dark web?

Censorship is nothing new, but how far do our governments go in the manipulations? Does it flex the great secret service muscle, in controlling what our streaming services offer? Was that the real reason for axing the popular Netflix show, Designated Survivor, because it showed the current US president in such an unfavourable light?

The truth is, that all areas of the internet are just as dangerous as any city street or club, regardless of the time of day or night. Strangers lurk in every one of your kids’ online games, waiting to strike up a chat with the aim of extracting as much information about them as possible. A small fraction of them, will be trawling through the avatars, looking for a gullible victim to groom.

Criminals are more likely to go where there is a rich source of prey. It only requires an Internet Protocol blocking bit of software and you’re good to go. Felons may stash their ill-begotten hoard within the dark net, but the rich pickings are found within standard connections. So long as there is a Wi-Fi connection linked to your house or phone, no one is safe.

Let’s face it, if anyone had predicted the success of the internet at its inception, its protocols and foundations would have been locked up and monetised by the first Intelligence Agency to get its grubby mitts on the thing. Tim Berners-Lee is an unsung hero. At least he gave us a few years of blessed freedom before the tech heavy weights, corporate giants and government stooges infiltrated our lives.

We in the west have it easy. There are still a few mechanisms left to campaign against oppression from the corridors of power, but still we accept that our financial transactions, emails, telephone calls and viewing habits are all stored as future evidence. In many cases, our medical records form part of this trove. How long will it be before our DNA profiles are readily accessible, allowing employers, health insurers, and prospective mates, to reject us on the basis of a recessive gene which may lead to unwanted complications further down the line?

It reminds me of the 1997 film, Gattaca, starring Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, where selection for prestigious jobs or events were predicated on how well your parents chose your genetic make-up prior to birth. Entry into buildings relied on a pin-prick blood sample to prove identity, and relationship matching was based on swapping hair follicles for testing. As frightening as these science fiction stories are, they are meant to warn of the potential dangers, not to give the ruling elite fodder for new controls.

I read an interesting thread on social media, a few month ago, about the youths who stood up against the gun laws in the US, following another school shooting of their classmates. At first, everyone seemed proud of the poster girl, her shaved head and articulate speech resonating across the globe. Her popularity and media presence flourished, until it looked as though her campaign might achieve success. That was when the gun lobbyists crawled out from their lairs, and garnered a massive opposing force against her. The mud slinging began, until her entire viewpoint was mired in a tit-for-tat slanging match. Her credibility faltered, and within a few short weeks, she was silenced.

One person congratulated her stance, in mildly condescending tones. This reignited the debate, taking it to new levels of introspection, for the responses were unanimous and overwhelming. These brave, outspoken, passionate individuals have received a steady diet of dystopian fiction from early childhood. They are well versed on dictators and false democracy, and are willing to fight for a better future.

They draw out messages of hope from The Hunger Games trilogy. They align with the ideals of autonomy in the Divergent books and films. They want a free life, and who can blame them? It may seem like an achievable goal in the west, but look east, and you will find control and abuse far more sinister than that which is found online. These people fear for their lives every waking moment. For some of them, the dark web is their saviour. A place to arrange escape, to blow the whistle on corruption, a way to circumvent the lock-down their governments impose, allowing them to maintain communication with love ones.

And what about the freedom of the press? We have daily evidence that our television broadcasts are neutered. Despite the promises of unbiased news stories and up to the minute events, you need only look to social media to find video footage of eye witness accounts uncovering their staged facts. Entire protests go unreported, if they are not in the station’s best interests. Political rallies, carefully managed to fill the screen with supporters, even when a minimal number actually attended overall.

One or two broadsheet newspapers remain independent of bias or manipulation. They too, use the dark web, to secure the protection of their sources, encouraging more whistle-blowers to release evidence of corruption, wherever it is found.

Did our politicians expect intelligent and technologically gifted people, to accept this all-pervading government presence? The dark web is an evolutionary response to the heavy-handed controls of those in power. George Orwell may have provided them with the framework, but films like, Unfriended, maintain the fear level.

Let us all switch on our inbuilt lie detectors. We must judge the truthfulness and motives behind every report and article we actively and passively consume, and hope that what is now fiction, does not become fact through our complacency.

Sam Nash is the author of the thriller series, The Aurora Conspiracies, available from Amazon at You can find her at or on Twitter @samnashauthor or Alternatively, you can download her free prequel novella series from: Kindle: ePub:

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