Mass media are traditionally regarded as a powerful social phenomenon, which has served as a dominant source of information for the general population from the moment of its introduction. Hence, it was not long before people discovered that mass media create a broad pathway for manipulation, considering the gullibility of individuals to the facts received via mass media devices supported by frequent lack of trust towards one another. Furthermore, mass media were initially positioned as an objective informer, which ultimately aims at providing the population with currently central and reliable data. Although nowadays, the paradigm has changed from unprejudiced to utterly biased, a large number of people are not aware of the fact, consequently remaining vulnerable to disinformation. The introduction of television and the Internet has enhanced the power of media manipulation, intensified by peoples growing addiction to the described media of amusement. As a result, mass media can be symbolically related to the puppet-master, whereas the population resembles marionettes, which have voluntarily handed their strings in exchange for entertainment.
Although mass media are supposed to broaden peoples perspective as well as enrich their worldview, the reality suggests that the outcome is, in fact, opposite. Therefore, persons area of thought is often limited by the impact of media on their lives, directed towards the desired opinion or pattern of thinking. Similar effect can be observed in Platos Allegory of the Cave, in which the philosopher describes people who are forced to see mere shadows and echoes of the real objects and events instead of exploring the complexity of their real-life features (Plato). Analogous to the prisoners enchained in the cave, modern people often perceive the secondary image, which is nothing but a mere trace of the real-life phenomena. However, unlike individuals discussed by Plato, the contemporary population has chosen the aforesaid pattern voluntarily. Nowadays, the idea of consumerism is governing the society, and products that can be utilized in daily life are not the only objects that can be consumed. On the contrary, information has become the most powerful commodity, subsequently giving a strong impulse to the development of media market. At the same time, mass media regards cave people as a target audience that sustains its existence. Nevertheless, Plato does not consider the state of a prisoner as a finite and irreversible situation (Plato). Conversely, he claims that education is a winning strategy for enhancing the world of real objects and events, leading the human soul out of its ignorant decadence. At the same time, knowledge cannot be implanted into the persons mind forcefully, which is illustrated by the attempt of the enlightened individual to share his knowledge with other prisoners and the tragic outcome of the aforesaid action. Ergo, human beings can only be immersed into the world of true objects and try to absorb the knowledge guided by free will. Otherwise, the knowledge of the Form of the Good will remain as alien to the person as it is to the cavemen.
In case the transcendental knowledge is popularized and made available for the general population, mass media will be deprived of its exclusive pseudo-informative function. Thus, it impedes the process of unraveling the truth by distorting the latter in accordance with its social and political goals, subsequently stimulating peoples aggression towards an individual who breaks the stereotype of conventional thinking. As a result, his/her words are often ridiculed, brought to absurd, or bombarded with strong counter-arguments with the purpose of creating an image of a social outcast who threatens the existing order. Given the wide spectrum of manipulative devices, mass media is capable of incorporating, along with the vulnerability of the general population, the anti-enlightenment campaign which frequently results in the undeniable success of human ignorance as well as media triumph.
Video image is generally regarded as one of the most powerful devices implemented for the manipulation of the masses. Despite the idea that video footage demonstrates authentic and unbiased material, a series of evidence has been introduced with the purpose of making counter-argumentation to the statement. Hence, an article The Power of a Video Image Depends on the Caption written by Charles Hagen is dedicated to illustrating the methods of altering the initial sense of a video in order to match the idea of a particular viewer. The author claims that, despite the fact that videotapes are believed to contain the undeniable evidence of a particular event, the interpretation of the footage can change the understanding of the material completely (Hagen, 1992). Ergo, there exist a number of techniques aiming at creating videotapes appropriate for a specific situation and presenting them to the audience accordingly. Hagen arguments his viewpoint by referring to the famous cases such as the California case and revealing the methods used for the manipulation of the judge and jury. Therefore, the authors claims seem rational and logical and can be traced to the modern media situation. Despite the fact that it is traditionally believed that human eyes cannot lie, modern video techniques prove the statement wrong.
Apart from the aforesaid, human emotional sphere is known to be the most susceptible to manipulation. Hence, video footage often demonstrates shocking or touching events that imprint in human cognition regardless of their truthfulness. In case the abovementioned video material is supported by a strong message, people are likely to believe the received information. This strategy is widely implemented in news programs, which provide necessary interpretation of the videotape. Therefore, news programs present the data that have already been analytically digested, simplifying the perception of the viewers and simultaneously imposing a biased viewpoint on the audience. Hence, although video footage alone is believed to be a raw material, it is rarely displayed without proper manipulative adaptation, limiting peoples mental space for personal evaluation of the situation.
Photographs, which can be metaphorically referred to as momenta in the space-time continuum, also impact human perception by placing an emphasis on the emotionality of the image. Furthermore, in case the photograph implies the violation of ethic dogmas, the picture can outlive its artistic value and be conserved in the memory of the nation as one of the most characteristic factors of the depicted time period. In this case, negative impressions dominate over positive. Even if historical paradigm regards the era as auspicious, photographs are still capable of changing human attitude towards the epoch.
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Lewis Hines series of photographs dedicated to child labor are regarded as a controversial and poignant collection which characterizes the period of economic decline. 5 P.M. Boys going home from Monongah Glass Works is one of the pictures that convey the essence of child labor. The photograph depicts a large group of children who have just finished their shift at Monongah Glass Works (Hine, 1908). The background of an image presents the factory itself, demonstrating that the children have just passed through the exit door. The outlook of young persons suggests the connection to the beginning of the twentieth century; likewise, the setting describes an epoch in which child labor was abused due to its cheapness. The manner of childrens dressing can be interpreted as a marker of their psychological state. Hence, being immersed into the adult world and accomplishing adult tasks is reflected in their subconscious desire to visually resemble adults. As a result, children are wearing rough clothes designed for working, which are deprived of any child-like elements. Likewise, childrens facial expression and body posture are more appropriate for adults due to the stamp labor has left on their appearances. Therefore, young persons portrayed on the image are symbolically associated with small adults, who were forced to grow up ahead of time, sacrificing their childhood. Although the statement is oxymoronic, it reflects the grotesque spirit of the epoch.
The purpose of the photograph is to demonstrate the severity of the conditions children of the first half of the twentieth century had to experience. The majority of the audience viewing the picture are supposed to undergo the aggravation of the parental instinct. Hence, the photographer, either purposefully or not, has increased the amount of attention paid to the described social issue. The effect is intensified by the composition of an image, which is analogous to the typical workfare composition. However, the fact that all of the people posing in the photograph are under fifteen contributes to the increase of the emotional tension of the viewer. Furthermore, if the context of the picture was unknown, its emotional value would still be preserved. Considering that children are an object of concern of the majority of people, mere organization of the image and the appearance of its participants would be depressing enough for people to feel compassion. Therefore, given the fact that the photograph does not incorporate any markers of geographical position, it can be used for peoples manipulation in case included to the appropriate context.
In conclusion, it should be noted that, despite the fact that nowadays mass media have a strong grasp on human consciousness, modern people, similar to Platos cavemen, have an alternative. Notwithstanding how trivial the idea of thinking outside the box may be, it can still be regarded as a substantial impulse towards changing human cognitive patterns. Although complete elimination of mass media factor in peoples lives is not possible, personal awareness and broad-mindedness is the first step to adopting a personal approach towards the evaluation of life realia.