Salma Hassaballa has produced two documentaries and written books in multiple genres. She is a member of the Egyptian Writers Union.
People’s feelings and behaviors usually depend on two things:
- Their experiences
- Their beliefs
For instance, if someone really hates you, either you provoked or hurt him at some point in his past life—that is his experience—or he has a deep-seated belief that you are an evil or a wicked person. Maybe he adopted this idea from an enemy of yours or heard a certain story about you. Whether the story is true or false is irrelevant, the most important thing now is that he really believes it!
We trust the media as an authority for news, information, and education and consequently as a source of our beliefs. However, is the media nowadays worthy of our trust? If we look at the masses in the modern times and study their behaviors, we will probably get an answer to that question.
Ironically, controlling the minds of people through media is not limited to dictators or tyrannical governments. This despicable maneuver is also widened to include the so-called democratic governments in most civilized countries, where their masses mainly think that they are fully independent and can decide for themselves. Accordingly, double standards in all corners of the world have become very common.
This article will examine the role of the mainstream media in our lives and consider how much trust we should place in the information we receive from major outlets.
Examples I’ve Witnessed of Misleading Propaganda
The movie The Muslim Brotherhood in the USA introduced the Muslim Brotherhood (MBs) as the mother of all Islamic organizations including Al Qaeda . In fact, these are completely different organizations, but for political reasons, the mainstream media aims to put all Islamic organizations in one basket, including extremist ones that are backed and initiated by dubious sources and then label them all “Islamic terrorists."
In reality, they are completely different in ideology. In fact, there is great animosity between the MBs and Al-Qaeda. This is clearly evidenced by the book of Ayman Al-Zawahri, one of the well-known leaders of Al-Qaeda, entitled The Bitter Harvest of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sixty Years that harshly criticized the Brotherhood .
Also, the CBN news once announced that a Norwegian journalist went to the Middle East and spoke to the leaders of the MBs, and they told him that they have a long-term plan to take over Norway and the rest of Europe! Is it rational that the MBs would have such a dream, and they would declare it with such stupidity?!
The same program also announced that the wearing of head scarfs (hijab) by Muslim women is instituted by the MBs as a means of social control . Of course, this is a ridiculous claim, as Muslim women wore the head scarfs long before the MBs' existence. Even women in the time of Jesus wore the head scarfs, and anyone can check this by Googling a picture of Mary.
Further Misleading Propaganda
The deceiving propaganda is not limited to the audio/video feed, but also includes published articles and books.
When I read the book Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfeild, I found it full of fallacies. The author didn’t hesitate to reveal his prejudice against Islam. He noted that, “if your kid becomes Moonies or Muslims, plant bombs or shoot civilians (or themselves) – well, they must be brainwashed!” And then he wrote on the same page that indeed, brainwash is an easy way to explain things; however, it is not a good idea, as it distracts us from the causes of destructive behavior .
I would say that if Islam is the cause of the behavior of terrorists—I don’t know about Moonies—what about the rest of Muslims? What about the 2 billion adherents around the world making up 23% of the world’s population? Why aren’t they terrorists? .
The author seems to be unaware of history. He didn’t recognize one of the major religions revealed more than 1400 years ago, which created a huge civilization, and turned Arab tribes into one nation. It didn’t turn them to terrorists. So why for heaven’s sake, all of a sudden just in the advent of the 21st century, is Islam the cause of terrorism?
Can We Trust the Words of CIA Officers?
Streatfeild also wrote that the CIA stopped working in brainwash research—after exhausting more than a decade in this field—as they had finally failed to reach anything concrete regarding this matter! The pathetic conclusion was declared by officers working in the CIA, and the author thinks that he has a good reason to believe such a claim by repeating John Mark’s quote: “If science (meaning CIA scientists and researchers) reached a mean to brainwash people, it wouldn’t have stayed a secret for more than a year or two."
Well, I too have my own arguments which are: Is it possible to trust CIA officers’ declaration of ending the brainwash research after knowing that they had been involved in such a notorious field for more than a decade! Can you trust an intelligent officer’s statement anyway? Is it plausible for a big agency such as the CIA to exhaust all that money, expertise for more than a decade in a job that proved to be a failure? Also, if the dirty interrogation techniques mentioned in the book were not successful, why is it still used by the CIA in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons?
The author continues defending the CIA and confirming Muslim terror by saying that the CIA has a good cause to use these dirty methods of interrogations in the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons—some of which are food termination, sleep withdrawal, shame inducement through nudity, sexual harassments , verbal stress, and destruction of the holy works including urinating and defecating on the Quran .
In the opening of the final chapter, Streatfeild showed a similarity between a prisoner of Guantanamo and a terrorist who planted a bomb in the center of London. He quoted the following: “Imagine you are an MI5 officer and you know that a terrorist planted a bomb in the City of London, you don’t know the place of the bomb and when it’s going to detonate. You also know that none of the arrested men will say a word to the police. How are you going to get these guys to tell you where the bomb is? Ask them nicely? Or storm in. These people have rights, remember but then what about the guy with the bomb under his desk? Doesn’t he have rights too? The clock is ticking. What are you going to do.” 
Does this make any sense? Is the terrorist who planted a bomb in the center of London similar by any means to a patriot who was trying to protect his country against cruel invasion and was captured and driven to such a notorious prison? It was no surprise for me to find this book on a CIA-suggested reading list for a period of time.
These are very few samples of recent lies spread by various media to brainwash people and let them accept with no qualm horrible things they usually would never accept.
Demonizing Opposing Opinions
The mainstream media’s aim is not limited to scare people to justify horrible actions and crimes, but also extends to annihilate the opposing opinions. Their goals are the same almost all over the world, but their approach may differ according to the country in which it is propagated.
For example, if the country is suffering from a harsh dictatorship regime, and the opponents are mainly suppressed by persecuting, prisoning, slaughtering, etc., the role of the media is to demonize these opponents so they would be seen in the eyes of the public as an enemy. And they would give their consent to their leaders to eliminate and get rid of the opposition by any means, even by torturing or slaughtering.
On the other hand, in more democratic countries, people with opposite opinions don’t receive such harsh suppression. They are marginalized, however, and not given the proper chance to express their own views. This is done by offering them very limited time to explain their vision, being interrupted by the host and the adverts, or being set up by the program cast.
The Experience of Kristaine Backer
This was very clear when Kristaine Backer (a German TV presenter and award-winning TV journalist who worked for MTV and converted to Islam) was invited to appear on a chat show to talk about her new religion. These are her words: “The worst hostility I encountered didn’t come from family and friends but from German media.” She described other guests, then said: “The show began with a report that featured heavily veiled women dressed in black, edited together with armed men screaming 'Allahu akbar' and images of recent attacks 'Fear of Allah' intoned the narrator. 'Holy war is raging all over the planet. Islamic fundamentalists are waging a war of terror against the infidels. How dangerous is Islam?' he asked. The report alone was an example of extreme Islamophobia and complete ignorance of what Islam really stood for." 
The Experience of André Vltchek
The story of André Vltchek is another example of undermining opposite opinion. He was not given the chance to talk, in spite of being invited on the BBC program "World Have Your Say," with the title of the episode being "Should China Be Respected?' This is his quote: “Finally they connected me, so I could hear all of this anti-China propaganda nonsense for three or four minutes. I could not speak; it was just one way; I could only listen. And then I heard this little voice from far away London: 'Mr. Vltchek, are you ready to go?' I said: 'Yes I am.' 'What are you going to say in the air in a few seconds?' Eventually, I told her that it is the equivalent of somebody asking whether the UK should be respected or not, where the consequent discussion focuses purely on how the UK has murdered people in Afghanistan and Iraq." Vltchek wrote that they thanked him and never gave him the chance to participate in the discussion. Later, he received an apologetic email from one of their producers! 
How Governments Use Media to Move People
Joseph Goebbels, the infamous German politician and minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany, has a quote that reads: “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” That is how governments use media to move people! In our region (the Middle East), for example, you can see the media’s influence in shattering relationships between people that belong to one nation. A dictator’s main slogan: “Divide to conquer!”
Call for Action
It is a noble quest to find means and ways to stop the media from being a deadly weapon, either by making people fully aware of the negative impact of a biased media, helping in freeing the mainstream media from following certain agendas, sharing in growing dissenting media that speaks honestly, or by just being the voice of the voiceless.
Promoting the truth and making people see what’s really happening on the ground, not what others want them to see, is a good cause to live for. I believe that if only people were exposed to fair and unbiased media, peace would definitely prevail.
- Produced by Ornina media production
- Goodreads, The Bitter Harvest of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sixty Years
- Brotherhood's Plot for Global Rule - CBN.com
- Dominic Streatfeild. Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control. Picador, 2007, P. 341
- Mehdi Hasan - Islam Is A Peaceful Religion Debate In Oxford
- David Duke, Remember the Torture at Abu Ghraib?
- Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
- Dominic Streatfeild. Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control. Picador, 2007, P. 349
- Kristiance Backer. From MTV to Mecca: How Islam Inspired My Life. Arcadia books and Awakening publication, 2012, P. 139-140
- Noam Chomsky and Andre VItchek, On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, PlutoPress, 2013, p.34
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Salma Hassaballa (author) from Egypt on June 11, 2017:
Thank you Ashutosh for your comment, very revealing
Ashutosh Joshi from New Delhi, India on June 11, 2017:
Honestly speaking, we shouldn't but then again that shouldn't imply that we cut us off from the information supply chain.
There is no way one can prevent media bias and sensationalization because end of the day they are corporate houses too and they need to make money. They have lost what was once called 'ethics'. Money and relevance is all they care for even if it requires misrepresentation of facts or baseless allegations or even creating an internal turmoil.
We can, however, prevent the 'brainwash' by being more vigilant, applying rationale and not believing everything that is thrown at us, even if it comes from a credible source.