4Burying Inconvenient Facts
Let's face it, most of us don't have much time to read. If you get your morning headlines on Drudge or Yahoo! News, you almost certainly don't devour every word of every link. You browse headlines, you skim stories, you get the gist of what's going on in the world.
For that reason, journalism schools teach writers to format articles like a backwards version of an M. Night Shyamalan movie: The only part worth seeing comes first. So, you have the headline which is written to grab you, even if it's mildly confusing (see "US Court Rules 'Zombies Have Free Speech Rights'"). And after that comes the first sentence or lede, which summarizes all the important facts of the story that follows ("A court has allowed a group of protesters dressed as zombies to continue with a lawsuit against police who arrested them for disorderly conduct.")
When there is no more room in hell, the protestors will walk the Earth.
As the story goes on, the information supplied becomes steadily less and less important, a style some call the "inverted pyramid." They used to do this for stories appearing in physical newspapers where space was limited, because editors know it's safe to cut from the end without losing anything crucial.
That's the way it's supposed to work, anyway.
How Can This Be Used For Evil?
Obviously if you're a reporter and you have a certain bias one way or the other, the method is simple: Just make sure that whatever facts contradict your point are buried. Nobody can claim you left the facts out, yet you know that most of the readers won't see them.
Can you prove this isn't true?
The most blatant, yet frequent, use of this is just flat out doing a headline that doesn't match the story. After all, people who surf portal sites like Digg or Reddit often read the headline and nothing else. So for example: A news outlet runs the headline, "The Internet Will Make You Smarter, Claims Study."
Most readers will simply scan the headline, and miss the fact that 1) the "study" was just a survey of random people and 2) it was an "online" survey at that. That makes the study about as reliable as a poll on nuclear physics conducted via Tila Tequila's Twitter feed.
Not a physicist, possibly a ninja...
But at least the part that gives it away is near the top. That's opposed to this article from a Seattle newspaper with the provocative headline, "Police Insist: When Huskies Win, There's More Trouble." The "Huskies" here are the local college football team, if you were wondering, and headline seems to say that when they win, crime goes up. Holy shit! Better put a stop to that!
The first hint that the headline might not be accurate comes in paragraph four (that "the stats may not necessarily bear it out") and the information that actually completely contradicts the headline's claim doesn't pop up until freaking paragraph eight (that this very paper did an analysis that showed no increase in police calls on game day, whether the team wins or not).
That's right; without changing a word of the article, the paper could just as easily have run the headline as, "Study Shows No Increase In Huskies Violence."
Keep that in mind as you browse headlines today.
Some historians say that one of the big reasons Americans were solidly behind World War II but opposed to Vietnam is the pictures the public saw: During WWII we were fed photos of heroes raising flags over liberated territory, in Vietnam we got innocent Vietnamese children running from napalm.
Whether you agree with that or not (there were certainly other factors) you have to admit that appearances matter. A lot. We like to think we base most of our decisions purely on logic, but the dearth of non-manipulated personal photos on Internet forums and Facebook suggests that at least a lot of the time, we don't.
How Can This Be Used For Evil?
This isn't about the news media outright faking images with Photoshop (though that certainly has happened before). This is about the everyday choices editors make about which photo to run with a story, and where they choose to crop it.
For example, here's a photo of a politician helping prepare a meal for his loving family:
Here's a violent madman stabbing a butcher knife into something, probably human flesh.
Meanwhile, camera angles can be used to make a person look like Batman, or like Aquaman's smaller, pussier cousin. A lower angle makes a person look taller, while a wider, higher angle makes them look small and insignificant. This president will come to rescue you from zombies, and then steal your lady. And you won't even mind.
But this guy...
...is that one dude who always wants to borrow your stapler and then loses it. Also notice that the decision of which facial expression to capture is huge. Once again, no actual trickery or fraud is required; you just shuffle through the thousands of pictures available of a famous person on any given day, and pick the one that suits you.
Female politicians may get the worst of this, since you can add or subtract 20 years based on the facial expression and lighting: