This study aims to clarify the role, place and dimensions of message in persuasive manipulation action. Used method is one of meta-analitic type. Main results of the research consist of revealing planned character of the message provided in the manipulation and highlighting the main aspects of manipulative message. It appears that in the action of manipulation, planned, well thought out, well structured, sequential and phased messages are always performed. In the centre of manipulative message targets and actants of manipulation (those that act on targets) are situated. As original scientific contribution, there emphasized three basic dimensions of manipulative message: self-securing coordinate (conspiracy of the sources and targets), informational dimension (fragmentation and distortion of information) and psychological dimension (sensitising the target to the manipulative message).
Keywords: Manipulationplanned messageself-securing coordinate of the messageinformational dimension of the messagepsychological dimension of the message
Within the situation of manipulation, the manipulative message is triggered. This message has a
self-securing coordinate as main coordinate. One of the important purposes of the message is to
valorise and cover the situation of manipulation. The message undertaking also has as objectives the
conspiracy of the sources and targets by creating ambiguity concerning them and by multiplying the
potential targets and sources. “Manipulator’s force, shows Alex Mucchielli, lies in not being unmasked,
in doing the task covered in anonymat” (Mucchielli, 2002). The message shall accumulate aspects
which would lead the dissuasion analyst to sets of possible tracks which they cannot decisively opt
between and by means of which one could secure the source and interests of the intervention of
influence. The manipulative message must be developed so it can be qualified as anything else
including as propaganda or disinformation, as a lie or rumour. The perfect manipulative message is that
message which cannot be qualified as manipulation by the targets or consumers of manipulation. This
message allows to be classified as any other form of persuasion, but not as manipulation. Above all, the
manipulative message secures manipulation. The information included into the manipulative message
is assigned to a source only when there is no more an emergency exit, on the same coordinate of
coverage (Cathala, 1986; Volkoff, 2004; Brânzan, 2012). In these cases, they are assigned to a
“trustworthy” source. Generally, the messages do not have a source. When it is imposed to fall under
the incidence of a source, then the information is modelled so that it would bear the obvious “mark” of
a neutral source which the manipulated usually trusts. Another type of masking which it is used
consists in advancing basically non-secret information as if they were secret under the procedure of
disclosing some confidential information.
Besides its self-protective and counter-informative dimension, the manipulative message has an
informational dimension. On this coordinate, the manipulative message always starts from a real,
authentic and veritable fact. Notoriousness brings the fact to the state of informational “minimality”.
The primordial fact in the manipulative message is a notoriety fact or an unknown fact, but minor and
easily verifiable. The fact which manipulation starts from can may be ultimately reduced to a minor
fact. Factoids articulate (by persuasive operations) on the elements of this fact (Vlăduțescu, 2013). The
manipulative message is characterised not by facts, but by factoids. It seduces by “factoids”, it lies by
factoids. The minor fact results from the reduction of some information. The revealing aspects of
information hide therein, those aspects which would harm the manipulative intervention if the
manipulated knew about them (Durandin, 1993; Pergnier, 2004). To compensate and to keep the
veracity appearances, which are elided in the idea of making room for implementing the manipulation
is replaced with unnecessary details about that minor fact. The manipulative speech additionally uses
the “concealment” of some important aspects in the edifice of authentic information, either by
deliberate elimination, or by updating the information in delay, which distorts the information and
reduces its effectiveness.
By reducing the basic authentic information to a minor working fact, the following is achieved:
a) a fragmentation of the information and presentation of only what is convenient to the
b) a distortion of the basic topic and its dispersion into distorting explanations.
The minor fact is related to unverifiable and yet incontestable deeds, presented as authentic. Lies
and distorted information are added therein, which would benefit by inertia from the incontestability of
what is unverifiable (Watzlawick, 1977; Ferro, 1991; Negrea, 2013). The speech also draws into
collaboration suggestions in relation to the deeds, so that the influences triggered to lead to conclusions
useful in the ratiocination of the manipulative project. Suggestion, as form of pseudo-information may
be accompanied by para-information and over-information.
In under-information, so many information is brought into the instance of cogitatively processing, so
that by working at the limit with the processing capacities, the critical analysis would be rendered
hostile (Schedler, 2002). On the other hand, to relieve the manipulative cogitative resources allocated
in processing over-information, it can be follow to a self-criticism by means of which it is reduced of
the information that would have aroused suspicions of persuasion and by means of which the
impression of objectivity s enhanced.
The psychological dimension of manipulative discourse focuses on psychologically sensitising the
target to the manipulative message. The basis of the subject’s permeability enhancement intervention to
the „instructions” of the message is to know the target individual's personality or the psychodynamic
characteristics of the target-group or target-community. Depending on knowing the target, the speech
shall focus on creating, maintaining and consolidating a trusty atmosphere which would allow the
implantation of the manipulative action (MacKenzie, 1984; McCornack, 1992). The central measure of
installing the trusty atmosphere shall be the unconcealed convergence in an original agreement. As any
protocol or contract, the original agreement shall exploit all that directly means and obviously “WE”;
“we smoke”, “we do not smoke”, “we do not drink coffee”, “we support the team”, etc. This original
agreement operates as a platform for “captatio benevolentiae” for the interlocutor and as a a favourable
framework for launching the manipulative ideas. For and on the notable account of the initial
agreement the prior views of the target-audience shall be accepted. The original agreement is therefore
held in a salutary manner by the acceptance of the message recipients’ opinions. The reality is that the
target-audience does not have clear views. People have some attitude. Their views rise on this attitude
(Edmond, 2013). The „target opinions” are partly invented by that who manipulatively evokes them
first, to set them forth and, secondly, to set forth the terms of an agreement that shall progressively
amended. Beyond the acceptance of the opinions, the content of the agreement is reinforced by the
community demanding attitude, conduct, behaviour, interests and values. In the original agreement, the
manipulator tends to identify themselves with the manipulated, to show they have something in
common with the manipulated (Pitriciu & Topală, 2011). The identifying agreement has two parties: a
positive one and a negative one.
The positive part is positive identification: we have the same opinions, attitudes, motives, interests,
values, etc. The negative part is negative identification: we oppose together to some „wrong” opinions,
we fight together an attitude, a mentality, we think better than others, behave more correctly than
others, we have other goals than the opponents, etc. The manipulative keywords of the original
agreement, those that shall become the slogan of manipulative relationship shall be: „together”, „one
and all”, „close”, „shoulder to shoulder”, „arm to arm” etc.
If the lie is part of the arsenal of informational manipulative means, seduction occupies the princely
place in the psycho-manipulative “organon”. A sympathy played to the target-audience is attached to
“together”. Sympathy is reinforced by assigning support and assistance (Dumitru et. al., 2015;
McCornack et. al., 2014; Budică & Dumitru-Traistaru, 2015). The manipulative relation is supported
by blandishment, adulation, flattery, cajolement. Subsequently, promises and engagements are added to
the original agreement, which shall be primers for triggering the target into the manipulative project.
Another widely used psychological means is the appeal to the opinions of some authorities which
would approve the scenario where the source and the target have beneficial roles (Cheney & Seyfarth,
1985). The target and the source as “we” should therefore not “disappoint”, frustrate the authority’s
Two classic examples
Above and before all, manipulative media persuasion goes towards opinion. Among the procedures
used in this sense, J. P. Duvignaud and G. Namer lists some techniques which are linking with
collective memory: disseminating the information selectively, their truncation, change in the context to
anaesthetise the information; combining the authentic information with minor information, which is
unrelated to its topic, able lead to disqualification; stressing the secondary damage in the prejudice of
the essential one; proliferating false news, coordinated with favouring some slowing down of refute;
discreditably commenting on an information (Duvignaud & Namer, 1987).
On the informational coordinate of the manipulative message the so-called technical manipulation
procedures (Smarandache & Vlăduţescu, 2014) are also classified: analogue photo and video
manipulations, digital photo and video manipulations, manipulations of the databases etc.
In recent history, a manipulation is given as an example where the informational plan has been
vitiated by technical procedures: „Shooting the South Korean civilian airliner by the Soviets.” Alvin A.
Snyder (1997), former manager of the C.I.A. during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, has declared
that at the time of the event materials, data and information have been made available to him and was
required to make a film about the shooting of the airliner. The film was presented at the United Nations
and depicted how illegally and inhumanly the fighter aircrafts shot a South-Korean civilian airliner, lost
in the airspace of the U.S.R.R. The film contributed in condemning the action by the United Nations
Security Council. Alternatively, by means of the set of materials supplied, it was sought to exploit the
incident with the intention of discrediting the Soviets and their furious campaign against the
deployment of NATO missiles in Europe. After making the film, A. Snyder came into the possession of
a rich material which allowed him to conclude that, before shooting straight at it, the pilot of the Soviet
fighter aircraft fired warning shots and several times it swung the wings of the aircraft, according to the
international usages, as a sign of forcing the civilian airliner to descend and land. These signals did not
receive any response. When mounting the film, Snyder found out and was made available just a
selection of images held, which forced him to conclude that the Soviets had been of bad faith. When
the entire videotape was made available to him, he could observe that the film had triggered a
manipulation of planet zero level, the technical procedures of montage had proved their manipulative
efficiency (Snyder, 1997).
In the information age, a hacker’s manipulation of the listings of credit cards, financial data or other
data on a cracked server may have one of the most undesirable consequences. The information age
brings satellites, cell-phones, satellite TV, the Internet and other means of communication, exposed to
technical manipulation. Computers and chips become a battlefield. The computer networks are true
theatres of war where viruses, electronic battle devices and electromagnetic impulses manipulate the
information. The circuits of the information are endangered to be manipulated. Manipulation by
technical procedures becomes a threat. Another example of officially recognised manipulation is some
events of the war triggered on 24 March 1999 against Yugoslavia (Plante & Bierbauer, 1999;
Bierbauer, 2011; Johnson & Meyeraan, 2003; www.cnn.com). As a way of persuasive influence,
manipulation reigned in Kosovo. The U.S. military leadership applied there, rough manipulation
methods, controlling the Internet in an electronic warfare against the press. The communications were
monitored and it has even been manipulatively intervened also on commercial satellites. Officials of
the U.S. Army declared they would have liked some of the information about the war to have been
covered better: bombardment of the television in Belgrade and bombardment of the Chinese Embassy
in the Yugoslav capital. After the war ended, it was surfaced that the CNN had a close cooperation with
strategies of the psychological office of the U.S. Army. Some news of CNN wear purely “military”,
created and produced by strategies in manipulation. The statistics proved that CNN played the military
specialists’ game. During the first two weeks of fights in Kosovo, the TV station based in Atlanta
(USA) “made” around 30 articles which were released on the Internet. The manipulative vocabulary
was obvious: „refugees”, „expulsions”, „mass murders”, „mass graves”. These words are frequently
used in the set of articles. The „Kosovo Liberation Army” appears incidental, and nothing is mentioned
about the Serb civilians killed by Albanian forces. The set has a message which is polarised strictly
around a central topic. When it is a matter about dealing with the reality by such a grid, simplifications
and omissions intervene automatically: the principle to generate manipulation has been thus put into
Undoubtedly, the media is also on their negative side the tools of mass manipulation. The press,
shows Robert Cirino (1971) is one of the „most active manipulation systems” and the main techniques
used are choice of events, selection of news according to manipulative criteria, placing the news
(priority, place, page etc.), influence by headlines, selection of photographs, the editorial, production
and dissemination of tendentious information (Cotelea, 2007; Jung, 2009). Can journalism be located
outside the sometimes negative interests of the state which makes possible its existence?
Manipulation can be prevented, neutralised and combated. In this respect, the system of dissuasion
shall first guide to the targets of manipulation and shall take into account how they have been or are
affected. Dissuasion shall emphasise the manipulator’s purposes and objectives, as well as the means of
achieving the manipulative intervention. Subsequently, propagation of manipulation shall be
neutralised, and the anti-manipulation operators shall combat the effects and shall reverberations shall
completely destroy manipulation.
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Vlăduțescu, Ș., & Voinea, D. V. (2016). Three Basic Dimensions of Manipulative Message. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Logos Universality Mentality Education Novelty, vol 15. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1094-1100). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.135