No menu items!

Opinion: language manipulation as a strategy to control public perception

By Cristina Graeml

(Opinion) Language manipulation is the theme of the Second Opinion program of Gazeta do Povo this Monday (Jan. 16).

In focus, the exhaustive use of adjectives by a large part of the press, politicians and ideological militants to distort the perception of reality.

This is an old tactic of dictators. Tyrants maliciously induce people to accept the unacceptable through the malicious use of certain words.

Adjectives used incorrectly and exaggeratedly misrepresent contexts or inflate the importance of specific facts.

This list includes the already tiresome expressions “fake news”, “digital militias”, “hate office”, “anti-democratic acts,” and many others.

, Opinion: language manipulation as a strategy to control public perception
Classifying the vandals who vandalized public buildings in Brasília on Jan. 8 as “terrorists” is an attempt to aggravate the crime to stigmatize an entire category of people who may have had contact with the troublemakers (Photo internet reproduction)

It is worth remembering that these same combinations of words baptized the famous open inquiries in the Federal Supreme Court (STF).

As they are repulsive expressions, they managed to attract a certain condescension from the population to the investigations, considered illegal and persecutory by the most renowned jurists in the country.


The list of words with the potential to manipulate public opinion includes three that have had their meaning trivialized: “fascist”, “nazi,” and “genocidal”.

If not enough contempt for the pain of real victims of these crimes against humanity, using terms as mere insults to those who think differently creates a climate of collective hatred.

It’s a kind of mass brainwashing.

Everyone starts to hate those classified as fascists, nazis, and genocides without even researching their lives and conduct or even reflecting on whether it makes sense to call an opponent of ideas like that.

Likewise, classifying the vandals who vandalized public buildings in Brasília on Jan. 8 as “terrorists” is an attempt to aggravate the crime in order to stigmatize an entire category of people who may have had contact with the troublemakers.

The crime is real, reprehensible, it needs to be punished, but it is far from being something comparable to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the USA, those, yes, actual terrorism.

Fabiana Barroso explains that the action of vandals in Brasilia does not fall under the anti-terrorism law. Therefore, calling the black blocs of Jan. 8 terrorists is pure language manipulation.

What is the intention behind it?

Would it be to induce public opinion to think that all arrested demonstrators are terrorists?

Or that all the demonstrators in green and yellow are destroyers of public property?

Wouldn’t the focus also be on making the population silently accept the violence of arbitrary arrests and disrespect for human rights?


Language manipulation is also used in the opposite direction, to mitigate the gravity of highly relevant facts that are not intended to draw attention.

It happened recently, when Lulista journalists decided to call the proposal for a constitutional amendment that authorized public spending of almost R$200 (US$38) billion above the forecast in the Union budget the “PEC of the transition“.

It is clear that a neutral word, such as “transition”, does not awaken society to vehemently repudiate the legalization of a “leak” or “burst” in the spending ceiling of such magnitude.

They manipulated the language with the same ease with which Lula’s team got votes in Congress to approve the PEC on spending.

The same happened with the previously much-criticized “secret budget” implemented by the Legislature (deputies and senators) when Bolsonaro was President of the Republic.

To try to achieve the image of the Bolsonaro government, they called “secret” the budget legally authorized as rapporteur’s amendments and published in the official gazette.

All it took was for the TSE to announce Lula as president-elect and for the transitional government to start bargain (no, negotiating) the PEC of the breach with Congress, for the militant press to discard the nickname and go back to using the actual name that had been despised.

Watch the show to understand the extent of the practice of manipulating language in the news or on social media.

And how much this transforms people into a maneuvering mass, so they repeat the exact words until the lie seems true, approving the strengthening of tyrannies.

With information from Gazeta do Povo

Check out our other content