The Psychology Of Fake News Headlines

Around nine percent of Americans still greatly trust the American mainstream media. Ninety-one percent don’t. These manipulation tactics are just one reason why.

Written By Carson Wolf

Governments rise to authoritarian heights as they consolidate control over people. In the United States, the control of culture and thought is outsourced to private entities in the form of news and media companies, but the threat is the same: one-party totalitarianism with no room for dissent.

The mainstream media seeks to mold American society in its image through propaganda, politicization, and the misinformation of the masses. I know this because I worked for the MSM. I learned their tactics, employed them, and now I’m here to expose them.

The Tactics

There are many words, phrases, and formulas that every reader should recognize in headlines. If a piece is guilty of using them, it is probably propaganda.

Headlines That Say Something “May”, “Might”, Or “Could Be”


“Donald Trump could be connected to Putin’s assassination of Alexei Navalny”
“The Biden Administration could create nearly 2 million new jobs by the end of covid”

This really meansit’s rumored, it’s possible,’ and often ‘speculative or conspiratorial.’ Instead of reporting this as speculation or opinion, the article presents it almost as fact, allowing them to push their opinions in the form of news.

Headlines That Add Context To Quotes


‘Because of you, democracy has prevailed,’ Biden said, alluding to the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, which was incited by former President Donald Trump's lies about a stolen election.”
“Not a positive development,” Trump said, describing Democrat’s new initiative designed to tackle domestic terrorism and white supremacy in Trump’s ‘Maga’ movement.”

Outlets present a purposefully vague quote or claim that aligns with their agenda. After the vague quote, outlets will often add an opinion as context without supporting evidence. This lets them present unproven context as fact, misleading the readers.

Headlines That Use Second Hand Sources


“Trump’s ‘MAGA’ movement has grown in Neo-Nazi circles, reports suggest”
“Support for Biden in Black communities in higher than ever, report shows”

Outlets cherry-pick information from second-hand sources to push their partisan stance. This allows outlets to pass their opinions as fact-based without doing real journalism.

Headline That Attributes Quotes To Public Figures


“Biden: Democracy has Prevailed!”
“President Trump: The World is a Mess”

The outlet wants you to associate a polarizing statement with an individual to cast the individual in a certain light. Allows journalists to support ideological and/or partisan individuals under the guise of reporting and journalism.

Headlines That Try To Report Future Outcomes


“Democrat’s new Gender-Neutral Bathroom bill means true equality LGBTQ+ community.’”
“Republican’s ‘Muslim Ban’ means a coming spike in anti-semitism”

Outlets will predict the future and influence viewers to think similarly. This technique is used to fear-monger during crises or to promote policies before they’ve passed, done under the guise of “news”.

Headlines That Highlight Specific Aspects of Identity


“After white policeman kills a Black man in North Carolina, a community calls for authorities to release the body-cam footage”
“Studies reveal Trump’s supporter base to be overwhelmingly white”

Outlets will mention unnecessary characteristics to drive up ratings, support a partisan narrative (usually identity politics), and polarize viewers to galvanize partisan support. Instead of reporting just news, they are playing politics.

Headline That Say “(Public Figure) denies (controversy)”


“Matt Gaetz denies sex trafficking scandal, insisting ‘he was extorted’”
“Supreme Court Rejects Trump’s Legal Team’s Appeal for Outrageous Claims of Voter Fraud”

Outlets will report on the controversy to (1) lead their views to believe that it is a legitimate controversy and (2) one-sidedly cover the controversy and push their partisan agenda. Again, ideologies are promoted while outlets claim to be reporting news.

Only around nine percent of Americans still greatly trust the American mainstream media. Ninety-one percent don’t. These manipulation tactics are why.