Exposing Manipulative Media Techniques that Restrict Spiritual Freedom

Media consumers are trained to fear alternative spirituality perpetuating a cycle of governance which is reflected at an individual and institutional level. At best this leads to media consumers who self-censor their spiritual yearnings and at worst to spiritually repressive cultural environments like that of France, where the media, anti-cult movement and government policies have made it almost impossible to meet as a group to practise any form of alternative spirituality without facing huge amounts of discrimination and bigotry.

Sociologist Lonnie Griffin suggests that only 1% of new religions receive coverage in the mainstream media. If rather than attacking spiritual minorities by framing them as dangerous and illegitimate groups to create sensationalised news stories, the media instead published accounts of positive and socially beneficial experiences from the other 99% of new religious movements, then the wider public would have a much more balanced view of the spiritual alternatives to major religious denominations. Until that happens, which seems unlikely, the media will remain a weapon of propaganda for those in the world who would seek to restrict our spiritual freedoms.

  1. http://www.cesnur.org/2002/slc/palmer.htm
  2. Ibid
  3. Shupe, Anson (1998) “The Role of Apostates in the North American Anti-Cult Movement” in the Politics of Religious Apostacy, D. Bromley, Ed., pp. 209,212-213, Westport, CT, Praeger; Palmer, S.J. (1998) “Apostates and Their Role in the Construction of Grievance Claims against the Northeast Kingdom Community Church,” in the Politics of Religious Apostacy, Id. at p. 198.
  4. Journalists’ Attitudes toward New Religious Movements, James T. Richardson and Barend van Driel, Review of Religious Research, Vol. 39, No. 2, Special Issue: Mass Media and Unconventional Religion (Dec., 1997), pp. 116-136
  5. Wright, Stuart, “Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection” 1987, and Barker, Eileen, “Defection From the Unification Church: Some Statistics and Distinctions,” 1988
  6. Wright, Stuart A. (December 1997). “Media Coverage of Unconventional Religion: Any “Good News” for Minority Faiths?”. Review of Religious Research 39 (2): 101–115. doi:10.2307/3512176.JSTOR 3512176.
  7. The Herald Sun – Australia August 16, 2009, Rein in Family cult – article no longer online
  8. http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2056&context=etd

Pages: | ← Previous | |

About David Arkyn

David has a deep interest in spiritual development, but has discovered there are many forces in the world working to keep people asleep. His recent interest has been researching the psychological tactics and techniques used to limit people's spiritual potential, writing about his discoveries here at The Conscious Reporter.


  1. Thanks David,

    It’s incredible that this sort of manipulation has been going on for sooo long, and yet, the general public still doesn’t seem to understand how they are being programmed: to consume, to hate, to fear, etc.

    Thanks for shining a some light on this issue.

  2. Exposing the corruption of the media today is a big deal. So often I am shocked at how people just repeat a stance on a certain situation like an advert for the official story. It’s like you can hear the propaganda working through them, it’s quite eerie. There seems to be little critical thought behind becoming proponents of a certain view-point, meaning that the lies are spun, and then the public themselves uphold the lies passionately, attacking those people in society who try to warn them.

    For me, after getting a sense of this happening some years ago, it’s been a process of just peeling back the layers. At first it seems like just some big stories might be set-ups or some biases pushed. Now I’m at the point that I feel there is nothing that can’t be fabricated, and that if it’s in the news, there’s an agenda behind it. And we don’t see the long view, how things are created over years to perfectly design a belief in a population.

    Two of the main areas I see this in at the moment, outside of the constant attacking of spiritual groups, is medicine and the ‘war against terror’. Recently it was reported on Fox News that there is a city in the UK called Birmingham, where non-Muslims ‘just don’t go.’ Which was just a complete lie. I’ve been there! Yet there was an ‘expert’ on a massive news channel in the US making up something just to fit a goal of fanning Islamophobia. In the UK it’s more subtle, but you can really feel that there is a hatred between people being stirred up.

    With medicine it feels like there are similar tactics used to put down alternative practitioners as there is with spirituality. People outside of the mainstream are attacked and ridiculed, shown as being a danger to the safety of others, when the opposite is true. There’s even now reports of well-known alternative practitioners being murdered. Researching into it, I see now how the whole history of our health-care has been manipulated to feed today’s myths about disease and to create a totally disturbed, corrupt and polluted system that keeps people sick and spending huge amounts of money on drugs that make them worse. But try to tell people this and you’re called a ‘quack’ or the likes and dismissed. People defend their own destruction.

    Another thing I’ve noticed over the years is the intensity at which we’re bombarded with news. If you think about the difference between our parents, whose TV went off at midnight, and our generation, who can watch TV 24 hours a day and have endless channels to choose from, the amount of sensory stimulus we’re exposed to now is substantially different. When we started getting handed our free newspapers on the commuter’s buses and trains to work, I could see it as a move with this trend towards bombarding people with news. Then the news started to be beamed out on buses and at train stations, and there’s another place you can’t hide. Seems whereas people once lived in a world where they talked to each other and had some kind of authentic community life, and space in which to think for themselves from things they actually observed happening, now we are so ‘plugged in’ to this constant news feed, it’s all we see, all we can respond to and all we have to base our actions on. Though it’s not of course!

    • Some good points there Ella,

      It does seem to be the case that something happens on ‘the news’ (of which the reality might be very different) and it’ll be the talk of the town, this person has such a reaction to it, another person another opinion. Similar to some entertainment, ‘did you see what happened in this or that TV show yesterday?’ And then the next day there’s the next thing.
      But what’s the point of it? Instead of giving useful information to make better choices in life, it seems like news now serves to keep people ill-informed and entertained.

      On another note I remember a good friend of mine once making an accidental archaeological discovery when we were young. News channels were all over it, but even back then such a discovery wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough and needed some spicing up. Many of the journalists changed the story of how he found these graves to make it more interesting. When my friend saw this on TV and in the papers he was quite frustrated because they changed his story so much and made him out to be this foolish kid. Also for myself when I’ve been at events that were reported on later, when watching the coverage after I was amazed at how it didn’t reflect what took place at all. This really made me wonder about all the other stories in the news, at first I thought it was probably an exception, or was it perhaps the same for most? It couldn’t be…

  3. Long ago I became disenchanted with mainstream media – it just seemed so obvious to me that almost every story had an agenda behind it, it was like a tragic comedy.

    Nowadays it really seems that if there is a spiritual group that gets a negative cult label stuck to it, whether there is any validity or not, it’s impossible to shake, and that group and all involved are attacked and cast out of society.

    But I can definitely relate to repeated messages becoming like instincts. Especially growing up and believing certain things about different religions and groups, cultures, other countries, etc. It was amazing to wake up to the fact that there are so many hidden beliefs with automatic responses lacking intelligence. Very worthwhile reflecting on that.

    • Julian Kingman

      Right! I was just talking with my wife about how we’ve grown up in this country with a certain ‘programming’ to be certain ways, with the ‘war on terror’ (in the US) being another such programming campaign, giving the upcoming generation new opinions and predjudices.
      Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a different programming is taking place with the terrorists themselves, but with a more violent past and future. To me it seems like a chess game where the same person plays both sides, for a more sinister and calculated purpose than either side supposes.
      The situation applies to the whole Jonestown massacre as well, where there was pretty clearly some government involvement, and then calculated media portrayals of the situation that in the end paved the way for the anti-cult movement and its current stranglehold.

  4. Very accurate article which very clearly explains this framing that is happening.

    I also see how allegations of ‘sexual transgression’ or harm being done to those who can’t defend themselves (like children or animals) can instantly evoke this ‘moral righteousness’. Using a lie (or sensationalising an allegation) and making use of how people’s psychology works to evoke this moral righteousness, this sense of protection and turning it against ‘X.’

    It’s also interesting how once you’re framed any defense of your rights can be spun by the media into looking like it is some sort of offensive, covering up or it is ridiculed. If the media is biased in such cases (because they prefer a good story etc.) it can be truly devastating for a person or group. Even if someone is deemed innocent in court often the tabloid media still ‘knows better. ;-)’ … and the public view of a case remains with people.

    An interesting case I’ve often thought about are the accusations against Michael Jackson. There is a lot to learn from the whole thing. He was completely butchered, and it really showed the way media is and the way that people are. Like this article also says it’s often difficult for an individual of the public to get to the bottom or truth of what’s really going on. So for the media to sensationalise and blow up something to the level where it changes the public perception is an incredibly serious thing in my opinion. And even more so regarding spirituality, something that can help people and personal development so much. When people’s access to it is hindered by the media, like described in this article, it is a very sad thing.

  5. Thanks David,

    It’s a pity this sort of thing is going on.

  6. I am extremely reluctant to read the news in general because what you outlined here applies not only to NRMs, but essentially to most subjects reported. I have however definitely noticed the trend of framing spiritual minorities in this negative manner — all around the world. What the media is doing comes across like a modern day witch hunt against anything but the few established religions (and even those can be on shaky ground). The formula and patterns are quite apparent and it’s really sad to see the impact this has on people all around. It’s a very effective mechanism to manipulate others and stir them away from exploring anything outside the promoted mainstream — a bit like blinders on a horse. And yet, if anyone took a moment to look into things further they would see quite clearly what a deception is being carried out upon them…

  7. Great article, David!

    As is common with articles published on this site, I’m left with a feeling of ‘duh! how didn’t I see that?’ and at the same time left wondering how (or if?) the average could ever be open-minded enough to even acknowledge that there might be something seriously wrong with the media. That image of the man being spoon-fed by the media just about sums up my sentiment.

    It’s too bad that we humans so easily forget our past, and the amount of bigotry and dehumanization that has transpired in every age, be it in concentration camps (real ones!), slavery, wars, or genocides. I think if people understood that we’re likely not any better now, it would be easier to acknowledge that by digesting what the media tells us, we are actively participating in bigotry—today.

    • I think it takes more than being an observant to understand that there is something wrong going on with the media (or any issue). I’ve also thought like that about the media for a long time, yet when I read an article in the news my immediate reaction is to either accept or reject it. And with both responses I end up being taken (or sabotaged) by the article and can easily defend a particular side. Personally it feels like this is part of the agenda of the article, and to come out of it I need to do something more (such as critical thinking, or perhaps having some personal experience with the issue).

      I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think the situation is a quick fix, but shows that there are deeper problems within people to put up with the current state of the media. One problem that stood out to me from the article is how the media undermines the justice system, and how little this is challenged or scrutinized even. I feel like it’s become common to be the judge on all sorts of issues without actually taking the effort to analyze them or properly understand them. This happens to me a lot on a personal level, and is not surprising to see it in society. Although it happens like that I think that there is something ‘illegal’ in it, that if the right efforts were made laws could actually be brought in to make the media more accountable. Just like we break the ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ personally when judging, I expect laws of society are broken when this happens in society.

  8. A lot of great research in here David! Thank for all the effort you put into this topic. It’s also interesting to see the academic perspective on the anti-cult movement. This is such an issue today and I’m so glad I live and teach alternative spirituality where I do, a place of safety, relatively free from prejudice. It’s sad to see this happening in the world, but tackling it is made easier with the knowledge contained in this article.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Share This