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Instant Crowd

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The image below was doing the rounds a couple of months ago. It's from a protest march in Paris. In case it's not obvious, the top picture is a shot from the TV coverage; the bottom picture shows the same scene in a wider context. The crowd has been carefully assembled for a shot that makes it look much more impressive than it actually is.


(Credit unknown)

As I've watched various conversations spring up from this image I've noticed a couple of things.
First, a lot of people are confused by what's happening and then surprised when they learn that it's real. I'm surprised that many people would be surprised. I would have thought that people are cynical enough these days to understand how much of the news is manufactured. Maybe they just find it unsettling to see it so well illustrated.

So I'd like to clarify something just in case you're in any doubt: This kind of setup is a routine part of news coverage, as well as many other types of video/photo production. It's not uncommon, it's standard. Do not be under any illusion - news footage does not represent an objective view. It's carefully managed.

Secondly, a lot of people assume the motivation for this setup is political. Perhaps because this particular story was about a political rally, many commenters believe the news crew was acting to further their own agenda.

This may be the case but I don't know. I have known some reporters to engage in this type of propaganda but to be honest I don't think most reporters are quite that shady. In my experience these setups are usually organized to make the shot look better and the story more "alive". It's as much about making sure the story doesn't look lame as anything else.

That's not to say that you shouldn't be wary of skewed news. I think we all have some idea of which media organizations have political leanings. But don't always assume that this manipulation is trying to make you change your political viewpoint - it could be just trying to stop you changing the channel.

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