Media Blackwash
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Basic Information

A media blackwash involves broadcast media putting the worst possible spin on a character or group's actions in an attempt to aid in their defeat. This is a sub-speciality of propaganda, but is usually practiced by the state against dissidents rather than between nations.

For example, a fugitive, especially one with a child in tow, is painted as a wanted child molestor, and any kind of armed group presented as terrorists or armed robbers.

This trope is certainly older than print, but becomes much more effective with modern broadcast media, but only really applies when the charge levelled against them is completely untrue - labelling a bunch of guys on the lam after a stand-up battle with the police as terrorists is within the normal scope of weasel words, but if they've rescued the Cardinal's latest choir boy and are fleeing with him across the state line to avoid the Cardinal's brother's1 corrupt cops, labelling them as a gang of fugitive child molestors is definitely blackwash.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs on the run may be appalled to find their faces appearing on TV screens everywhere in connection with a particularly vile crime that they had nothing to do with. Bonus points if the crime was actually committed by the same people that are hunting them.
    • Further points if the PCs previously worked for the person who is now hunting them and have captured fugitives for them in the past…
  • Can be reversed if the PCs find themselves falling in with a fellow fugitive that is widely reputed to be a child molestor/cannibal etc. but turns out to be nothing of the kind.
  • See the Babylon 5 episode "The Illusion of Truth" for this trope in action.
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