THE MOST DANGEROUS MANIPULATION – Labeling Theory- 2 case studies

Don’t let people define you; control the narrative ALWAYS- or you are media dead.


The labeling theory is a school of thought in the sociology of deviance that focuses on how social control agents associate stigmatizing stereotypes with particular groups and how those who have been stigmatized alter their behavior as a result.

According to Howard S. Becker’s (1963) theory, labels or external judgments have a negative impact on a person’s self-concept and alter how other people view the labeled individual. The labeling theory is linked to Becker’s work as a response to sociological theories that solely looked at the quantities of deviants rather than the organizations that governed them. 

The self-fulfilling prophecy, in which the labeled behave in ways that are consistent with the label in terms of being delinquent, is the main component of the labeling theory.  It has drawn criticism for believing that labeling happens automatically and ignoring the ability of the individual to refuse it.

According to labeling theory, labels will change based on the situation, time period, and culture. The 1973 research “On Being Sane in Insane Places” by David Rosenhan is a compelling illustration of the potency of labeling and the significance of context.

The basic idea behind the labeling theory is that if someone is classified as a deviant, they begin to experience new issues as a result of how others and themselves respond to the stereotypes associated with that classification (Becker, 1963; Bernburg, 2009). The symbolic interactionism school of thought, which is where labeling theory has its roots, maintains that a person’s sense of identity is shaped by their interactions with and the labels others place on them.


Basically, you can use labels, framing, or, as we call it, hashtags in your favor or against others.

When Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard was on the media, most people were into the courtroom; as experts in INFLUENCE & TRIAL CONSULTING, we saw things in a more strategic way.

When Ron Schnell, testified about the #tags in the media about Johnny and Amber, something was happening outside the courtroom. “The public” – “fans”-“supporters” of Johnny Depp were showing signs and posts with the phrase: “JUSTICE FOR JOHNNY DEPP”. It just so happened that the expert was testifying on Heard’s behalf on this day. A brilliant cross-examination from Depp’s lawyer turned this expert in Depp’s favor.

But the most significant thing was happening outside. 

The jury on trial is instructed “NOT” to watch the media, news, or Google the topics, comments or opinions of others, or talk about the case with anyone.  In fact, this is impossible, and in this specific case, it was CRAZY to think it wouldn’t happen. Heard’s lawyers brought it into the courtroom, which only backfired on their case.

When the Jury was entering the building, a big crowd of “supporters” was showing; what just happened to be the most controversial post and #tag in the media, “JUSTICE FOR JOHNNY DEPP”.

Following this, they sat in the courtroom listening to this expert saying: “1.2 million people use this #tag in the media”.  Against this “support” to Depp were #tag with only detrimental #tags for Amber.

This LABELING only showed the jurors that Depp is a good guy with more than millions of people believing in him and also a fair amount of #tags against her, putting Amber in a bad psychological position instead of being seen as the “good wife” in this story.


During the presidential campaign -TRUMP VS CLINTON- a series of #tags labeled Hillary as the bad apple in politics and, therefore, a bad presidential candidate.

Here are some of the #tags used in the media for Hillary:










These words were associated with Hillary every time someone looked for her. In Trump’s case, social media proof was used but did not generate the same impact.

In Trump’s case, he hired a seasoned political consultant, not an expert in media but with the wisdom to know who to hire for each position. In Clinton’s case, she went for the new shiny in the area. HUGE MISTAKE – THE DEVIL KNOWS MORE FOR BEING OLD THAN FOR BEING THE DEVIL-

A few points were made against her:

You are a politician; what have you done?

You are part of the problem; I am the solution

Among others.

When we are in crisis, we look for a person who can fix things, pointing out Clinton’s inability to fix things and portraying her in a way that she appears to be part of the problem, and Trump can be the solution was a major turndown for her and good for him.


Labeling-framing can be used for good or for evil. Do not let others frame you, control the narrative, ask for specific referrals, testimonials, and frame those whom you want to influence.

When something is on the web, it is forever, well…………… not completely [I can’t talk about this-sorry- legal issues here =)], but for many people, it is.

When we read reviews on products, services, and people, this affects the way we purchase, buy and vote. Even how the jury made decisions, or do you really think these people don’t have a profiler and professional manipulator on their side? Don’t shoot the messenger; just be informed and prepared.

Be wise in how you address this information and control your narrative.

Susan Ibitz 

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