Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Everything Is Propaganda

Ever watch a television commercial with the sound off? You become aware of how the ad is pure manipulation. Every shot is carefully planned. The laughing happy baby followed by a shot of an easily-gliding new car. Hundreds of hours of thought and expertise go into a one-minute advertisement. That one minute could be broken down into its constituent parts, to discover what effect is intended, and how that effect is arrived at.


The mainstream media, for all their supposed objectivity, create pure propaganda. The major outlets, from New York Times to Salon to Slate, do very much have a slant. Their journalists, in the mode of Tom Bissell, are hired for their ability to make the slant sound plausible. They’re not journalists. They’re propagandists.

Yesterday I noted a tweet from Slate regarding a business article by Matthew Yglesias. The tweet said, “Dividends are evil.” Not inefficient. Inanimate tool that they are, they’re “evil.” We’re not in the realm of economics, but religion. Agendas. Slants. The tweet’s author has apparently never read George Orwell on the topic of the corruption of language and thought. Or what the person read is long forgotten.


In view of the manipulation of TV commercials, what do we say about larger projects, like a two-hour motion picture? Is it propaganda? Does it manipulate the viewer?

Even a classic like “The Wizard of Oz,” as great a film as it is, is highly manipulative. Watch for the devices of plot, or the shots of Toto, or Auntie Em.

View a movie like “Jaws” with the sound off and you see shot after shot which manipulates you the observer to be properly thrilled, or concerned, or scared. To identify with the characters, or hate the shark.

To me, then, it’s ridiculous for purveyors of sadistic movies of no moral purpose other than engaging the senses in a kind of bloodlust—moviemakers like Quentin Tarantino for example—to claim their movies have no effect on members of the audience. Of course they have effect. We can only wonder or fear what that effect is.

If media didn’t mess with people’s heads, directing minds this way and that, there would be no television commercials; no billion-dollar industry catering to the manipulative whims of public service campaigns, politicians. and marketing departments.

No comments: