The Propganda Machine You Invited Into Your Home
"There's no denying television is one of the most powerful propaganda media we've ever invented." Jim Fowler: zoologist and TV host ("Wild Kingdom")
Imagine you come home one day and you discover a couple of "missionaries" in your living room teaching your children. No, they are not, for instance, Mormons sharing a religious message but instead represent a liberal organization that wants your children to question their parent's faith, values, morality and even tells them their very heritage is corrupt and evil. What would your reaction be? Get them refreshments, ignore or toss them out? This is not really all that hypothetical a situation because you likely invite them in every day and place them in the center of the living room. That's right, the reference is to television.
Look over a typical neighborhood anywhere in the western world. What is the common feature in almost every home? That's right, a television. And the average American spends between 4 and 5 hours per day glued to the set. Multiply 4 hours times 365 days and you will get the equivalent of 60 full days and nights of devotion to this medium of "education."
And while one might not associate education to entertainment that is what it is. No, not many Americans use it to learn more about history, science or mathematics, but make no mistake about it every moment is a form of education. Yes, propaganda is a form of education, or re-education, and as George Orwell (author of "1984") noted all art is propaganda; and that would include creative content on TV.
Writers and directors cannot help but integrate their world views and values into their work. Heck, when I wrote "The Destiny of Our Past" (Link at the end of this article) wished it to be a warning against embracing biotechnology without moral foundations, as well as how the elite use media and even education to manipulate the masses. No person who creates fantasy worlds or situations can help but incorporate messages in content. That is a powerful means of communication and one must note that when it comes to Hollywood the people there certainly are far left of center for the most part. Thus, it should be no surprise that movies and TV shows will reflect that point of view.
Some may contend that messages contained in fiction are easy to recognize that thus ignore. One might think so, but when you watch a program you relax and suspend reality for the moment as you connect to the fantasy presented to you. That means you process information more at the subconscious emotional level. How many times have you felt sorrow when a character is killed in a movie or TV series? Cognitively you know he or she is still alive and working in Hollywood, but your subconscious "thinks" for a moment that they are really dead. And even really conservative people who have strict moral principles will emotionally feel good with the leading man and woman (unmarried) finally wind up in bed together once they realize they were meant for each other.
Again people will probably react defensively and contend the line between fiction and reality is seen by most people. If true then TV would not affect our behaviors. However, one can look up the topic of soap operas and their impact on drastically reducing birthrates in nations such as Brazil. You see, if you are shown small families as the norm in your entertainment, or delaying marriage until, let's say, being over 30, and that is presented in a positive light, or large families as negative, then that message becomes incorporated into the viewer's actual reality and values system. Emotions and perceived cultural norms are what determine family size most in humans, not economics for instance.
And what of the changes we have seen in society, such as views towards sex outside of marriage? Believe it or not if you look back on surveys taken in the late 1960s most people, including the young, believed pre-marital sex was not moral. A massive shift in attitudes has occurred since then in the USA. And regardless of how you feel about such issues one cannot deny that television has been hugely responsible for this. After all, in TV shows who has more, and more fun depicted sex, marrieds or singles? In addition, how are those who might adhere to conservative values, or claim to, presented? Not often in a positive light. And finally, how often do unmarried characters in a movie or TV show have sex with any negative consequences such as guilt? I am not saying they should be shown in some sort of anguish but if there is no moral dilemma portrayed then it comes across as a morally neutral act at the very least. Seeing these morality plays, yes that is what story-lines are ultimately all about, day in and day out will obviously change the viewer's core perceptions and attitudes.
So ultimately TV land is one in which religion is ignored, or ridiculed, a place where consumerism reigns king, where family goals are dismissed if they interfere with living the glamorous dream of city-life and career advancement, and when working-class people are portrayed they are usually dismissed as less intelligent, hypocritical or even dangerous. This steady fare must, like in the process of osmosis, become absorbed into the collective psyche of viewers. Might this factor into the growing divide in politics we witnessed in 2016 where, regardless of how one felt about the election, one has to admit that urban people felt empowered to mock and insult working-class Americans and working-class Americans increasingly dismissed urban people as anti-American? Television has helped divide, not unite, especially when news programs at the national level feel it no longer necessary to hide bias.
And lastly, what about individual self-perception and esteem? The world of television is one where guilt and low self-esteem are quite profitable for advertisers to cultivate and exploit. Why do we assume that this formula is not used in entertainment? The more damaged a person's ego and self-esteem are the more vulnerable they are to whatever message you want to put forth. This is known by those who are masters of propaganda. First you tear the person down and then you construct a false paradigm for them to aspire to. This is best if done subtly because then the target will not immediately reject the vehicle of transmission. Imagine the reception many programs (movies and TV) would have if you could go back in time and screen them for an audience in, let's say, 1985. The responses from the audience would be quite interesting to say the least. Yet most people who lived in 1985 have become so accustomed to the messages in media that they no longer react. So can they say they are just "used to it" and not affected? Psychology would say that is impossible.
So overall what can one do, throw away the TV set as well as not see movies ever again? That might actually be ideal, but in the real world it is not realistic to promote that. What we must do is educate ourselves on symbolism. If you do not know who Carl Jung was you might start off learning about him. Beyond that try to pinpoint where the director in a show has displayed a values-loaded scene; for instance, does the murderer have a Bible sitting on his desk? Why would that have to be included? Was it necessary? If one starts to analyze their entertainment it does not mean it ceases to be enjoyable any more than knowing why a song was written ruins it. It just gives you a deeper perspective - and more quality the program has the more one can appreciate the creativity behind it; of course also being able to resist any programming that might come along with it. And teach this to your family as well. After all, entertainment is a huge part of our lives so why leave oneself vulnerable to the manipulation that is probably intentional from those who created it?
Link to The Destiny of Our Past: https://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Our-Past-Michael-Cross-ebook/dp/B01MY4WASN