16 March 2011

The Outer Limits of Manipulation

During my trip to the US for Enterprise Connect, I was sickened by the state of my native land. Clearly the gulf between worker and wealthy is growing everywhere; but it’s a disease the US has spawned and exported like so many artery-clogging cheeseburgers.  Notions of “empathy” and “fairness” have become as antediluvian as spell checking.  How can the workering class be trained to habitually abdicate their best interests to a small, unsympathetic ruling class? 

One of the first steps in war is the need to dehumanize and demonize an enemy thus diminishing humanity’s innate empathy towards each other.  Stirring primal, fear-based xenophobia through propaganda will provoke one group to target another – think America/Communism, America/Muslim, and Democrat/Republican. (World War II goes without saying.) No matter what side you are on, the other side is always the enemy.  Today's enemy are the economically underprivileged (those least able to fight back). This targeted xenophobia also offers populace and ideological control

A second method of control (useful in economic war) is the mirage of “Attainment porn” – the delusion that no one should vote against the privileged because someday wealth may be theirs. It’s the deception that keeps casinos, game shows and reality TV afloat.

Modern communication is partly to blame.  Social networking and other technologies have tricked people into loosening their interpersonal bonds with humanity.  As evidence, I give you the stunning array of meals that can be reheated in a toaster and microwave thus minimizing time away from a computer or TV.  Time that in the olden days would have been spent in the company of (thinner) 3D people.

Just as the American diet craves fat and sugar, the American mind now craves shallow shouting matches interspersed with Kardashiana.  By making the unimportant important, truly meaningful topics glide by like a dog’s pill wrapped in peanut butter. Debate and discourse have been replaced by bile-filled partisan actors whose goal is groupthink not critical thinking.  

These rapid-fire communications dull the ability to make an informed decision with their need for instant consensus – fence-sitters, like bisexuals are viewed with suspicion by both sides.  The limited human attention span is also sapped as the more information thrown at the human mind, the more it forgets.  New Orleans, Haiti and Japan are not movies that end when the lights come on or once you’ve texted your $10 donation. 

Here’s a test.  Count the number of “cuts” in a single TV commercial. Cuts from one image to another are known to stimulate an animal response that makes humans pay attention, ditto diagonal and moving images or words (it’s why there are so many).  Think cat and bouncing ball of string.  If the lowly cat food commercial is manipulating you, what else in the media is?  Answer? Everything.

I don’t necessarily hate the media and communications; they both provide a valuable service however steeped in subliminal influence it may be.  But if the average person would come to even partly understand the extent to which they are being continually manipulated, perhaps humanity could stumble out of its spoon-fed darkness.

All this was said 45 years ago and with a lot fewer words.  The problem is we thought it was just entertainment, not prophesy. 

“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to...The Outer Limits.
 — Opening narration – The Outer Limits – 1960s

1 comment:

  1. As a not ex- American still living in the US, I can agree with the sentiment. Reality TV and the like hold no fascination for me and never have. That said, we all have our guilty pleasures.

    Now, when are you getting back to critiquing the UC universe/environment?