Weapons of Mass Distraction: Media, Advertising & Social Programming
Marie D. Jones & Larry Flaxman, New Dawn & Waking Times
The mass media is the biggest remote control ever built, and we all exist within the four-walled idiot box it controls. Manipulation of thought and behaviour is a part of our accepted daily lives. Each time we lock eyes on a news story, whether on the tube, the screen, the tablet or the old fashioned way, via a newspaper, we are buying into a perspective that may or may not be our own. We read stuff, and readily accept it as reality, often without ever bothering to source the information or take the time to perform due diligence and research the subject more deeply. We then pass on some of that information to others, and the viral effect can now, with the Internet and cell phones, travel on a global scale in a matter of minutes.
If you wanted to truly control the minds of the masses, what better way than buying time on the media outlets the masses most visit? And the most effective types of media most able to manipulate our behaviour and change how we think… and even consume? News media, advertising… and now, social networking.
- Get ready to have your channel changed, because with the sheer amount of social programming faced on a daily basis, you are no longer in control of your own remote.
It’s all bad news, all the time. The stories that bombard us on television, radio and even social networking often tend to be depressing, fearful and anxiety provoking… and they spread like wildfire. But we all know that good things happen in the world. Why then does the media love to focus on the blood, gore and violence? Because we respond to it, that’s why.
Negative news stories dominate the news because we are hard-wired to respond more to them. It’s simple brain science, really, and harkens back to our days of needing every bit of news we could find in order to guarantee our survival. And much of that news involved FEAR. Predators, lack of food and water, bad weather, other nasty humans… our primitive brain responds to bad news because at one time we needed to know it all. Who cared about the good stuff when there was a chance of death around every corner?
- In his book Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, author Michael A. Hoffman brings up a strong point for the hypocrisy and mixed messages the media sends, especially when it comes to two of the viewing audience’s favourite things – sex and violence.
“Have you ever noticed how television and print media will scream themselves hoarse in news documentaries, editorials and heavy analytical pieces about ‘rising pornography, crime, violence, gunplay’, etc? And yet in the same TV Guide announcing the latest special on ‘The Crisis of Sex and Violence’ will appear an advertisement for Miami Vice, the ‘show that brings you the action and excitement you’ve come to expect’, etc. Or your newspaper will condemn sex and violence in the loftiest terms but there in the entertainment section is a half-page advertisement for a new ‘action’ movie accompanied by a photo of women in string bikinis and high heels fondling automatic pistols and machine-guns.”
Hoffman calls this the Double-Mind of mass media, and we are all guilty of buying out of, and right back into, each of the two minds… the one that repels and the one that accepts. The use of images to alter our emotions is an age-old way of manipulating behavioural responses, and the media excels at imagery that shocks us, terrifies us, and titillates us.
Misinformation vs Disinformation
Yet much of the information we are bombarded with via a variety of media sources is not corroborated or fact-checked. Many of the news ‘outlets’ people are getting their news on are satire sites, or blog sites, or websites that allow anyone to post a story without having to prove their points or source their material. It’s become standard business to spread and take viral the most shoddy reporting, which would never hold up to journalism standards of old, even without bothering to find out who funded the story, who owns the website it first appeared on, the source of the information, and whether or not any other news source has reported on it.
If it’s in print, or on the Internet, or the TV… we buy it. Who has time to find out if it’s true or not? Besides, if you see it in the media then it must be true, right?
Misinformation abounds. This is information that has no basis in fact, or is the result of poor journalistic skills or shoddy reporting. This is information that mistakenly is called fact and gets spread from person to person, network-to-network, and often goes global before someone decides to finally do a bit of fact checking. By then, it’s often too late, as the populace has already accepted the information as valid and real. Even when later presented with facts, it rarely changes the minds of those already entrenched in the falsities, especially if those falsities support their ideologies and worldviews.
Disinformation is planted on purpose, like seeds that will grow into accepted facts. Propaganda, rumour, gossip, news, and fear-mongering all spread with an agenda, usually to provoke fear and paranoia and cause people to react in a specific manner.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell misinformation from disinformation, and often the manipulation occurs in a subtle manner on a subconscious level, which makes it harder to pinpoint, and therefore refute. One of the main reasons why we allow this is because we are so willingly distracted by the media’s idea of what we should know. We would rather spend our time and energy on these distractions than have to face our own truths.
This could easily explain the power of social networking to create its own form of mind control, as more people spend more time on sites that allow for every possible form of distraction.
Facebook & Social Networking
- In 2012, the megalith known as Facebook did something quite nasty to its followers. 700,000 unwitting users were basically utilised as guinea pigs in a gigantic social experiment that allowed Facebook to manipulate emotions and emotional responses, without telling anyone it was doing so.
Facebook data scientists set out to see if they could influence the emotional state of site users and prompt them to post more positive or more negative content. Using an algorithm that automatically omitted certain content that was either positive or negative, Facebook researchers manipulated users for one week, later publishing their data in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But once the secret experiment got out, people screamed about the blatant invasion of privacy and manipulative, deceitful tactics of the experiment, even causing some of the scientists behind the study to apologise for their less than ethical methodology. Privacy lawyers and organisations came forward, admonishing Facebook for violating the rights of the users, who were never told about the research.
Problem is, Facebook had been doing these kinds of things for years, changing the functions and looks of the site to better serve their users, and give them more access to personal information at the same time. Users just didn’t know they were being manipulated until this particular study got attention. The forces behind Facebook understood how easy it was to influence the emotions of users with very little work, and all of it under the radar of the users. Subconsciously, these users were being swayed, even if they weren’t consciously aware of anything different on the site during the week of the study.
Are we being ‘programmed’ in the same way we program our DVRs to record our favourite shows? Also known as ‘social engineering’, this tactic of politics, religion and corporate consumerism, even education and academia, involves literally engineering the behaviour, attitudes and desires of large groups of people. Real social engineering is done using specific scientific methods of analysis and decision-making, often for more academic purposes. But social programming goes on every day in ways that are not necessarily meant for the greater understanding of humanity.
Similar to propaganda, social programming is a type of public relations that sways large groups to accept, deny, support, resist, or anything in between. One of the pioneers of public propaganda, known as the ‘father of public relations’, was an Austrian-American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays. Even though he had a degree in agriculture, he was fascinated by the use of propaganda during wartime, and wondered if the same rules and methods could be applied in peacetime as well. He dove headfirst into the world of psychology and public relations, linking the two to design his own concepts of public persuasion and what he called, “the engineering of consent.”
By understanding how “group mind” worked, Bernays believed the masses could be controlled and manipulated without being aware of it. He used a lot of his famous uncle’s theories in his quest to shift public perception and promote specific behaviours, including his own desire to help out big business by treating the mass distribution of ideas the same way a company would treat the mass production of materials. His 1928 book Propaganda remains a highly influential examination of his work documenting the relationship between what he called an “invisible government, the true ruling power of the country” and the public that was ruled over, something Bernays saw as necessary to keep order over the chaotic masses.
This kind of social control is really about regulating the behaviour of both individuals and groups of people in a society, with the influence of propaganda as one of the tools of control.
- Some of the methods used by the mass media to control the viewers and influence the populace are obvious. Others fly under the radar. All are insidious and are motivated by the desire to reach, and in some way control the largest audience possible.
Framing is a means of changing public perception about a subject or concern by imposing a ‘frame’ or base of information around the subject. This frame doesn’t necessarily present false information, but rather accentuates specific positives or negatives of the image presented within the frame. Think of a piece of art that may be very straightforward, at least on the surface, yet changes in the eye of the beholder when surrounded by an ornate frame, opposed to a plain plastic one. The media and politicians use framing as a way of getting people to accept a specific party line of thought surrounding a news story or issue.
To frame an idea is not necessarily mind control, but it is a way to influence thought and behaviour. Two completely different groups of people, representing extremes on an issue, can find a way to frame their points of view on the issue that might actually appeal to those in the middle of the road. Framing can make an extreme concept less intolerable, and a tolerable concept more extreme, depending on how it is used.
Language is yet another great method of swaying public thought and perception. Use of specific words and phrases can literally shape a society’s political and religious direction, and create a mentality that is as submissive as the elite in control could hope for. Look at the whole ‘us vs. them’ media assault with stories of ‘those blacks’ or ‘immigrants’ or ‘feminists’ or ‘the dirty poor’ or ‘the lazy homeless’ or ‘those terrorist Muslims’ and it’s easy to see how countries can be prodded into accepting violence, aggression, intolerance, bigotry, sexism and even war. By making someone else the threat, the enemy, the reason behind our problems and the thing to be feared, we can shrug off our own responsibilities and dysfunctions and blame the ‘other guy’.
False accreditation is another way of getting people on board an issue or eager to buy a product or serve a purpose. By mentioning ‘scientific studies’ or some vague ‘ten doctors out of eleven’, an advertiser or news agency can get plenty of people to blindly accept that a new product is worthy of their hard earned dollars, or that such-and-such doesn’t really cause cancer. Giving credit to science, even when it’s false credit, carries a ton of weight with consumers and news audiences, who are too busy and distracted to actually go and research the claims themselves to see if they hold water.
People have been dumbed down to the point where anything presented as fact, news or science is accepted without a second thought. It’s that second thought that is so critical, but it doesn’t happen often, leaving us reeling, wondering how we got collectively duped again and again.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Distract ‘Em
- Attention is everything, and there are numerous ways to distract a person, and a group of persons. Some of the methods of distraction used by corporations, advertisers, news outlets, politicians and others include:
Promoting nationalism – When something happens that threatens our nation, we jump on the patriotic bandwagon, to the point of supporting wars that we cannot afford or getting behind political and religious movements that promote intolerance.
- Wagging the Dog – How do you get people to stop focusing on a critical issue? By presenting them with an issue that gets more news time, even if it’s trivial and sensationalistic. Someone having an affair? Political scandal? High-powered divorce? Distract them with dirty laundry!
- Scapegoating – Look for the weakest opponent and focus on him or her. The weak link in the chain is enough to break the chain, and is a surefire way to get public eyes off the chain itself.
- Misinformation and misleading – When you want the truth to stay hidden, reframe it with a little bit of falsehood, repeat it often enough until it sticks, and sit back while it goes viral.
- Demonise the other guy – When we want to take the attention off our own sins, what better way than to focus the public lens on the demons in the other guy?
- Remember McCarthyism in the USA, when people who were against the government’s actions were labelled “Commies” and “America-haters?”
- Fear mongering – The big one, for what better weapon against common sense and sanity is there than fear, especially hysteria-driven fear? We saw this played out recently with the panic over a few Ebola cases in America that sent the country into a media-driven frenzy of terror and anti-African sentiment.
Subliminals & Under the Radar Mind Control
- The use of subliminal imagery and words in advertising is well known by now, and with the advent of the Internet, social networking, and technology that allows you to make a fake photo that looks real, anyone can create a subliminal meme or message.
Back in 1957, a market researcher named James Vicary decided to see what would happen if you inserted words or phrases into a motion picture. Words such as ‘eat popcorn’ and ‘drink Coke’ were inserted into the frames of a movie, just for a single frame and therefore not even long enough to register consciously, and resulted in an increase of sales afterwards. Those results were later called a hoax, but the concept stood strong and the age of subliminals was born, with all kinds of studies, including one at Harvard in 1999 looking at the power of flashing words and images over the subconscious, often with intriguing results. Could you make someone buy a product just by showing a single frame image of a half naked woman holding the product, even if the person buying it didn’t LIKE or NEED the product? Could you implant ideas and images directly onto the pliant and impressionable subconscious so easily?
The answer was a definitive yes, and controversial, subliminal imagery has been used in product advertising, politics and even in motion pictures and television shows. One of the most interesting uses of subliminal imagery occurred in the movie The Exorcist, where an image of a white-faced demon named Captain Howdy flashes on the screen now and then, despite author William Peter Blatty’s outrage against the use of the image in his film. Another involved the 1943 animated Warner Bros. movie Wise Quacking Duck where Daffy Duck spins a shield. On one frame the words “Buy Bonds” appear on the shield. In one of the most blatant attempts at corporate advertising, an episode of “Parks and Recreation” titled “Community” contained a scene with a Microsoft logo and stickers. Microsoft just so happened to sponsor that particular episode to promote its new Bing search site.
The technology to not just insert these images into movie frames or paper adverts, but to literally implant them directly into the brain, does exist. An actual United States Patent, 6,506,148, submitted in January of 2003, titled “Nervous system manipulation by electromagnetic fields from monitors,” documents the highly detailed technology available by which, as the Abstract reads, “it is possible to manipulate the nervous system of a subject by pulsing images displayed on a nearby computer monitor or TV set. For the latter, the image pulsing may be imbedded in the program material, or it may be overlaid by modulating a video stream, either as an RF signal or as a video signal.”
- In other words, the manipulation is no longer just done via a single frame here and there, but by actual modulation of the feed or signal and coming right at you via your home computer, cell phone, or television set… even your DVD player. And the manipulation occurs at a remote source.
“For a TV monitor, the image pulsing may be inherent in the video stream as it flows from the video source, or else the stream can be modulated such as to overlay the pulsing. In the first case, a live TV broadcast can be arranged to have the feature imbedded simply by slightly pulsing the illumination of the scene that is being broadcast. This method can of course also be used in making movies and recording video tapes and DVDs.”
Desensitise the Masses
Perhaps it’s all a means of desensitising the masses to the violence, hatred and intolerance in the world. Perhaps it’s a means of numbing the populace to the realities that they have no power, no wealth and really, no say in how the world around them works. By using constant violence, whether on the news or in entertainment shows, and by exposing certain themes of misogyny, racism, and subjugation, eventually the viewing audience comes to accept it all as normal. Desensitisation is a powerful way to get someone to go along to get along, even if it means going along to his or her own death and destruction. Break down the inhibitions, expose the brain to constant images that would otherwise be repellant, and hammer the spirit with darkness and death and fear… and you have the perfect consumer, the perfect citizen, numbed to choices and rebellion.
- In his seminal work Mind Control in America, Steven Jacobson writes:
“The techniques of psychotherapy, widely practiced and accepted as a means of curing psychological disorders, are also methods of controlling people. They can be used systematically to influence attitudes and behaviour. Systematic desensitisation is a method used to dissolve anxiety so the patient is no longer troubled by a specific fear, a fear of violence for example.”
Jacobson explains how this process serves to allow the patient, or in this case, the public, to adapt to situations and ideas that once terrified them, if they are exposed to them enough.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski, when he was US National Security Advisor, once said:
“In the technotronic society the trend would seem towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communication techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.”
Ultimately, we can control what we look at and listen to. We can find better outlets for getting information, maybe even use our own discernment and source the material that is presented to us as fact. Our minds can only be controlled to the extent that we remain numb, unaware and distracted.
Once we wake up, take back the remote control of our lives, and begin to program our own minds the way we prefer and according to our own ethics and goals and values, it gets an awful lot more complicated for anyone else to take up residence there.
Marie D. Jones & Larry Flaxman, New Dawn
Source: Waking Times