Friday, 16 May 2008

Brain Drain: How TV Rots Your Brains

These days I either put the television on mute or close my eyes in order to prevent myself from being bombarded by the - dare I say devil-worshippers? Sorry - advertising execs' ideas of what constitutes worth. The only way that anyone can ever sell you something is if you have some level of financial security that lets you see things you want, and treat them as a need. Fiction as fact. In reality, we only really need six things to stay alive: food, water, light, heat, shelter and companionship. Anything else is a Cinderella story in a bottle, packet or jar.
But, forgetting all that for a moment, my main gripe is with the advertising world's new enthusiasm for popular music. Timeless classics that made your childhood meaningful, or that take you back to a memorable point in your life, or even a painful one, have been indelibly linked to various products. Try to disassociate them if you can. 'Bette Davis Eyes' now only belong on a hair-dye model. One of my favourite songs of all time, Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', is the new sound of Dairy Milk. In effect, what the advertising world is perpetrating is a form of brain-washing. Your memory of the first time you heard that song is gone. The song is perpetually linked to a consumer good.
The point of the advertising world is general is twofold. Firstly, it buys into the most cynical market-driven force of all. There is more than enough food to go around, but advertising exists to sell it to people who aren't actually crying out for it. (That which is given away to our poorer brethren is called 'aid' and causes a pernicious cycle of dependency, willingness to sabotage personal freedoms in return for it, and allows the donor to exploit them in order to gain more aid: a vicious circle.) The second is to prevent people from thinking. Advertising is based upon behavioural deterministic principles or, as I like to call it, 'dance, little man, dance'. It uses the most simple and compelling of images to hot-wire your brain into accepting, without question, the corporate message. You don't think about where, precisely, that chocolate bar came from: you need the fix, and to feel as though you're part of the fantasy. Ditto bread, and meat, and milk, and soap, and washing powder. Etcetera etcetera. And of course the greatest illusion of all is that, following the so-called 'green revolution', in purchasing certain products you're acting ethically. You're not. Free trade is a nightmare: it prioritises one farmer over twenty in countries that don't possess similar economic structures to the West's, thus making it much harder for the other farmers to survive: they have to be content to take the meanest wages. (See Starbucks, for example, and its policy on paying its African farmers the lowest possible rate.) So-called natural products are a similar nightmare. Consider a bottle of Original Source shampoo or bathfoam. The blurb states that it uses x quantity of lemons, or lavender, or rose petals: lovely for the skin. This is wholly unnecessary. Why does one 'need' 15 lemons in one's shower-gel? But, much more importantly, these 15 lemons per bottle constitute a huge usage of arable land. It therefore creates a shortage of land, drives up prices, increases the need for the use of diesel in order to transport the product, and starves the locals. It is a travesty on a par with biofuels. If one considers that one tank of ethanol constitutes food for a person for an entire year, one might start walking to the shops.
Advertising should be used solely to promote a product and should be subject to the most stringent censorship possible. At present, it is being used as an educational tool. In such a form, it is nothing more or less than propaganda.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison