Saturday, 21 March 2009

You Can't Have It Both Ways

There's an abundance of rage across the blogosphere this morning over the proposal for Department of Health 'moles' to try to change peoples' bad eating, drinking and lifestyle habits. Nanny State, Nanny Bullying and the usual cry of 'whodeyfinkdeyareven' are echoing throughout cyberspace. But what is the difference between this kind of meddling and advertising, the multi-billion pound industry based upon behavioural manipulation?
Every time someone sit down in front of their television, they are exposed to combinations of images and sounds that have been months and years in the making: twitched and teased this way and that in order to grab the attention and stick indelibly in the memory. They make their choices based on 'trusted brands' - which are trusted because someone on the television said that they were trustworthy. People take the advertisers' word for it: they would scoff at sticking their head in the end of a smoking cannon, but would eat a pot of teeming bacteria every day because someone said it was 'good' for them. 
Using markers like 'fact', 'clinically proven', 'people just like you', 'confidence' (not to mention many words and phrases that previously belonged to a religious vocabulary, such as 'faith', 'heaven', 'eden', 'paradise' and 'sin') the general public barks like a dog and rolls over when given certain cues. The level of intrusion into our thoughts and the manipulating of our habits, beliefs, preferences and choices is astounding.
Yet, somehow, this kind of Pavlovian engineering that was once used so successfully by Edward Bernays, father of modern advertising and Hitler's favourite bedside read, to convince the entire female population that smoking was cool is accepted on all levels: the subliminal and the overt. When the State attempts to butt in using similar techniques, it gets short shrift. I suspect that this underlying dichotomy springs from the fact that advertising happens in a supposedly 'free' market, and the State is seen as anything but; that advertising lulls us into a false sense of security because it is directed at 'us' and makes 'us' feel important, whereas the State only serves to make us feel powerless. But both have only a single goal in mind: to control your consciousness.


  1. I absolutely agree. If something in a uniform - any uniform - says "jump" then most people jump. It's been drummed into us.

    For this reason what little goggle-box I do watch I record and delay so that I can fast-forward through the obvious advertising. Anything advertised at me any other way such as on my stupid bloody sodding (sorry!) BT email gets added to the "never buy that and certainly never ever ever buy it from them" list.

    My dad was a deep sea fisherman and a professional awkward sod - he taught his family well. There is one small pocket of people in Lincolnshire who demand to know "why" before they comply...

  2. Almost everything we hear has been moderated to comply with an agenda. I no longer watch TV or listen to the radio except for the news - that way I know it's all lies.

  3. I too avoid advertisements like the plague; a typical greeting to yet another attempt to sell me something I neither want nor need, nor want or need to know about, is a scream of rage and a stream of expletives.
    In a Jungian sense, though, the pernicious effect of advertising is quite serious: humans are symbolic creatures, imbuing deep meaning into various objects (be they social or religious) to anchor themselves not only to their present, but to the continuous past. Sever these roots, pervert the historical context of these symbols, and you create a deep fissure within the complex collective understanding of what it is to be human, thus creating an ever-greater cycle of dependency and hopelessness.
    And, unfortunately, it's the willingness of the obedient milling herd to do what it's told that got us into this mess in the first place. Damn democracy.

  4. And, unfortunately, it's the willingness of the obedient milling herd to do what it's told that got us into this mess in the first place. Damn democracy.

    The most successful way to govern is by force or benign dictatorship. One other possible way is to have a seriously educated populace with the less able still gainfully employed. Globalisation has fucked that good and proper. Want cheap goods, use cheap overseas labour. Then pay benefits for the masses to piss up the wall.

  5. hi How are things? I dont tend to watch TV or listen to the radio


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