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The Century of the Self
by salsaloca (mediaprop at yahoo dot com)
Friday Oct 27th, 2006 11:52 AM
Are you free? Free to make your own decisions, free to express yourself, free to choose your lifestyle, your government, your possessions etc? Most Americans would answer yes to all those questions.
But (and this is a huge “but”), here comes another “British invasion” that will rock your world. This time it’s a 4-hour BBC documentary THE CENTURY OF THE SELF.

This film is a must-see for every American, especially now when our collective psyche is being exploited and manipulated like never before. It explores the world of Public Relations (formerly known as propaganda) and its influence on the hearts and minds of ordinary people by tracing the history of psychoanalysis and its “creative” use in business and politics.

It is not enough for businessmen and politicians to rely on your reasonable choices when they can use your subconscious to cajole you into buying or thinking what THEY want you to buy and think. They can mold you into a perfect consumer and a pliable controllable citizen. And the best thing of all – you’re not even aware of it. You still think there is no puppet master in this puppet theater. Think that’s too harsh? Here are some examples.

Did you know that women were forbidden to smoke in public until the tobacco business came up with this ruse: smoking = equality. Riding on the feminist movement’s increasing popularity, ad execs promoted smoking as a sign of freedom and independence from men. Sales soared. Cars are not just vehicles. They represent your status; they show who you are. Sales soared.

When technology allowed the switch from mass production to manufacturing of a wild variety of goods, we were suddenly encouraged to express ourselves, our individuality by buying products we did not need. Sales soared.

What’s wrong with that, you’ll ask? Nothing, except for your transformation from a reasonable caring human being satisfied with basic necessities into a self-indulgent and the all-consuming self that has come to dominate today’s America.

This personality makeover is also changing the political climate. Look behind Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign and Tony Blair’s surge to power. Mourn their respective parties’ ideals sacrificed on the altar of popularity.

The top PR achievement? Weasel its commercial messages into the mainstream informational media thus removing the visible hand of the puppet-master.

What is the media’s role in all of this? Theoretically, we have freedom of speech allowing for public access to all information regardless of its contents, controversial and all. However, when your very existence depends on business’ ads and commercials, would you rock the boat? Would you side with business in trying to create a perfect consumer or attempt to educate the public raising its awareness and stimulating minds by bringing more conscience-raising and thought-provoking programming and contents?

How motivated is the American media to educate the public? Judge for yourself.
Have you compared the commercial content of American TV and radio with their international counterparts? Have you lived elsewhere and, after coming to North America, wanted to smash your TV in helpless anger at every program break? (My personal favorite: commercials coming right after a scene from “10 Commandments” where townsfolk are blasted (by Moses?) for worshipping the Golden Calf)

BBC’s attempts to broadcast meaningful and objective contents were criticized as elitist and condescending. But look at the American alternative. Local media moguls give the public what they think it wants feeding the population mostly hollow entertaining fluff. Even news programs reflect “my back yard first” approach. This media diet of thought and fact starvation only perpetuates ignorance, narrow-minded attitudes and lack of respect for other cultures. And then we wonder why the world hates Americans?

So how do we change all that? The film does not give any answers. It only raises our awareness by exposing the outrageous PR stunts in business and politics. Most importantly, it eliminates any doubts in authors’ objectivity by presenting interviews with “puppet-masters” themselves or their immediate helpers.

We could try to resist in many ways: question everything, avoid consumerist temptations, boycott advertised products, educate ourselves etc.etc. And, most importantly - THINK FOR OURSELVES. In this media climate, however, one must make an effort to search for objective info, so most people, tired after hard work, will be resigned to their habitual “easy-listening”, swallowing ready-made opinions, or simply withdraw into their everyday lives. Just as the puppet masters intended.

A cartoon comes to mind: a flock of sheep is moving towards a precipice invisible to all but the ones already pushed in the abyss. Only one brave sheep is fighting the crowd trying to move in the opposite direction. Is it you?

To see the film online go to:

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