These days there seems to be a lot of concern about subliminal messaging in advertising. But that’s almost entirely unfounded: “subliminal” suggests something the recipient (target? victim?) isn’t really supposed to notice.
“Subliminal” my ass. The actual forces at work, and the mental conditioning techniques being used, are totally, BLATANTLY in our face. They are appealing directly to our ingrained habits and preferences. An example: the music of current commercials is always the generational music of the leading target demographic. We’ve all suffered the indignity of listening in horror as the rebellious rock music of our youth is commercially remixed and repackaged to sell cars or fast food or whatever. I know that elevator music is supposedly a thing of the past, but a few years ago— while LITERALLY standing in an elevator— I was startled to notice the cheesy Musak coming from overhead speakers was apparently a synthesized instrumental version of Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit (thanks, Courtney, for selling THOSE rights. I’m sure Kurt would be pleased). So, yes, the advertising industry is absolutely fishing around inside our collective head, accessing our cultural memories, looking for the right buttons to push. And they are casting their net ever farther in the attempt to ensnare new consumers.
Which, yet again, is part of the reason terrorists are setting off car bombs in commercial centers. Despite the overlying hype, such attacks aren’t always strictly religious; they are also a knee-jerk response to the fear that someone’s beloved belief-system is being undermined and replaced by avaricious enemy profiteers selling junk to make a buck at the expense of one’s moral and cultural value system. But, then, that same fear has equally fueled any number of grassroots social movements (on all sides of the equation) for centuries— the fear that greedy outsiders are selfishly trying to belittle and abandon our approved cultural rules to purloin our hard-earned surplus and turn our children into consumer zombies in the process. Or godless heathens, or communists, or whatever. No matter what brand of tea you serve at that sort of party, what actually pours from the spout is fear— fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear of an uncertain future.
That’s been around forever and is a powerful intoxicant. People drunk on fear can rationalize anything and will stop at nothing. And when the party is over, the morning-after hangover and clean up is usually pretty damned ugly. Strange fruit, indeed.
It’s easy to whip people into a frenzy by appealing to their fear; even the fear that they are being manipulated by corporate marketers. And it would be easier to dismiss if that fear were not grounded in a certain element of truth: but yes, the corporations want to directly influence how you think and tell you what to buy and when, and YES, they have no problem in circumventing your familial or communal cultural value system in order to achieve it. It’s their job. It’s how they make money to pay their employee salaries. So, um, yeah, Capitalism is kinda like that. Though be advised: if someone is dead set against seeing a McDonalds on every corner in Allahabad or a Starbucks kiosk in the sahn of their local Mosque, such a person might eventually grow so frustrated that they start tossing rocks at corporate billboards… and ultimately stockpiling explosives in their basement.
Meanwhile, last week a group of peaceful demonstrators were casually maced in the face by a smirking police asshole for daring to protest corporate excess on Wall Street— and many news networks were cravenly reluctant to report on it for fear of angering their corporate overlords. INSTEAD the networks ran multiple gratuitous reports about poor upset Scarlett Johannson, whose private nude pics got hacked from her phone (because that NEVER happens to celebrity cell phones. Great idea to keep them there, genius. And who really cares anyway?).
If the fragile illusion that “our supposedly-independent mainstream media IS NOT completely dominated by corporate interests!” is finally dead, let that be its tombstone.