The Media



Aug. 7, 2000 

I have just finished your article "Advertising and the Invention of
Postmodernity"
and it was a total eye-opener for me. It made me realize
the various deceptions TV advertisers employ to make us buy their
products. I am particularly pleased with how you defined advertising in
the modern sense: how it uses tools of rationalization to exploit our
irrationalities.

However, I am still not so clear as to how TV advertising creates
postmodernism; could I ask for more elaboration?

Also, I am particularly interested in a term you used: "ephemeralizing", found in Part 2, paragraph 3, line 3. Why did you actually use this term, and how does it relate to the new commercial production process of "high-tech capitalism"?

One more point.
I feel that not all commercials go all out to deceive audiences. I'm
quite sure you've seen a Sunkist commercial featuring a class of students eating
Sunkist oranges behind the teacher's back and it is later revealed that
the teacher is also secretly eating oranges: What kind of "appeal" do
you think is exhibited in this commercial? How is it deceiving
audiences, if at all?

From: Richie Tay,
Reader and "Transparency" enthusiast

Response: 1. Most commercials convey a false image of the product one way or another, even if they don't make explicitly false claims. If nothing else, they are about manipulating our unconscious fantasies to influence our behavior. I don't recall the commercial you describe, but it sounds like a clear example of this. From your description, it appears that it is giving audiences the message that it is okay to indulge in forbidden pleasure because a feared parental-authority figure is really enjoying forbidden pleasures, too. That would reduce feelings of anxiety and guilt, and associate the product both with forbidden (and therefore much desired) pleasures. Eating oranges may be a not-so-subliminal image of oral sex (as oranges are also an image of fertility), which would explain, in part, what the forbidden pleasure is that the product is being associated with.

2. I wrote the essay in question sometime in the early 90s. My point when I wrote it wasn't that advertising has turned our world into something postmodern but that it portrays a postmodern world on the screen. I was defining postmodern as a world in which we have significantly overcome the limits of life.

3. I used the word "ephemeralizing" in an incorrect way. I was under the impression it could mean "make something nonphysical" and not merely "make something transient." But none of the Internet dictionaries I checked have that meaning. All of which shows that when people say things that sound (somewhat) deep and incomprehensible, sometimes they are just incomprehensible.

P.S. - I obviously meant etherealizing, which is what it has been changed to.

KS

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8/18/00

I'm curious why you chose Claritin commercials .....I can think of
dozens and dozens of commercials that run daily on every TV station in
the country that are as bad, and many of them worse, than anything
Claritin ever dared to come up with. At least all they are offering is
relief from seasonal allergies . For some people, this relief may seem
like Paradise.
It's the "half-eaten fish" promo for Discovery.com that grosses me out! 

Claudette Galigher

Response: There is some gross stuff out there, no question about it. The answer is that this is just the first commercial I am writing about. I hope to do a lot of similar essays. KS

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March 11, 1999

I read a few of the articles on your web page and found them
engaging. There seems to be an underlying theme of social
psychology and I can't help but wonder, in this age of ideological
conflict what your agenda might be. 

I myself am a moderate. I linked on your page searching about the Culture
War, trying to find out why the Christian Right has taken the
failure to remove the current President from office as a rebuke
from a hopelessly paganized society. I am no great fan of 
scorched earth, soulless, profiteering either. I believe in basic
American values: that we should be tolerant of others values as
long as the others do not oppress, that we should basically look
out for ourselves and not expect the taxpayers to take care of us.

You talk mostly about the media. I gave up watching TV some years
ago and am somewhat out of touch. I do try to see videos/movies from
time to time. Sad how degraded Hollywood has become! I understand
many fine writers are boycotting the major studios because of the
way the scripts are changed for the purpose of mass appeal. I hate
the idea of being lumped in with the elitists but I hate wasting my
time seeing lies about history or about society. Ultimately, I now
prefer real life to any media bastardization or morality play. The
ultra-violence featured on many cable channels I also find very
disturbing. 

Sometimes it seems that the religious right is espousing a Calvinist
world view. There is a tiny "Elect" that will be saved and the rest
of us are just cannon fodder pagans, good only to be sacrificed so
that the Elects' lives can be more comfortable.

And the "Pagans" seem to be bent on destroying decency

Jason Hunt

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Sept. 24, 2000
Dear Transparency,

Thank you for keeping people like us aware. Thank you for showing us what the 
"man behind the curtain" is all about. And what lies behind the scene and who 
lies in front of the scene.

Thank you for the enlightenment............ Anthony and Vikki

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March 08, 1999

Here's a bit of science fiction. The power elite that control this
nation use the media to "entertain" us by disinformation and
exploitation. Everything viewed is a commercial so that the giant
monopolistic corporations can sell us crap, some of it poisonous.
Not satisfied with consumer patterns based on supply/demand, the
companies have decided that the future consumer should be the addict.
The addict has no free-will and makes a perfect consumer, soulless,
easily influenced, caring only for his own gratification. What better
way to get support for corporate policy. If the corporations need a
war to gain market strength or to preserve precious trade routes, the
addicts will sacrifice their lives as long as they can get another
peek at Jenny McCarthy and a nice cold Dew!

Of course, we should not needlessly be burdened with the cares of the
planet. We can construct a hologram world and ignore the destruction of
our ecosystem. Let's all become junkies! Then when disaster strikes
we won't even feel it, and we'll have Rikki Lake and Montell to soothe
our troubled souls.

Andy

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May 09, 1999

What a very fascinating site.

Allow me to share my experiences:

The same day I began working in the TV industry I stopped watching
TV. I've been off the tube for 16 years.

I did this even though I had completely immersed myself in TV from
an early age: I had several internships at media outlets/TV stations
before college, I was a TV-R student for 4 years in college and spent
2 years in LA working in the Business, first as a sitcom
writer's assistant and then as an assistant to a Production
Executive at one of the major studios.

I stopped watching because once I was "on the inside" the illusion had
been broken for me. I realized I could even have a full, rich life by
not watching.

Another big turn-off was that I got to know on a personal level the
folks who were creating the content that was influencing the American
Mind. They were not especially kind, trustworthy or honorable.

Even though you've "made your mark" through media criticism, you might
want to try turning off the tube yourself. In time, you'll regain your
"real world" eyes and enjoy an increased sensitivity to human
interaction.

-- Name not to be included

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1997/1998

I finally managed to complete reading all of your documents on the Transparency site (I am glad I read faster than you can write otherwise I would never end :-). You have a truly amazing site full of useful information. I cannot say I have found anything I strongly disagree with, although I would give more priority to some aspects and less in others.

I liked very much your "Contemporary Storytelling: Tales of Life Way After the Fall". I had never though of it this way and I cannot understand why since you make it appear so obvious.

I am a little pessimistic about what you say in "The New Culture War": "But we will also have to find ways to influence public opinion that don't rely on the forms of manipulation we are trying to stop. We owe it to ourselves and to those growing up with these influences to make our voices heard".

If we are to use reason instead of stories, people will simply ignore us. It is sad but generally speaking people are not reasonable beings (add smokers and people who drive without wearing their seatbelts and you already have more than half the population). I work for a Greek service provider (in the web department) and I frequently receive foreign advertising on various new web and Internet services. With all that hype and appeal to the readers' psychological needs put in them, my biggest problem is to understand what the service is really about! Yet these are big US and European corporations and they, presumably, manage to sell this way to most people. It appears this is what most (or perhaps) all of us want to hear, read or see. So, I will propose to you not transparency through reason as a way out of this, but transparency through storytelling. What if people tried to become storytellers themselves? Quoting (out of memory) from the book Communication Theory of Regis Debray (I translate the Greek translation from the French original): "To get people's attention, give them something of interest. If you want more attention, tell them a story. But there is also something better you can do. Make them participate." I do not mean participate in a story and setting somebody else created. Create your own and tell it to others. A story is nothing if it has no listeners or viewers. When people try to find them for their stories, they will try to make their stories better, they will search how a story is made and recognize what storytelling really is and how to understand the meaning and the play that lies under the script.

Once again thank you for your excellent site. I will visit from time to time to search for new material or for more reading of the same (sometimes once is not enough).

Giorgos Epitidios
Greece

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September 25, 2000

Over the past five years I've noticed more television commercials blatantly co-opting Judeo-Christian motifs. Commercials have already largely simulated the psychedelic/dreaming/spiritual experience, so it's not surprising they lift memes from organized religion as well, which itself is merely a venerable form of advertising. You might find exposing this and questioning what it's saying about the helplessness …of religion worthy of your next essay.

Examples:

--Mid 90s, TV ad for a devil's food cake depicting a catholic priest in black falling to his knees beside a glowing vending machine, succumbing to the lure of cake, which he eats vulgarly.

--Mid 90s, TV ad for Canadian channel MuchMusic, wherein a man points to a church and says "Can't get [MuchMusic] in there". [?]

--Late 90s, Hebrew National (?) kosher TV ad, where a man vouchsafes the quality of meat wieners by saying "Because we answer to a higher authority".

--2000, Blockbuster Video TV ad depicting a dark urban landscape (woods/wasteland) across which various individual and small 
groups of people drive home from the fulgent video store (Christmas tree/temple/ heaven?), carrying with them the glowing golden videocassette (mind-altering sacrament), which fills their home with warmth and fellowship upon reaching their TV room/altar and watching/hearing it (partaking).

--2000, Huggies diaper TV ad depicting a toddler on a small island filled with caricatured animals, surrounded by rising water (urine). The "Huggies" 
Ark shows up, along with a giant rotating glowing diaper (Yahweh) in the sky. In the crowning (image), the child and animals are aboard the Ark on the horizon, with a rainbow across the sky onto which "Huggies Keeps Kids Dry" (or something equivalent) is written - namely the covenant Yahweh made with Noah in the form of a rainbow. …this is just mind-blowingly blatant in its trivialization of any concept of the sacred.

I'm sure there are many others I blessedly missed.

Thanks for maintaining your fine site.

KC

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January 15, 1999

I'd just like to congratulate you on your efforts to tell people the
truth about the media and advertising. This is a hard thing to do,
especially when there's no place to do it (except for the internet), and
I think you're doing a great job. Keep it up!

DaGuy

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April 30, 1999 

I was looking for some intelligent comments on modern media and found them
at your site. I am a "baby boomer"(b.1949) and my family did not get TV
until I was 18.I don't own a VCR or go to movies (the only movie I have
seen in 12 years is "Shine", which I did not like, because of what I would
call gimmicks, but I guess postmoderns would have a barrel full of jargon
to explain it. It only gave me a headache). I have watched a less than
average amount of TV over the years, but it has got so "bad" in the '90's I
only watch small amounts for research purposes. Over the last few years I
have deliberately freed my mind from the mass culture.

Anyway, my thesis is that much of humanity is in a severe state of decline
or regression. The evidence is all around, but unfortunately only
some" oldies" can see it, because the younger generations have grown up with
the decline and have no basis for comparison. My view of man comes from the
Platonists via the works of Alvin Boyd Kuhn (esp. The Lost Light). Briefly,
man has two natures, the animal-human and the human - divine. Also called
animal soul and divine soul. Edward Gibbon, I believe, said that if man is
not progressing, he is regressing. Man is not progressing today.

Like no other time in history, the consumer society cultivates the animal
nature. This is a regression, people being so pre-occupied with the bodily
appetites. The mind control that operates through the media is
staggering. Alvin Kuhn says that the animal soul is the subconscious
mind. This statement gave me a key to understand human regression today, in
particular with reference to many TV programs. In most TV programs, the
people are one dimensional, they have no personality. An episode of
"Ballykissangel" I recently saw was constructed like a dream, with people
suddenly appearing, juxtapositions, and so on--all very P/M. The characters
were just like the figures you get in a dream--one dimensional and not
truly human. They could not communicate to each other. In some cases they
would yell and rave, at other times just look into thin air. Most figures in
dreams are entities on the astral plane, and look human, but are not, at
least not complete humans. I believe that this program, and many others,
shows severe human regression. The media reflects sub human minds and
behavior in operation. The makers of these programs and most viewers do not
know what a real human is any more.

Most TV programs in prime time are about sickness, crime, violence and
anti-social behavior. Instead of real people interacting, these programs
use crime and problems etc. to generate the storylines and action. This is
evidence of human decline. The recent killers at Columbine HS, Denver, were
reported to be laughing and joking as they did their deeds. They seem to be
an almost logical outcome of modern mass culture and society.

I will develop these ideas for my web page at:
<http://www-personal.usyd.edu.au/~apert/alan.html>
(Note: This page is no longer available.)
My solution is elimination of all mass media for 3 generations. Highly
improbable. The post X generation are so screwed up it won't be funny.
Alan Pert
Music Librarian  JO9
University of Sydney

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August 15, 1999

In your article "The New Culture War" you state: But this culture war isn't the deadening conflict between the left and right that has been going on for the last two decades. The people who claim to have morality on their side aren't the Robert Borks and Pat Robertsons. Nor do they want to return America to  the kind of family-centered society we had in the 1950s.
I'm twenty-nine years old, so I have no direct experience of the 1950's.  My only impressions are from the media of that time and other non-fictional sources (documentaries/studies/personal accounts).  What I have gathered is that  the 1950's was a time when America really wanted the world to think it was family centered, happy, and prosperous - and the media reflected this desire.  As far as I can tell, the only thing that has changed is the constant increase in violence in society (in all societies since the creation of mass-media), and its popular self-concept.
On what do you base your claim that America had a family-centered society in the 1950's?   So often I hear things like this said, but it sounds more like the 'longing for better days days' that people do when they don't see much in the present or future.  There was probably just as much wife/child beating, incest, rape, etc. in the family in the 1950's as there is now. But now people are less afraid to talk.

Thanks for the great site,
Erik Meitner 

I would say that, both in terms of public ideology and private practice, 
America was a family-oriented society in the 1950s and probably through some time in the 1980s.  In fact, unmarried adults were often looked on as suspect. There were clearly problems in families and a lot of private and public denial, while television and growing affluence were in the midst of undoing the family-oriented culture. It is ironic that television helped undo the family life it so idyllically depicted.

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BRILLIANT!! Everyone should see your website! You expose the distortion behind the new e-media machine the way "Doublespeak" exposed the disinformation behind print media. If you don't already know about it, you should check out "http://www.pvi-inc.com". It represents a disturbing trend in blurring between reported reality and manufactured reality.

Your essays have the flavor of Joseph Campbell's analytical style which is very enlightening. Keep up the great work.

-James Cass

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Hello! I was browsing the web and came upon the 'Transparency" web site. This note is in response to the article "The Fake Heaven of Claritin." Having read the article, I feel very vindicated, since I have seen their television ads. (For a while they were running so often that it was hard not to.) Normally I am able to appreciate advertising as advertising; however the Claritin ads do seem to go somewhat beyond the level of typical television ads. For instance, there is a very surreal feeling to the colors used in their ads, especially the whites and blues. They seem very consciously designed to evoke color-based feelings. Also, there is more motion in these ads than seems justifiable, a lasting image in my mind's eye is the superimposition of the fast-moving clouds behind the enlarged female face of the blissful Claritin user. In some cases, for example the woman running through a stylized pollen field towards a brilliant white gazebo, slow-motion is utilized, presumably to suggest that the beneficial effects of Claritin are long-lasting, and that it has the power to instill a carefree attitude in the user; all of life's burdens, not just allergy symptoms, are swept away.

I am not an allergy sufferer, so I hesitate to state that Claritin oversells its product; nevertheless, it is hard to believe that an allergy medicine has the curative (and as your article suggests, even redemptive) powers portrayed in the television ads. What makes the ads somewhat offensive, in the sense that pornography is offensive, is that it seems to take the position that the viewer should take the benefit portrayed at face value even when there is strong reason to doubt the portrayed level of the product's effectiveness.

I have bookmarked your site; I am sure I will be visiting it often!

Brett Ferber
Washington, DC

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One of the most informative and enlightening web sites I have ever found. This is what the web is supposed to be all about. Instead it is flooded with commercialism and drives home the points about our culture that are addressed on your site. I will spend many more hours reading all I can.

Greg Wilson

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I have to say that this is one of the most comprehensive sites I've seen. 
Kudos.  And that's about all I've to say for now, keep it up!

Sincerely,
Brent Turner

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Thank you!

To whom it may concern,
I am a senior in high school taking perhaps the most important class I 
have taken thus far. Simply, it is classified as "Pop Culture," which, as 
you know, encompasses numerous differed options and paths. All these paths 
and opportunities caused me some major confusion and uncertainty as to where 
I wanted to take this class. I read books, looked on the internet, and tore 
apart objects classified to be "pop culture." I found little in those 
sources. I merely came upon one author who confused me more, and then 
another, and so on. Without a basic foundation, the movies, songs, writings, 
paintings, etc., meant very little to me, and my initial excitement 
deteriorated rapidly. 
Then, something wonderful happened: I came across your site, and have 
read many articles and such in your site. I thank you immensely for your 
ability to be clear, yet intelligent. I also appreciate the ability of going 
in depth and reaching the core of the situation.
A thousand thank you's (!),
Jamie

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Sept. 23, 2000

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