Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Enemy of Good Fiction ~ Propaganda!

Where are YOUR Ideas coming from?

TV = The Tool of Propaganda
By Phil Cunningham
(My little brother. I'm so proud of him!)

Propaganda and Advertising, affects us all. The two operate using the exact same techniques, so it can be very difficult to recognize one from the other. The only major difference between the two is that advertising sells Products, while propaganda sells IDEALS.

Increasingly, the corporate advertising of goods and services is being coupled with political, "moral", and religious value messages - Propaganda.

Advertising = You should Have this...
Propaganda = You should Think this...

It is called TV Programming, for a Reason.
Many people say that they don't pay attention to TV commercials, and are not affected by them.

They are mistaken.

You might watch 1000 commercials for every time that you actually purchase something, or maybe you only shop for clothes at second hand stores, buy only used cars, and bake your own bread... You’re affected by advertising -- and propaganda -- nonetheless.

Much of the effective propaganda material, is not in the commercial advertisements, but in the actual TV shows between the commercials.

Television shows, movies, and commercial advertisements, have a lot in common, (when it comes to branding messages on your brain,) but television shows, and movies, have more time to present complex messages. These can include simple things like product placement, which are relatively harmless, (E.T. and Reece's Pieces = Reece's Pieces are Cool,) but messages that induce us to think that something is cool, while something else is NOT Cool, encourages behavior modification.

Cool vs. UnCool = Behavior Modification
Behavior Modification = PROPAGANDA

This is Propaganda.Propaganda TEACHES us, through sitcoms and commercials, what is GOOD, “Polite people can be Trusted,” and what is BAD “Rude people are Criminals” – so we don’t have to decide for ourselves.
  • We have reality shows to tell us how to be normal, and show us how to react to stressful situations.
  • We have talent search programs, which tell us what we should consider to be good, and acceptable, musical fare.
  • We have sitcoms, which guide us through social and moral dilemmas.
  • We have dating shows to show us what should be desirable in a partner, and shows like "Jerry Springer" to show us what is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, we quietly absorb the other messages within the programming themselves, about:
  • How to dress: “Preppies look like this…”, “Druggies look like that…”, “Hoodlums look like this…”,
  • What to buy: “Expensive = Successful!”, "Inexpensive = Failure."
  • What to eat: “Fast Food = Youthful!”, "A healthy diet = Old."
  • What to drink: “Being drunk gets you laid!” and, “Being extremely hyper on a chosen power drink, makes you Clever!”
  • How to Act:"Being Clumsy makes you Popular!" (Seinfield, Friends, Cheers, anyone?)
The TV people are glamorous, and we quietly want to be like the successful happy ones, and avoid being like the ones carried off by the police.
  • Popular = beautiful, foolish, and desirable -- with good grades
  • Criminal = uneducated moron
  • IT guys = smart but socially inept
  • Corporate Americans = smart, good-looking and powerful

Monkey See = Monkey Do

We are primates (creationists can ignore this, you will anyway,) and we have a lot of things in common with our tree-dwelling cousins. We copy behavior without consciously deciding to do so. Monkey see, monkey do.

We should know better, and those of us who are paying attention, do.

What IS the Monkey Showing us?
uses the same tools as Advertising, but the messages are angled somewhat differently.

Advertising = You should Have this...
Propaganda = You should Think this...

Propaganda tells us who we can Trust:
  • The Government and its many agencies (Six-Million Dollar Man, MIB, X-Files, The Profiler…)
  • Well-dressed people driving shiny new vehicles (Criminals drive clunkers)
  • The police (Do you even know what the Patrot Act says they can do to you -- without a warrent?)
Propaganda also shows us who, and what, to Hate.
  • Dirty-clothes people -- who are all that way because they are bad.
  • Poor people – who are lazy, and all need to get a job.
  • Foreigners – who all want to destroy our way of life, (except for the EU of course).
  • Anybody who is different, from the normal people that we see on TV -- is suspect.
Cool vs. UnCool = Behavior Modification
Behavior Modification = PROPAGANDA

The Nature of Un-Reality

We learn from what we see. When what you see isn't real, then you can learn unrealistic things without knowing any better.

As people spend more time indoors looking at the idiot tube, their real world experience decreases – and their ability to judge a book beyond its cover, decreases with it. We can shop, and work from home. We have in-home entertainment. The TV people might be the people we see most frequently. This is certainly so with children who rarely play outside anymore.

People grow to trust, fear, or hate other people based on their representation on the TV screen -- because they, honestly, don't know any better. (THINK: Is ignorance Really bliss?)

How Life-Experienced are You? Really?
People judge others based on what they see and their sub-conscious associations relative to their "experience." Propaganda programming most affects individuals who lack the real life experience -- to see that they are being manipulated. In fact, they never see it coming.

By the time television inundated people go out into the real world, if they ever do, they already have firm notions of what to think based on years of their vicarious TELEVISION-based experience.
  • They can recognize bad people by their clothes and habits -- they saw such things on "COPS."
  • They know not to trust anyone that the friendly, TV police would pick out of a crowd. (Anyone that doesn't LOOK like everyone else.)
  • Obliging "rebellious" youths even buy their bad-person-rebel uniforms at "HOT TOPIC" -- so the cops can easily identify them as bad-person-rebels.
Without the experience of real-time social interaction, to measure against the fantasy of the ‘TV programs they’ve ‘imprinted’ on their minds, for hours - and days, if not years - at a time, how CAN they know the difference – between a book and its cover?

If the TV is right:
  • All Veterans are unstable
  • All bikers are bad
  • All kids who push drugs wear ratty clothes and leather
Good people are:
  • clean
  • well fed
  • get good grades
  • likable
  • look just like everybody else who is good (See: Friends, Seinfeld, and similar shlock.)

Following in Hitler’s Footsteps
TV, widely used by Hitler, has proved to be the best propaganda tool yet conceived.

Corporate and governmental agencies employ armies of expert industrial-strength psychologists to modify our beliefs. They produce messages designed to be appealing and persuasive to the most amount of people, in the shortest amount of time -- all the while representing other ideas as backwards, or otherwise inferior.

These messages are repeatedly worked into commercials, movies, and TV programs. Then they poll the viewing public to gauge the effectiveness of those messages for future reference.

Ideally, the entire culture becomes brainwashed (this is GOOD -- this is BAD) as effectively as any fundamentalist Christian cult member.

The Goal of Propaganda?
Make the general public: predictable, docile, homogenous and paranoid of anyone not like us, all without conscious thought.

Make us: weak – and submissive.

It is time to become conscious of what we are sticking in our heads.
A good start is unplugging your TV.

First published in: "The Clock," Plymouth State University newspaper
By Phil Cunningham
Phil's Bio: "I'm a Pagan and a senior studying at PSU, Majoring in Environmental Biology and Minoring in Marine Science. I'm an Army veteran, single, looking -- and nice to look at too!" (He looks like Tom Cruise -- I kid you not. MH)
Posted with Permission.

What does this have to do with
Writing Fiction?
How much Propaganda are YOU writing into Your Fiction? Seriously.

How much Propaganda do you have in your Characters?
  • What do your Villains Look like, and how do they Act?
  • What do your Heroes Look like, and how do they Act?
  • In your stories - who is Trustworthy, and how do you identify them -- to the Reader?
  • How many of your Characters are STEREOTYPED from TV or Movie Characters?
How much Propaganda do you have in your Situations?
  • How do you show a Good relationship?
  • How do you show a Bad relationship?
  • How do you show how a Good friend treats someone, as opposed to a Bad friend?
  • How many of your Situations -- and their Solutions -- are STEREOTYPED from TV or Movie Situations?
How much Real-Time Experience
--are you writing from?

WHO do you KNOW?
Have you ever met:
  • A real Criminal?
  • A real Hero?
  • A real Romantic?
  • A real Stalker?
  • A real Witch?
  • A real Cop?
  • A real PI?
  • A real Soldier?
  • A real Stripper?
  • A real political figure?
  • A real rebellious Teen?
  • Someone truly in Love?
  • A real happily married couple? -- with children?
  • Someone who Defied the stereotypes seen on TV?
What have you DONE?
Have you ever Experienced:
  • A real loving relationship?
  • An abusive relationship?
  • An obsessive infatuation?
  • College?
  • Camping?
  • Driving cross country?
  • Being a problem child?
  • A corporate job?
  • A fast food job?
  • A foriegn country?
  • Military service?
  • Using a sword?
  • Magic?
HOW do you KNOW?
Where is your knowledge actually coming from?
  • Books?
  • Role Playing Games?
  • Movies?
  • TV shows?
  • First-hand Experience?

Where are your Ideas coming from?

How much do you rely on the TV & Movies

for references and accuracy?

How much Propaganda are YOU writing into Your Fiction?THINK About it. Seriously.

Morgan Hawke


  1. Is Phil still single and looking? *grin*

    This was a great article by the way. I'd like to think that I see a lot of the propaganda out there...I just wish that more people did. That said, is propaganda in a story necessarily a bad thing? If I see what I perceive as problems in the world, can I not work that into a compelling story and hope that my reader will eventually see and/or recognize the same problems and possibly some solution to said problem?

  2. "Is Phil still single and looking? *grin*"

    -- No, I'm afraid not. He has since graduated PA University with honors and fallen very deeply in love with a lovely girl just as off-beat and super intelligent as he is.

    "This was a great article by the way."

    -- I'll make sure he knows. (smile)

    "...I'd like to think that I see a lot of the propaganda out there...I just wish that more people did."

    -- Being AWARE that it's there really IS half the battle. However, the real problem is with How Much Of It you're drowning under. Because I have a photographic memory, I haven't had cable on my home TV in 4 years. It's far too easy for my mind to simply absorb what I see, and takes far too much effort to de-program what I don't want there.

    "That said, is propaganda in a story necessarily a bad thing? If I see what I perceive as problems in the world, can I not work that into a compelling story and hope that my reader will eventually see and/or recognize the same problems and possibly some solution to said problem?

    In that situation...? Absolutely NOT. You're using it to make a point -- not unconsciously passing it on to others.