Propaganda / Political Marketing
Advertising, marketing and product placement techniques have become more and more refined and effective, and of course are being used to sell politics. As viewers tune out TV advertising more and more, marketers are turning to product placement.
Product Placement of political candidates is well understood, which is why broadcasters have a policy of pulling TV shows and movies which feature a candidate. Examples are Fred Thompson and Law & Order episodes, and Ronald Reagan and his movies. (See also our Stone Age Brains)
And of course there is Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California thanks to his media savvy.
Television and movies are not the only source of propaganda, but since Americans spend over 4 hours in front of the TV every day, it is the largest source. It is also the most effective source of propaganda, since TV puts the mind into a passive, receptive, brainwave state. See See Brainwaves & TV
In his controversial new book, Nick Davies argues that shadowy intelligence agencies are pumping out black propaganda to manipulate public opinion – and that the media simply swallow it wholesale
Path to 9/11
Charlie Wilson's War -- James's Take
Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand
Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed
Fake News and other reasons not to watch TV news
"Advertisers' messages are infiltrating small-market television newscasts at about the same percentage that owners of digital video recorders are skipping the commercials, say researchers at the University of Oregon."
Bush administration pays actors to pose as TV journalists
Propaganda - Wikipedia
The Rise of Modern Propaganda
Revisiting the power of Nazi propaganda
Iran's TV adds entertainment to propaganda
How telegenic a candidate is, has become more important than his/her policies. During one of the first televised debates, John Kennedy was considered to have won because he looked better during the debate.
"Whether people are making financial decisions in the stock market or worrying about terrorism, they are likely to be influenced by what others think. And, according to a new study in this month's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), repeated exposure to one person's viewpoint can have almost as much influence as exposure to shared opinions from multiple people. This finding shows that hearing an opinion multiple times increases the recipient's sense of familiarity and in some cases gives a listener a false sense that an opinion is more widespread then it actually is." - ScienceDaily (May 2007)
"However, there is one film from the 1980s that conservatives can legitimately claim promotes their political worldview and values... Red Dawn" - Alternet (Jan 2009)
"How Television Can Make You Believe Things That Aren't True. Newly published research suggests nuggets of misinformation embedded in a fictional television program can seep into our brains and lodge there as perceived facts." - Alternet (Oct 2011)
""V" - The right's new favorite TV show, or inadvertent proof of the ubiquity of the right's fables?" - Open Left (Dec 2009)
"The research also suggested that a fifth of viewers consider fictional TV programmes just as believable and reliable as news programmes as sources of information." - Telegraph (Sept 2009) and Deccan Chronicle (Sept 2009)
"Over the past dozen or so years, television and movie-makers have managed to blur the border between fact and fiction to an unprecedented degree. They pretend increasingly that their film is based on a true story. Every device possible, from computer-generated imagery to place names and dates thrown onto the screen seek to suspend the disbelief of historically illiterate audiences. Alarmingly, the new technology has coincided with a dramatic growth in conspiracy theories. " - Times Online (Jan 2009)
"This research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape." - Boston.com (April 2012)
The Century of the Self - "The business and, increasingly, the political world uses psychological techniques to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites Paul Mazer, a Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in the 1930s: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs.""
"Cultural historian Neal Gabler believes that Hollywood movies have shaped our perceptions of political campaigns for the worse.
“Life itself has become an entertainment medium,” Gabler told Bill Moyers during a PBS interview on Friday. “We are all actors in and audience for an ongoing show. We are so steeped in the theatrical arts … that we have turned our own lives, and life outside of us, into a movie."" - Raw Story (Feb 2012)
"Nine Nobel Peace prize winners said Monday that NBC must “immediately” drop a planned “reality” show called “Stars Earn Stripes,” where former four-star general and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark sends celebrities on military-style training “missions” to entertain viewers." -
Raw Story (Aug 2012) and Salon (Aug 2012)
"Military-entertainment complex? Act of Valor film described as ‘beyond propaganda’" - Raw Story (July 2012)
"The top 10 military ‘psy-ops’ corporations admit to using against Americans" - Business Insider (Nov 2011)
"The Pentagon grants and denies filmmakers access to taxpayer-owned military hardware on the basis of those filmmakers' ideology and message. The result is that pro-war films are effectively granted huge taxpayer subsidies whereby the government underwrites the studios' use of military planes, boats and hardware. Anti-militarist films, by contrast, are often barred from even photographing the same hardware. This has created a dynamic whereby studio executives have been quoted publicly telling screenwriters that if they cannot get Pentagon approval for a movie, they shouldn't expect their movie ever to get made. This is why for every one vaguely antiwar movie that makes it to the theater we get dozens of blockbusters that glorify war and the military..." - Salon (Aug 2011)
"Welcome to Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, a dumb, loud movie that would be forgivable if it were only stupid. A closer look reveals the film to be a sexist, racist, nationalist Pentagon commercial that feeds off male anxiety. It promotes vitality through war and reaffirms white supremacy. It uses women as tokens of male potency. It universalizes American foreign policy." Alternet (July 2011)
"...The New York Times recently reported that the Pentagon is — shocker! — using all sorts of media channels to market itself to the nation's children. Though the Times presents this as a brand-new development, it is nothing of the sort. The armed forces have spent the last three decades carefully constructing a child-focused Military-Entertainment Complex, which has long had the Pentagon subsidizing everything from video games to movies — most of which glorify militarism to kids." Denver Post (June 2011)
"You may recall that in recent years, the Military-Entertainment Complex has been selling kids on the idea that military service is a gloriously fun adventure. In one famous ad, the Marines pretend being a soldier is the equivalent of being a "Lord of the Rings" hero crossing bridges over mystically infinite gorges -- and slaying fiery monsters along the way. In another series of ads aired as previews in movie theaters, the Air Force portrays dangerous front-line missions as glorified video games, telling kids: "It's not science fiction -- it's what we do every day."" - Salon (May 2011)
"A more prominent view among information warriors is that changes in information, technology, and social influence capabilities have actually transformed the terms of war. War between standing armies of nation-states is seen as increasingly unlikely, both because the United States is an unmatched military superpower and because damage that would result from use of modern physical weapon systems is deemed intolerable. Our military’s enemies, experts predict, are most likely to be small, rogue groups who attempt to prevail by winning popular support and undermining U.S. political will for war. The argument here is that in most modern war, physical battles, if they exist, will be for the purpose of defining psychological battlespace." - Mind Hacks (May 2011)
"Top Gun America: How The Military-Entertainment Complex Sells Pro-War Propaganda" - Open Left (Dec 2010)
"The research also suggested that a fifth of viewers consider fictional TV programmes just as believable and reliable as news programmes as sources of information." - Telegraph (Sept 2009) and Deccan Chronicle (Sept 2009)
"More broadly, the American psyche's slow progress toward an increasingly peaceful disposition could be stunted by the propaganda's powerful paradox: While sanitizing ads play to the country's growing disgust with militarism, they could ultimately lead us to be more supportive of militarism. How? By convincing us that violence can be just another innocuous expression of adolescent technophilia." Alternet (Aug 2009)
The Pentagon, Movies & TV - Tom Dispatch (March 2008)
Review of: "Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies" - USA Today (March 2005)
Review of: "Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies" - The Boston Globe (July 2004)
Social Learning Theory... The Powerful Effect of TV on Attitudes and Behavior
TV can be used to manipulate viewers into being more tolerant and responsible, but it can just as easily manipulate viewers into being more hateful and irresponsible. Supporters of TV like to point out the positive influences of TV, but then claim that because people can "think for themselves" that there are no negative effects. As if TV is some sort of magic box, from which only good can come.
"Strange But True: How Soap Operas Might Save Us From Overpopulation" - Alternet (June 2010)
"Several organizations apply social learning theory in their educational entertainment programs. For example, the nonprofit group Populations Communications International (PCI) airs serial dramas in countries as diverse as Bolivia, China, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania. PCI also uses controlled studies to monitor the success of these programs in changing audience's behaviors. Their numbers are promising: In Mexico and Kenya, for example, serialized dramas that highlighted family planning heralded 32% and 58% increases in new contraceptive users. And in Tanzania, a serialized drama that addressed the spread of AIDS was associated with a reduction in reported numbers of sexual partners." - American Psychological Assoication (May 2003)
What is Social Learning Theory?
"What's the effect? In the places that didn't get cable by 2003, and in the places that already had it at the beginning of the period studied, attitudes concerning women remained relatively stable. (They were more pro-women in places that already had cable.) But in the 21 villages that got cable between 2001 and 2003, women's attitudes changed quickly and substantially."
"Simply watching others do something good and uplifting encouraged more altruistic behavior."
"The possibility, therefore, that people might be modeling themselves after characters on soaps might seem both farfetched and frightening. A spate of recent research, however, suggests that, all over the world, that’s exactly what’s happening. What’s more, we should be happy about it."
"That's why soap opera has become “one of the most widely recognized methods of healing societies at war and mobilizing people to work across divisions,” say conflict resolution practitioners and scholars Marco Konings and Ambrose James." - Yes Magazine (May 2006)
"Research shows that regular contact with homosexual friends or family members is a better predictor of gay-friendly attitudes than gender, level of education, age, and even political or religious affiliation. And the same seems to be true for the illusory relationships we form with fiction characters. We relate to the characters on Friends, in other words, as though they were our real life friends. When we are absorbed in fiction, we form judgments about the characters exactly as we do with real people, and extend those judgments to the generalizations we make about groups. When straight viewers watch likeable gay characters on shows like Will and Grace, Modern Family, Glee, and Six Feet Under they come to root for them, to empathize with them--and this seems to shape their attitudes toward homosexuality in the real-world. Studies indicate that watching television with gay friendly themes lessens viewer prejudice, with stronger effects for more prejudiced viewers." - Psychology Today (June 2012)
Safe-Sex and Product Placement
Lou Dobbs Upset That Latin Network Soap Opera Will Include a Storyline Promoting the Census
"Most parents underestimate the impact movies have on their children. This study clearly shows that adolescents are much more likely to smoke or drink if their parents let them watch R-rated movies"
"A new study reveals that viewers can be influenced by exposure to racial bias in the media, even without realizing it."
"Harvard tells Hollywood to ban cigarettes from kids' movies... Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at U.C. San Francisco and creator of the Smoke Free Movies campaign, says Glickman probably expected Harvard to come up with a limp education campaign and leave it at that. But Harvard got tough. In recommendations presented to the industry last month and made public this week, Harvard said the studios should eliminate smoking altogether from films "accessible to children and youth.""
Smoking in the Movies: Under-the-Radar Cigarette Advertising?
"A study in the US shows that exposure to on-screen smoking through popular films is a primary factor in determining whether young people will take up the habit" - Bio-Medicine (Nov 2005)
"A research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor indicates that jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women."
"A survey by Sonya Grier, a marketing professor at American University's Kogod School of Business, found that greater exposure to fast food advertising was linked to beliefs that eating fast food is a regular practice of family, friends and others in their communities. The more parents perceived fast food consumption as a socially normal behavior, the more frequently their children ate fast food."
"Television as social surrogate" - On Fiction (Feb 2009)
"What it does do is provide remarkable insight into how turning cameras on reality transforms us in some very fundamental ways." - On Fiction (Jan 2010)
PR Watch, a quarterly publication of the Center for Media & Democracy, is dedicated to investigative reporting on the public relations industry. It serves citizens, journalists and researchers seeking to recognize and combat manipulative and misleading PR practices. It specializes in blowing the lid off today's multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry, naming names and revealing how public relations wizards concoct and spin the news, organize phony 'grassroots' front groups, spy on citizens, and conspire with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy. We expose the hidden activities of secretive, little-known mega-firms such as Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller and Ketchum PR--the "invisible men" who control our political debates and public opinion, twisting reality and protecting the powerful from scrutiny.
"These dramas capitalize on psychologists' knowledge of the powerful--and sometimes scary--influences television can have on children and adults." It is these kind of results that so many people find compelling. If only the incredible power of TV could be harnessed for good! Unfortunately shows about people acting rationally and sensibly do not make good drama. The soap operas described in the above link, in addition to teaching safe sex, also include the standard soap opera fare, people (who happen to be beautiful and rich) acting badly.
Typical of soap operas, and much of TV drama is 'indirect aggression'. "They successfully spread rumours, damage relationships, distort reality, and destroy the reputations..." Sound familiar? Could this help explain the public's tolerance for political "dirty tricks" and lack of ethics?
Could this lack of ethics on TV also help explain a 30 year increase in cheating? And a 10 year youth ethics decline? Note: ethics declines have real world consequences.
What’s on TV Tonight? Humiliation to the Point of Suicide
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Scientists have concluded that exposure to violent TV does indeed lead to more aggressive thoughts, attitudes and actions (see Aggression & TV). So the fact that an "average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18" means that TV has created a more aggressive electorate. Could this also help explain the fact that the homicide rate nearly doubled from the mid 1960's to the late 1970's. In reaction to this huge crime increase, the public supported policies that have lead to a 335% increase in the incarceration rate. This has brought the crime back down to the early 1960s levels, but the United States now has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world (pdf) - see also The New York Times (April 2008) (For graphs see Aggression & TV)
Four years ago, Bhutan, the fabled Himalayan Shangri-la, became the last nation on earth to introduce television. Suddenly a culture, barely changed in centuries, was bombarded by 46 cable channels. And all too soon came Bhutan's first crime wave - murder, fraud, drug offences.
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A more aggressive electorate, would also logically lead to increased popularity of more aggressive ideologies and policies.
"This study examines the relationship between young people's exposure to media violence and their aggressive political opinions (APO), which were defined as support for positions that involve forceful resolution to social or political issues."
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TV Legitimizing Torture and disregarding civil rights: "Sadly, for decades the media model for a hero has been the rogue cop who lies, cheats, steals, bashes heads and generally trashes the rights and often the bodies of guilty and innocent alike, to catch some vile thug. From James Bond, to the Beverly Hills Cop, to the latest episode of "Law and Order," media cops have little use for such archaic concepts as "constitutional rights," "your home is your castle," or "innocent until proven guilty."
"...a sly male-revenge-fantasy film in more ways than one."
Dying and living in 'COPS' America
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Regarding the 'mean-world' syndrome, a quote from Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research (1999) page 49: "Gerbner and Gross reasoned that a heightened and widespread sense of fear, danger and apprehension can bolster demands for greater security; this in turn can mean greater legitimacy of the authority that can promise to meet those demands, creating conditions highly conductive to repression and undermining support for civil liberties. It can also mean greater acceptance of the use of violence as an appropriate means to solve disputes of international policy... or greater habituation to violence and passivity in the face of injustice." More on the 'mean world syndrome' here and here.
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This study shows a link between TV watching and consumerism. Could this help explain the public's national spending spree?
"The real concerns of yesterday's poor have become the imagined concerns of today's rich," said Dr Hamilton. "This 'deprivation syndrome' induces politicians to distort policy to reduce the burden of taxation and increase public payments to wealthy households."
"Frey found that heavy TV viewers were both more anxious and more greedy than were light viewers on the same incomes. They were also more scared about the outside world."
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With Americans spending over 4 hours in front of the TV every day, and with the fact that TV models aggression (both direct and indirect), and that TV encourages the contract effect, is it any wonder that Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago? Social isolation leads to stress. Could this help explain a stressed-out public?
Slower brainwaves, engendered by TV, bring on a feeling of passivity. Also this study shows how TV encourages apathy. Democracy does not work with a passive and apathetic populace. See Brainwaves & TV
People as Objects
"I can’t tell you the number of times I have been approached by TV producers and news media with offers of big money for my vault of crime scene photos and videos. Some have offered to make me famous if I just handed over my most horrible cases. I have been offered my own television series many times, and I have always come to the conclusion that such a thing would be wrong. The victims whose cases I have had the honor to work on are human beings, not bloody paintings for deviant voyeurs. They were daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and spouses when they were cruelly taken. Yet they are not viewed that way. Their deaths are lusted after by an entire industry that descends like locusts when the death is particularly awful. Not only did the killers see these precious humans as objects, but much of the media and the entertainment industry look at them as nothing but dollar signs as well." - Psychology Today (April 2012)
TV, Nursing & PR
"Certainly TV dramas reach a much wider audience than most news programs. Beyond the size of their audience, some media scholars argue that entertainment TV's impact can be even more powerful than news in subtly shaping the public's impressions of key societal institutions. The messages are more engaging, often playing out in compelling human dramas involving characters the audience cares about. Viewers are taken behind the scenes to see the hidden forces affecting whether there's a happy ending or a sad one. There are good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains and innocent bystanders. Instead of bill numbers and budget figures, policy issues are portrayed through the lives of "real" human beings, often in life-and-death situations. These health policy discussions take place not only in hospital dramas, but also in dramatic storylines on programs like "Law and Order," "The Practice," and "The West Wing."
Nursing & TV
TV has a huge effect on how people view society. The result is a misinformed citizenry.
"Cultivation theory in its most basic form, then, suggests that exposure to television, over time, subtly "cultivates" viewers' perceptions of reality. This cultivation can have an impact even on light viewers of TV, because the impact on heavy viewers has an impact on our entire culture."
"He found that those who view more fiction believe more strongly in cosmic justice. He also found that the biggest TV watchers overall endorsed "mean-world" beliefs, fearing, say, walking alone in the dark. "
Atlantic Monthly article about George Gerbner "The Man Who Counts the Killings"
Atlantic Monthly article about George Gerbner "A Culture of Violence"
George Gerbner Website
Military use of cultivation theory
The 'mean-world' syndrome 1
The 'mean-world' syndrome 2
TV Crime Reporting
CSI Effect 1
CSI Effect 2
CSI Effect 3
"A beautifully recursive study has shown that viewing an episode of the psychology of deception TV series Lie To Me makes people worse at distinguishing truth from lies." - Mind Hacks (Oct 2011)
"Television may explain 10 percent of the belief in the paranormal."
"Television viewers don’t develop their views about the president and national politics just by watching the news. New research suggests that crime dramas like NYPD Blue and Third Watch may have an influence on political attitudes as well."
Are movies, TV scaring off organ donors?
Ten troublesome trends in TV health news
Nursing & TV 1
Nursing & TV 2
Nursing & TV 3
Nursing & TV 4
The Pentagon, Movies & TV
"New research suggests viewing the television drama ‘Lie to Me’ increases suspicion of others, but lessens one’s ability to detect lies." - Miller McCune (July 2010)
"Research suggests entertainment programming on television can and does influence viewers’ opinions on public policy issues." - Miller McCune (Jan 2008)
"Playing a violent cop in a video game makes one more likely to identify with and feel sympathetic toward violent cops." - Miller McCune (May 2010)
"...argue that Dr. Gregory House is sort of a fantasy figure: a professional who, due to his unique gifts, can get away with ignoring the rules.
For those forced to conform to the sometimes senseless regulations of a bureaucracy, watching Dr. House defy authority figures provides intense vicarious thrills. “Through his genius, his self-made autonomy and his sarcasm,” they write, “House provides a cathartic release for all those trapped in the regulated life of mass man.”" - Miller McCune (April 2010)
"In a number of experiments it has been found that people experience pleasure when a liked character behaves well and succeeds. People experience frustration and anxiety when a disliked character behaves badly and succeeds. If, in a thriller with a confusing plot you wonder which character is the real baddie, he’s the one who acts with disdain to an underling." - On Fiction (April 2011)
"He found that those who view more fiction believe more strongly in cosmic justice. He also found that the biggest TV watchers overall endorsed "mean-world" beliefs, fearing, say, walking alone in the dark. (Beliefs in fairness and meanness are uncorrelated.) Fans of tabloid shows had especially dire outlooks." - Psychology Today Blog (July 2008)
"The just-world phenomenon, also called the just-world theory, just-world fallacy, just-world effect, or just-world hypothesis, refers to the tendency for people to want to believe that the world is fundamentally just. As a result, when they witness an otherwise inexplicable injustice, they will rationalize it by searching for things that the victim might have done to deserve it. This deflects their anxiety, and lets them continue to believe the world is a just place, but often at the expense of blaming victims for things that were not, objectively, their fault. Another theory entails the need to protect one's own sense of invulnerability. This inspires people to believe that rape, for example, only happens to those who deserve or provoke the assault. This is a way of feeling safer. If the potential victim avoids the behaviors of the past victims then they themselves will remain safe and feel less vulnerable." - Wikipedia
"But while Hollywood’s reputation for liberal politics continues, the concept that only progressives and the socially conscious populate it might as well have come direct from Industrial Light and Magic. Brett Ratner’s actions this week are a reminder that, though some of its marquee names are politically liberal, the movie industry is completely contrary to that: trade organizations gouge wages, studios have legacies of union busting, roles written for people of color are limited and stereotypical, and actors remain closeted because they’re afraid of losing straight roles." - Alternet (Nov 2011)