Tag Archives: propaganda

Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 7

InfiniteJest

V&V’s NoCoat campaign was a case-study in the eschatology of emotional appeals. It towered, a kind of Überad, casting a shaggy shadow back across a whole century of broadcast persuasion. It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase. It just did it way more well than wisely, given the vulnerable psyche of an increasingly hygiene-conscious U.S.A. in those times.

(p. 414)

Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, claimed that American advertising was an inspiration for his propaganda. The goal of propaganda is to create a sense of fear and lure people into accepting an ideology. The more subtle, the more effective.

I had never given too much thought to advertising creating fear and using that fear to sell products. But it makes sense. Advertisements for home security systems are all about the fear of someone breaking into your home. Even just showing a picture of a baby in a high chair waiting to be fed will subconsciously create a fear for parents about the health and well-being of their child.

Media is bombarding us with information all designed to heighten our fear, whether it’s the news, advertising, or memes on social media. The irony is that all this fear-mongering is making me fearful about where our civilization is heading. There is just no way to escape it.

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Star Wars Annual #1

StarWarsAnnual_2015

The Disney – Marvel – Star Wars machine is in full swing. And that’s fine with me. I am enjoying this resurrection of the Force. The only challenge is trying to keep up with all the Star Wars spin-offs and releases, which is why it took me a little while to get around to reading this annual.

The issue is solid and the episode is complete, so it stands on its own quite well. It is about a rebel spy, Eneb Rey, who is undercover as a tax collector named Tharius Demo. He is sent to free some senators slated for execution, but then discovers that the Emperor is scheduled to be there. It is decided to attempt an assassination on the Emperor with the hope of finally defeating the Empire.

I found this an interesting exploration of what constitutes a hero. Is a hero someone who does something spectacular, or the quiet, unseen individual who works silently behind the scenes and whose accomplishments often never come to light? Because I see the hero as an archetype, I think it can embody both, that there are the swaggering hero types, and the shrouded and unsung heroes. And I personally relate to both on varying levels. I think that is why the hero is such a universally attractive archetype.

This tale has some interesting twists, as well as some brief passages examining how media and propaganda are employed in our modern society. As such, it is worth checking out. I found it a quick, interesting, and enjoyable read.

Cheers!

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“Sonnet 11: As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest” by William Shakespeare – A Promotion of Ethnic Cleansing?

Shakespeare

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowest
Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase:
Without this, folly, age and cold decay:
If all were minded so, the times should cease
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh featureless and rude, barrenly perish:
Look, whom she best endow’d she gave thee more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish:
She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

I had mixed feelings about this poem when I read it this morning over my first cup of coffee. But before I delve into why this poem troubled me, I figured I’d talk about the basic theme and metaphors.

This is another of the “fair youth” sonnets, where Shakespeare is entreating an unnamed young man to procreate. The opening lines describe how a child will grow at the same rate as a parent ages. The child’s physical and mental development progresses at the same pace as the parent’s abilities decreases. I suspect this was very important at a time that lacked elder care and care for the elderly was generally the responsibility of the children.

Lines 5 and 6 address heredity:

Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase:
Without this, folly, age and cold decay:

I like this image. For me, the idea of wisdom, beauty, and increase describes the parents’ ability to pass on to their children what they have learned in life, an appreciation for art and beauty in life, and an increase in wealth, both material and spiritual. Without a family to share these things with, all we have will atrophy and decay along with us in our later years.

So now we get to the point that I find troubling.

Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh featureless and rude, barrenly perish:
Look, whom she best endow’d she gave thee more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish:

So I understand what Shakespeare is getting at here. He is saying that if the beautiful and artistically creative and intelligent people of the world failed to procreate, then the world would become dominated by those who would not be in as much of a position to advance culture and society. But looking at this from a 21st-century perspective, we can see how this type of ideology has led to abuse and human rights violations throughout history. Racist and ethnocentric propaganda consistently depicts “others” as breeding like vermin and threatening to overrun the purer population, while at the same time encouraging those of the desired race to procreate and ensure their continued existence and dominance. So when I read a line claiming that those who are “harsh featureless and rude” should “barrenly perish,” I cannot help but feeling horrified at the idea that the value of one class of people is elevated and preferred above another.

While I concede that Shakespeare probably did not have ethnic cleansing in mind when he penned this sonnet, it’s hard to read this today and not have those images conjured. Let’s just hope that the “wisdom, beauty and increase” of tolerance and acceptance will occur in our lives, and that hatred and intolerance will “barrenly perish.”

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“Coriolanus” by William Shakespeare: How Politicians Manipulate Public Opinion

Coriolanus

Today is Election Day, so I figured it would be appropriate to write about something political. I had seen this play performed this past summer and really enjoyed it. I found its themes of political opposition and the manipulation of public opinion to be relevant to modern American politics.

Before I get into the politics of this play, I figured I’d touch on a couple things that I feel are important. Firstly, while this is a tragedy, only one person dies: Coriolanus. I sort of expect a stage full of carnage in a good Shakespearean tragedy, but that’s not the case here. As far as his tragic flaw, his main flaw is his pride, a somewhat hackneyed flaw in my opinion, but it fits. He is also a poor communicator, which is a problem for anyone playing the political game. Finally, I have to mention his relationship to his mother. Freud would have a field day with this. He addresses his mother with reverence while calling his wife “woman.” Pleasing his mom seems to be Coriolanus’ chief motivator throughout the entire play. One could certainly write an entire post on this mother/son relationship, but I will leave that to someone else.

OK, now on to the politics.

I constantly marvel at people’s ability to forget the past and change their views based upon the latest media hype. I confess that I thought this was a modern issue and the result of diminished attention span; but it seems that this was the case in Shakespeare’s day also. As the scheming tribunes Brutus and Sicinius consider Coriolanus’ recent popularity and the likelihood of his election as consul, Sicinius points out how easy it is to sway public opinion.

Sicinius:

Doubt not
The commoners, for whom we stand, but they
Upon their ancient malice will forget
With the least cause these his new honours, which
That he will give them make I as little question
As he is proud to do’t.

(Act II, scene i)

The two then discuss how to manipulate the public’s opinion of Coriolanus by implying that he does not care about them, that he is full of pride and a tyrant, and that he will ultimately take away their freedoms. This is exactly the type of partisan hyperbole used by each political party to rally voters.

Brutus:

So it must fall out
To him or our authorities. For an end,
We must suggest the people in what hatred
He still hath held them; that to’s power he would
Have made them mules, silenced their pleaders and
Dispropertied their freedoms, holding them,
In human action and capacity,
Of no more soul nor fitness for the world
Than camels in the war, who have their provand
Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows
For sinking under them.

Sicinius:

This, as you say, suggested
At some time when his soaring insolence
Shall touch the people–which time shall not want,
If he be put upon ‘t; and that’s as easy
As to set dogs on sheep–will be his fire
To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze
Shall darken him for ever.

(Act II, scene i)

When Coriolanus must face the populace and the accusations of the tribunes, his mother offers him some advice.

Volumina:

I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast said
My praises made thee first a soldier, so,
To have my praise for this, perform a part
Thou hast not done before.

(Act III, scene ii)

Shakespeare draws a comparison between acting and politics. In both, one is on a stage, performing a part for the public. In fact, there is even a term for this, “Political Theater,” which is defined as actions by politicians intended to make a point rather than accomplish something meaningful.

In modern American politics, pitting the rich against the poor is common political practice. On one side, the rich are told they should have disdain for the poor, who are depicted as lazy and seeking only to live off the wealth which they worked hard for. Conversely, the poor are told that the rich are nothing but a bunch of greedy money-grabbers seeking to exploit them. It appears that this type of divide was also exploited by politicians in Shakespeare’s time to manipulate the public.

Sicinius:

Bid them all home; he’s gone, and we’ll no further.
The nobility are vex’d, whom we see have sided
In his behalf.

Brutus:

Now we have shown our power,
Let us seem humbler after it is done
Than when it was a-doing.

Sicinius:

Bid them home:
Say their great enemy is gone, and they
Stand in their ancient strength.

(Act IV, scene ii)

As is often the case, political games and craft have a tendency to backfire.

Menenius:

‘Tis true:
If he were putting to my house the brand
That should consume it, I have not the face
To say ‘Beseech you, cease.’ You have made fair hands,
You and your crafts! you have crafted fair!

Cominius:

You have brought
A trembling upon Rome, such as was never
So incapable of help.

Both Tribunes:

Say not we brought it.

(Act IV, scene vi)

As I read this, I could not help but think about the mess in the Middle East. For years the US has been involved in that conflict, offering support to whichever faction seems to be more aligned to our political stance. The results of this policy has been disastrous, to say the least. Yet, our political leaders continue to make the same mistakes and play the same political games.

As members of a democracy, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the issues that affect our society and the world around us, and to make decisions based upon our views. It is important that we do not fall victim to the manipulation of political factions who seek only to wrest control of power from the other side. Regardless of which political side you lean towards, you should avoid buying in to the propaganda that is shoveled our way by political action groups on either side.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and if you are an American citizen, go out and vote today.

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Witchblade Issue 158: Portals, Part 2

Witchblade_Issue158

This issue concludes the two-part “Portals” story. As I expected, it is packed with action and excitement as Sara battles Katarina (a former Witchblade bearer), a crazy little gangster named Toio Mulranny, and even a dinosaur. It makes for very entertaining reading, especially when combined with the lavish illustrations.

There was one part of this issue that I found particularly interesting. Mulranny captures Lady Auslinn, an elfin princess, who he plans on executing. Auslinn seeks the halting of illicit importing of contraband from our world, particularly weaponry. Mulranny expresses his love for human technology, which he sees as part of evolution.

No. Goods that make our lives better. Easier. Wondrous devices and technology that spur this stagnant world to greater heights. Evolution at work. An evolution you would halt with your appeal to the council of wizards.

This made me think about one of my favorite movies when I was a teenager: “Wizards.” It was very cool back in the 70’s, but the animation is pretty dated compared with today’s. But the story was what haunted me with that film. There were two brothers who were wizards in a post-apocalyptic world: Avatar and Blackwolf. Avatar represents the forces of magic while Blackwolf represents the forces of industrial technology. Blackwolf discovers old film footage of the Nazis and uses the propaganda to terrify his enemies and inspire his troops. There is a great twist at the end. The movie is on YouTube. If you’ve never seen it, I suggest you check it out. Click here to watch it online.

On that note, I will leave you with the trailer for “Wizards.” Like I said, it’s pretty dated, but was one of those films that had an impact on my life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjSFujG6Uhg

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