A good friend of mine was watching some re-runs of Lassie programmes from the 1954 to 1959 series. It is nostalgically thought of as a time of innocence. We remember that period of time through rose-tinted glasses and recall how trusting most people were. I will share my friend, Janet’s words:
“Very interesting… the bad guy arrives wanting to buy Grandpa’s old water well so they can pump the water to the city, and clean it and sell it to the people. Grandpa not happy. Discusses with daughter. Grandpa says,” I dunno. I don’t think we should mess with nature like that. And why would we sell water when we’ve always had our water for free?” His daughter tells grandpa he should get with the times, after all, “times change and look how things like those chemical fertilizers have helped our crops.” EEEK. I bet the frickin’ chemical companies sponsored Lassie. No wonder people were so accepting of chemical crap. I wanted to yell at her, “Ya, great, hey? Look past 1990 at how many people have illnesses, diseases, allergies…” And another interesting tv moment: Packing up from fishing, Timmy threw his garbage off to the side and headed home. I’ve told my kids that I was sure we used to just throw our garbage out the car windows. But why not, they did it on Lassie!”
This sort of “forward programming” was a way of conditioning whole populations to accept corporate controlled changes to their real world. By discussing the subject matter, with a particular slant, in some seemingly innocuous piece of entertainment, ideas were planted in our minds and a particular way of reacting to them suggested. The mechanism by which these ideas were incorporated in these television productions is firstly by hiring artists to create these works that had internalised the same viewpoint. They would write the dialogue, film and edit the story this way because they got the jobs because they already thought this way. It was already part of their world view and value systems. Dissenting voices and critical thinkers simply didn’t get jobs making Lassie.
The second method of influence was by ownership, sponsorship and advertising. The money and power came from people with an agenda and a world view that was, unsurprisingly, pro-corporate and consequently, if you proposed a programme that had a message that was antithetical to the corporate line, it simply wouldn’t get made. If some piece of unacceptable dissent crept into some existing production, there were repercussions and people would find themselves shut out of future work or otherwise sanctioned in such a way that it hurt their careers. It wasn’t exactly black listing – more like grey listing. Television isn’t called programming for nothing.
This deliberate programming extends to what we call the News. We think of it as an objective, eyewitness account of events, as they unfold, by dispassionate, unbiased, disinterested and above all else, trustworthy reporters. We’re supposed to. That’s how it is sold to us. If we think that, we’re more prepared to accept what is told to us by the news as unarguable fact. However, it’s nothing of the sort. The words you hear, the images you see and the analysis that is given is a carefully stage-managed confection, created by editors and producers. It is a sham reality, presented as actual reality. Behind the news, are decisions about what not to say, what not to show and whose voices to ignore. Facts are selectively chosen to support a particular viewpoint. What you see and hear on the news is rarely an accurate representation of what actually happened. In fact, the news is frequently used to deliberately distort your perception of events, so that you believe a lie, which advantages corporate interests. The staggering thing about the technology of news production and news presentation is how big a lie can now be presented, utterly convincingly, to all but the most critical of thinkers, to whom the cracks in the shiny presentation sometimes are evident.
The books that get written are usually down to what the authors choose to write. However, the books that get the support of publishers, have marketing money spent on them and which are widely reviewed in the media are usually those stories that are “on message”, or which serve some corporate-friendly agenda. Science fiction has been particularly useful in introducing ideas that initially sound far-fetched and abhorrent, yet eventually become part of everyday life. Fanciful books like “Ebola” have come to pass. George Orwell’s “1984”, writing as he was about blanket surveillance, is now our reality. Orwell, no doubt, thought he was writing a book to forewarn humanity and hence, stave off a horrible future he could perceive was a genuine threat. It got the support of publishers because it prepared a population for passive acceptance of what the book warned us about. We didn’t stop it, we just got used to the idea.
If you look at the lyrical content in most popular music, they deliver messages of degradation, in the main. What this says is that the corporations that put their money behind making certain music popular support this message. The music they choose to support is music whose lyrics are themed around the degradation and self-destructive behaviours of young people. Why do you suppose they might choose that lyrical content over other more uplifting themes? Is a song like “Happy” promoted to edify and encourage you, in your daily life, or is the darker interpretation what is being promoted – that you should be mindlessly happy, even in the face of unacceptable conditions, instead of rising up and changing things?
While there are songs of revolution and rising up, in popular music, there are far more suggesting the futility of mass action, which encourage youth, the most physically powerful and strong group in our society, to hate themselves and engage in self-loathing and self-destruction, or to disappear into a fug of drug-fuelled impotence. It’s all very convenient for those wanting to maintain their position and status, when you think about it. Was the hippy movement in popular culture to spread peace and love, or to emasculate genuine change and dissent? Are we fed manufactured revolutions that really change nothing, in order to prevent the outbreak of genuine revolutions and movements for positive change?
All is not how it seems. If we take our culture and media at face value, we miss the hidden agendas which funded it. We are, in fact, manipulated almost constantly, by somebody, somehow, for profit or gain. It’s not obvious to us, at first glance, because it isn’t supposed to be. It’s supposed to be passed off as entertainment and joyful insouciance.
The worst part of this manipulation is that it does genuine harm. We live significantly degraded lives, in despoiled and depleted environments, because companies get their way and we are programmed to passively accept it. Perhaps even worse than that is artists are complicit in the manipulation. We are, as artists, the tools of message delivery. It is our seductive melodies, clever lyrics, well made films and so on that are the vehicles delivering ideas to people that corporations want to deliver. We are the programmers that programme the people, according to somebody else’s agenda.
Some artists agree with the corporate agenda whole heartedly. In this case, either they have been well programmed, in their childhood, by the media propaganda that saturated their childhoods, or they don’t think very deeply, or they have the same dastardly desires as the corporate sponsors of art have. In all three cases, they can only operate by turning a blind eye to the harm and destruction caused, just as their sponsoring corporations do. They can claim that the bad things that come to pass in the world are not of their making, that they bear no responsibility for it and that it’s nothing to do with them, but their denial is false and disingenuous. Each one took the money and didn’t care what happened to the rest of the population and their environment.
All of this could be very different if the corporate agenda was less destructive and much more benign, by design. Corporations and their controlling minds could, in fact, choose to behave themselves, responsibly. Artists could, if truth be told, choose to only support messages of peace and love, change and revolution, exclusively, even if that meant they could no longer work for opulent riches. Nobody does, of course. Because of greed and wilful ignorance.
This week, U2 shifted half a billion units of their latest album release by the simple expedient of selling all those copies to Apple and Apple giving the album away to users of iTunes, as a promotional gift. The purpose was to sell new iPhones and iWatches. These are devices that have technologies designed to provide even more of your personal data to anonymous servers in some foreign or far-flung data centre, which is routinely and comprehensively surveilled by the NSA. The NSA will now know your heart rate, in real time. They can tell when you’re scared.
In effect, what U2 did is support an industry that wants to know more about you, all the time, without you being aware of what is done with that information, for what nefarious purposes, by persons unknown to you. Bono had the gall to say that this method of releasing the album was not, in fact, giving music away for free, because “music is a sacrament”. Well, he took his money and turned his “sacrament” over to the worship and service of a corporate agenda, which has the distinct and obvious potential of making life worse for everyone, even as they naively giggle and delight in being able to measure their fitness on a little wristwatch. Those caught up in the Apple religion don’t even perceive it as a lessening of their privacy and hence their freedom of thought and movement, but that’s what it can turn out to be. There is no reason to believe that it won’t.
Artists need to start taking responsibility for the harm that the patronage they accept causes to others. Some patronage comes with distinct strings attached, which an aware and awake artist can easily see at the outset. Artists should exercise some discretion, restraint and moral decency in choosing whose money to accept. They should carefully control what purposes their art will be pressed into, because in the wrong hands and context, it can be used to programme the rest of humanity to accept certain harmful ideas. The money that supports our work needs to be carefully considered. Why is this patron paying me? What is he using my art to say and to achieve? We’re not just pure, starving artists willing to do anything at all for money, are we?
Stop greedily selling out to the people in the world that would, if permitted, enslave and degrade us all. It’s not worth it. The consequences will also be on our own heads.