a book by Wilson Bryan Key
(our site's book review)
According to Key: “We have, in a very real sense, sold out our individualism and freedom in return for a handful of baubles while we play-acted at being free individuals. . . . It is not difficult to conclude that man has done a superb job of conspiring unconsciously against finding out about himself.” (Well put!) People repress much about themselves and are in denial about other areas. This makes them vulnerable to the persuasive conditioning that marketing experts do to our unconscious minds. We are in Maslovian deficiency condition (perception from needs, where one cannot see the truth because reality is filtered through needs), needing to see and feel things about ourselves. Marketers don’t help nudge us toward being-cognition (perception from being where one can see the truth because there are no needs in the way); instead they exploit our repressed needs for love, sex, recognition, identity, status, et al.
More Key: “Culture is a manufactured product. And media are the factories.…Knowledge of man’s ability to deceive himself through perceptual illusions would, to say the least, be highly embarrassing [if we contrasted these things with] treasured concepts of free will, omniscience, natural or cultural superiority, God-given prerogatives, etc.—all those fantasies that reinforce Western civilization’s ego needs.” In short, man doesn’t run his life; his life runs him. He’s not at cause; he’s at effect. He’s told what he needs and wants in a way that pushes his buttons that relate to struggles to be loved during childhood, insecurities and fears about his or her attractiveness, hygiene, independence, manhood or womanhood. He’s vulnerable to advertising because he’s insecure in his being, other-directed (see The Lonely Crowd), and easy to manipulate by yanking the chains of his insecurities.
Man is easy to manipulate by yanking the chains of his insecurities
Autonomous people are very difficult to exploit with ads, because they run themselves, are at cause, and make their own choices. Such a person seeing an ad about a choice someone else wants this autonomous person to make has no influence on him, as he’s self-directed and makes choices on his own, using no input from other sources unless he wants to—as in gathering info on something in order to make an informed decision.
Man is vulnerable to advertising because he’s insecure in his being, other-directed, and easy to manipulate by yanking the chains of his insecurities
The author discusses media dependence. In studies, people were asked to give up TV for an extended period. But few could do it for long. They were very media dependent. “…in the future there will be increased dependence upon television among the general population and television minimized self-reliance, social contacts, and creative pursuits among its audiences.” The authors describe interviews with young murderers who killed many people during muggings. When asked what they felt at the time, the muggers said they felt: “Nothing…it was like watching TV or a movie. It wasn’t real.”
We all suffer from media dependence—we have an increased dependence upon television to fill vicarious needs and fill our emptiness
“A corrupt media merely reflects a corrupt society,” he says. The fact that subliminal techniques are in wide use by American media advertising would be great cause for alarm except that we are in on the gag: “One simple fact of human behavior—known for many centuries—is that no one can possibly con, manipulate or lie to anyone unless that person is willing to go along with the game.”
The culture has said a resounding yes to a materialistic society of mice being conditioned to want more stuff that it doesn’t really need
The culture has said a resounding yes to a materialistic society of mice being conditioned to want and “need” more and more stuff that it doesn’t really need. All this stuff gives us a goal to shoot for; it gives us a way to compare our “accomplishments” with our neighbors. Worse yet, it gives all of the empty, alienated Americans something to fill their emptiness with. It’s a vicious cycle: more stuff acquisition leads to less time for relationship or reflection on more human or profound areas, which leads to more shallowness and superficiality and alienation, which leads to even more motivation to fill the empty hole most of us feel inside.
Americans think they're heroic individualists when the truth is they're media-conditioned conformists
More Key: “The manipulative culture teaches Americans to pretend or play at nonconformity while they conform like mass-produced robots.” The joke of a person who thinks he’s heroically individualistic buying a car marketed as being for those who are heroically individualistic is actually not that funny. This adds up to a conspiracy to keep this conformist person from ever getting a clue about who he is and what a conformist robot he really is, because if he saw the truth, his ego would be shattered. And Facebook and other social networks aggravate the situation even further, getting young people to obsess about self-presentation and indirect self-acceptance rather than self development and achieving autonomy.
Americans play at nonconformity while they conform like sheep for indirect self-acceptance
Basically, when people are brought up with normal steep-gradient, permissive or authoritarian parenting in an environment where adventuring is neither encouraged nor practical in the adult-based environment, and where such people get little opportunity to find out about life from choices—both regarding what caregiver they want and what they want to do and who they want to play with—then they are easy pickings for the culture to turn into mindless little consumer robots. They haven’t been taught to think, so they let others—especially parents and advertisements—do it for them.
Key, the author, is trying to free the slaves (us) to become something more than mindless consumer suckers
People are born geniuses, but, as Buckminster Fuller said, the culture quickly de-geniuses them. They are lacking in insight, rarely seeing the forest for the trees, or seeing beyond the superficial surfaces of the world or of people. They never experienced finding out for themselves, so their love of learning has been exchanged for their love of accumulation of stuff and style, and what they find out is normally courtesy of the ad marketers. We are producing a crop of unconscious people and we are also producing both a corporate system and a political system which relies on subconsciously targeted communication with empty-feeling human robots to keep the economic wheels turning.
The corporatocracy's master plan: target empty-feeling humans who want to feel more 'full' (as if that were the same as 'fulfilled'!)
This is not a necessary strategy to use to keep capitalism moving, nor is it the best way. A country full of conscious people would be more productive and creative and earn more, work smarter, and ultimately spend more, but ads would merely need to be informative, not subliminal, symbolic, and manipulative, because people would buy what they wanted and needed, not what others tried to make them think/feel they needed. For a high quality democracy, we need autonomous, self-directed, conscious people. This starts with people waking up to reality.
A true democracy would have to start with people waking up to reality
More Key: “Indeed, it would appear the techniques of production and communication now in use (even though perhaps often for the wrong ends) could make of our world virtually anything we desire—a place of happiness, fulfillment and meaningful relationships. On the other hand, we can just as easily turn our world into an island of despair, which we may have already done, where fear, alienation, distrust, avarice, and senseless indulgences dominate our existences and waste our life spans.” Key, the author, is trying to free the slaves (us) to become something more than mindless consumer suckers. It’s an admirable goal.
Earth is for many an island of despair, where fear, alienation, distrust, avarice, and senseless indulgences dominate our existences and waste our life spans