Don’t Buy In! (Part 2)
(Read part one here.)
TV ads are, as a whole louder than ever, often using fast paced tense music to make you feel like there is an urgent reason you need to watch this commercial. Even though there are laws designed to prevent television broadcasters from playing commercials louder than shows, commercial producers know how to mix the audio in such a way that the commercial sounds louder without appearing louder to the broadcast equipment. Have you ever noticed that many commercials have the sound of a telephone near the beginning, even if a phone doesn’t play any part in the "story" of the ad? That’s because production companies know that the sound of a phone ringing will cause most people to unconsciously respond with urgency to the ringing of a telephone.
Even magazines are in business to sell you advertising. Oh I’m not talking about the tabloids with "too good to be true" advertising that is so obvious to most of us. I’m talking about the magazine where you read a story about some new gizmo that the "reviewer" in the magazine seems to think is the greatest thing out there. Many of the magazine articles that appear to be written by impartial reporters singing the graces of various products are actually advertisements, commissioned by the companies that sell those products, written by advertising agencies and provided to the magazines as "stories" designed to make you think that some regular Joe out there liked the product so much he just had to recommend it to you.
If you still haven’t heard enough, think about the news. When you watch, listen to or read the news, do you ever ask yourself whether or not the information that you are getting is true? Most people never question the news. If you’re in your mid 30s like I am, you have probably heard that news is impartial, that reporters are supposed to report the news without interjecting their own opinions. That’s what the editorial pages are for, right? Though this would be a great way for the news to work, it is not the reality.
Recently, there was a story on the news at one of the major stations here in Wichita called "Family Fears Africanized Bees Could Be In Kansas". The story told of a family in Southern Kansas that thought a hive of bees in their back yard might be killer bees. According to the news report, the lady that was stung had been close to the bees before and had never been stung until the date of the story. Because the lady got stung, the couple assumed that they "may" be killer bees. The news report implied that this was a reason for concern for people in Kansas with this new threat. The reporter did not put an expert on camera attesting to the likelihood that they were killer bees. There was nothing in the story to suggest that the bees were killer bees except that someone got stung. Wow, does that mean every time I’ve ever been stung by a bee that it was a dreaded "Killer" bee?
Come to think of it, why are killer bees called "killer"? When we lived in Texas, the news talked about "killer" bees coming to Texas. Now, more than a decade after the killer bees arrived there, I wonder why there aren’t thousands of people falling victim to this deadly plague. Considering how few people die from killer bee stings, I wonder why the media doesn’t do more stories about being killed by meteors falling from the sky. Still, there are many people who get stressed out seeing stories like this on the news for no good reason.
I say all this to make the point that news operations make their money from advertising and in order to keep you watching, newscasters have realized that it is easiest to keep you watching when you are constantly afraid of what will happen if you don’t see the news today. Just like with advertisers, people in the news business are trying to sell you something. Because of this fact, you only see the news that is likely to make you want to keep watching and to tune in for every newscast. This means that you get a distorted view of the real world because of "selective coverage" that tends to portray the world as a place with dangers waiting to attack you with every decision you make in life. Also, because many reporters are young with very little practical life experience and because reporters have only a few hours to develop the story, broadcast news is full of errors.
The bee story is a great example because many people hear a story on the news and begin assimilating the information as if it is factual. Even if you are a reasonable person, repeatedly hearing someone profess ridiculous things can make you question what you believe. Joseph Goebbels, author of the Nazi propaganda campaign against the Jews said that "if you tell a lie often enough, it eventually becomes accepted as the truth."
There are all kinds of other circumstances where people are trying to sell you something: The college professor who misleads his students because the real facts don’t support his political agenda, the auto mechanic who tells you the wheel is going to fall of your car if you don’t pay him $500 to flush the radiator, the electronic store representative who tries to sell your grandmother a high end stereo VCR when you have told him that she only has a 13 inch television that doesn’t put out stereo sound and on and on…
photo by: jurvetson