From a business point of view the ideal social unit is you and the television set. - Noam Chomsky

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)

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.

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

"They found that participants who believe that couples on TV are true to life are less committed in their own marriage: their survey responses indicate they are more likely to cheat and less likely to stay in the marriage." -  Scientific American (April 2013)

"Building a democracy around The West Wing’s version of politics, then, is setting one’s self up for disappointment. The show overstates the power of personalities to triumph over fundamental political realities. It exaggerates the import and impact of presidential rhetoric. And it concordantly minimizes the internal and external obstacles even the most well-meaning and capable politicians face when attempting to make policy. Such creative liberties add up to a romanticized portrayal which leads viewers to expect more from their elected officials and government than either can reasonably deliver." -  Outside the Beltway (Oct 2012)

"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."  - (April 2012)

"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. Politics is a movie,” he continued, “and now we’re in a campaign season where what we’re really watching is not so much political debate … as we are watching a movie in which candidates are pretending to be our protagonists-in-chief. … They want to be the hero of the movie because they understand that’s what the American people really are looking for.”" -  Raw Story (Feb 2012)

"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) 

"Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance" -  MIT News (July 2011)

"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)

"If you thought Tom Cruise's character in "The Last Samurai" represented a real figure from history, you were wrong. But don't feel ashamed. A new study shows that even students, with facts staring them in the face, tend to substitute Hollywood fiction for historical fact in their minds. "What we found is that there's something really special about watching a film that lets people retain information from that film, even when they had read a contradictory account in the textbook," said Andrew Butler, a psychology researcher at Washington University in St. Louis during the time he and his colleagues conducted the study." -  Live Science (Aug 2009)  and  NBC News (Aug 2009)  and  e! Science News (Aug 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)

"Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand"  -  The New York Times (April 2008)

"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"  -  The Independent (Feb 2008)

"'Stealth Advertising' Sliding Under Radar Into TV Newscasts: Small Market Newscasts Often Include Segments That Benefit Advertisers"  -  Science Daily (July 2007)

"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)

"The ongoing controversy over video news releases has not stopped television stations from airing the fake news segments without attribution."  -  PR Watch (Nov 2006)

"Fake News and other reasons not to watch TV news"  -  PLR (June 2006)

"Bush administration pays actors to pose as TV journalists"  -  SFGate (March 2004)

Propaganda - Wikipedia

Path to 9/11

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.""  -  Wikipedia

"Adolf Hitler 'planned propaganda cable TV' Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were working on a Big Brother-style cable television propaganda industry to be broadcast across Germany... Prototype programmes included Family Chronicles: An Evening with Hans and Gelli, which was an early reality TV show depicting a wholesome Aryan life of a young German couple.” - The Telegraph (Oct 2008)

"Its tactics were so effective that Hitler and Goebbels modeled their system of propaganda in the 1930's on CPI's policies. Adolph Hitler bluntly discussed the use of propaganda in his book, Mein Kampf, in which he shared Machiavelli's low regard for his audience's intellectual capabilities: "All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be." (qtd. in Smith 38). Another passage, also from Mein Kampf, repeated Hitler's contempt for the masses:

"Its [propaganda's] effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.  We must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public.  The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous."” - Propaganda

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.

What is Social Learning Theory?

"Americans might not think of soap operas as the best way to spread awareness of serious women’s issues, but in Turkey—the media capital of the Middle East—these TV dramas are fueling a feminist movement."  -  Yes Magazine (Feb 2016)

"There's actually a growing body of research into how humor can affect male attitudes toward women. A 2007 study from West Carolina University laid some groundwork, creating a scenario in which men exposed to sexist, women-demeaning jokes were more inclined toward cutting money to women's organizations. A number of other studies have found similar results."  -  Slate (May 2015)

"Did Harry Potter Help Shape the Political Views of Millennials?"  -  Slate (August 2014)

"Seven Movies That Changed People’s Political Views" - Slate (Jan 2014)

"Researchers found that support for equal rights was positively influenced by fictional gay characters" - Salon (April 2013)

"Did TV change America’s mind on gay marriage?" - Salon (March 2013)

"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)

"Face to face with desire-grabbing images and sense-assaulting scripts, we cannot help comparing ourselves to what we see. We cannot help imitating at a neuro-chemical level the actions that we see. Nor can we help repeating stereotypes about race and gender, or absorbing the persistent, implicit message of many video games, rap songs, and popular films that violence is an acceptable and useful response to life’s conflicts. In short it is our nature as social creatures to learn from what we see about what is real, what matters, how we should act, and where we should, or do not, fit in. We do so without thinking. Even though we know that what we are seeing is fiction, it registers in our brains as real."  -  Psychology Today (June 2010)

"Strange But True: How Soap Operas Might Save Us From Overpopulation"  -  Alternet (June 2010)

"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."  - (May 2010)

"Simply watching others do something good and uplifting encouraged more altruistic behavior."  -  PsychCentral (Feb 2010)

"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)

"Lou Dobbs Upset That Latin Network Soap Opera Will Include a Storyline Promoting the Census"  -  Crooks and Liars (Sept 2009)

"Smoking in the Movies: Under-the-Radar Cigarette Advertising?"  -  PR Watch (April 2009)

"Television as social surrogate" - On Fiction (Feb 2009)

"A new study reveals that viewers can be influenced by exposure to racial bias in the media, even without realizing it."  -  Science Daily (March 2008)

"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."  - (Jan 2008)  and  UPI (Jan 2008)

"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."  -  Science Daily (Nov 2007)

"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."  -  Slate (Aug 2007)

"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.""  -  Slate (April 2007)

"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)

"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)

"The evidence is stronger for the influence of reports in the news media than in fictional formats. However, several studies have found dramatic effects of televised portrayals that have led to increased rates of suicide and suicide attempts using the same methods displayed in the shows."  -  SAGE Journals (May 2003)

"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)

"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"  -  Science Daily (Feb 2002)

Reality TV

"New research finds that reality television programs that purport to show celebrities’ everyday lives impact viewers’ beliefs about human relationships."  -  Pacific Standard (Sept 2013)

"Plastic surgery reality television plays a significant role in cosmetic surgery patient perceptions and decision making. Patients who regularly watched one or more reality television show reported a greater influence from television and media to pursue cosmetic surgery, felt more knowledgeable about cosmetic surgery in general, and felt that plastic surgery reality television was more similar to real life than did low-intensity viewers."  -  PubMed (July 2007)

Military Propaganda

"Pentagon Influences TV Shows Like 'American Idol'? New Documents Show Scary Collaboration" -  Alternet (July 2015)

""The End of Victory Culture" examines the relationship between US military conflicts and children's entertainment" -  Salon (Aug 2013)

"Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces" -  Salon (July 2013)  and  Salon (July 2013)

"How the US military influences Hollywood" -  YouTube Salon (Jan 2013)

"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)

"Operation Hollywood: How The Pentagon Shapes And Censors The Movies" -  You Tube (May 2012)

"Katy Perry and the military-pop-cultural complex" -  The Guardian (April 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)

"Hollywood Warfare: How the Pentagon Censors the Movies" -  You Tube (Jan 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)

"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" - (July 2004)

Glorifying (and Selling) Guns

"As improbable as it sounds, there's an important moment in the '98 thriller U.S. Marshals. In the middle of their introduction, Tommy Lee Jones throws Robert Downey Jr. a withering stare and snarls: ''Get yourself a Glock. Lose that nickel-plated sissy pistol.''

It's a throwaway line in a subpar movie, but it serves as a reminder of one of Hollywood's dirtiest little secrets — that, just like chips or beer, guns get product placement. In fact, for years now, the adversarial gun and film industries have indirectly been in business together, using each other to sell their products even as they cudgel one another on the op-ed pages.

It shouldn't be surprising. By common estimate, approximately 60 percent of Hollywood films feature at least one firearm, and they're almost always recognizable brands. And while it's no secret that movies have long used guns to sell tickets, few know that the placement of guns in films can have a direct effect on firearm sales.

''The .44 Magnum Model 29 is the classic example,'' explains Andrew Molchan, director of the National Association of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers. ''It was a slow-selling, overly powerful handgun, then Dirty Harry happened [in 1971] and sales exploded. It just goes to show how powerful this kind of advertising can be.''"  -  Entertainment Weekly (June 1999)

CIA Propaganda

"In addition, Homeland never bothered itself with the niceties of global diplomacy. It is a show that presents change – or the potential for it – as being most likely found at the end of a gun barrel. This season it doubled down.

In its make-believe world peace and rapprochement between long-time enemies is achieved not through the extension of an olive branch or even the application of political pressure, but rather a CIA assassination, which somehow melts away years of animosity between the US and Iran and transforms the Middle East.

This is a bit how children understand foreign policy – grand sweeping gestures crafted by well-meaning individuals (or in this case a psychopathic killer being blackmailed by the CIA) that somehow transform whole societies. Indeed, when Saul unveils this grand plan for peace to Carrie, he tells her that, if successful, "two countries who haven't communicated for 30 years, except through terrorist actions and threats, can sit down and talk." But, of course, for that to happen, someone has to die first."  -  Alternet (Dec 2013)

"CIA requested Zero Dark Thirty rewrites, memo reveals" -  The Guardian (May 2013)

"We are supposed to feel bad for Jack Bauer, the lead character on FOX's hit show "24." Only he and a handful of his colleagues, it seems, have the moral strength necessary to do what has to be done. While Senators whine and his superiors wring their hands about what is "right," Bauer acts and saves the nation." - Huffington Post (Jan 2009)

"Tom Hanks Tells Hollywood Whopper in 'Charlie Wilson's War'" -  Alternet (Dec 2007)

"Is James Bond Responsible for the Iraq War?" -  Slate (Dec 2006)

Glorifying Criminals

"Real Life 'Wolf of Wall Street' Victim Pens Scathing Letter to Scorsese and DiCaprio" - Alternet (Dec 2013)

"This romance of the swindler, courtesy of Scorsese and Coppola, has permeated American popular culture so profoundly that it now dominates even the daytime soap opera. “General Hospital,” the 50-year-old grande dame of daytime, is now populated by more mobsters than medical personnel. The mob boss has become the romantic hero for America’s stay-at-home moms... But there’s something deeper. American mass culture, if you really get down to it, is itself a hustle — a set of attitudes and values driven by market forces that promote the advantage of wealthy people who control a system rigged to separate regular folks from their hard-earned money. Wouldn’t those one percenters prefer us to cheer financial fraudsters, or at the very least, think of them as not really so very bad in the end? The more charming the fraudster, and the less we know of the pain he causes, the better." - Alternet (Dec 2013)

"The Wolf of Wall Street," Martin Scorsese's highly-anticipated biopic about '90s-era pump-and-dump charlatan Jordan Belfort. Disturbing: Belfort's decadence. Equally disturbing: the finance-heavy audience's gleeful reaction to his behavior and legal wrongdoings." - Business Insider (Dec 2013)

""Look, Marty and I, we don't like these guys, let's put it that way. None of the people that made this movie likes these people, at all," DiCaprio said. Could've fooled me. In fact, it's odd that even when given the chance to prove that statement, the script and direction seem to resist the opportunity. At a point in the story when Chandler's FBI agent could have had a moment of reflective, emotive pride at getting his man, he's instead shown mournfully gazing around the subway on his ride home, comparing his drab existence to that of his flashy nemesis in response to Belfort's earlier jabs. In another scene toward the end, as Belfort rides the bus to his plea-bargained, rat-induced, 22-month jail sentence, we're teased that he's finally facing his comeuppance, feeling the angst of justice, payback for all the devastation he's wrought... only to segue quickly from there to a "country club" snapshot of him playing jailhouse tennis, right to the concluding scene in which we see a still rich, still slick Belfort motivating a roomful of New Zealand wannabe sales wizards, leaving us with the image of survivor, a man on top of his game in spite of... everything." - Huffington Post (Dec 2013)

"In the end, the film may be a Rorschach test. Those who recognize the ills of capitalism will see in the dense, complicated film an extreme example of the power of greed and the lure of abundance.  Those who won't, may cheer our hero while doing lines of coke off of scantily clad women."  - Indie Wire (Dec 2013)

A criminal making over a million dollars from the movie rights:

"Having served 28 months of a 42-month sentence, Belfort now claims he is reformed. He says he has made repeated offers over the past two years to turn over the money he received for the movie rights to the government. But prosecutors say he paid only $21,000 in restitution in 2011, the same year he signed the $1.045 million movie deal and reported the receipt of $940,500."  - Indie Wire (Dec 2013)

Glorifying Materialism

"Its most ardent supporters even suggested the show was progressive, that because it forced viewers to confront the ugly truths hidden behind the myth of post-World War II America it championed a liberal viewpoint. Yet this accolade has always failed to recognize that “Mad Men”’s depictions of sexism and racism, as well as the occasional nods to the political turmoil of the 1960s, have always served as window dressings, superficial ways to ground the show in a certain era while it champions a far less progressive ideology: the unfettered accumulation of wealth as a worthwhile pursuit." - Salon (May 2015)

Overt Propaganda

"Triumph of the Will was released in 1935 and became a prominent example of propaganda in film history. Riefenstahl's techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned Triumph of the Will recognition as one of the greatest films in history. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries."  -  Wikipedia

PR Watch

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.

TV Electorate

"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

TV and Communism

"It is an appealing hypothesis. But is it true? Several years ago, political scientist Jens Hainmueller figured out a way to test it: Due to an accident of topography, residents of Dresden, in East Germany, did not receive Western television (the city lies in a basin), while people who lived nearby did. Using a variety of data — surveys of attitudes and political views, exit-visa applications, and more — Hainmueller and his colleague Holger Lutz Kern of the University of South Carolina found that, other things being equal, East Germans with access to West German television were actually more supportive of the Communist regime than those who did not watch Western programming. “Having Western television just made people more content with living there,” explains Hainmueller, now an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Political Science." - MIT News (March 2013)

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 and the Center for Disease Control

"Surveys show that most people believe the medical information they see on television dramas and soap operas. With fictional TV shows playing such a powerful role in public health education, the government is dedicated to keeping an eye on what Hollywood says. That's why the CDC is one of four government health agencies that fund the “Hollywood, Health & Society'' program at the University of Southern California. The program has an annual budget of nearly $564,000." - Live Science (Jan 2008)

TV and Public Health

"Hollywood could help us solve this problem, by normalizing condoms, even by making them cool. If James Bond starts talking about condoms, maybe other guys will follow suit.  Doubt this would work? When psychologist Sonya dal Cin showed teens a clip from the first Die Hard movie, she discovered that those exposed to scenes of Bruce Willis’s character smoking developed more favorable attitudes toward cigarettes. There’s a reason companies pay big money for product placement. It works!  Even more importantly,  Hollywood could help people learn how to handle these delicate situations by providing good, and sexy, examples of responsible behavior." - Psychology Today (March 2013)

Cultivation Theory

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." - Wikipedia

"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. " - Psychology Today (July 2008) 

Atlantic Monthly article about George Gerbner "The Man Who Counts the Killings"

Atlantic Monthly article about George Gerbner "A Culture of Violence"

L.A. Times article about George Gerbner "George Gerbner, 86; Educator Researched the Influence of TV Viewing on Perceptions"

George Gerbner - Wikipedia

Military use of cultivation theory

Examples Include:

The 'mean-world' syndrome

The 'mean-world' syndrome 2

The 'mean-world' syndrome 3

TV Crime Reporting

CSI Effect 1

CSI Effect 2

CSI Effect 3

House Effect

"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)

"The general premise of this research is that television programs present a systematic, consistent distortion of social reality. That is, the way life is portrayed on television is often not an accurate reflection of the real world, and these portrayals are very consistent in their distortions. It then follows that frequent, long-term exposure to these distortions will cause viewers to incorporate the television portrayals into their perceptions of social reality. Gerbner and his colleagues have coined the term cultivation to capture the essence of this effect: Television viewers "cultivate" the television point of view, and such cultivation is greater for those who view relatively more television (fo a review, see Gerbner et al. 1994).  Thus, the concept of television effects rests on two empirically testable propositions: 1) television representations of reality differ from objective reality, and 2) the viewing of these distortions affects social judgment in predictable ways. Specifically, the more people watch television, the more their beliefs about reality will resemble the world as it is portrayed on television." - Association For Consumer Research (1998)

Just World

"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)

"These results firmly support the hypothesis that use of entertainment chimpanzees in the popular media negatively distorts the public's perception and hinders chimpanzee conservation efforts." - Plos One (2011)


Recommended Books

Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies (2004)

The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (2008)

History by Hollywood: THE USE AND ABUSE OF THE AMERICAN PAST (1996)

Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research (1999)

The Power of Fiction

"Baby boomer humor’s big lie: “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack” really liberated Reagan and Wall Street" -  Salon (March 2014) 

"There is no real freedom in the society and fantasy offered by The LEGO Movie: democracy is an illusion. The best that an individual can hope for is to self-actualize and fulfill their human potential by purchasing consumer goods from a global corporation." -  Daily Kos (Feb 2014)  and  Alternet (Feb 2014)

"Attendees at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were reportedly thrilled by a short sci-fi video depicting a dictatorial near-future government and the underground "Movement on Fire" that springs up to resist it. The video, a thinly veiled advertisement for violent insurrection from the “Tea Party Patriots" group, boasts professional acting and Hollywood production values. But underneath its bright, professional sheen lurk dark overtones of End Times paranoia that will resonate with millions of American fundamentalists." -  Alternet (March 2013)  and  You Tube (March 2013)

"Why Breaking Bad's Walter White Is the Epitomal Greedy American CEO" -  Alternet (Oct 2013)

"The film shows Belle as a romantic dreamer. She's sweetly contemptuous of her workaday village neighbors and their grinding drudgery. The film identifies them with the sheep who at one point mindlessly munch on one of Belle's romance novels. While the palace servants are individualized, the villagers are independent yet faceless nobodies. And here's where Disney politics fires up the plot.  When Belle spurns Gaston's advances, he turns into a rabble-rousing demagogue who turns the villagers into a vicious mob that invades the palace. The melee caricatures the French Revolution, pitting the Prince's "good" servants against workaday louts. The good workers rout the bad workers with the usual cleverness of Disney underdogs, including some winking anal jokes (attackers burned and stabbed in the backside). The lowlife villagers and Gaston vanish into oblivion, and in their place aristocracy and its good servants become triumphantly human." -  Psychology Today (Feb 2013)

""V" - The right's new favorite TV show, or inadvertent proof of the ubiquity of the right's fables?" - Open Left (Dec 2009) 

"The deliciously depraved sitcom, which returns for its second season tonight, reminds viewers that these days a working stiff can’t catch a break: In a world of unpaid internships and crummy coffee-shop jobs, the only way to make it is to scam, cheat, and lie. Better (and more achievable) than career satisfaction: Hanging out with the cool kids. Those cool kids can be awfully mean, though." -  Slate (Oct 2012)

"The series is just the latest Hollywood offering to get the drug trade wrong--and provide a dicey racial narrative " -  Salon (Sept 2012)

"However, there is one film from the 1980s that conservatives can legitimately claim promotes their political worldview and values... Red Dawn" - Alternet (Jan 2009)

"Iran's TV adds entertainment to propaganda"  -  SFGate (April 2008)

"An anti-union group hoping to build opposition to a law designed to make it easier to organize is using some pretty tough ads (look here and here) featuring one of the country's most famous TV crime families to attack Democratic Senate candidates." -  Oregon Live (August 2008)