The mass media reshaped our society in the 20th century. Very few people now living remember life before mass media, and that number will only decrease in the years to come. And yet, the media is under attack by the new, more distributed information culture that first arose online. The outcome of that battle though has yet to be decided. Looking back on different transitions in history, sometimes the new wins out over the old… but sometimes the old shuts down or delays the new, for decades if not hundreds of years. Which will this be, I wonder?
I studied media and communications in college, along with politics and history, so this is a huge interest of mine. One area that my courses covered was propaganda and the inter-relationships that has had with advertising. My own conclusion from studying this is that we are all being subjected to the most pervasive mind-control experiment ever conducted, with no control group and no oversight on the experimenters. Personally, I think history will look back on the way we allow these techniques and technologies of influence to be used on people with horror, the same way we now look at the techniques and technologies of medieval “medicine” (leeching, bleeding, etc.).
Is advertising good? Certainly most people seem comfortable with it… but I would submit that that’s because by and large everyone now living grew up with it. In a way, it’s like oxygen… it’s just there. But that doesn’t mean that it is actually good. Certainly if you have something to sell, the idea that you’d try to get people to be interested in buying it SEEMS good… on the surface. But if a product can’t stand on its own merits, for the purposes for which it is ostensibly used for, is it worth buying? And if it is not in fact worth buying, is advertising to get someone to buy it anyway good? I think most people would answer that question no… while saying they can tell the difference.