Of the Hidden Persuaders?
by Hilary Bowring, Contributing Editor
How much is Us and how much is the degree to which we are influenced by the media?
I read a book in my formative years “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard which was about the powerful ability of advertising to influence our desires and beliefs. Despite that insight I took up a career in advertising—was I on drugs? All my friends were surprised as I was always left wing politically and had a strong sense of social responsibility. I can’t fully recall my justification or the attraction it held for me. As it turned out I enjoyed the job very much and I learned things that can help now in my more evolved outlook on life. I learnt how to influence ‘consumers’ in a subtle way, how to appeal to their deeper psychological motivations. Whether it be a small guilt trip to make them buy a cleaner detergent or inspiring their social climbing sense to buy a prestige product. There were psychological buttons that could be pressed to be favourable to one brand or another. Psychographics were mapped out in big research studies and we used them to target the most susceptible people using language and visuals that encouraged Loyalty to our brand. And we reinforced such messages regularly.
With hindsight….. That background has equipped me to be more alert to the manipulative use and power in communications. Such training along with the development of my intuitive sense has given me a 6th sense of when manipulative buttons are being pressed. I feel it viscerally.
In the Pandemic the buttons being pressed manipulatively from all sides are startling. Not all with malicious intention, some for self interest and some genuinely for social well being. Nevertheless facts are being interpreted with a slant to make a persuasive argument of some kind or another to secure a common belief and motivation to follow a particular line of behaviour. People beyond my ability are using the power of words to engage in their message and elicit certain responses. The emotion of fear is a driving force. When people are afraid for their very survival they are very susceptible to messages that promise protection and safety. Keeping people in a state of fear means they are more open to manipulation and control. There is an increased engagement when fear rules so the viewers and readership goes up and the media owners make more money, a simple equation. Although there are other possibly deeper reasons as the media could also be engaged by governments in subtle ways. We like to think that kind of censorship and control only happens in Russia but we have the same opportunities in the West. We are told we are living in a democracy where freedom of speech is de rigour. Yet there are many examples of censorship at the moment if anyone speaks out; like doctors who disagree with the mainstream are silenced and even stripped of their licences. For the general public speaking out on social media is censored, more and more we hear about messages being removed from Facebook and Google searches. Here in Canada the Emergencies Act was used to end the Freedom convoy occupation of Ottawa. The act gave sweeping powers to the government to immediately freeze bank accounts of people who supported even with small donations. There is an Independent Inquiry taking place about the validity of such a radical move which was set up for a national emergency when all other options had failed, was it over reach? Critics worry it may not hold officials to account. (Globe& mail April 22nd)
I am not a conspiracist but I am an intuitive thinker who senses mistruth and bias. And with a science background I am also a critical thinker who wants to read the detail in the science facts and not accept the highlighted interpretation of statistics to make a particular point. My alerts go off when I can see a theme in a media company being reinforced rather than open reporting and investigative journalism. Powerful messages building beliefs are possible when people have great skills and know how to draw on human emotions. Journalistic hype is the prevailing wind. I could judge them and say how can you sleep at night? The reality is they need the job. We all make compromises to keep food on our table, take care of families and to be accepted by the group we belong to. A group consciousness can take over our individual thoughts because at essence we want to feel we belong. We don’t want to be alone and isolated. So we conform without realizing sometimes.
Also I get it that the average human being has no time to dig deep underneath the headlines into the complexities beyond the black and white We are so easily governed by the binary of right vs wrong because it makes life simpler, but it is not. The more we take sides encouraged by the regular media to outlaw shame and blame those who disagree, the more likely we will head into a catastrophic level of division and forget about the demise of our planet.
Many intelligent people have become mesmerised with the management of the virus containment. Dutifully taking booster after booster of vaccines. Completely buying into the accuracy of the tests-“The numbers are going up” remains the back bone of the fear narrative. Whereas it was meant to be about severity of illness, the aim being to avoid putting pressure on the health care system and potential collapse. No sign of that happening except there are backlogs of people waiting to be treated because of staff shortages. Some due to burn out, combined with poor pay. There has been little to no investment in the health care infrastructure or pay increases for nurses. On top of this there are shortages due to sickness–Not literally because staff are ill but they tested positive and even without symptoms have to quarantine and not go to work. I’ve just been on a trip to the UK that included some long distance train journeys. The station announcements twice warned that the trains would be very over crowded. Reason was train cancellations because of staff shortages, personnel had tested positive . So there we were in very overcrowded trains packed in like sardines and yet that was not considered a high risk situation. The logic defies sanity! I have a background in pharmaceuticals –a degree from University of London and learned that nothing is set in stone. The Science table is not a commandment of absolute truth rather science is by its nature a journey of discovery and ever changing as more is revealed.
How to create a new norm together, a more compassionate world?
- Ask our hearts what feels right even if it’s different from the mainstream.
- Diminish stress and fear by taking action.
-Like Turning of the TV news, staying informed using more passive media.
-Exercise –Regular walks or runs, do Yoga or Breath work or Tai Chi.
-Meditate regularly. I have found that just 10 min a day gives me inner stability and heart connection. I have recorded several on Youtube
- Live in new awareness re virus transmission. If we have symptoms we stay home and protect each other. Wear masks when we have symptoms including colds.
- Foster our power as individuals while aware that we are all interconnected. Stay aware of media influence and potential bias. Trust the power of our Collective influence. Vote for governments committed to healthcare for all.
- Live in awareness of One Consciousness and start to see another’s viewpoint as part of the rich tapestry of being human. There are demonic aspects too, best not to engage with them, instead…
- Focus on what we can change in ourselves which in turn affects all Consciousness. Sometimes forgiving ourselves and others is very healing