Monthly Archives: September 2014

Media critique #1

Thank You for Smoking


I was having a hard time on what I wanted this to be, the news media is rife with topics, relevant television shows and movies all sprung to mind. Ultimately I chose Thank You for Smoking directed by Jason Reitman. The film itself is a satire of big tobacco. Through the main character who is a big tobacco lobbyist it allows us to take a look at some advertising techniques, spin and propaganda used by big tobacco.

The beginning scene allows us to see a talk show using a cancer stricken teenager as propaganda to garner sympathy to the anti-tobacco lobbyist. “It sees the individual not only as a cell in the social organism but as a cell organized into the social unit. Touch a nerve at a sensitive spot and you get an automatic response from certain specific members of the organism.”(Bernays, 28) In this scene I think it illustrates what Bernays wrote in a number of ways by showing while a noble cause their flagrant use of the teenager to garner sympathy and as a symbol is a way to anchor the individual to their cause and to not support big tobacco.

The main character ever the spin artist even manages to turn “it on it’s head” so to speak by using the same methods. This time though in the direction of big tobacco garnering the admiration and overall attention of the audience to his side by stating how it’s in big tobacco’s “best interest to keep him alive and smoking” and that a fifty million dollar campaign against “teen smoking” also giving credence to the quote above as he gave the people what they wanted to hear and used his chance to sway public opinion on his side.

After the television broadcast it shows the main character talking to his boss. The boss is livid as the original sum was to be fifty thousand dollars as he says “not enough to make a dent.” Later during the climax of the film a hearing is held discussing the addition of a skull and crossbones to cigarette packs. The doctor who is brought to testify on behalf of big tobacco argues that images are an affront on the non-English speaking population as “symbols carry distinct meaning in all cultures” Jhally wrote “If goods themselves are not the focus of perceived happiness, then they need to be connected in some way with those things that are.” (Image based culture, Jhally, 201)

Obviously the skull and crossbone denotes something is deadly and should be avoided. It’s the opposite of what advertisers want, they want to sell you a lifestyle choice and death isn’t exactly a selling point. The movie shows how it could be used one way to change a person’s perception through images alone and how it can affect those that don’t know the local dialect or lack the ability to read. All propaganda tools seem to be capable of transcending numerous communication barriers making them extremely effective.

The next is the main character watching a movie in his house. The guy in the film offers a cigarette to a friend, immediately he reaches for a cigarette of his own. This brings back the idea to “put the sex back into cigarettes.” Detailing how during the 1930’s cigarette production tripled why? He asked, the answer silent movies. Directors needed to give their actors something to do on screen, stating one of the greatest romances in film history involved a female actresses seductively asking for a light. Only to have the man stand up and coolly throw some matches towards her and having her catch it. The aim to have Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt smoke in their new movie and move away from the RAVs (Russians, Arabs and Villains) that usually smoke on film. A quote from Bernays; “Modern propaganda is a consistent enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group”. ( Bernays,14) As the quote above stated “create or shape events to influence” now ask yourself who is more influential than two of the most beautiful people on the planet?

The attempt is to make cigarettes cool again in the public eye so that it doesn’t have the negative connotations that are usually associated with cigarettes. In today’s celebrity obsessed age the job would already be done for them. As people emulate, and change themselves to be what the hottest celebrity trend is. Imagine the impact something like that would have on popular culture it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s already happened with numerous products.

One that stands out is the Marlboro Man, everyone knows who that is. Rough, tough cowboy, masculine to the core he echoes adventure, freedom, the wild west all appealing to the male demographic. They show the downfall of the Marlboro man but also hit on some of the ads successes. These also were very successful in influencing the public, most people I know smoke “reds” the Marlboro man’s cigarette. BR a senior executive states that cigarettes were cool and addictive so half their job was done for them those ads were the other half. This advertising campaign was the longest in history so successful in it’s job that Ewen states “It was a legend. If the Marlboro Man had crashed, well, then, brand equity had crashed as well.” (Ewen, 10) Not a lot of brands can say that. The tobacco industry is very good at propaganda but the Marlboro man as the movie and Ewen seem to agree was as Barney Stinson would say “legendary.”

A part of the film also tells you about the “Academy of Tobacco Studies” and introduces you to their lawyers and most importantly their scientists who have been conducted studies for over thirty years. Their main goal is to try to link smoking with lung cancer, which they have not found any conclusive evidence. “The instruments by which public opinion is organized and focused may be misused.” (Bernays, 12) With this information, knowing that the “Academy” is funded by big tobacco it’s easy to see things can be a little skewered. The average American doesn’t know who funds what from political parties to other institutions such as the “Academy.” Meaning when they see a poll, or a scientific study from the “Academy” their inclination is to believe what seems to be a trusted source.  In misleading the public through the misuse of what generates public opinion they knowingly endanger future generations.

Now the biggest propaganda, spin, what have you is the main character Nick Naylor. Whether we like it or not an attractive charismatic person is more capable of capturing and holding your interest than anyone else. This is the ideal person you want to send your message. “The beauty of argument is that if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.” Nick Naylor says this in the movie and thinking about that statement with what I wrote above I thought about what Ewen quoted Bernays as saying “The group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word. In place of thoughts it has impulses habits and emotions. In making up its mind the first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology” (Ewen, 165) In the movie Nick Naylor is akin to a young John F. Kennedy, confident, attractive and articulate. He is somebody you could see yourself following.

While you see yourself able to follow Nick Naylor, he is essentially “regimenting the public mind.”  (Ewen, 168) How he is doing this is through argument he is great at public relations and spinning public opinion. So throughout the movie you are shown the “best” and worst of some interesting tobacco propaganda and also shown that if a person has enough charisma and has an “attractive” quality you tend to be more receptive of the message they carry interesting how propaganda can take so many forms and be so effective huh?


Works Cited

Ewen, Stuart. PR: A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books, 1996. Print.


Bernays, Edward. Propagnada. Ig Publishing, 1928. Print.


Reitman, Jason, dir. Thank You for Smoking. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2005. Film.

The Knower of the World

The Knower of the World, interesting huh? If you look it up you’ll most likely come across articles relating to Buddha. That’s not why I chose it, I’m not what you would call a man of faith. I chose the title because through all my training I have become a Knower of the world in the sense I was trained to look for lies, to manipulate other’s to achieve a goal (uh oh!) To look at you, listen to you and find what makes you tick, what buttons I can push, and how I can use you to my advantage. Scary huh? I’m quite good at it too, so good in fact it scares me.

Now why am I telling you this? How could you trust me after saying all that. Why would you even want to talk to me because of that. Well simply put I wouldn’t do it to you. At least the manipulation to achieve a goal or anything similar. So please don’t worry about that what I want to share with you is this. I can see through the looking glass so to speak and honestly it’s terrible.

Since getting out, I’ve tried to reconnect with people, make new friends, and build a life up here for myself. Yet I find myself more and more alienating people, and purposely avoiding any and everyone. Why you may ask well the answer is simple, people lie and I always know. I won’t tell you, I won’t acknowledge it but I know. I see people trying to manipulate others in such half hazard fashions (to me at least) it’s laughable. I try to make new friends only to know instantly I can’t trust them. I’m able to make an astute and accurate observation of a person after only three active conversations with them. Which is why I keep my conversations short or onto completely random topics away from personal stuff because I want to like you. I don’t do this on purpose when I say it’s natural for me after so many years of having to be that way it’s become second nature. This also goes towards news stories, politicians, any and everything. I’ve been trained to see through the looking glass so to speak. While it’s helped me grow intellectually, it’s also left me depressed and pessimistic about there being any good in the world.

I mean we literally judge people for everything from how they dress, what music they listen too, to what they look like and for wanting just to be happy. I don’t care about any of that, you comfortable? Fuck yea then wear that! You like a particular type of music that I’m not into. Fuck it rock out buddy I may not get it but it’s awesome you do! Your gay? Good shit hope you get the equality that as a straight male I have. You hate the military? Oh well it happens we’re all not perfect…I kid…. I kid but seriously just be you.

Now I’m not a good man I sacrificed that during my first two tours. I’d do it again in a heart beat if it meant protecting everyone again but I’m aware of the price I paid for doing what I had to do. I strive everyday to get the proverbial refund and become what I see as a good person. If you talk to me you’ll see after having to lie for the past 7.5 years about my life and everything I did I am so uninhibited with my honesty it’s gonna catch you off guard. There’s a joy in being alive, yet if you pay attention as I talked about above you see that hint of sadness/despair within my eyes.

I’m sure things will change, they always do. I mean I went from getting arrested at 18-20 years old numerous times, ignorant to the world around me to working at the Pentagon with the highest security clearance you can get. I’ve been around the world and learned alot and still a part of me wishes the veil hadn’t been lifted. I’m a big fan of solitude I’m not a big fan of feeling alone. I’m tired of seeing through the looking glass, I’m ready to leave wonderland.

Mild Ramblings

I’m not really sure what it is I want to write about. I keep seeing all these reports on the news that are tearing apart our country. Fear, greed, and hate seem to permeate everything I see. People no longer look at the facts, they take away what they want to hear and they base that as fact and purposely forgetting everything else. That’s not truth that is a perversion of the truth. Simple example that would be like me saying my hair is black, while ignoring completely that I have a significant amount of white/gray hair. Yes I do have black hair but to ignore the gray hair would be to miss the whole picture. Then we have your Hannity’s and Limbaugh’s, people who I see spread hate, misinformation and intolerance. I believe if you are someone in their position you have a responsibility to inform your audience of all views. Have reasonable debates on topics, and to not serve a one sided political agenda. To be respectful to represent an intelligent argument at all times. Now if you go and watch/listen to any of those well you get the exact opposite. Anytime I hear someone say they got their argument from either of them your credibility with me is shot and I will no longer think of you as an independent or capable thinker. I will however try to show you and educate you on how to broaden your horizons, open your eyes and move away from the ignorance they promote. I know this feels aimless it really is, I just thought I’d get that off my mind.