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Media Critique #2

Fear mongering: The Emotional Manipulation of The Masses

            There is something wrong with America today; a sickness has burrowed down into the very core of our society. Free speech is censored as the media plays the part of the manipulated and manipulator. Zones are established where within that specific area and only in that area can you voice your opinions without fear of reprisal. Move outside of the designated area and serious repercussions can happen. We are being surveyed around the clock by foreign and national intelligence agencies monitoring for “terrorists.” We are led to believe lies from our government and media through targeted manipulation that allow our basic human rights to be violated and push agendas that are not in the public’s best interest. How is this possible? Who could give someone the power to do those and other things similar to it? There are many parties responsible with varying degrees of guilt but the main offenders. Well that would be you and me.

Understand that fear is a powerful emotion that is easily manipulated. Through that manipulation one can achieve a strong emotional response which would overcome any chance for a smart and calculated decision to be made. Over time the government, media, even ad agencies have used a tactic known as fear mongering to push their agendas. We will start at what is considered the most effective and iconic presidential ad in history, moving towards September 11th and the PATRIOT act. Through each of these examples you’ll see what happened and how it was used to push an agenda or specific goal often overcoming the rationality of the American people.

The American atmosphere was dripping in fear and uncertainty. President Kennedy had been assassinated recently and the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh on many Americans minds. It was at this time during the nineteen sixty four presidential election that President Lyndon Johnson unleashed what the New York Times called “…probably the most controversial TV commercial of all time.” The ad simply known as “Daisy” was a brutally effective and at the time startling piece of political propaganda. President Johnson’s opponent was Republican Barry Goldwater. Goldwater had what many described as an itchy nuclear trigger finger. In a number of interviews he stated how he favored the use of nuclear weapons. During an interview on the Vietnam War he is quoted as saying “There have been many suggestions made. I don’t think we would use any of them. But defoliation of the forests by low-yield atomic weapons could be done. When you remove the foliage, you remove the cover.” Goldwater also suffered from some mental issues as his wife stated in interviews that he suffered not one but two mental breakdowns.

The thought of a mentally unstable man with a willingness to use nuclear weapons scared President Johnson. After hearing of the interview he remarked to a friend “I just shudder to think what would happen if Goldwater won it. He’s a man that’s had two nervous breakdowns. He’s not a stable fellow at all.” President Johnson’s campaign hired the firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) and from that partnership sprung many unique attack ads against their opponent none like daisy though. “Daisy” was approved on August 20th during a White House meeting and on September 7th “Daisy” premiered on NBC prime time television. “Daisy” was a game changer.

The ad was simple and yet evoked a sense of forthcoming dread. That dread was aimed towards Goldwater and to say it was a success would be an understatement. A description of the ad is as such “It starts out with a little girl no more than three or four years old. She is standing in a field picking a daisy similar to the he loves me he loves me not game. The difference is she is counting, fumbling her way through the numbers. When she reaches nine an ominous sounding voice is heard counting down a missile launch. The girl turns towards the sky with the camera pulling in until only her pupils are shown blacking the screen out. At zero a flash and mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion occurs. President Johnson then narrates how the stakes are the highest they have ever been. That we must love each other and that you should vote for him instead of Goldwater.”

The ad only aired one time on NBC primetime but it struck a nerve and was picked up by ABC and CBS and multiple radio shows discussing it. Republicans were quick to defend themselves but only seemed to attach the stigma to them even more. Fifty three percent of women and forty five percent of men believed Goldwater would lead the United States to a nuclear confrontation. With this fear and idea instilled within the American people President Johnson won by a landslide and many attribute it to the image painted of Goldwater by “Daisy” and the fear it produced within the American psyche. “The landslide majority did not vote against the conservative philosophy, they voted against a false image our liberal opponents successfully mounted.” President Ronald Reagan would later write about “Daisy.” “News is a window of the world. Through its frame, American learn of themselves and others, of their institutions, leaders, and life styles, and those of other nations and their peoples” (Tuchman, lecture notes p. 5)

In this example it is abundantly clear that DDB framed the issue to bring to the forefront Goldmans open willingness to use nuclear weapons. The framing of the issue was brilliant. The description I gave doesn’t allude to the subtleness in it. By first having it be around a child it immediately triggers the thoughts of innocence. Having her play in a meadow surrounded by flowers was incredible imagery as it brings to mind the American Midwest. A simpler more natural America. The little girl “Daisy” also is seen picking the petals from the flower and messing up her number count. Imprinting in our minds more than ever the illusion of innocence. When the ominous voice presents itself after the shift to black it’s a jarring jump from the light of innocence into the darkness of destruction. The sudden nuclear explosion destroying all the innocence and beauty that had just been shown. In 1964 when television was new and this type of ad wasn’t common it was considered too much. In the ad they saw a reflection of two possible outcomes. One led to darkness and destruction the other the opposite. It was a brilliant ad and had earned it reputation.

September 11th 2001 there really is no need to say anything other than the date. It rekindles memories of helplessness, confusion, and most of all terror. Soon following that day a significant anthrax scare took hold of the country. Fear permeated through every pore of America’s body and President Bush and those in power galvanized the publics fear and anger to push through the Patriot Act. The act eliminated the checks and balances within the intelligence community and there was little if no government oversight on the Intelligence agencies collection of illegal information. James Bamford wrote “Without adequate oversight, or penalties for abuse, the only protection that citizens have comes not from Congress or the courts, but from whistleblowers.” (Bamford, NSA and me.) As a former Intelligence Specialist I sadly agree. A “YES” culture permeates the intelligence community and with it a rampant disregard for all rules. Nowadays we focus all our assets on prevention. In doing so we are placing guilt on someone before a crime even is committed. There is no longer innocent until proven guilty. To quote a phrase Captain America said in his recent film (which surprisingly enough dealt with the use of fear to gain power) “This isn’t freedom, this is fear.”

It’s even evident in Congress that fear was the primary factor in the Patriot Act and other bills passing. The Patriot Act passed the House of Representatives with 357-66 and 98-1 in the Senate. Republican Senator Bob Young commented about the Patriot Act to reporters saying it was “the worst act we ever passed. Everybody voted for it, but it was stupid, it was what you call ‘emotional voting.” Others have threw accusations that these new laws are being used to push through certain government agendas. The intelligence community saw a huge influx of funding, and the military industrial complex boomed with everything from the war, to extended surveillance capabilities and assets now at their disposal.

In seeking to prevent another terror attack from happening they also allowed for the term terrorist to be defined in dangerously broad terms. Multiple human rights activists and anyone that had a different political agenda than the one being pursued were targeted and watched. Whistleblowers were being convicted more than any time in history. We have been manipulated into a state of constant anxiety. Turn on the news and watch as broadcast journalist and politicians are using the Ebola outbreak to further their cause and rally supporters. Even now I’m willing to bet you can sense it, in the back of your mind you know you’re being watched. Being fed half-truths to help you form an opinion that toes the party line. Because it’s terribly obvious these “terrible illegal immigrants are here to steal our jobs, and overthrow our government if they are allowed to fight for America.” That Ebola will ravage the American people and bring us to our knees. While funny enough more people have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola in America. Where is the aid and help for those poor men?

It is understandable to see why we allowed this to happen yet it is highly irresponsible that it has been allowed to go this far. Unfortunately as was stated earlier fear is an emotion that is quite easy to manipulate. So how can this end? Simply put, allow yourself to fear but don’t let it overwhelm you. A good bit of fear keeps you on your toes as long as it does not overwhelm. Use reason, sound judgment of character, intelligence, and most of all courage. It is always uncomfortable confronting what you fear or what causes fear. We can do it together as a people and show that courage not fear is the emotion that rallies the American people together. Can it be accomplished? That is another paper for another day but as a great man once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

DAISY: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AN INFAMOUS AND ICONIC AD http://conelrad.com CONELRAD. October 14th 2014 http://conelrad.com/daisy/index.php

Hamm, Mark. THE USA PATRIOT ACT AND THE POLITICS OF FEAR. https://www.indstate.edu/ccj/crinst/hamm.pdf: Indiana State University, 2000. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Rosen, Jeffery. The Patriot Act Gives Too Much Power to Law Enforcement. https://www.newyorktimes.com : New York Times, 2011.

Web. 18 Oct. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/09/07/do-we-still-need-the-patriot-act/the-patriot-act-gives-too-much-power-to-law-enforcement

Bamford, James. The NSA and ME. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/the-nsa-and-me/ The Intercept, 2014. Web. 02 Oct. 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.

Edward Snowden

My issue of Wired came in the mail the other day, what’s the big deal about that? The cover and the cover story. They featured Edward Snowden, now I am very aware the vast majority of American’s agree with that he did. Having worked in the intelligence community for my entire military career I know first hand what he affected and how overblown the allegations are about US surveillance. I can assure you that the NSA, ONI, CIA, anyone of them are not sitting around actively listening to American citizens believe me there are bigger fish to fry. If you had to access the information gathered the paperwork and requests are substantial. In the classroom I’ll get more into this when the time comes. I’ll just leave you with this though, Mr. Snowden fled to Russia has said he doesn’t have the documents anymore, hasn’t spilled any tradecraft. I call bullshit and here’s why, Crimea. Now I’m very aware in Sevastopol the Russian’s essentially rented that port and surrounding area for military purposes, as well as a perfect strategic point for any conflict. Therefore already having people within. Ukraine’s armed forces radar and communication equipment were functioning properly. So how did they evade Ukraine’s and the United States amongst other allied countries SIGINT, COMINT, and IMINT sensors? Well one person had the documents, knowledge and skills to show Russia how to. Mr Edward Snowden. That’s just a quick and extremely basic overview of my thoughts and even that particular situation. I hope that could help you think about it in a new light.