[This is written] to the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free…to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother…greetings![i]
The above segment, from George Orwell’s 1984, was a diary entry written by main character Winston, who sought to connect with people who had previously or would one day exist in a time different than his own: an era when people did not live under constant control via programming that not only inserted governmental agenda into the psyches of the general public incrementally and at will, but where, also, members of society were not surveilled 100 percent of the time by the same powers. The book outlines a man’s inner struggle between rebellion and compliance in the face of extreme population scrutiny and control by governmental powers. Such forces, in 1984, regulate and enforce every aspect of a man’s life, down to his very thoughts. By even writing a journal at all—an endeavor the man kept hidden—Winston violated laws stating that both independent speech and expressions of free thought were equal to insurrection, their very existence a usurpation of the authorities that ruled.
In this novel, the earlier-mentioned branch of the government known as the Ministry of Truth oversees all “news, entertainment, education, and fine arts.”[ii] This force utilizes its powerful and influential outlets to continually program the audiences, glorifying certain leaders as nearly godlike, while others are propagated as hated figures. Such personalities are often even the focus of a routine called a “Two Minutes Hate,” an aptly-named period of time wherein a face of an individual who is pinpointed for revulsion appears on all surrounding screens, sending the crowd into a frenzy of screaming, throwing items, and even violence at the sight of the character. Such power-orchestrated periods provide the dystopian society’s tired and weary populace an outlet for mounting frustration as they go about their micro-controlled lives.
In our modern world, some have made comparisons between Orwellian assertions and the real world, while others have maintained that Orwell was a genius of fiction and nothing more. After all, our modern population would never stand for the blatant conditioning that occurred in 1984’s Two Minutes Hate. Such an obvious tactic would be recognized and dispelled immediately. Furthermore, many who state that modern media is used to target and coerce the animosity of specific political figures and movements come from a conservative crowd, meaning that those who would defend the media are often of the liberal slant. Since most of the left-leaning populace is made up of educated, degree-holding citizens,[iii] the accusation that they would be the first to succumb to such primordial manipulation tactics would seem to insult our most matriculated consensus. Thus, if any comparison to Orwell’s Oceania can hold water, we must observe a subtler tactic than the brutish ones controlling Winston’s world. It would have to be more covert, incremental, persistent, and pitched as civilized. Perhaps it would be in the form of a continual inundation of headlines that villainize a targeted political figure, movement, or demographic, while, on the other hand, the elevating of a glorious counter-hero or movement is contrasted. Such an approach would coerce a culture into embracing one style of thinking and voting, and would impress them upon their daily philosophies, while those positioned as a public enemy are embraced as such. And, in response to the nonstop flood of messages that specifically work to shape the public’s position on everything from politics to which shoes to purchase, a tired community begins to passively intake what they are spoon-fed, because many of them, like Winston, fight the mental onslaught until they can no longer will themselves to perceive reality. Sadly, many end up like Winston, who, at the end of 1984, can—spoiler alert—no longer wage war with his own instincts and shuts down:
He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.[iv]
Now, that is a strategy for controlling the mindset of the masses that just might catch on, were the media to think of it.
Wait a minute. Perhaps that is precisely what we’ve been seeing. If this is the case, those figures unfortunate enough to be positioned as deserving of public disdain would, perhaps, be relieved to only be the focus of a Two Minutes Hate, as opposed to the all-day, every-day animosity that’s aimed in their direction.
Are you willing to challenge your thinking? With knowledge comes power; do you dare to continue reading, knowing that what is unraveled here may cause you to see the world around you differently?
In truth, we are surrounded by cultural associations that tell us what to purchase, like, wear, eat, drink, drive, and even how to vote. In fact, a societal agenda is being played out via our media each day that—albeit more tactful than Orwellian literature—programs our public mindset in nearly the same way. Better yet, the subtlety employed nearly guarantees that, as we embrace the narrative being carved, we additionally perceive accrued thought patterns to be our own.
Just as Winston’s inner conflict was derived in his own instinctive resistance to the Big Brother forces, it is understandable if the current inundation of media into the common mindset causes us to feel wariness and distrust toward an unseen power that drives an agenda and utilizes multiple angles to continually program the minds of the masses.
Many people have heard the line “Big Brother is watching” and likened it to the surveillance that occurs in our modern setting.[v] But more covert in our condition is the fact that not only are we increasingly watched, we are being programmed. When there are central, controlling entities that feed the narrative of thought throughout a nation, they tell us how to think, what is appropriate to say, how to feel, what to believe, and what to be passionate about, let alone how we are to spend our money. But, the modern-day equivalent to the Orwellian Thought Police maintains control with a softer finesse than those in 1984.
At least, that’s the case so far.
Consider the revolution of occurrences over the past few years. Does it seem as though political alliances in the public sphere have become more aggressively polarized than in recent decades? Perhaps you’ve noticed that phrases such as “hate speech” have become more common—perpetually causing people of traditional or religious values to grow silent about their beliefs? Or, maybe you or someone you know has been banned from social media for statements that—while legal under the First Amendment of the US Constitution—were deemed “too offensive” to be posted publicly. Maybe you’ve noticed specific individuals who have been victims of continual headline-bashing, while others are repeatedly glorified by the same news outlets.
If you’ve observed these things occurring simultaneous to the gratuitous oversaturation of media-related themes in increasing areas of our daily lives (memes, advertisements, news updates continually buzzing on our smartphones, and more), you may be wondering if there is a more powerful force attempting to empty the public’s minds of certain thoughts, while overwhelming them with other content. Or, perhaps the proximity of distraction itself is becoming a weapon of choice by powers that be. It would seem that the same icons of media that once pervaded our television screens now follow us everywhere we go. Via smartphones, tablets, computer laptops, and other devices, we are never alone anymore. In the digital age, we have a universe of information at our fingertips. Conversely, the very same universe intrudes upon us every other minute. We’re rarely afforded an undistracted moment wherein we can have a conversation with a friend or loved one that isn’t interrupted by a series of beeps, dings, and other distracting tones, each announcing political upheaval somewhere in the world, proclaiming the divorce of a celebrity couple, or promising to divulge the weight-loss secrets of the rich and famous.
At the price of connectivity, we lose our privacy, our autonomy, even our individuality. We are witnessing a revolution of Orwellian proportions. Next, those who employ such tactics will come after your right to free speech—and soon, that of independent thought. The continual “paid programming” that flows through our countless devices and keeps us at the beck and call of every ringtone doesn’t come without cost. Our minds are, at cue, being trained to respond to a corporate chronicle that the public is slowly forgetting how to live without. There is an agenda behind the script, a conditioning that occurs with every new “ding” that commands our attention. Most people will dismiss this important detail, but it is vital—forming the crux around which this chapter is shaped:
Big Brother is not merely watching.
Big Brother is speaking.
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In order to fully expose the level of control media has over our thinking, it’s important to illustrate its vast reach. When one says the word “media,” people usually visualize a television news channel or perhaps a single social-media platform. Unfortunately, those images are remnants of yesteryear, when a type of simplicity attached itself to broadcasting, when the power knob of a television could cut off the intrusion it placed on our lives, and when ownership of outlets was limited so that each had a restricted realm of influence. Later we’ll delve into how much of this has changed, but a small exposé of reach-potential will help us understand the sheer force behind the element we sum up with the single word “media.”
An easy way to begin to grasp this factor can be found by playing a little game. Next time you visit a local, big-box brand department store (such as Walmart, Target, or Kmart), imagine that you have the power to remove anything from the store’s inventory that you see fit. Let’s pretend that your criteria for removal is any reference—however big or small—to any type of content related to television, movies, modern music, magazines, and news stories including reporting on the realms of politics, sports, natural disasters, etc.
As you tour the store, mentally remove anything with branding or advertisement that falls within this category. This will be easiest if you start in an area such as the cereal or cookie aisle, since examples here will be the most obvious. If packaging features a cartoon character, remove it from your visual. If a product is branded with a superhero, take it out. Apply this principle to everything as you walk through the grocery section of this building. If such a maneuver of inventory were in your power and you carried out this directive, what would be left on the shelves? Taking this activity a step farther, wander away from the food section of the building and roam through the other departments: clothing, shoes, toys, and electronics. If you followed the initial instructions for this exercise—removing all references to anything existing in modern media—what would remain? It’s likely the store would be nearly empty, with the leftover stock strangely mirroring the inventory lining the shelves of a general store of yesteryear.
This simple exercise helps us begin to get an idea of how far into every aspect of our culture this inundation extends. We’re surrounded at every turn by items branded by associations—not because they’re related, but because the one will help generate sales for the other.
For example, a few years back, many kids were captivated by the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. This goofy-faced, yellow dude was everywhere: bubble bath, shampoo, shoes, t-shirts, pajamas, bedding, cookies, cereal, crackers, fruit snacks, coffee mugs, school supplies, backpacks, myriad toys, and even appliances such as waffle makers and toasters—the list goes on and on. All the revenue from sales of these products represents millions of dollars annually, completely aside from the money made by the actual cartoons and movies starring the animated character. For several years, SpongeBob’s face was everywhere as part of a vast franchise of money-making endeavors, via which Nickelodeon saw proceeds soaring to $8 billion annually, which involved “more than 700 license partners worldwide…[and became] the most widely distributed franchise in MTV Networks history.”[vi]
Consider another example: In 2013, Disney released its $1.28 billion box-office hit Frozen, which became so popular that merchandise sales soared to more than $100 billion in retail gains, flooding the markets with so much Frozen inventory that even other Disney franchises were off-put by the overwhelming saturation, which they called “brand fatigue.”[vii] As for me, I’ll never forget the day I saw Disney’s Frozen characters branded across the labels of three-pound bags of apples sold at our local grocery store. This is an example of the previously mentioned strategy of sales by association—what that cartoon’s princesses had to do with these orchard-produced fruits, other than to entice parents of young children to purchase them, I could never begin to comprehend (that is, other than to say that the fruit’s appeal is bolstered by the pictures of the Disney princesses on the labels). My point in discussing both SpongeBob SquarePants and Frozen is to illustrate the depth of the media’s saturation into our society. One simple animated character created for entertainment purposes is backed with enough resources to launch its image on everything—related or not!—from apples to toothpaste. Imagine then, the kind of power that these forces have at their avail, should they decide to use the same resources to push an agenda.
Oh, wait—they already are.
If you were to extend the grocery store activity to the outside world, you would quickly visualize a place where little remained. Imagine visiting a city where no signs or billboards, advertisements, product displays, restaurants, etc., referenced any type of media. Like the store whose inventory was reduced to a small, general-store assortment of necessities, metropolises would quickly seem quiet, desolate, and barren after all such links were removed. (We would feel as though we had gone back in time!) The truth is, we’re besieged with media 24/7. When we really study our surroundings and analyze the impact it has on our lives, it’s a bit overwhelming. Yet, there is more to this revelation. In tandem with all that’s been said, consider that 90 percent of all the media we see—which so vastly impacts the spaces where we spend our lives—originates from only six sources.[viii]
Let’s put this together: Only six companies control 90 percent of all the media hiding in plain sight each day, appearing—through branding or otherwise—on our clothing, groceries, and other merchandise. It is in the scenery (via billboards and advertisements) we see while driving to work, and it permeates social media and online connections. The incoming messages often influence our decisions, shape the way we spend our time and money, and even sway our philosophy about moral and religious aspects of life (if you doubt this, notice the increasingly immoral correlation between the media and the current public worldview). If the notion that our psyches are progressively flooded still leaves you unconvinced, consider that the average consumer now sees five thousand ads each day. That’s a tenfold increase since the 1970s, when that number was only five hundred.[ix] And, as if it isn’t alarming enough to realize that only six sources launch this barrage, we may find it even more distressing to learn that many of these corporations are held jointly via shared stocks, which often have interlocked interests.
Were you beginning to see how a few key voices narrate the story of society?
The Hand that Rocks the Boat
Infancy’s the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mothers first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow—
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.[x]
When this poem was written in the nineteenth century, it glorified mothers (and others involved in child-rearing) whose influence was so profound that it carved the condition of the upcoming generation. Back then, the caregivers’ philosophies and principles were woven into the fabric of emerging leaders and citizens. The concept of the entire world being ruled by the cradle-rocking hand acknowledged that children are impressionable, capable of being sculpted in every way throughout their formative years until they grow up to apply the principles of their upbringing to their own role in society. Thus, seeds sown into the youngest generations sprout the worldview of the next.
However, in subsequent centuries—especially in recent decades—caregivers no longer have sole responsibility for shaping the paradigm and attitudes of children. Intrusive forces such as television series, movies, propaganda asserted in educational settings, social media, and even commercials inserted concepts—good and bad—into children’s outlooks as they grow. And, since more parents now work outside the home than ever before, daycares, public schools, and media of all types seem to claim more of our children’s time than do guardians. In fact, statistics show that “as few as 14 percent [of Millennials] were cared for at home by a relative”; thus, we can see that more than 85 percent of our youngest generations are influenced by sources outside the home and/or immediate family.[xi] As the world changes, the digital availability of communication and information fosters an era in which upcoming generations’ views are increasingly sculpted not by parents or caregivers, but by those on social media, news outlets, and even TV shows and movies that foist any—and all—agendas into the minds of our most impressionable. The notion that technology has usurped the parental role in modern society has credibility: Most children ages two to five watch more than thirty hours of television each week, and six- to eleven-year olds average twenty-eight hours of TV watching weekly. Additionally, 71 percent of those ages eight to eighteen have a television in their bedroom, meaning they have no parental supervision while taking in such content.[xii] Worse, all too often, these avenues of information don’t seek to better our world or promote peace, but instead influence the masses to embrace a dark agenda. In this way, the powers that be often exploit the resources of our modern digital age to manipulate the public and sow discord.
But what, you may ask, does this have to do with modern media outlets? How are these issues related? We’ll get into that in the next entry.
UP NEXT: Powerful Occult Figures, Agencies, And Their “Secret” Agenda
[i] George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Harcourt, 1949) 21–22.
[ii] Ibid., 4.
[iii] Scott Jaschik, “More Educated, More Liberal,” Insidehighered.com, April 27, 2016. Last accessed March 3, 2021, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/04/27/study-finds-those-graduate-education-are-far-more-liberal-peers.
[iv] Orwell, 1984, 235.
[v] Ibid., 2.
[vi] Andrew Hampp, “How SpongeBob Became an $8 Billion Franchise.” Adage.com. July 13, 2009. Last accessed March 3, 2021, https://adage.com/article/media/nickelodeon-s-spongebob-8b-kid-franchise/137866#:~:text=But%20beyond%20just%20TV%20longevity,as%20it%20were%20%2D%2D%20down.
[vii] Natalie Robehmed, “The ‘Frozen’ Effect: When Disney’s Movie Merchandising Is Too Much,” Forbes, July 28, 2015. Last accessed March 3, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2015/07/28/the-frozen-effect-when-disneys-movie-merchandising-is-too-much/?sh=5d2796b222ca.
[viii] Nickie Louise, “These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media Outlets in America,” Tech Startups, September 18, 2020. Last accessed February 18, 2021. https://techstartups.com/2020/09/18/6-corporations-control-90-media-america-illusion-choice-objectivity-2020/.
[ix] Ryan Holmes, “We Now See 5,000 Ads A Day…And It’s Getting Worse,” Linkedin.com, February 19, 2019. Last accessed March 3, 2012, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/have-we-reached-peak-ad-social-media-ryan-holmes/.
[x] H. D. Northrop, Beautiful Gems of Thought and Sentiment (Boston, MA: Colins-Patten Co., 1890) 248.
[xi] Allie Anderson, Unscrambling the Millennials Paradox: Why the “Unreachables” May Be Key to the Next Great Awakening (Crane, MO: Defender Publishing, 2019) 82.
[xii] Ibid., 90.
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