Sunday, November 25, 2012

Controlling Attitudes and Opinions

Well, well, well. The Christmas season is upon us. Black Friday is just past, with about 11,000 shoppers in lines wrapped around Macy's in New York City at midnight this year, beginning the buying frenzy. And the seasonal advertising has begun in earnest.

Everyone knows what advertising is. Heck, all you have to do it pick up a newspaper, or turn on your television and there it is – intrusive and irksome. But Professor Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, historian, political critic, and activist thinks advertising is actually a tool designed to keep us from thinking logically.

It seems that the good Professor proposes that the leaders of our capitalistic society, one based on the value of money over people, need to control people's attitudes and opinions to keep those who run things running things. What better way of doing so but to keep minds making decisions based on emotions and not logic? And since before the turn of the 20th century the advertising industry has been doing just that.

Evidently the business literature of the period talked about how it's necessary to focus people on the superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption. In theory, the free market system is supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices (just like democracy). But in reality commercial advertising is creating uninformed consumers who make irrational choices based purely on emotion. A few minutes watching television should convince anyone that the goal of most advertising is not to inform, it is to influence.

So, are we being controlled or is this just another conspiracy theory generated by arguably one of the most brilliant minds of our generation? Are we being influenced away from informed decision-making by catch phrases, cleverly executed advertising messaging invading our every waking moment and shaping our attitudes and opinions?

I'm not sure but I think the answer lies with the Slinky.

(For a transcript of a recent interview with Chomsky, which puts this - and more - in his own words, visit here.)


  1. Everyone DOES love a Slinky! But I think you're right, advertising makes slush out of people's rational brains. I'm still recovering from the US political onslaught. The concensus in Ohio is that we now hate all politicians, so I wonder if maybe they'll get the idea to lay off some next time? Well, I can dream anyway :)

    1. It's interesting to read what Chomsky had to say about politics and propaganda... :) Thanks for the comment Linda!

  2. This post is right up my alley (not surprising....). Holy moly, yes. And I'll read some Chomsky... although it sounds like I'll just be shaking my head in agreement.

    Too bad you, me and Linda H. can't grab tea one afternoon... I've a feeling we would have a blast!

    1. Ah well, we'll always have Paris... :o)