“Don’t worry about the facts. You’ve got to appeal to the seven deadly sins. You know, envy, greed, lust, sloth… that’ll keep ‘em watching.”
This was one of my earliest lessons in television. (Along with “Stick your tits out more” and “Take two inches off your arse”.)
From the carpet strollers on the executive level, to middle management, and even journos, many in the media think we’re idiots.
Here’s a selection of suggestions from ‘superiors’ over the past three decades:
- “The audience has a reading age of 12. Most of them haven’t even finished school. Write down to their level.”
- “You’ve got to scare them. It’s the only way to keep ‘em listening. They have to be in fear, every time they leave their homes. Why do you think everyone has mesh security doors, when crime rates have gone down?”
- We can’t run enough lotto stories. Those nuffies in the western suburbs sink all their money into it. Gotta play on their hope.”
- “Hey, we need another story about fat kids. Everyone loves to think other kids are fatter than theirs. Boosts their f*cked-up self-esteem.”
- “We don’t cover the two ‘a’s: AIDS and aborigines. People don’t care anymore.”
If you break it down, this is an abusive relationship.
The media emotionally abuses its audience; and the audience can’t get enough. Think of it as Stockholm Syndrome, after being held captive to this sh*t for so long.
Bravo Russell Brand for deconstructing the problem on his YouTube series, The Trews.
He and his guest, pop philosopher Alain de Botton, dissect one of Britain’s tabloid newspapers, starting with a story about a “giant bird that could kill a man, on the loose in Hertfordshire”.
(Not a “person”, “woman”, or “child”, incidentally, but a “man”. That’s another story….)
As de Botton points out, “It’s part of a long campaign to keep us very scared, because if we’re very scared of a lot of things, we won’t think about the things that really matter”.
(Or, as Brand puts it,”The mind responds to negative information more quickly”.)
Of course, this is the basis of all political power, whether communist, fascist, or capitalist.
Learn to appeal to people’s baser instincts to a) Lord it over them, and b) Make a lot of money
Advertisers know this.
For example, why do we need disposable disinfectant cloths?
Because our homes are full of NASTY GERMS that could KILL OUR CHILDREN and you’re a NEGLIGENT PARENT if you don’t BUY THEM.
This malignant manipulation is spreading. The fragmentation of the mass media means an increasing number of outlets are competing for a smaller slice of the advertising pie.
The result? A greater desire to sin.
The editor of one of the most popular sections of our national broadsheet was overheard last week asking a journalist, “So, what does the CEO of this company look like?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” the journo replied. “I’ve written the profile, but haven’t seen the pics yet.”
“Well, let’s hope she’s pretty,” the editor replied. “I want my pages to look sexy.”
Lust, writ large.
Alain de Botton believes it doesn’t have to be like this.
“I think it’s the easiest way to sell newspapers,” he tells Brand. But I think they could sell just as many newspapers if they tried a bit harder; if they told us really true things. In the utopia of the future, we’ll learn how to make money and be good.”
So what, as de Botton asks, should we be scared of? What should be on the front pages of the newspapers?
“Really what it should say is, everybody’s going to die, not because of a giant bird, but your heart will give out aged around 80. And the real danger is that we may waste our lives,” de Botton says.
So tear up those newspapers, turn off the parrots of talkback radio, and change the channel on the fear and loathing of TV current affairs.
Say “no” to these irrational fears, and “yes” to the truth.
You can watch Russell Brand and Alain de Botton discuss truth in media here: