June 07, 2011

Propaganda in popular media

I have a passion for police procedurals. I always have had. It probably has something to do with my father being a police officer and growing up wanting to know more about his work. In addition to reading countless books by dozens of writers from three different contintents, I love police dramas on television. NCIS, CSI, Law and Order, I can't get enough. When two or more are broadcast at the same time, I DVR them and watch the remainder the following day. Which is why I've noticed a very weird trend that began in mid-March.

Bad cops are a common theme in police procedurals. Humans beings are flawed, and some of them are foolish. It's been said that everyone has a price and corrupting a good person is just a matter of finding the right price. That price is seldom as simple as cash in the bank, and the bad guys know this. Cops go bad. Not all of them, not even most of them, but many of them do find that price and sometimes it is as simple as tickets to a baseball game or extra time off to spend with their family. Recently, however, the bad cop episodes have always ended on the same note. The bad cop is brought down by testimony from a spouse or dependent child and the very last scene in the episode is the bad cop crying out, "you ungrateful *something*! I took you in! I fed you! I gave you a roof over your head and this is how you repay me?"

That line bothers me. It bothers me a lot. When it becomes so cliche that it pops up in every single police drama at least once all in the same three-month period, then it goes beyond a mere bother and it begins to worry me. There are many people working in television as writers, actors, producers, etc., who believe in using their medium to influence how we as a society think and feel. The links between art and society are so deep that it is impossible to unwind whether art influences life more than life influences art. Writers in particular tend to understand this relationship intimately and as an individual artist they either spend their life embracing it or fighting against it. So when every writer in every police drama seeks out an opportunity to repeat the same idea, all in the same television season it definitely worries me.

I won't call it a conspiracy. I will not claim some shadowy individual or group is manipulating our media in an attempt to turn wives and children against hardworking, conservative parents. I will, however, point out that something has changed in the culture of television writers. They have all tapped into something that they see as a problem and that problem is directly related to the rising influence of conservative ideals in modern America. I will also say that our popular media is in fact and in reality being intentionally manipulated by those who create it in an effort to speak out against the rise of conservatism and put forth a liberal progressive agenda that is anti-family, anti-religion, and very anti-conservative.

Despite the fact that they are dependent upon a free market, capitalist society to ply their trade and make their living, huge numbers of people working in media are blindly convinced that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels are the future of our world. They call themselves "progressive" or "modern" or "open-minded" or even "free-thinking" rather than "Marxist", but their products show clearly that they believe society is responsible to the individual rather than the individual being responsible for themselves. On one very abstract level, the portrayal of conservative parents as corrupt and hypocritical is a reflection of the relationship between these writers and the free market, but that would take a book to describe and would probably be of interest to no one outside academia.

Of more immediate concern here and now is to state clearly that I do not believe it is some kind of conspiracy, not at all. It does however reflect a growing number of Marxist ideologues who are in control of the television programs we watch, the magazines we read, and the movies we see. They believe that the collective is more important than the individual and they are using their position as producers of popular media to "teach" us things they believe we are too stupid to realize on our own. In their arrogance and elitism they cannot imagine that you and I are just as intelligent, just as well educated, and just as open-minded as they are.

This is why it is always important not to be a blind consumer of popular media. We must take a few seconds to question the ideas of the media we consume. It is vital that we ask ourselves if we do, in fact, agree with what the writer is presenting. Do these stories reflect the reality of our society? Has the writer offered a fair treatment of characters we identify with? Does the villain embody some trait we normally admire, and if they do, why did the writer consciously and intentionally give that trait to the villain instead of the hero? What is the writer trying to say about people who have similar behaviors or similar approaches to life? And, most important of all, do we agree with the writer?

It does not matter how talented a propagandist is, they cannot influence a critical mind grounded in firm, unyeilding principles. Know what you believe and know why you believe it. If a television drama, a novel, a comic book, a comedy routine, a movie, a newscaster, or anyone else tries to ridicule that belief, cast it in a bad light, or associate it with evil, then you need to be prepared to step up and defend what you believe in.

There is a five thousand year old war being fought for the human mind. It has been with us since the beginning and it will be with us until the very end. Each of us individually must choose a side in this war and be prepared to defend that position. The opposition will always consider anyone who disagrees with them to be evil. Even as I consider the collectivist to be evil, they consider my constant harping on individualism to be evil. This is the core nature of human society and it is this essential and ongoing conflict that drives us relentlessly into the future.

Freedom of expression is critical because if either side ever destroys the other then and only then will human society collapse under its own weight. I don't object to propaganda in Hollywood. Not in the least! Quite the contrary. Writers have a sacred duty to use their chosen media to contribute to the ongoing debate. While we enjoy their work we as readers, television watchers, and moviegoers also have a sacred duty to question everything they are presenting to us, ask ourselves if we agree, and express our own position when we don't.

The timing of this recent attack on conservative values through the media of police dramas is odd, and for me, disturbing, but it is not surprising. As conservatism grows, there will be pushback from liberal progressivsm. This is good. This is exactly how the world is supposed to work. Sooner or later, there will be more conservative writers putting forth conservative themes and then it will be the progressives using blogs, letters to the editor, and so on, to express their discontent. As long as we go back and forth we're in good shape. The day one side succeeds in shutting down the other, regardless of which side it is, that is the day our society will slip into fascism and fascism has only one historic result: implosion.

Societies don't fail from invasion, plague, natural disaster, or rebellion. Those are only the stressor events. Societies fail when they become so homogeneous the individuals within that society no longer know how to think for themselves. Once that happens, both the society and the individuals within it cannot adapt to the stressor event when it arrives. As a result, the society responds to the stressor event by collapsing under its own weight.

In closing, something I have said before bears repeating here, "America has the finest propaganda machine in the world, and it is entirely in private hands."