Informing The Present

14 Feb

Picture chosen because after re-reading this article, it seems sanctimonious and douchey.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how my readers perceive the arguments, theories and opinions I put forth on this website.  The lens through which each of you views the individual articles I write about journalism, government, economic development, corporations and general current events.  I always feel the need to link heavily to other sources because I want you to understand not just the subject matter, but how I’ve come to my established position on the issue.  It’s also a way for me to keep track of my thoughts and a running journal of my own positional development.

Each day, I update a segment of my sidebar with articles I read or sites I find interesting, which inform much of what I write here.  It’s on the right and it’s labeled “Your Daily Homework”.   I suppose the title is a bit condescending, but I intend for it to be a general supplement to your daily news consumption at WNYM.  You can either check that sidebar for current links or you can simply subscribe to my Delicious feed by clicking here.  It’s a daily compendium of what I read and leads to a lot of posts not just on my personal corner of WNYM, but on others as well.

Aside from that, each weekend, I’m going to post some videos or links to longer form content which provides a bit of a backstory on how I see the world.  Do I think there is a thirsty bunch of readers out there longing to be quenched with the dew of my intelligence or experience?  Umm, no.  However, if you come here frequently (and a couple thousand of you do each day), I thought you might be interested in the content which informs my opinion and what tweaks my Id and Ego.

This week, I’d like to present a series of videos culled from a BBC4 documentary called The Century of the Self.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings. His influence on the twentieth century is generally considered profound. The series describes the ways public relations and politicians have utilized Freud’s theories during the last 100 years for the “engineering of consent”.

Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed. Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as is one of the main opponents of Freud’s theories, Wilhelm Reich, in the third part.

Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

Take some time during the next week to watch these videos and let me know what you think of them.  How have corporations and politicians influenced our choices by permanently altering our culture from one based on need to one based on wants and desires, both conscious and unconscious.  Perhaps it will lead to some interesting dialogue.  Unless we understand the fundamental origins of culture, it’s hard to discuss how to change it or shape it in the future.

While huge advances in culture, technology, and wealth are sourced to this engineered consent, there is a darker side.  Ever get frustrated when your fellow citizens don’t vote or get involved in causes or political movements or simply ignore massive corruption in leadership?  This series of videos gives us the insight into how the docile mind and the all-consuming self has been engineered.

Part 1:  Happiness Machines

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Part 2, The Engineering of Consent

6 Responses to “Informing The Present”

  1. Ethan February 14, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    interesting… I’ll see if I have time to watch those videos, though I have to acknowledge beforehand my distaste of Freudian psychology.

  2. Christopher Smith February 14, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    The beauty of Freud’s work being involved here is that you don’t need to accept his theories, just know that they were exploited for the purposes of mass marketing, political persuasion and public relations.

  3. RaChaCha February 14, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Very interesting stuff. Regarding your mention of people whose voting is out of alignment with their interests: I’ve felt there must be some kind of framework from which to make sense, for example, the fact that inner city residents — who are disproportionately affected by conditions and oversight of the County lockup — wouldn’t turn out last fall to vote in new leadership in the sheriff’s department.

    And may I suggest some homework for you: a little TeeVee series from 1985 by James Burke called The Day the Universe Changed (episodes available on the UTubes): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Universe_Changed

    Although the series aired about a decade before most folks had heard of something called the internet(s) (I remember in the summer of 1995 watching Irv read a URL verbatim — slashes and all — off his paper at the end of a news report, then looking up blankly at the camera and saying, “whatever that means”), Burke’s summation — given in the very last sentences of the very last episode — is like a manifesto for the blogosphere.

  4. Ethan February 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Right, they were. But there are more current explanations or understandings of all the unconscious motivation stuff, that’s all. Lakoff sums it up pretty well, but also advances in experimental economics come to play here. You’d probably like a lot of the research on moral decision-making as well. It’s all very complex, but there can be no doubt that we’re subjected to an immense semiotic landscape of persuasion in this here corporate democracy.

  5. Dan February 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    “Regarding your mention of people whose voting is out of alignment with their interests: I’ve felt there must be some kind of framework from which to make sense, for example, the fact that inner city residents — who are disproportionately affected by conditions and oversight of the County lockup — wouldn’t turn out last fall to vote in new leadership in the sheriff’s department.”

    Not showing up is one issue. I am more perplexed by how people in the city in general, whose children are trapped in a failing school system, do not rise up and demand a program like TAP for K-12 education. Instead, they re-elect (by wide margins) those who would stifle any change to the system other than feeding more money into it.

  6. Ethan February 15, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Here’s more of the story.

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