Saturday, October 6, 2012

Propaganda Techniques and Consumerism–how are they affecting the way we think?


While it is true that in the West, people can always exercise their right to question what is presented to them in the form of products, services, and ideas. Whether this freedom will survive for long is however doubtful! If Democracy  propounds the freedom of thought and the freedom to dissent , conformism however presents a challenge to the very idea of freedom.
In an ever growing consumerist society, propaganda techniques ensure that the tastes and choices of individuals are being moulded or shaped through an external stimulus! Propaganda techniques are very nicely used in the advertisements that we see on T.V. and hear on F.M. radio. Today the viewer is told what to wear, what to eat, what to drive, and what laptops to buy, it has come to a stage where propaganda techniques will soon be used to tell individuals what to think! Propaganda, which may include a variety of communication techniques aims at creating an emotional appeal to accept a particular belief or opinion. Endorsements by famous personalities have a lasting impact on impressionable young minds! The Bandwagon appeal, "everyone is doing it, so should you!" is another of the well known propaganda techniques used to advertise products. Some advertisements play on the fears of the target audience, like for example an insurance advertisement which plays on the fear of a tragic eventuality, loss of the earning family member, or a serious illness.
For all purposes of effective marketing, it is therefore essential that consumers discard their cars, computers, fridges, T.Vs., every now and then so that the market thrives. Today we live in a world where the latest mobile phone you buy becomes obsolete in a matter of few months, and then the advertisements kick in telling you about the exciting new features of a new mobile phone with the latest features!
Our whole life-style is determined by the advertisements we watch on t.v. or the advertisements we read in the newspapers. The rather patronising tone of “Uncle” used by one of the advertisements for a mobile service provider suggests that if you don’t use that particular service provider, then you are an “Uncle” that is, old fashioned. Such propaganda techniques do have an impact on the minds of different people! Take for example, another advertisement where a young adult is shown using a women’s fairness cream, a popular Bollywood Actor accosts him and tells him to use a cream for men, and he presents the embarrassed youth the male version of the fairness cream! Science however questions the efficacy of such creams and their ability to penetrate the skin. The skin, apparently is an efficient organ which does its duty rather well in protecting the body from germs and toxins and the so called Nano particles in beauty creams! Whether wrinkle lift creams and anti-ageing creams really do what advertisements claim is thus highly doubtful!
So  then, is our behaviour being modified by the advertisements that we see? I guess so! Propaganda techniques used by advertisers of different products are backed with extensive research and surveys into the popular trends, aspirations, desires, and secret desires of individuals. It is these secret desires that are subtly targeted by advertising companies! The desire to look fair, the desire to be popular, the desire to be able to be attractive to the opposite sex, the desire to be “cool”, the desire to be idolised by others, these are some of the hidden or rather secret desire that many individuals have, and it is these desires that are exploited by propaganda techniques!
Is it then, good to be entirely open to propaganda, external stimuli, and external suggestion? The answer is no! It is simply not good for the character, it robs us of the ability to make our own choices, it robs us of our individuality, it robs us of our right to self determinism! We are not slaves or automatons, and each one of us has his own perceptions, his own distinct thought processes, and we just cannot allow our children, and our students to be affected by what they see on t.v. or the internet without, at least being able to question the validity of what is being claimed by the advertisement.
What can we do to protect our young ones from becoming victims of this propaganda? First and foremost, we need to ensure that  our children are not watching T.V. serials,  incessantly, especially those serials which are highly addictive. Some serials are intentionally end in a cliff-hanger so that there is an urge to see the next episode! Indiscriminate reading of pulp-fiction which might have limited educational value, and T.V. serials  which cater to the more carnal and morbid emotions can be harmful! Parents should encourage children to engage in more creative activities like painting, playing musical instruments, taking up creative writing, participate in outdoor activities, take up  sports…etc. The development of rational skills, and  the questioning attitude can be promoted through the study of pure science. For all this to happen we need to teach our students and our children not to take everything at face value!
To conclude, therefore, does it make good economics for us as individuals to change our mobile phones every couple of months? Well it means good economics for the manufacturers! Do deodorants and fairness creams make us more acceptable in the society? Will they make us more attractive to the opposite sex? The answers unfortunately is, no! What will really make us more attractive is when we are able to think for ourselves, and show that we can make our own individual choices without being affected by the so called external stimuli! It is what we are, what nature has made us that matters, and not what we are told to do that matters!

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