The Power of Media
Storytelling – the Creation of Myth
Stories are far more prevalent than they may appear at first glance. Stories do not appear only in books or plays. Whenever we engage in conversation, we are storytelling. When we are in a shop deciding what to buy, we are storytelling. A story is playing inside our head – “I like the color of these shoes….but I like the design of those other ones!”. We share stories with others and we have a constant chatter of stories inside our head when we are by ourselves. Indeed, we could say that stories are the fabric of our conscious human life. They are ubiquitous and it’s hard to imagine even a moment of our life without them.
Analyzed from a psychological perspective, stories are a unique way that our brain uses to interpret and make sense of the world surrounding us. Whenever we write or speak, we are using our toolset of abstract symbols, selecting from an infinite set of possible permutations to choose exactly those which reflect the combination of our thoughts, intentions and feelings. Another important power of symbolic expression is time displacement; it allows us to express thoughts about experiences we’ve had in the past or only purely imagined ones. When a reader or listener has learned the meaning of those same set of symbols by the social convention of language training, they are able to access another person’s thoughts, intentions and feelings indirectly. By ingesting these symbols, our consciousness is directed on an abstract journey about some aspect of our reality. In a sense, stories and language create a kind of dreamworld which each of us inhabit individually and collectively. The power of this illusory world is known to the most illiterate members of any modern society. For even though people may not know how to read or write, almost everyone knows how to speak and listen.
Human beings have a long tradition of storytelling. Language and storytelling go hand-in-hand and it is brought humanity to where it is today. In the long, long period before computers, cellphones, iPhones, iPads and Android tablets, stories were the only means for our ancestors to pass down information about the world. Stories gave people a distinct survival advantage over other animals and anything which does that is bound to be passed on to future generations. Language and storytelling enabled the transmission of learned knowledge so that people did not have to reinvent the wheel with each new generation.
Today, stories remain an integral part of our lives. For all its glory, technology can at best play only a secondary role to support our age old storytelling tradition. The fastest and most advanced telecommunication medium is worthless if there is no storytelling to use it. What technology does offer us is incredible ways to scale our stories so that they may have a global reach. Today, with the ubiquity of the internet, anyone with a compelling story to share can reach a mass audience in a matter of hours. Never has humanity had this kind of power available at the tip of our fingers.
Destructive Storytelling through Manufacturing Consent
“As long as people are marginalized and distracted [they] have no way to organize or articulate their sentiments, or even know that others have these sentiments. People assume that they are the only people with a crazy idea in their heads. They never hear it from anywhere else. Nobody’s supposed to think that. … Since there’s no way to get together with other people who share or reinforce that view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball. So you just stay on the side and you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on. You look at something else, like the Superbowl.”
The media is a double edge sword. It can be used for benevolent purposes or for harmful ones. The mainstream media is controlled by a small number of special interests, a powerful plutocracy who use it to control what we think and how we think. It’s ultimate aim?…to maintain or further concentrate power towards the plutocracy. Ultimately, as Chomsky says, within democratic societies, the mainstream media’s main aim is to control the masses using propaganda instead of force. Chomsky originated the term Manufacturing Consent to describe this nonviolent social form of psychological control. Consumerism is one example of Manufacturing Consent. Consumerism is based on carefully crafted marketing that creates a demand which appeals to our most primitive psychological instincts. Consumerism distracts people and causes them to reverse prioritize their lives. Issues actually important to the healthy functioning of a democratic society are placed below shopping. It acts like a tranquilizer that sedates the masses into indifference on many important issues. Democracy is undermined when it becomes non-participatory. It is no coincidence that large media conglomerates are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry, trans-national business interests and governments and organizations which support plutocracy in one form or another.
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
Climate Change Denialism is a classic case of media control and manipulation by the plutocracy. Conservative media organizations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and subsidiaries like the Wall Street Journal are biased towards the elite class and leverage their control of the media to drive their nonsensible and rhetorical message home into an unknowning public. Studies show that within the United States, there is only 8% who are dismissive of climate change. This 8% is where the climate deniers are concentrated. Yet, this small 8% is the 1% – the fossil fuel interests and their allies who have hijacked the media very successfully, pushing policy change back many years.
Big Oil in the form of the Koch Brothersis another example of preposterous levels of media deception…supporting hundreds of apparently independent media outlets but all funded and fed by the same Koch funding and propaganda machine. Such disinformation delays and slows down policies that seek to remedy the problems caused by the power holders themselves. The constant bombardment of media ads and resultant consumerism is a distraction that is part of the overall strategy.
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, is an analysis of the news media, arguing that the mass media of the United States “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”
Noam Chomsky talks about the Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and other business lobbies enthusiastically carrying out campaigns “to try and convince the population that global warming is a liberal hoax.” According to Chomsky, this massive public relations campaign has succeeded in leading a good portion of the population into doubting the human causes of global warming.
A young conservative brings up the case of the US war in Afghanistan and accuses Chomsky of hating America. The young man bases his arguments on the mainstream news attitudes but Chomsky rebutts him point by point, illustrating along the way the misinformation used to misguide.
Reclaiming our Power
If we are to have widespread reform in a short period of time, the media will play a pivotal role. How do the people reclaim the media and use it for benevolent ends? In this section we explore the emerging paradigms for people power. Social media plays an important role in this. The internet, mobile technology along with social media tools and websites have already shown their power to unleash large scale and unpredictable transformational change.
The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are but two examples of the power of the internet, social media and mobile technology to effect social change. Suddenly, repressive regimes and trans-national companies alike are afraid of the power theses tools give to the common people. This has brought about an ongoing battle for who controls the internet.
We are the cool-makers and the cool-breakers. We are the people who create the look of the magazine. We are the people who create the feeling and the tone of television or the give and take of the Internet. More than any other profession, I think that we have the power to change the world.
- Kalle Lasn, Adbusters magazine
Culture jamming is a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising. It purports to “expose the methods of domination” of mass society to foster progressive change. Culture jamming is a form of subvertising. Many culture jams are intended to expose apparently questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture. Common tactics include re-figuring logos, fashion statements, and product images as a means to challenge the idea of “what’s cool” along with assumptions about the personal freedoms of consumption. – Wikipedia A leader in culture jamming is the Vancouver, B.C. based Adbusters. The Occupy Movement had its beginnings in a 2011 issue of the magazine calling for people to “occupy” Wall Street on Sept 17, 2011. In a 2006 talk at a conference in Berlin, Adbusters Kalle Lasn said: “We are the cool-makers and the cool-breakers,” he said. “We are the people who create the look of the magazine. We are the people who create the feeling and the tone of television or the give and take of the Internet. More than any other profession, I think that we have the power to change the world.”
Adbuster film on “Junk Thought”
The Production of Meaning (part 1)
The Production of Meaning (part 2)
Adbusters biggest campaign was what turned into the Occupy Movement
Hey all you wild spirits out there,
Here is how the Global Spring begins:
A few lone wolves among us start pasting posters in and around Goldman Sachs HQ at 200 West Street, Manhattan, New York. Groups of two or three turn up and hand out leaflets at their branch office at Maria de Molina 6-5a, Madrid, Spain. People start gathering and having fun outside Goldman’s offices in 50 cities… Then . . . on Thursday May 23, when Goldman Sachs holds its annual shareholders meeting at 222 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 500 people turn up and solidarity games are held across the world. It gets serious when thousands start playing on September 17 in front of Goldman’s branches in Los Angeles, Toronto, Moscow,London, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Beijing, Mexico City. The media picks up on this fledgling global revolt. . . And, one fine day, the whole thing suddenly catches fire . . . #GOLDMAN becomes a rallying cry for people everywhere to rise up against the financial fraudsters who have been fucking around with our lives for far too long. When the moment is ripe, all it takes is a spark. for the wild, Kono Matsu / firstname.lastname@example.orgCulture Jammers HQ
Another way to reclaim our power is through the use of Empowerment Marketing. Media is too powerful a tool for the plutocracy to control. Empowerment marketing is putting the power of the media back into the hands of the people. Wikileaks, the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement are modern day examples of what can happen when the power of media is put back into the hands of the people.
PART 2 of the video series that accompanies Jonah Sachs’ new book, “Winning the Story Wars.” Discover how digital tools are returning humanity to a new oral tradition and what kinds of stories will work in this new era of empowerment marketing. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Sachs lays out a story model any brand or cause can use to get its message heard, and explains why stories must be not just told, but lived.
This video gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the genius of Drew Beam of Free Range Studio and his process illustrating Jonah Sachs’ book “Winning the Story Wars.”
Free Range Studio’s demo reel. Free Range believes that great stories change people and the world. So they create stories that educate, entertain, and inspire. Great stories make great change and Free Range believes the next great story is yours. Have an idea? Click on the link below to contact Free Range and start a project