Thursday, December 30, 2004
7. What You Gonna Do When They Come For You?
Propaganda of earlier decades is usually pretty easy to recognize. In hindsight, for instance, most of us can see that the duck-and-cover newsreels of the 1950s and '60s were selling Americans a bill of goods about the "survivability" of nuclear war.
But how good are we at recognizing media PR today? Some would say not terribly -- at least if the popularity of reality TV is any indication. From Survivor to Fear Factor, reality shows all ask us to identify with people whose lives are being captured on camera, often almost continuously. And they encourage us to think that's okay.
This is happening in the context of an increasingly intrusive surveillance apparatus in America and Western Europe, where the average city-dweller can expect to be photographed by closed-circuit cameras anywhere from a dozen to 73 to 300 times a day. Not many people complain about this, perhaps at least in part because Big Brother has changed the way Americans feel about Big Brother. But it's hard to imagine earlier generations accepting such a state of affairs, weaned as these generations were on novels and movies -- 1984, Fahrenheit 451, even Videodrome -- which warned that excessive surveillance would spell the end of freedom.