Deciphering How Propaganda Deceives Us

The Perverts Guide to Ideology

Directed by Sophie Fiennes (2012)

Film Review

Slovoj Zizek is a philosopher and researcher at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. In this film (written and narrated by Zizek), he explains the concept of ideology by comparing it to magic sunglasses that enable us to see the true message behind all the propaganda we are exposed to in daily life. An actor puts on the sunglasses and magically sees messages of “consume,” “obey,” “conform,” and “make love and reproduce” all around him. Zizek warns that most people don’t want to see the dictatorship behind democracy because “freedom hurts.”

Most of the documentary focuses on specific ideological messages contained in popular films. However though one segment focuses on Coca Cola and Starbucks advertising and another on the propaganda value of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (ie the section adopted as the hymn “Ode to Joy.”)

The first film Zizek examines is the Sound of Music, specifically the scene (which was censored in Yugoslavia) where Mother Superior sings “Climb Every Mountain.” This part of the film was banned by Yugoslavian authorities, who interpreted it (correctly in Zizek’s view) as an official church-approved admonition for Maria to fully pursue her sexual desires.

He performs a similar analysis of the ideological messaging in the films Westside Story, Taxi Driver, Jaws, Cabaret, I am Legend, Titanic, Mash, Full Metal Jacket, the Dark Knight, Brazil, the Last Temptation of Christ, as well as films produced by Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and famous Soviet, Chinese and Czech filmmakers.

The Role of Ideology in Inspiring Change

tvs

The space between the TV screen and the child is nothing less than sacred ground – Mr Rogers

Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New World View

Joseph Obeyon 2012

Film Review

Crossroads is an exciting and surprisingly uplifting new documentary about the role of ideology in finding solutions to the urgent global crises humankind faces in the 21st century.

In bringing an evolutionary perspective to these urgent economic and ecological crises, the film offers a uniquely optimistic view of political and social change. Featuring a broad range of scientific experts, it focuses primarily on the role of ideology in preventing or facilitating change. For the last few centuries a competitive/individualistic view of ourselves was helpful in driving the engines of development and technological progress. However increasing evidence suggests that this widely embraced ideology is no longer sustainable.

This competitive/individualist worldview is also totally at odds with the collectivist/interdependent way of life our genes have programmed us for. Scientists have discovered that people share much of the same genetic code that enables schools of fish and flocks of birds to perform complex maneuvers as if they were a single organism. Primitive peoples have preserved the ability to see themselves this way, but it has been lost to most of industrialized society.

Crossroads stresses the role of television advertising, which pressures people to consume by making them feel insecure, in perpetuating this flawed individualistic view of ourselves. Constant bombardment with psychologically sophisticated messaging is far more powerful than actual experience. Studies consistently show that people derive the most happiness from activities that connect them with other people.

The dilemma facing 21st century political and environmental activists is how to get large numbers of people to make major changes quickly. Crossroads frames this and the multiple crises humankind faces as questions to be answered, rather than problems. High levels of global unrest suggest a substantial proportion of the world’s population already knows the old answers don’t work any more. The secret to finding new answers, according to one social scientist interviewed, is to get people to answer the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

The film ends by asking whether enough of humankind can change quickly enough to save the human species. Obeyon clearly believes we can. He cites studies showing that only a critical mass of 10% of a population is necessary to bring about cataclysmic social change. The same studies reveal that below this number it appears as if no visible progress is being made.

He stresses that global political and business leaders won’t be leading the change: they have too much to gain from maintaining the status quo.

photo credit: vauvau via photopin cc

Crossposted at Daily Censored