Fabricating Reality by Larken Rose
People naturally tend to think and believe what people around them think and believe. And when people spend so much time in front of the television, the people they are "around" are the fictional characters in the movies and TV shows they watch. This artificial reality has a huge influence on what people assume, even though they know it's all fake. The world that people live in day after day--whether it's a real world or people pretending--is what creates someone's view of reality.
For many years, the characters in just about every Hollywood movie and every television series consisted of the good, intelligent, attractive Democrats, and the greedy, malicious, callous Republicans. If you had never been to the U.S., but watched a lot of American television, you would be convinced that the country is 95% rich suburbs, filled with witty, caring, open-minded, usually promiscuous liberals, and 5% evil right-wing, gun-owning, alcoholic, inbred, Bible-thumping rednecks living in rundown shacks in the woods, with an occasional heartless conservative businessman trying to pollute and rule the world. In TV-land, normal people don't own guns, there are no nice bosses, there are no charitable Christians, and there are almost no long-term marriages. Parents are always stupid, often abusive, and there are rarely two living in the same house. Kids, on the other hand, are clever, virtuous, and can accomplish anything--without any work, practice or skill--if they "believe in themselves." Good people can be any color, but are rarely religious, and bad people are almost always white, heterosexual, Christian men--usually rich.
For couch potato America, that's the "reality" they grew up in, and the fact that everyone knows that it's all make-believe doesn't stop it from having a huge impact on how people see the world. In short, the collectivists in Hollywood successfully demonized over half the population of the country, by making a lot of people think that "conservative" means greedy, heartless, and malicious. And they did it without having to actually say, "all Republicans are evil"; in fact, they did it without really saying much of anything substantive. They just cranked out a never-ending stream of fictional stories and fictional people, and counted on the viewers to at least subconsciously notice that the good guys are always leftists, and the villains are always something else. (In Hollywood-land, Republican politicians are corrupt and power-happy. True enough. But Democrat politicians are noble and pure, and always save the day. Um, yeah. Sure.)
There is one particular phenomenon that I noticed years ago, something I try to keep an eye out for whenever I watch movies. Responsible gun ownership is almost never depicted in any movie or TV show. Even when the "good guys" have guns--and then they always have badges, too--they are constantly waving guns around, pointing them in people's face, wildly firing in public, and so on. And never have I seen a movie in which an average armed citizen stopped a crime, despite the fact that in the real world, it happens millions of times every year. (Yes, millions, as even the CDC accidentally admitted a while back.)
So what do people "learn"--without even noticing that they're "learning" it--from the hidden messages in such entertainment? The answer is obvious. With some embarrassment, I'll use myself as an example. I grew up in a gun-free house, and was in my twenties before I ever fired a gun. To me, and to millions of others, for a long time guns were a strange, dangerous, foreign thing, that only cops and criminals ever have, or would ever want to have. Mind you, I didn't consciously think this--I've philosophically supported the Second Amendment for as long as I can remember. But the indoctrination via "entertainment" still had a subtle, subconscious effect. I remember being rather surprised when, many years ago, I was visiting an older brother down in Atlanta, and he took off his suit jacket, revealing a shoulder holster holding a revolver. To him, being armed was normal and commonplace. To me, it was weird and surprising. (I've since gotten over that feeling, in case you wondered.) I didn't grow up around guns, and wasn't accustomed to seeing "normal" people carrying them. (I don't mean to insult my brother by calling him "normal.")
The point is, the "reality" depicted in entertainment has a huge impact on what people believe, what they expect, and what they're comfortable with. Such propaganda is particularly powerful when it's too subtle for people to notice, when it doesn't feel at all like there's any "message" being delivered. When someone sits in front of the TV, or picks up a book (for those who still do such a thing), hoping to be entertained, he knows he doesn't have to think, and his guard is down--the perfect time for a little psychological manipulation and persuasion to do its job.
Now for the good news. That same approach can work with moral, truthful messages, too. The term "propaganda" tends to have a negative connotation, implying deception and mental manipulation, but the same tactics that are used to spread lies can also be used to spread truths. For example, in my book, "The Iron Web" (yes, this is a shameless, self-serving plug), the story follows three normal, run-of-the-mill statists, whom the average reader can easily relate to, and leads them through events and situations which make them reconsider the way they see the world. I'm thrilled that so many people have told me that they loved the story in and of itself (yes, the shameless plug continues), because that means the point of the book has a chance to impact the way they see the world. Ain't I devious?
Sometimes, the message in a piece of "entertainment" is pretty dang obvious. With movies like "The Matrix," and "V for Vendetta," the message is pretty in-your-face. But even that doesn't matter, if the characters are believable and easy to sympathize with. Those movies really have changed lives, by letting people indirectly live through the experiences (without having to get killed in the process), and learning from them.
You could look at it as direct and indirect forms of persuasion. If you walk up to someone, and your words sound to him like, "Listen to me, because I'm going to tell you what to think," the reaction is almost always defensive and negative. But if the person can be a mere spectator--not feeling challenged or threatened--and comfortably think about things for himself, without having to be subjected to argument or evangelizing, then the person will be far more likely to at least hear the message, and maybe even think about it.
So the moral of this story is... go buy copies of my book, "The Iron Web," for everyone you know! Well, okay, the lesson to be learned here is a little more broad than that. In short, we have to show people a reality in which freedom equals prosperity and happiness, and absence of politicians and state mercenaries equals peace and justice. It's a world they will never be shown by Hollywood, but a world they need to be introduced to. After all, since self-ownership and liberty are the rational, moral state of being--in other words, since we're trying to tell people something that is actually right and true--we do have a pretty big advantage over those pitching the message that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. But if the twisted, Orwellian world view is all they ever hear, it's all most people will ever be able to comprehend. We need to show them a different possibility, an alternate reality called "freedom."