I am a private person. I have been a longtime LRC reader and hobby writer but never considered contributing content until I was thrust into the spotlight for an e-mail I sent to TDV regarding the bureaucratization of science. Probably not my best work but for the most part the message was conveyed. But the experience spurred some further thinking about privacy and the reach of the state. I still prefer privacy and a low profile. Perhaps I am not as brave as other LRC contributors about being an open book about my beliefs on liberty, economics, politics and the Leviathan state. I've never been especially compelled to promote mass consumption of my personal beliefs. I'd be content sitting at home watching TV rather than exposing myself as the messenger for ideas and principles antithetical to state doctrine. Here in my private home I can think what I want, read what I want, watch what I want, and do what I want. Off the radar and out of the political crossfire. Nirvana.
For those of you not already laughing, the joke is that sadly this is not the case at all. One of my guilty pleasures through the summer months is America's Got Talent. It's a rags to riches affair, where regular Joes with above average talent have the opportunity to display their talents to a large national audience and compete for a life changing prize of money and fame. There are tragedies and triumphs just like life, but in the end America does a surprisingly good job of recognizing the best talents and the most deserving folks who have them. The only problem is that it is on NBC and thus we were bombarded for the entire summer with ads for NBC's fall lineup. And this is where the story begins.
As a seasoned LRC reader, I have learned to spot state propaganda, no matter how cleverly disguised, in nanoseconds. And if you are looking for state propaganda on TV, look no further than NBC. The incessant commercials for the new NBC programs , and undoubtedly the programs themselves are oozing state propaganda. On the surface nothing may seem too out of the ordinary, but to me the propaganda is blatant. For a little of what I am talking about here is my rundown of the NBC fall season (no charge Mr. Immelt):
Prime Suspect: Surprise another cop show. But in this incredibly fresh and new premise, Maria Bello plays a cop who's not afraid to break the rules to get her perp. She's tough and unorthodox as shown by her punching a (innocent until proven guilty?) suspect in the face multiple times during questioning. In another scene she tells a kid that she'd like to kill a suspect rather than let the justice system deal with him. And in another scene (my absolute favorite) she pulls her gun on a cab driver for the heinous crime of smoking in his own cab. With more cops like this on the streets we could all finally be safe right?
Up All Night: Will Arnett and Christina Applegate are hipsters whose lives are turned upside down by a baby. And they have few people to turn to for help besides their nutty friend Maya Rudolph who, in the most comical sense of course, has no business around babies whatsoever. She's too cool. What a nightmare scenario this is. This baby is prevents the couple from being productive at work. Applegate must take time off from work and taxes to take care of the baby. This cuts into their time and monetary budget for enjoying the bliss of sleep and blind commercial consumption. Their big dilemma is being forced to leave their baby with Rudolph in order to garner some free time to enjoy the consumer world they miss so badly. Even at risk of Rudolph's bankrupt values rubbing off on the baby. All of this will be remedied the day they can turn that baby over to the public school system.
Whitney: Oh the lovable Whitney. The wisecracking waif who doesn't need marriage. Her parents got divorced multiple times. But she loves her boyfriend and goes to great lengths to build a solid relationship while resisting the pressure to officially be married. Marriage is just a piece of paper right. A lot of marriages fail. A lot of people who could be married don't even bother. This show just screams "heterosexuals trample on the idea of marriage too". How many episodes will it take for the couple to befriend a gay couple who change Whitney's mind about marriage by relating their desire to be married save for being denied the opportunity by Republicans? I personally have no vested interest in gays being allowed or not allowed to marry because ultimately marriage is not a state instrument. Nonetheless heavy marriage-centric propaganda is obvious.
Parks and Recreation: I actually love this show for one reason: Ron Swanson. I also hate it for one reason: Ron Swanson. For those of you not familiar, Ron Swanson is perhaps the only confessed Libertarian character on any major network program, which I love. But in true NBC style he is a total nutjob, who finds pleasure in nightmarish things like hunting and eating meat. He has two ex-wives, both borderline sociopaths, and doesn't seem to take his government employment too seriously. Are all Libertarians this wacky? His polar opposite is Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). She believes in government, and that her job at the bankrupt and unnecessary parks department can change lives for the better. And she is willing to forego a relationship with a man she loves to advance her political career with a run for mayor. Sometimes the he hidden genius inside of Ron comes out, though usually in the most agonizing way for everyone else. But Leslie is the one everyone likes and wants to be. And her illicit affair with her boss is totally forgivable for that reason. Politicians who believe in their own righteousness should be allowed to skirt the rules.
The Biggest Loser: This is where otherwise fine contributing people with loving families are humiliated for being overweight for 20+ weeks. It draws heavily on many state favorites like humiliation, statistics and psychology to indoctrinate us to Procter and Gamble's food pyramid. Contestants are stripped nearly naked and made to weigh in weekly in on veterinary scales front of millions of viewers, with their weights displayed on big screens. They are then shown statistical models using a few random diagnostic inputs that determine that all of them are going to die inside of a year. They cry about how hard it is to "feel different" and are filled with psychobabble about how by raising their kids and trying to make ends meet, they are "doing too much for others". Thankfully they are encouraged through important lessons they need like "you can still go out to eat and be healthy". And in the end all of the contestants eventually lose the weight using what is effectively a paleo diet, despite the fact that in some 10 seasons this secret has been closely guarded and betrayed by content-mercials for processed crap like Subway and sugar free gum.
Football Night in America: NBC's crown jewel of propagandism. Basically direct state propaganda where "NFL" is substituted for the word "state". We get regular updates on how the arbitrary enforcement of overreaching rules was actually spot on, no matter who appears to have gotten robbed. We get updates on who was fined however many tens of thousands of dollars by the uber-righteous "Commissionar" for doing things that were totally legal in the sport for 85 years. This is often right before being treated to a musical montage of u2018legal' hits to assure us that officially sanctioned violence is still OK. A message that is then supplemented by requisite hero-worship of our men and women in uniform. And once a year, during "green week" they do all of this with the studio lights out to show us how, by turning off a few lights, we can't even COME CLOSE to getting off of fossil fuels.
So what is the point? The point is I am not free from the reach of the state in my own home. Even in choosing to write nothing or talk to nobody, I am still bombarded with one message after another in commercials and TV shows. What seems like mindless entertainment in my own home is not. What seems like simple athletic contests and recaps are not. Rarely does a minute go by without some subtle nudge on some topic relevant to advancing some state agenda or another. And this is if I watch live TV. If I watch replays of these shows, or any others, on Hulu or Netflix my every click is recorded for surrender at any time under the Patriot Act. When I turn off the TV these messages are echoed in the pseudo news stories offered by the endless pseudo-news sites that litter the internet. And of course everything I do there is tracked as well. If I chose to turn off the TV and enjoy a cigarette or perhaps a marijuana cigarette, I'd risk anything from the high tax on cigarettes, to a seizure of my home and property for possessing marijuana. The fact is nothing I do in my home is free from the reach of the state. Rather, even the things locked in my mind are under continuous assault from multiple angles. The classic No Trespassing sign is no help in this case.
I'll leave you with this. The going rate for a primetime ad on NBC ranges from $20,000 to over $300,000 (during Football Night in America) for THIRTY SECONDS. Crazy as that may be, what should not be overlooked is that at the same rate, the 22 minutes of content every half hour have an on-air value ranging from $880,000 to over $13 million. If the people buying commercials see enough potential return to justify $300,000 for thirty seconds, then what is the upside for the network paying footing the cost of $13 million for the content that fills remainder of the half hour? For 24 hours a day no less? And how do they realize these upsides? To me these are all very scary questions, but NBC's fall lineup straight from the state propaganda mill gives a pretty good clue. Keep in mind that 61 million Americans voted for Obama at a cost of $2 trillion and counting.
Maybe I will take up writing to fill my spare time…