Can We Escape It?

Can We Escape It?

Running out of really good things to read, I turned to the new Dune books co-written by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian.   In these books, Herbert and his collaborator introduce the ideas of disembodied brains.   Some of these bodiless masses of gray matter decide to become sadistic lunatics.  Others decide to become ascended masters.  It seems that there is no middle ground between the two extremes.   In both cases these brains are in the position of Descartes and his disembodied intelligence.   Here are these brains entirely depending on technology to perceive the world. Doesn’t that sound like Descartes’ evil genius?

Can you imagine being in that sort of vulnerable situation?  There you are, a disembodied brain floating around in a jar, and somebody sticks The Best of the Bay City Rollers into your CD player and leaves the room. How do you make it stop? Worse, what if you are a disembodied brain and your caretaker really hates you and puts reruns of My Mother the Car on your DVD player? Can you imagine the torture? You cannot look away, and all your senses are focused on a bad 60s sitcom. Madness would occur rapidly.

Yet, are we really any better off than these disembodied brains?   True, if somebody sticks My Mother the Car in our DVD player, we can shoot the perpetrator and remove the offensive disc, but how much control do we have in our sensory input?  Really, how in control are we when it comes to what we are exposed to?  I avoid Rush Limbaugh with the same grim determination that I avoid beets and okra, yet I have been stuck in carpools where the driver had that fat moron blathering on.   One on-line acquaintance claims that everything he knows about Paris and Britney is from supermarket tabloid headlines, and even that is too much information.  My heart goes out to him. Like the disembodied brains, we are helpless in our put and have little control over what we are exposed to.

This has me thinking about subliminal influence.   How much of our opinions are formed by influences that we are trying to ignore?  How many thoughts are put into our brains by commercials or commentary over the radio while we are driving?  Did the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq begin by radio or TV commentators whom we were just half listening to while we were in the car, at work, or cooking dinner?   Is the lie that replaces the truth screamed or whispered?

Government and advertisers hire slick behavioral psychologists to get through to us.   Are subliminal techniques being used? I don’t see the American people as stupid. It took a lot of preparation to pull of the WMD lie.   Can paranoia be the result of all this subliminal exposure that we suffer from every day?  Are we reacting from things we are not paying any attention to? Could the new antisemitism stem from people half listening to some of the weird stuff coming out of Amy Goodman and NPR?   Could people have fallen for the WMD lie from listening to info radio while driving and not paying attention to what is being said?

As an ex advertising man, I frequently ask myself these questions as I observe what is being touted in the tabloids and on television.  Will America become a happier and more stable nation if we curtail the advertising industry?   I would like to hear people’s opinion on this matter.

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