We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time to Ban Advertising to Children

Ads to those below the age of consent are a form of cognitive pollution that adversely affects the developing psyche and endangers society politically

Nothing shows out of control consumerist culture more than scenes of people trampling each other half to death in order to save a few dollars on black friday. Such ghastly herd behavior is just one among many symptoms of allowing corporate structures almost unlimited informational influence on homo sapiens. We're well familiar at this point with other maladaptive behaviors involving:

1) Emotional distress from lacking some non-essential item/service for which the desire was externally implanted (conditioning to want useless junk begins with infants)

2) Definition of the self being partially dependent on concentrated, frequent, and evolving advertising propaganda and priming (100 years of ever more sophisticated efforts to exploit psychological research to influence the human psyche, now going as far as delving into neuroscience and brain scans for brainwashing). Emotional distress and splintered chaotic personality resulting from not keeping up with these directions.

We saw a rather substantial ongoing backlash against consumerism in the last decade but none of the efforts go to the root of the problem. This being the mass scale targeting of children by advertisers. These children then become adults who are much more open to continuing manipulation (and other more hidden materialist priming on how to live/be via movie and TV series characters).

A common and insufficiently thought out reply to this is that people have free will to overcome propaganda and that those with weak wills deserve to become shallow, borderline sociopathic, and financially drained individuals. This is a poor response to the advertising onslaught since (as Aldous Huxley described as early as the 1950s) research shows that 20% of the human herd are very informationally susceptible physiologically, 20% are not really susceptible at all, and 60% are semi susceptible. Free will itself as a concept is very problematic.

This susceptibility applies to everything ranging from hypnosis to criminal swindlers to political statements, etc. We're talking about a fifth of homo sapiens born with severe risk of being manipulated further in life. They need to be protected since the science behind relatively benign corporate messages about what shampoo makes one a real man/woman can and is utilized by politicians, cultists, criminals, etc.

We are all put at risk by a section of very manipulated public especially now that transnational corporations compete with nation states and families for allegiance of individuals (successful corporations have their own origin myths, founding fathers, pseudo-nationalism via brand internalization, office "family" subculture, funding of weddings/funerals in some countries, etc).

We cannot have massive oligarchical structures that often buy out entire governments also have a major role in shaping the young. Family and public/community educators need a child's mind to be less clouded so they can step in.

One of the obvious solutions is a forceful full spectrum ban on advertising that explicitly targets those below the age of consent.

Nope. Not just a ban on ads that promote anything specific to those under 18 but an overall blanket ban on corporate propaganda aimed at the young. This means cereal, toys, sports equipment, etc. In effect this also means disappearance of majority of childrens' television programming (which do their own part to promote hyper materialism and imitation of fake personas). Advanced advertising directed at those below the age of consent can be conceptualized as a form of visual/cognitive pollution that cannot be handled safely by a developing psyche. This is especially true when it comes to young children who are still in a pre-conventional stage of moral development (hyper-egotistic stage that, as The Onion humorously yet truthfully mentioned, shares a lot of traits with psychopathy).

Large scale corporate indoctrination of children through marketing may not appear as harmful as religious or political indoctrination at first sight. However, in some respects it is even worse since it affects a child via a thousand different cuts which are hard to escape and which prepare the person to be more open later to cuts from religious/political entities using similar techniques (see megachurches).

I wont even go into depth about the problems of potential responses to an ad ban such as people who parrot about "parents not doing their jobs" and played out knee jerk reaction against the supposed cliche of any policy that is "for the children". There is also little reason to think exposure to ad pollution creates immunities and that those exposed to ads after the age of 18 will somehow be more affected than presently.

Large swaths of humanity are being subjected to a never before seen global experiment in psychological priming by completely amoral externalizing actors (modern corporations). Banning child specific ads from obvious places like public spaces, television, and printed media is but the first step to push back. To get a foot in the door politically towards the goal of a total ban, the growing memes of child obesity and junk food effect on learning need to be harnessed.

Second and more politically/logistically difficult solution is to create psychological immunities against propaganda in public schools (yes, public schools by well paid and meritocratically selected educators).

But that is an article for another day.

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