Friday, April 24, 2009

Tha Artivist: Does Marketing Create Or Reflect Society?

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”~Malcolm X (Brainy Quote, 2009)

A wise man once said it’s not who you really are, but it’s what others think who you really are that counts. Asking the question ‘Does marketing create or reflect society?’ is like asking ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ In both cases and regardless of their sequential order, the principles are intertwined and connected to each others’ origins and fate. With that said marketing is a form of propaganda meant to influence one’s thoughts and actions which in the end determines one’s reality and fate.

For example, people underestimate the power of the music in particular its usage through the radio to influence behavior and thought. I work closely with the Memphis City Schools and it never ceases to amaze me of the ability of our children to mimic, imitate and memorize the lyrics of their favorite artists and songs. As brilliant as our children are at these forms of entertainment and communication, it doesn’t unfortunately always translate to success in the classroom. Many of them are failing standardized tests and can barely read and write. Many more can memorize and faithfully execute the dance steps of the latest rap music dance craze known as ‘the stanky leg’ than can recall their multiplication tables. Is it the fault of the music artists and the music that our kids are so uninspired and seemingly ‘brain dead’ when it comes to certain activities? Not necessarily, but the mechanism or rather culprit that could be held responsible is the mass corporate media juggernaut which pushes consumerism over knowledge of self.

In spite of the rise of the internet, the radio is still a very influential medium. Many of the songs that are in the current top 40 seem to be played every 5 minutes or so on the radio. Do you wonder how it is that when you first hear song that you may not like it all, but by the end of the week if not the day the horrible song becomes one of your favorites and most requested? It’s because in a way you are brainwashed by the methodology of the radio which plays the horrible song over and over until you are in essence forced through suggestive mental and aural torture to embrace said horrible song. You then unconsciously become a walking advertisement (read zombie) for the song, maybe buying it for your iTunes library as well as advocating its play among friends and family as well at parties and special gatherings. It can be likened to the phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome which “is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed” (Wikipedia, 2009).

Mass media manipulation is directly responsible for creating the cult of personality crazes/movements that we have seen throughout history and that we are currently experiencing in many areas of life including politics, entertainment and religion. I am currently working at a public school known more for the bad behavior and underachieving nature of its students than anything else remotely positive. Some of the students are more prone to curse out adults and act out then do their assigned work or pay attention and follow directions. So you must have imagined my surprise as well as the other adults and educators’ sheer amazement as to how obedient and non-combative the kids were when a nationally known hometown rapper came to perform at the school before Easter Break. Every command the rapper gave the kids enthusiastically followed without fail. And he only had to tell them once to do something and they did it. Ironically, when we, the everyday handlers, would try to get these kids to obey and follow directions, we would be met with indifference, questioning, disruptive behavior and more frequently than not cursing.

I discussed this phenomenon with another teacher who has an extensive background in the workings of the U.S. justice system before becoming an educator. We both agreed that the reason why the kids followed the rapper’s commands was because in their minds he was a powerful star that they heard on the radio often and seen on national television outlets such as MTV & BET regularly. We thought that this was true mind/ population control at its most effective. Imagine we thought if kids were lambasted with shows dealing with multiplication, history, science as well as reading & writing? They may resist at the beginning but in the end they will be overcome because they couldn’t escape the vast influence of implementing such an effort that was so omnipresent and suggestive. This could be our Stockholm Syndrome for high academic achievement and overall life excellence. One can always dream.

In terms of our media I would argue that America is the greatest exporter of sex and violence on the planet and it is very much reflective in our society. If you look at the facts that we are the world’s largest illegal drug market and largest prison market with 25% of the world’s prison population, more than China or Russia, as well as lead the industrialized world in teen pregnancies and births then the question remains: How much influence does Madison Ave. and Hollywood have over our reality?

A key to understanding a people is to understand their culture. Although the U.S. likes to think of itself as a nation built on Christian principalities and values, it still has a dark, gluttonous, hedonistic underbelly to its character. It is evident in the spending patterns and consumer habits/preferences of its citizens. The need to be constantly and instantly gratified and the lack of patience, frugality/thrift, oversight and foresight from all sectors of our society ultimately has led to the socio-economic breakdown we are now undergoing.

In the end, it is important that we must advocate for a society that is balanced in terms of perspective and options. Marketing in a way helps and hurts this initiative. Marketing for example can promote a better way of doing things, but it can also limit one from finding alternatives by limiting one’s choices. With that said it is important for accountable and responsible individuals and entities to use the utmost discernment and discretion when dealing with marketing strategies that can ultimately enlighten or skewered the perception of the masses as well as the dimensions of our collective reality.

Remember The Revolution Won't Be Televised But It Will Be Blogged, Podcasted & Now Broadcasted Online!!!

Artastically, Communally & Revolutionarily Yours,

Tha Artivist
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Founder and Minister of Information

Brainy Quote. (2009). Malcolm X. Last page update unknown. Last retrieved 4/14/2009 from

Wikipedia. (2009). Stockholm Syndrome. Last page update 4/12/2009. Last retrieved 4/14/2009 from


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