Many people, especially smart people, will tell you that they’re not affected by advertisements or what’s in the media. Whether or not they really believe this or are just putting on a strong front must remain a mystery. But the reality is that humans communicate by language, gesture, and picture, and that those messages wind up impacting how those people behave. It’s not so much that a single article, movie, or radio spot will change someone’s behavior so much as the cumulative effect of all of it together impacts behavior in the aggregate.
So, for example, while a man who sees an ad for Revlon lipstick is not likely to ever go to the pharmacy and buy some Super Lustrous for himself, he may become ever-so-subtly more attracted to women who know how to apply it properly. The women who see it and buy it will then be marginally more likely to net the man they’re looking for, which helps to generate new social norms around wearing makeup.
People in the media are often accused by dissidents of being in the mind control business. This charge is absolutely true. Unfortunately, no method of perfect mind control has yet been developed, despite numerous crash programs and ongoing experiments to that end. The most that can be done, really, is mind-nudging, mind-jostling, which can eventually result in something like fragmentary control over some big part of the average person’s mind.
Knowing this — knowing that what we see changes how we think, and what we think changes how we behave — it behooves us to be much more careful about what we allow ourselves to see, to hear, and to read. Thoughts must precede actions, and misguided or evil thoughts precede evil actions.
So, for example, while it may be useful to read the New York Times to get a sense of what other people believe, reading the Times without a strong mental framework of skepticism will necessarily bring you closer to the viewpoints espoused by the editors at the Times, which is to say, towards champagne communism. Similarly, if you read Zero Hedge every day, you will be pulled in closer to the world of paranoid hedge fund traders who are also probably working for Vladimir Putin. If you read Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, you will be brought in closer to the way of thinking at the State Department and the CIA.
While much of what you read on may not be directly actionable, it does affect how you act, and you should think carefully about what you choose to read & believe if you want to also shape your actions towards your ends.