Advertising – Its influence on Humanity
By David E. Hopper
The platform of the leading ideologies is not necessarily wrong or wicked; it is the imposition by force and by a police state of an ideology, and its use by powerful men or groups for their own benefit, plus the keeping of the people in blind ignorance so that no free choice is theirs—which is fundamentally wicked and evil.
The Rays and the Initiations, p. 744
One of the most influential people in the 20th century was not a politician, economist, General or scientist but the founder of public relations. Edward Bernays, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and the founder of public relations in the early part of the 20th century. He took his uncle’s ideas on people’s repressed unconscious and subconscious desires, and changed how the advertising industry operates. This is an industry which largely exists on manipulating people to buy products and services they don’t really need. In the 1920’s, the success of this concept quickly got the attention of corporations on Wall Street, the US government and the CIA. His ideas were so successful that even Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) of Nazi Germany from 1933-45 studied and used his methods for manipulating people through propaganda.
Edward Bernays has long since gone but what is his legacy? While Bernays himself was not a important historical figure per se, his ideas continue to impact anybody who looks at and observes movies, news media, advertising in any form, spokes-persons from governments around the world and of course politicians. In many cases, these various mediums and people are wanting to influence the public for buying a certain idea, product or service, which directly impacts their free wills. The skilled unscrupulous public speaker and advertiser will take advantage of people’s weakest points, such as greed and desire. They attempt to sway them to do what they want. It’s a problem that keeps people, to include our youth, to be interested in violent media, such as video games, TV, movies and print media that prey on peoples desire for more violence. The cosmetic and fashion industries keep telling people that they will improve their self image with this cosmetic or that fashion. The manufacturers or cars, truck and SUVs constantly say you need to have this new gadget or feature. The tobacco industry continues to tell us that we need to have this cigarette to look cool. The junk food manufacturers tell you that in order to have fun you must consume our product, etc. Perhaps, the only value that advertising really has is to simply inform the public that a product or service actually exists, and let the consumer make up their own mind?
For decades, the desire body in the average person has been exploited by the advertising industry. Through a continual insatiable appetite for more products, capitalists are naturally responding to the public’s wants, needs and desires. This appetite, however has serious karmic consequences on the environment as corporations strive to meet the consumers wants, they are depleting the Earth’s resources and creating more pollution. This consequence, although in the mainstream consciousness and largely acknowledged by science, has yet to be brought under control. From this must come the realization that consumerism can’t maintain its current pace if we want a vital and prosperous civilization for our children for generations to come.
So what is at stake here? The greatest casualty in this discussion on advertising and its impact is ultimately the truth that lets us contemplate just how free we really are. If people’s desire bodies (lower manas and emotional bodies) can be manipulated cleverly and easily into buying an idea or product that in most cases they don’t really need, then we will continue to maintain a materialistic culture bent on using up as many resources on the planet as possible. We don’t have to go very far to see part of the truth that’s lost here is that the culture of consumerism, which exists in virtually every country in the world, is destroying our environment (the astral and physical plane). Consumerism encourages people to continue to buy, go into debt, not to recycle, and even to the point of pressuring our children in schools to train for becoming more “successful” in a competitive in a materialistic world at the cost of their own health and happiness. The drive for procuring more materialistic gain has not made our civilization any happier.
With the knowledge that our free wills and desire bodies can easily be swayed, we have a very insightful window into the nature of what drives consumerism, materialism or even our political and moral views. If our expressed (or unexpressed) unconscious and subconscious desires do indeed exist, then it is incumbent on us, as “conscious” members of humanity to persuade our leaders in the financial, media and governmental sectors to neutralize the power of the advertising / propaganda machine tactics and promote the concepts of right ethics and right values. We know of the negative aspects of advertising have on humanity but are there positive applications?
Using similar techniques as advertisers, the public is frequently informed by citizen action groups and/ or the government on events or things effecting their health or environment through public service announcements (PSAs). A major benefit of PSAs is to inform the public about services available from local governments and through different community efforts. Examples range from protecting people’s health by broadcasting news on air quality for a certain city region to informing the public about the next city council meeting. In this way, the PSA can act as a from of education. One of the best examples of a PSA is used to inform the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking. Since corporations of the tobacco industry have been exposed as deliberately hiding the fact that smoking is detrimental to the health of the public for literally decades. Strong support from government and the public sectors for over 15 years has severely curtailed the tobacco industry’s ability to sell their products in the US. Now, virtually every state and a large majority of cities in the US have smoking bans at restaurants and pubic places. Another positive use of advertising is to facilitate a discussion on the growing movement of not selling or promoting unhealthy food, such as the junk food industries promoting sugar and fattening foods in schools. The issue? Do we want to continue allowing obesity in children and undermining their health? The ideal here is for all industries and government to take the initiative and protect the public’s health.
When speaking about advertising used in the political process, just in the last 10 years, the Internet has been used by clever people to sway people’s opinions politically in the US and many other countries around the world, through blogs. Both blogs and certain politically-minded organizations have become politically active in informing the public about certain issues or a people in the news. Also, political candidates from Ukraine and Mexico and other countries for example, have hired political campaign operatives from the United States to run their campaigns in the hope conducting a successful election.
We’ve seen that both advertisers and PSAs inform us about who we are and things they want us to focus our attention on. The greater responsibility, however is that they need to help us make informed decisions without outside coercion. The issue of advertising and how its abused, impinges on the spiritual principle of free-will. Through the public’s informed choices and by their expression of free-will, governments are compelled to change laws that protect the citizenry and the well-being of the environment. We see this in America and the EU through their efforts of addressing social and political issues in their nations. On a higher note, it is incumbent on esotericists to have a firm understanding of their own ability towards helping humanity. Through Triangles, Units of Service and meditation our own form of persuasion, that of invoking the Plan, is helping humanity be lifted from the thoughts of the lower mental plane and its limitations.