This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the following text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to The Maghreb Times.
By Dr Mohamed Chtatou
Since the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the “defection” of the Russian Federation to the “Free World,” and the fall of the Wall of Berlin, the West has been busy marketing what it termed, then, the New World Order. In a way, it was the political declaration of The West and, especially the US that it has won this war and that it has the privilege to write history it own way.
However, the Americans are not interested in writing “past” history, the historians will do it in their own time and terms, as they always did. They want to write “future” history, but “future” history has to be written in the shape of a new cultural model capable to be sold to the rest of the world. This model, they artfully called “globalization”, meaning universal since the world is no more organized in blocks, to sell worldwide their way of life.
In fact, the Americans not only had a cultural model ready to be exported to the world but more importantly they had, also, a very effective “delivery system” which is the information and communication technology ICT: internet, satellite TV, radio, press etc. For this purpose a number of tools were popularized worldwide: Facebook, Twitter, CNN, MTV, etc.
The “subliminal” weapon
Unlike the European colonial powers of the 18th and the 19th century mobilizing physical human strength and weapons and logistics to carry the “enlightment” of European civilization to “barbarian” lands, the Americans are making use of the “subliminal” culture weapon to conquer the world.
What is “subliminal”? The Dictionary.com introduces this lexical item in the following terms:
adjective Psychology .
existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insuff-iciently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual: a subliminal stimulus; subliminal advertising.
As for its historical background it introduces it as follow:
1886, “below the threshold” (of consciousness), formed from sub “below” + L. limen (gen. liminis)”threshold.” Apparently a loan translation of Ger. unter der Schwelle (des Bewusstseins) “beneath the threshold (of consciousness),” from Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), author of a textbook on psychology
Serious commercial experiments with subliminal messaging were conducted in the mid 50-s. On June 22, 1956, the British Broadcasting Corporation experimented with projecting subliminal images on television. Pictures were flashed on the screen too quickly to be seen consciously, but they did make an impression on the subconscious. The BBC experiment was followed by experiments by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mexico’s Televisa commercial TV and radio network, US TV station WTWO in Bangor and many more.
The most known experiment with subliminal messaging was conducted by a marketing researcher and psychologist James Vicary in 1957 during the presentation of the movie Picnic. Every 5 seconds the words “Hungry? Eat popcorn. Drink Coca Cola” were projected for 0.003 seconds. That is extremely fast. Sales of popcorn and Coke in that New Jersey theater increased 57.8 percent and 18.1 percent respectively. Numerous scientific researches following these experiments confirmed beyond any doubt that subliminal messaging works.
Often historians make reference to the “Judeo-Christian Tradition” of or pertaining to the religious writings, beliefs, values, or traditions held in common by Judaism and Christianity, it is, also, related to the historical understanding and mutual comprehension between the Jews and the Christians.
To the question what does “Judeo-Christian” mean? Dennis Prager in an article published in the Jewish World Review of March 30, 2004 entitled: “The Uniqueness of America” argues that:
“The United States of America is the only country in history to have defined itself as Judeo-Christian. While the Western world has consisted of many Christian countries and consists today of many secular countries, only America has called itself Judeo-Christian. America is also unique in that it has always combined secular government with a society based on religious values.
He goes on to ask the important question of what that inherently means today in our world:
But what does “Judeo-Christian” mean? We need to know. Along with the belief in liberty — as opposed to, for example, the European belief in equality, the Muslim belief in theocracy, and the Eastern belief in social conformity — Judeo-Christian values are what distinguish America from all other countries.”
Today America is transforming from a Judeo-Christian country into a Video-Christian power force, the flagship of the Western subliminal culture. America, thanks to the “global village” concept envisioned by Marshall Mcluhan in the 60s of the last century in his work:
Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.
and made possible by the digital revolution of this millennium.
In the name of globalization, in appearance, a humanistic mission to export goodness, wellbeing and development, America is exporting its way of life and thinking to the rest of the world and thanks to the subliminal approach, the world is receiving this new consumer culture without any resistance whatsoever.
Is this approach ethical? The answer is no because the new culture proposed to the rest of the world involves manipulation, to a large extent, a subconscious manipulation. Indeed, the world is bombarded daily by millions of powerful images of western consumer goods in a subliminal manner creating subconscious needs among world population and pushing them to make unnecessary decisions, at the expense of vital needs of housing, education and health, to satisfy a cultural urge and desire created in the first place by the subliminal manipulation.
This subliminal manipulation has terrible effect on the underage children because they are psychologically frail and lack the power of judgment and discernment. The adolescents of today, in the developing countries exposed to the subliminal power, either put pressure on their families to buy them the goods advertized on TV or social networks or resort to petty crime to or in the worst of situations become candidates to illegal immigration and its dire consequences of exposure to all kind of exploitation by ruthless middlemen. Children want to live up to the standards set up by MTV or all slick American series readily available on satellite TV networks. Lots of them unable to live such lives because of poverty slide into depression leading, in many cases, to addiction to deadly drugs.
A lot of young people unable to live by the standards of the Western subliminal culture get alienated and are easily recuperated by religious fundamental zealots who promise them paradise to make up for their earthly deprivations and thus get brainwashed into fighting the West and its “corrupt way life” in the most violent way possible. They are told that if they cannot get the creature comforts offered in the West, and if they fight such an earthly filthiness, they will be gratified in Heaven by all the women they desire and all the wine and food they want and all other possessions. Thus, young people go and blow up themselves in transportation means and buildings to have access to paradise, as soon as possible, and get away from the earthly desires they cannot satisfy.
The subliminal influence is even more effective and dangerous on toddlers and young children. It does dangerously affect their behavior and maybe their education. A good example of this is the commercial campaign of the French cheese spread “La vache qui rit” (Laughing Cow), it is made with catchy music, nice and easy lyrics, colorful scenery, happy good-looking actors and well-choreographed dance scenes. Pediatrics experts in the Arab world have made the observation that when this commercial is screened, children stop all activity they are engaged in and sway with the tunes and at the end, they smile and giggle and then return to their games or else.
In the light of the above, one wonders if the West is not consciously manipulating the poor countries to buy their products such as Nike, Gap, Ipad, M&Ms, McDonald, Coca Cola, etc. bearing in mind that these countries are endemically poor and are grappling with such basic needs as education, health and housing. Is not such a manipulation unethical and a breach of human rights the Western countries claim to uphold worldwide?
Marshall describes mildly the effect of advertizing manipulation but when this manipulation is subliminal the effect could be disastrous on the ability to decide freely and pretend to have any shadow of choice:
The business of the advertiser is to see that we go about our business with some magic spell or tune or slogan throbbing quietly in the background of our minds.
Western subliminal culture
The Western subliminal culture is by all means far superior and attractive than local simple cultures and it is even made more important by glorifying it and sanctifying it incessantly in radio, television, internet and glossy publications.
The Western artists with slick shows are embarking now and then in world tours. An artist like Lady Gaga, no matter how controversial her beliefs and acts are, is better known than a Kazakh singer. Why is that so? The answer is the Kazakh might be a much better artist than Lady Gaga, but he has no cultural support, whereas Lady Gaga has the whole culture apparatus of the West at her disposal. She might look plain and crazy to many but yet her image is blown out of proportion by the Western subliminal culture but the Kazakh singer does not have that kind of support to be become a global icon. If the Kazakh wore steaks on his body for a performance, he would be considered by his own people and the rest of the world out of his mind and good for a psychiatric hospital, but Lady Gaga did and everyone thought it is high art.
So is globalization a new form of Western colonialism and imperialism?
The answer to this question is not as simple as it might seem, it is complex.
In the one hand, the West has come up with a very slick and complex cultural model to sell to the rest of the world its attractive civilization, and because of the subliminal manipulation the world has responded favorably to this artful and maybe, somewhat unethical, marketing technique. So the world lives by the standards of New York, Los Angeles and Washington….the culture of these cities has gone global and as such become universal. Even the countries, like France, that resisted, once upon a time, the irreversible advance of American culture in the name of what they called “La spécificité culturelle” and sought to kick out invading American linguistic lexical items from their language, have given up under President Sarkozy this political wish and are whole-heartedly accepting American leadership. They are even Americanizing their educational system.
On the other hand, globalization has erased the boundaries between people worldwide and the Internet has got them closer to each other to exchange ideas, concepts, beliefs, whims and desires. They can also exchange information and research approaches and finds and take their work further ahead.
Also, if it were not for the globalization, the Korean singer Psy would not have sold millions of his Gangnam Style record. His country has been able to use subliminal culture recipes and tools of the Americans to beat them at their game and impose somewhat their singer, cloned along American styles, to the entire world. This is undeniably proof that subliminal culture can be dangerously effective because the individual cannot anymore make his own choices but choices are made for him and packaged and sent through the tube to his psyche.
Millions of people around the world have joined the American social networks such as: Facebook, Twitter etc. and professional networks such as Linked In and Vidaeo and mail systems such as Gmail and Yahoo. In doing so they might have opened the door to NSA (National Security Agency) to eavesdrop on them and keep an eye on their activities, just in case they go violent in their thoughts or beliefs.
NSA is an official institution that safeguards American interests worldwide and protects the country against deviant individuals or rogue states with a violent agenda against American people and their interests and institutions and globalization is nothing but the universalization of the American way of life. Traditionally, it is the privilege of the victor of a given war to write history. After the Second World War, the Allies wrote and rewrote the history of the world in their own terms. In the 90s the Americans won the Cold War and they set out not only to write the history of the world with their New World Order and later Globalization but they are also setting up, at will, the cultural standards and nobody is disputing them that privilege because they are technologically far advanced than the rest of the world.
The globalization imagined by the visionary Marshall McLuhan is not the result of traditional knowledge but that of packaging art:
Today it is not the classroom nor the classics which are the repositories of models of eloquence, but the ad agencies.
So it is by definition to be subliminal in all forms and aspects because that is what the ad agencies are good for and America is the biggest and most powerful ad agency in the entire planet.
What to make of globalization?
Globalization is a cultural model developed in America, in the aftermath of the end of the confrontation between West and East. It is de facto an American vision and blue print of how the world should be and ought to function, irrespective of difference of culture, belief and geographical location. It is a consumer model based on capitalism, maybe with imperialistic connotations. This model is not proposed to the rest of the world to choose or reject, it is subliminally imposed and thus adopted whole-heartedly with no resistance whatsoever.
In fact, this is only seeing the glass as half empty, so it is a relative reality and has indeed to be taken with a pinch of salt because globalization has truly achieved universality, whether it is the result of subliminal manipulation or not that has to be proved by independent research and not by political or cultural rhetoric. The whole world seems to be sharing in the values of globalization and rather than have local cultures condemned to disappearing, they are given the chance to go global and become universal heritage and that is seeing the glass half full.
Whether globalization is good or bad, whether the culture that underlies it is genuinely humanist or unethical, whether it is bringing peace and understanding to our troubled world or not, the fact is it is changing our world and changing the way we think and live. The world of tomorrow is going to be different; more open, more responsible and more ethical…thanks to the culture of globalization hopefully.