Thursday, February 22, 2018

Money, Amygdala, Adults, Youth, Truth, Fiction, And Violence

We were talking about students from Parkland, Florida rising up in protest, and my daughter said, well, they've been reading books and watching movies that feature young heroes fighting against corrupt adult regimes.

A little later I saw this tweet:

Nothing can be boiled down to a simple answer, but it is worth playing with ideas to see where they lead.   This post is just thinking out loud.

Capitalism reduces everything to money.  The corporation's bottom line is all that matters.  The only way other values - family, morality, nature - matter in a corporate world is if they impact that bottom line.

Corporations have been by-passing reason and rationality for decades with ads that play directly to people's emotions.  They trigger buying by appealing to the amygdala, sometimes known as the reptilian brain, or primal brain.
'The primal brain is also in charge of, what are often referred to as, the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and… Reproduction' . . " (From Interaction Design Foundation.)
 From Brand Strategy company Tronviggroup:
"The reptilian brain first wants to know if the thing is threatening or desirable (edible, sexually attractive). It ascertains this from what it can see, smell, taste and touch, not what it can deduct by rational means. All these evaluations occur without recourse to the rational mind.

The limbic brain then responds emotionally and asks, “Is this my friend? Can I put my trust here?” This is the essential brand level stuff that generates loyalty, as discussed in The Difference Between Marketing and Branding."
So car companies, food companies, drug companies all get us to buy things not by logic, but by emotion.  And for entertainment companies, emotion is part of the product itself.  So Disney, Weinstein, Viacom, and others use violence and sex to sell movies. [From the Weinstein article cited below.]
". .  one entertainment marketer with 35 years of experience [said]: 'Abject violence has proven successful, and as long as it is, it will be produced because it’s profitable. It’s the accepted way of life rather than asking is this the right thing to do?'”
This is supported by studies that find a correlation between violence and film profit, though one study found that sex and nudity decreased profitability, but
"violence and frightening/tense scenes, were much more likely to predict financial success."
Then there's this interesting quote from Harvey Weinstein in 2014:
“He spoke about his own children and how he no longer wanted to feel like a hypocrite. “The change starts here,” the man who produced Quentin Tarantino’s violent Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and D’jango Unchained told Morgan. “It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.” 

So if violence works for film makers, why shouldn't it work for news programs?

Entertainment corporations nowadays own companies that produce the news.  Disney owns ABC.  21st  Century Fox owns Fox News.   One wonders about the amount of time that the news shows spend covering school and other mass shootings.  Particularly compared to  other deaths - like car deaths or heart disease.

Are real life shootings just a form of entertainment for the news industry now?  Certainly were used to sell newspapers all along.

Clearly shootings are important news content to be covered.  But are they becoming the real life entertainment like that portrayed in The Hunger Games?

Perhaps the students see their tragedy as offered up for profit - certainly for the gun companies if not for the media.  And are the students responding to the youth fiction and superhero movies leading them to see themselves as the necessary saviors of humanity against a corrupt and unfair world created and controlled by adults?
‘We’re Children. You Guys Are the Adults.’
First the students said this, demanding the adults take action.  But seeing the adults squirm rather than act, the kids are seeing their own need to take action.

The Right immediately cranked up a conspiracy campaign claiming the students were 'crisis actors' controlled by a left-wing conspiracy.  From the LA Times:
"The video suggested that he is actually a performer, paid by sinister left-wing forces to advocate repeal of the 2nd Amendment. . .
"Effective smear campaigns don't just tell you what you want to hear. They're also arousing. Unlike harassment and bullying, but like gory and pornographic images (or drugs like meth and cocaine), attack propaganda shoots straight to the limbic system where our baser nature resides: fear, anger, sex and the instinct to protect children.
The Hogg video hit the spot, stimulating viewers through the crude intoxication of fury. No need to feel sympathy for this survivor. He's a player in a vast conspiracy. . . 
"The video simply excited the hindbrain more than the demonstrations, and we couldn't get enough of it.
Indeed, the attack on Hogg created a taste for more of the same, or at least YouTube did. As Paul Lewis observed in the Guardian, YouTube with its "Up Next" algorithm rewards consumers of pornography with more pornography, and propaganda with more propaganda."

Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook are also businesses that profit by people being punched in the amygdala.

But I do hope that people with experience and expertise in administration and mobilization do come to assist these kids, because passion gets you started, but organization gets you to the finish line.

This is related but seemed to distract from the topic, so let me play it out here.

I've been wondering about how much sex and nudity in movies is there simply because directors took advantage of their power over actors to get them to take off their clothes and simulate sex acts.  With the Weinstein aftermath, that seems a lot more likely.  And are those who gain power in the film industry necessarily Type A personalities, just to get into those positions?  And are they more inclined to make movies that are full of ways to kill people?  And would average people be as imaginative in how to use guns if they didn't have so many role models on television, video games, and movies?

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