The Social Implications of Media Advertising


That Z is not commercial – i.e. reliant on advertisements to fund their operations – is wonderful especially when considering the status of commercialism.


Profit over people – that’s the maxim.


In an ideal society where profit is outlawed and meeting the needs and desires of people in socially and ecologically-conducive ways then maybe advertising could have a role.


Until then I think commercialism deserves the stain on its dress.


A friend of mine is doing his doctoral dissertation and the topic of advertisements effect on society is certainly a part of it.


He is even planning on using Complementary Holism as a conceptual tool to study the relation between media and social movements.


Even before he let me in on his paper the topic had recently been on my mind.


My wife and I were watching TV the other night while Lucy was napping. Some commercial comes on advertising house cleaning supplies.


The cleaner?


A woman.


So when my friend brought up the topic of his dissertation I had lots of thoughts to offer.


Here are my thoughts on how media advertisements affect all four spheres (polity, economy, kinship, community).


In the economy it is much more obvious, especially if you’re familiar with The Propaganda Model as proposed by Herman and Chomsky. Commercial media is very reliant on advertisements and it reflects in their daily operations. It gives credence to the old adage that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.


In the US political system we can see it manifest itself in FCC regulations, which you can play a sort of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style game to connect ad money to the implementation of regulation policies.


In the kinship sphere, as noted by my wife and I, we see it shaping and asserting sexist behavior. If the ad is for a lawnmower you will likely see a male, but if it’s gardening flowers you can bet it will be a woman. Sometimes the military shows a woman in a combat role but the message leaves the impression, “See, women can do this too.” Robert Jensen has made some commentary on what gets defined as femininity and what passes as masculinity and it’s an interesting exercise. Whatever responses you may receive when quizzing others the obvious question is, “Why can’t the other sex have this feature?” If men are strong, why aren’t women? If women are caring, why aren’t men? So on and so forth.


In the community sphere we could look to the works of folks like Ben Bagdikian and Robert McChesney in terms of media conglomeration. When local, public media cannot compete with highly funded media conglomerates what happens? They go out of business. And what does this do to the locals? As you probably know they are starved of information related to their communities. We will more likely know about the weather balloon hoax then what happened down the street – leaving us uninformed and disempowered.


I think my friend’s dissertation will help demonstrate the utility of Complementary Holism/Totality/Radical Theory.


It helps us see the expanse and interlocking relationships found throughout society. If all societies have an economy, polity, kinship and community/culture sphere and if all issues are found in all spheres and help either, codefine or accommodate, evolutionize or revolutionize society then does this, or should this have any impact on existing organizations that may fall under the banner of “single-issue”?


What I am getting at is this: Conceptually speaking, does it really make sense to focus on workers liberation or women’s liberation or indigenous people’s liberation or animal liberation or earth liberation, etc? I wonder if “social liberation” even encompasses what is really going on here since the concept of “social” usually doesn’t include ecology. But shouldn’t it? Isn’t it arrogant to exclude other species from society since they are affected participants? Maybe they aren’t cognizant enough to communicate their feelings and we should take on the role of an entrusted steward to act on their behalf, but if we do we should take biodiversity and ecological stability very seriously. People like Edward O Wilson should be treated like planetary heroes, not obscure scientists.


What is the best conceptual tool for us to optimize our full potential as symbiant beings, within our species and throughout nature? As Complementary Holism is beginning to be used more broadly in seeing the world I think it’s proving to be very helpful and productive. It is a useful tool to not only see the world more clearly and fully, but it may offer the most hope in finding unity in diversity.

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