Today I’d like to take you down memory lane, to illustrate an example of inoculation. For this, we need to travel back to a different era….the 80s. Specifically, let’s reminisce about a grand year, 1985. In case you were not alive then, there were some significant differences between then and now. In that ancient time, people used to employ catalogs to order their goods and products. Internet wasn’t even a word!
This is where our tale will begin….a mail order catalog. In this prior era, there existed a great retailer, Montgomery Ward (apparently they still exist today). As fate would have it, your enterprising author was a catalog model. Scope the pic.
In case you’re wondering, yes, that is Megatron on the PJ’s. As a youngster, I did not truly process what was going on. My mother would pull me out of kindergarten and first grade classes early all the time. She’d take me into Manhattan for casting calls. Above is pretty much the culmination of my modeling career. A young, precocious sprout with fiery red hair, my mother saw a product with a unique selling point (USP, for those in the know, winking condescendingly at every advertising and marketing student). So what?
For a long time, it meant nothing. Until I went to college, in the quaint provincial town of Boston. Yup. I used the word town to describe a major American metropolitan city. Y’see, something had taken place all those years ago, constantly taking the LIRR into the City as a child. Unbeknown to me, I had been inoculated to big buildings and bustle. Where some people are taken aback, amazed by the mass and scale of a city the size of Boston’s, it was nothing big to me. All those years of childhood exposure to the Big Cit-ay had made me immune.
By the time I had reached college, I had been inoculated to metropolitan life. Click the link for a technical definition for the word, but for this cryptojournalism exercise, the word will mean to acclimate and anesthetize to an idea. Early on, I had been acclimated and anesthetized to the New York City, which in turn inoculated me to urban life.
Enough groundwork, this is cryptojournalism. In the upcoming paragraphs, we’re going to discuss how inoculation takes place in television particularly, and how this can probably help us win The War On Terror-error-error.
More than any force on Earth, television has the greatest capacity to inoculate a people. Without giving too much away, The Vigilant Citizen touches on this topic with a recent article on, of all things, GI Joe, titled “How the Animated Series G.I. Joe Predicted Today’s Illuminati Agenda.” The gist of what he’s saying is also the same point I’m trying to make here: exposure to things and ideas has the ability to inoculate people to said ideas and things.
Try and consider popular culture as a weather balloon, floated to gain a reading on future forecasts. By now, I hope you enjoy my intentional vagueness. By pointing out what he sees as symbolic allusion and foreshadowing, and contrasting it to contemporary times, VC shows that a seed of an idea from long ago might contribute to forming and shaping minds and opinions in the future. 80s cartoons produced by Claster Television in particular seem to be heavy on featuring inoculating ideas. A graduate student in tandem with an extremely lax university could easily produce a cultural study of action figure based cartoons from the 80s. Easily. It would probably be hailed as “groundbreaking” and “ahead of its time” while being flowered with the sort of adulation only a monosyllabic culture can give.
Regrettably, there is all sorts of foreshadowing and inoculating to be found, if you look hard enough. Prison Break, the Fox drama revolving around brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows battle against the shadowy Company provides great grist for the cryptojournalism mill. For the type who believe the James Bond classic Goldfinger is warning of some sinister plot to liquidate American wealth (as Bill Still mentions in The Money Masters, since Ian Fleming had ties with MI6), the Fox series is a scary nightmare. Outlaw Federal Agents running around and killing for a shadowy cabal of multi-national corporations is every 10th Amendment advocate and anti-NAFTA wing nut’s worst nightmare.
Let’s jump deep into the series, halfway through the fourth and final season. Episode 15, titled “Going Under,” should illustrate my point. Straight on, not obliquely. Sorry to disappoint.
Here and here are the clips of the episode we’re discussing, apparently from the hinterlands of Wrestlemania. Without getting bogged down in too many details, this elite cabal of the super-powerful have medical technology we haven’t even seen. That’s the nut.
IF you believe in fiction foreshadowing real life, then you believe the globocrats have some next generation technology not-quite-ready for public consumption. Only time will tell. Leaning toward the side of cynical skepticism, let’s assume something along these lines is out there. Fiction is the best medium to anesthetize people to this (potentially) condescending life fact: if you don’t have the clout to get in The Company offices, you don’t need to know about this. Has it ever been another way?
Inoculation in standard broadcasting is fine. It’s in kids shows where shit can get real hairy. Last time, I mentioned the 21st Century Olson Twin, iCarly. That’s right, I’m back on THIS topic. Before you click over to a video of a cat trying to fight a goldfish, hear me out. Lemme put it this way…..if I was a junior in college, there’s a 50/50 shot there’d be an iCarly poster on the wall. Don’t forget rule #16: college guys are perverts.
Now here’s where we begin to dovetail our theory of inoculation with the wider War on Terror-error-error. Gee, I really love that echo effect. A kids show on Nickelodeon should be benign enough, right? Well this wouldn’t be cryptojournalism if that weren’t a rhetorical question. Keep in mind this is TV-Y. Which is exactly what makes it such a great inoculating influence.
There is (and should be) a general disconnect between kids’ culture and their parents’ tastes and values. Honestly, wouldn’t it be creepy if mom and dad liked what little Bobby and Emily were into? That’s the sort of, and I hate to use this word, infantilization of the adult mind which might lead you to pose as a 23-year-old to have sex with a 13-year-old when you’re really 36. It reminds me of American wordsmith Chris Rock:
If she tells you she’s 26 and looks 26, she’s damn near 40
Parents who want to be friends with their kids instead of parents? I might consider that to fall under the umbrella of the Kardashian Phenomenon. It has a fair chance of being a terrible life choice. Anyhooo, we were on the topic of iCarly as an inoculating agent. But inoculating to what? Inoculation usually has some sort of point. Like my early days in Manhattan made me take huge skyscrapers and throngs of people for granted, what does a kids show about a girl living her life on the Internet, free from parents accomplish?
I honestly cannot say that I know. All I know is that during the holidays with some family, I had the
good fortune misfortune of viewing an episode titled “iBeat the heat.” I know you’re expecting it. No, I’m not going to make a meat joke. Whoops. This strange odyssey into Utopian theory is definitely odd. If you have the stomach to sit through 22 minutes of Nickelodeon programming, I would suggest watching it. It’s like rubbernecking. Cultural rubbernecking, seeing the wreckage via internet video.
Since metaphors are fun, think about the classic “Hang In There” poster, of an adorable kitten hanging onto a branch. I always remembered its counterpart poster.
Some see a cute, fluffy kitty cat. Others see a wry joke. Even now, I can only make one conclusion from actually watching this hot mess. I’ll get to that in a minute.
But first….hyper summary. This kid’s got the only apartment in her building with air conditioning. Everyone tries to pile in. Antics ensue. Be good neighbors, blah-blah-blah. A lesson is learned on utopia (as young Carly is working on a project, a Utopian city of the future) What that lesson is? Ask a tween. Et cetera, so on and so forth.
THIS is what found its way onto YouTube.
If you look at the comments, things get a little squirrelly. Commenters give hints on, um, video playback. And who says Americans aren’t a smart bunch of rubes?
Clearly I’m employing a truly filthy bias, but that’s the point. This can be pointed out, according to some cultural morays, as being clearly over the line. That, my friends, is our tactical advantage. It always comes back to Mariah.
Mariah Carey. Pop star. Musical legend. Long Island’s finest. Might have heard of her? I can only vouch for Western Europe. But if it’s Christmas time and you’re in any European city, you will eventually hear “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It’s uncanny. Again, I can only speak for what I’ve seen. I do not know if people in Algeria or Singapore are listening to the sweet tunes of Ms. Nick Cannon. Our proclivity for exporting culture may be the strategic break we need to cut the budget and end some senseless killing.
We’re cultural exporters. We learned from the best (wink and a nod to the British Isles) that being the global cultural hub is a pretty cushy gig. Don’t be mistaken. America still to a disproportionate degree apes English culture. Ask Ricky Gervais or Simon Cowell. Or that revolting woman from The Weakest Link. We’ve just got pre-eminent facilities and a bigger marketplace. America: quantity over quality. Hell, we even export our cultural flotsam.
Like some people, I recognize that our current multi-theater war in the Middle East is an unprecedented financial boondoggle. So much money has already been spent, it might be time to consider a new approach. Since words like ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ are so fluid and easily manipulated, let’s settle on a different tactic. Call it Voice of America on HGH. I like to call it a cultural inoculation. NOT cultural indoctrination.
Cultural inoculation. Think of the ‘news’ from Baghdad last year of the re-emergence of the pornography market in Iraq over the last couple of years (and its social implications) as cultural inoculation. Make people take out of the ordinary things for granted. Which brings us back to kids shows.
Well, not just kids shows. Network TV. That’s our secret weapon. First, a little background color, to help tighten this picture up. People, such as Robert A. Pape, writing for Foreign Policy, believe our military occupying Muslim territory is a prime cause of our problems. Baithullah Meshud, one of the panoply of groups calling for resistance, put it this way:
“We will continue our struggle until foreign troops are thrown out. Then we will attack them in the US and Britain until they either accept Islam or agree to pay jazia (a tax in Islam for non-Muslims living in an Islamic state),” Mehsud Stated in an interview.
It actually relates to a belief in Islam, Dar al-Harb. Nutshell: we fight you till you believe. Although there is a great deal of context I’m missing there. We’re looking for a magic bullet, and this is cryptojournalism, so for this case let’s roll with the premise of radicals wanting us out of the Middle East.
Fine. I say leave. Take all our troops out of Muslim countries, stack everyone in Israel. Fuck it, why not? Then? Like Voice of America all roided up, we begin to culturally inoculate the whole region. Think of it as benign-ish television. Benign-ish to us, but we’re inoculated. Think of the endless possibilities? A pro-American channel, but unlike Alhurra, we would give the people what they want. Actually, we would give the people what Americans want.
There would be a strict criteria to make it onto America Presents Entertainment, or APE for short. What makes a show suitable for inoculation is if it shows in some way a complete ambivalence towards society. This can manifest itself in many ways. Some APE-worthy shows would be the dregs of daytime television. Maury Povich and Judge Joe Brown are EXACTLY the type of material that could inoculate people in quite a rough manner. Really, Drew? You want to win the hearts and minds with Judge Joe and Maury? Oh, no fringe. This would be a most rigorous type of undermining.
Have you ever watched an episode of Judge Joe Brown? If you’re unemployed, elderly or socioeconomically underprivileged, you probably have. For the contributing members of society, let me fill you in on a little secret. Judge Joe likes the ladies. Instead of casting a brollock dude as his bailiff, he picks a tall, leggy hot Spanish mami, Sonia Montejano. He also likes to pack his audience with cute girls.
If it pleases the court….
The people would also like to submit an American hairdresser and an assortment of pretty girls in the audience into evidence.
With the treasure trove of ambivalent, borderline programming we’ve got at our disposal, APE could be beaming internationally in days. Some other benign-ish television that is up to APE standards would be iCarly (for the kids, of course), The Golden Girls (Blanche Devereaux would be a cultural nightmare in a society which loves to protect and shield its women), Sister Wives (an unheralded gem), Keeping With The Kardashians (what’s undermining and corroding a peoples’ culture without the Kardashians?), Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and American Gladiators (the original, not that Hulkster tinged remake) would be a good starter platter.
Inoculation works most effectively through obvious subtlety. The instantaneous flash of too much upper thigh on an episode of SVU, or the blatant double entendre of Dorothy Zbornak, given time, will prove more powerful than fifty battalions of troops. If you can’t win hearts and minds, well, it’s much easier to inoculate minds. Once something is taken for granted, most of the leg work is done.
Consider my childhood inoculation. If I’d grown up in South Carolina or Kansas, Boston would have seemed like Tokyo or Mexico City. Don’t take your own inoculation for granted. That’s how we’ll lose the War on Terror-error-error. If the Vigilant Citizen article cited earlier is worth anything, it’s worth realizing something to which you were exposed (if you were a boy who grew up in the Eighties) and probably have no recollection of. Intriguing inoculation, some of those G.I. Joe episodes. Here’s one, titled The Greenhouse Effect, which seems crazy as a cartoon plot.
Jet fuel that makes fruits and vegetables grow into mutated giant killer produce? Nope. Can’t say that I’ve ever heard of anything like that before.
And if you think I’m joking, I bet the Department of Defense could get some choice syndication rates. Think about the savings and the long term payout of psycultural warfare. Episodes of iCarly and The Hills have got to be cheaper to carpet bomb a nation with than munitions. Do not sleep on the power of the obviously subtle. It would be a real mind fuck. This sort of underhanded tactic would clash with the idea of dar al-harb. Check out these two blurbs, from the same website.
If you’re going to fight a perpetual war against an unseen foe, your best bet is to go light on materials. Airwaves and syndication fees have the potency to bring anyone to their knees. It’s just a matter of how long it takes to inoculate. How long does it take to anesthetize and make a people generally ambivalent? It took America about 35-40 years, so we had better get cracking!