The Shadows of Broadcasting and Consumerism
If enough people subscribe to a notion, regardless of its credibility, does it make it truth? If enough people buy a product does it make it good, or does mass appeal and selective messaging play a larger part in the decisions an individual makes? A detriment to consumerism in an era of broadcasting is the delusion of facts for profit, which in a sense creates a culture of a profiting few and the advantages taken at liberty over a mass of buyers. When delving deeper into the philosophical/cultural significance of establishing a connection purely for gain in a deceitful fashion, one merely needs to understand views of Greek philosopher Plato and his cave allegory.
Socrates, Plato’s mentor, believed that mans ability to obtained wisdom required observation and reason. The abstract theory of absolute truth as a source of ultimate good, from the ancient philosopher’s point of view, could only be unearthed by asking life’s contradicting questions. Plato makes the rational that society is not freedom, a theory Thomas Hobbes would attest to 2000 years later in his own political doctrine, Leviathan, which describes the idea of the original human condition, the forfeiture of natural rights for citizen rights, and in essence molding a state of constitutional morality in the process.
"When one of them was untied, and compelled suddenly to stand up, turn his head, start walking, and look towards the light, he’d find all these things painful. Because of the glare he’d be unable to see the things whose shadows he used to see before"
Plato’s cave analogy is basically a tale of propaganda and those made to consume its fantasy. Prisoners are shackled in a cave and forced to face a specific position for their entire life. The prisoners can talk to one another, but for as long as they have known, they’ve been force to watch the shadowy objects projected on the cave wall from a flame behind them. Knowing nothing but the presence of fellow prisoners around them and what they saw, “what people in this situation would take for truth would be nothing more than shadows of manufactured objects.”(The Republic, 515c). Plato felt that individuals brought up in this situation, would initially fear and reject such truth outside the cave when first introduced. The sun, a source of pure natural light is his metaphor for truth, “When one of them was untied, and compelled suddenly to stand up, turn his head, start walking, and look towards the light, he’d find all these things painful. Because of the glare he’d be unable to see the things whose shadows he used to see before.”(The Republic, 515d). At this point the individual must decide which is true, the painful reality or moving images on a wall. Beyond the obvious correlation between Plato’s Cave analogy and consumerism/advertising in the United States and other countries, this concept plays major role in any citizen’s life, whether they care or choose to admit it.
In United States, since the case of Citizens United v. Fec and the inception of the Super PAC (Political Action Committee), wealthy donors have the ability to supply political candidates anonymously, essentially hiding the designs their money has bought them if their candidate wins political office. This court decision solidified a running tradition in the country that money equals speech. The key controversial aspect of this court decision is the judicial veil these donors hide behind and the secrecy of their intentions. Who are supplying our public servants? What do they want in return? As with Plato’s cave, what citizens of the U.S. see and hear is not one hundred percent accurate, as the information is intentionally hidden from them.
As with internal duplicity in United States and other countries, the issue of conflicts abroad when compared to Plato’s Cave allegory leads to a similar discussion. One could argue that a majority of extrinsic conflicts, especially in the Middle East, derives from handful of individuals need for profit and to provide distraction for the masses. Recognizing the significance manufacturing and the factory system played during the industrial era that fueled early economic success of the United States is crucial. This boost in production made the country a fiscal powerhouse similar to the industrialized British Empire which reigned financially supreme before. This culture of mass production has played major role in this country’s development as well as helped maintained it economic structure. Since the Greatest Generation there has been unrest in the Middle East, as the unifying order known as the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the strain of World War 1 and later the foundation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1947, implemented by western powers, caused social unrest in the area.
Forced into a hodgepodge of minor wars, over time, Islamic Arabic countries within the region took sides on the issue Israel, which through nearly one hundred years developed a culture of hostilities towards neighboring ethnicities and regimes. Either intentionally or unintentionally, through social unrest in the region, war has become a profitable industry. Though harmful to the region, it would seem those who are making a profit don’t necessarily want the cash flow to stop. In a report Al Jazeera published in 2011, weapon sales from the United State to Egypt alone in the five years leading up to the Arab Spring earned $1,043,604,174. Russia and China were also large contributors of arms to the region, but do not publish data on their weapon sales, “making accountability difficult for two of the world’s biggest arms suppliers.”(Al Jazeera). Clearly there is an industry behind strife and ill-will, and yet it would seem we as a people concede to this discord. To simply accept the social order as it, when injustice and deceit is visible, the individual can only blame themselves as they proceed to watch "shadows of manufactured objects."
Griffith, Tom, trans. Plato: The Republic. Ed. G.R.F. Ferrari. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.
Carlstrom, Gregg, and Evan Hill. "Tracing the Middle East Weapons Flow." - Al Jazeera English. 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2016. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/10/20111019152444131301.html>.