The feeling of immunity from the powers that control this country are not only natural but a small part of the veil of youth we must all shed at some point. Such confidence in one’s ability to see through the fog of manipulation, and the denial of the efficiency of the American advertising machine seems to be a common delusion in any intelligent young person. Sooner or later, while it does not entail submission, one must realize the effectiveness of the methods used by this juggernaut of a nation to bend human will. The following is my personal experience with subliminal advertising and its proverbial backhand of a statement that, in fact, I am not immune.
In early 2011 I lived in San Francisco. I was intent on making my presence known in the music scene and worked tirelessly day and night towards my goal. My decision to move to the city was very much fuelled by my desire to be surrounded by similar, strong minded individuals. I say strong minded because, being in my mid twenties, I brandished that said feeling of immunity like most of my peers. I was prematurely confident in my mental capacity and my ability to “see through the bullshit”. Like so many people around me I considered myself well read and was quick to dismiss any attempts at manipulation, be it personal or on a more grand of scale. I was constantly reading about the American machine and all of its methods of control. Today I shudder at the late night discussions my friends and I would conduct concerning this, what we considered, awful and detrimental capitalist society. While I now pride my younger self with being more attuned to such misgivings than your average 25 year old, I also now realize my naivety.
Life as a young musician when you are not financially backed is a constant juggling act. I always felt pressure to be creative but at the same time had a wide range of bills to pay. It was perfectly normal to spend long stressful months finding a day job, quitting or getting fired to go on a month long tour, only to come home and begin the search all over again. Any job that would let me leave and not force me into unemployment was welcomed no matter the pay or quality of work. My lack of a vehicle while living in a city 7 miles by 7 miles naturally drove me to become a bicycle courier. I quickly learned every ally and side street and excelled rapidly.
Around this time the world was preparing itself for the premiere of the television series Game of Thrones. I at the time had no interest in television and, in fact, did not own one. I had never heard nor cared to educate myself on the Game of Thrones series, nor was I a fan of fantasy literature so consequently, I was completely ignorant of its existence. I traversed the city everyday for work none the wiser of the billboards and posters inundating my sub conscience.
I was in the midsts of writing a demo for a new punk band my friends and I had started and was contemplating all the aesthetics of the band. Being the singer, this was one of my main responsibilities. I wanted it to be dark and unsettling as most of my projects have been throughout my life. One day while I was home writing lyrics, I experienced an unexpected wave of artistic clarity and felt it was all coming together
perfectly. Words were flowing out of me and after much deliberation I had arrived at a title. It all seemed so natural and it fit the music flawlessly. I was so excited and confident that everyone would love it and I wanted to share it with everyone at the same time, so I refrained from telling anyone until later that night at band practice. As always I was the last to arrive and when I did everyone could tell I was bursting with confidence.
“Alright guys I got it. I figured out the title and you’re all going to love it. Winter Is Coming!”
Instantly two of my bandmates started laughing and the third just frowned in astonishment.
“Dude, thats the Game of Thrones slogan.” My drummer Josh informed me quite unamused.
“What’s Game of Thrones?”
He then grabbed me by the arm and walked me outside of our practice space which was located downtown, and pointed upward. There, literally on the corner of Turk and Taylor st. was a giant billboard with a depiction of a wolf and in block style font that must have been 5’ tall it said “Winter is Coming”.
The range of emotions that instantly followed hit me like a rogue wave. I felt appalled and angry because it was back to the drawing board, but most of all, I felt violated. Here I was so confident in my stout mental foundation when in one instant it was cracked with the realization that I am as susceptible as your average television watching American.
There was one more emotion that would develop in my mind, and while it was more gradual than the others it was no less prevalent. It was a feeling of understanding, even appreciation. I started realizing that while it was definitely a chink in my mental armor, it was more the effectiveness of this powerful method of advertising. I realized in that moment that the thought implanted in my subconscious was the result of many years of trial and error. It was hard for me to not appreciate the level of success this awful and scary practice of subliminal advertising had reached. I also came to terms with the fact that if it works on me now, it had probably worked before and definitely works on a very large scale.
While this all may seem insignificant, it is a telling tale of the efficiency of this on going invasion of our subconscious. As I mature I understand more and more how this practice has been implemented, and the more I learn the easier it is to see through. I am not as naive as I once was and I understand that the implantation of thoughts in my mind are inevitable. These days, however, I am more attuned to recognizing them, and recognition is the first step to elimination. While I understand there is no way for one man to bring down this age old propaganda machine, I also understand that if more individuals practice recognizing these offensive attempts at invasive advertising, the firm hold may start to lose its grip. The appreciation still remains, but I am convinced that this appreciation if harnessed properly may be the beginning of the long path of defiance.