"Deride and Conquer," an essay by Mark Crispin Miller, discusses
how television is a thing of addictive and ironic nature. He presents
multiple hypocrisies how Pepsi commercials claim to present a choice,
yet make the choice for you, how news organizations don''t reveal the
stories that matter (thus making it not real "news"), and how the media
stereotypes the "bad guys" in movies and television shows.
Miller''s makes many statements, but his first and most profound is
one about a Pepsi advertisement. A young guy casually drives onto a
crowded beach, pushes a button to turn on his speaker system and
microphones, and takes an "ice-cold bottle of Pepsi, tilts it to the
microphone before him, and opens it." Pepsi claims this presents a
choice, yet as everyone flocks to the beach it truly isn''t a choice.
Miller shows that, through many factors, the media makes television
addictive and adds many subliminal components to its broadcasting. I
agree with Miller on some parts of the case, namely in some
advertisements, but what he puts about the news broadcasters seems to
be a bit untrue.
I had never thought of many of the points that Miller had made
before reading his paper "the villains [in children''s shows] are
frenzied and always ugly," he says and that makes me one of the hapless
viewers of television. "Like TV''s ads, these shows suggest that nothing
could be worse than seeming different," claims Miller, and I agree.
Although the advertisements don''t say that contrasting from others is
bad forthright, it is implied in many ways in TV. Since all companies
want people to use their product, they incorporate the bandwagon
technique frequently. One car commercial showed two friends exiting
work; as they stroll down the street to their respective cars, one of
them stops to straighten their tie. He happens to coincidentally
straighten it near a high-quality car made by the advertiser, and his
friend asks him if it''s his car. Succumbing to peer pressure, he
replies that it is indeed his car one sign of the advertising
techniques that Miller mentions.
"Nice, man, nice. Cool car!" exclaims his friend. It promises that
once you get that car, you''ll fit in and everyone will like you. Then,
a woman comes by and takes the car as both of the men look at her and
her "awesome" car with envy. Other car commercials show a fast car on a
generic forest road, speeding with no abandon.
"Products are presented
as desirable not because they offer to release you from the daily
grind, but because they''ll pull you under, take you in," and that''s
what these commercials strive to do. Another aspect of these frequent
car commercials is the people in them normally, it''s just an "Average
Joe," but what honestly is ordinary? There is no set standard, and yet
the media strives to tell you that there is a standard for normality
and that you can be a Joe by buying their product. In this, Miller is
Of course, Miller makes another point about the news broadcasters;
"the TV news actually conceals what is going on in the world, enhancing
its own authority while preserving the authority of those in power,
their ideology, their institutions." This is a doubtful claim, I
believe, as sometimes the best and juiciest news is the actual news.
Although they might water it down with some absolutely pointless
things, (a recent news broadcast I had seen about how it was found out
that fast food was in fact unhealthy. Obviously, no one knew this
before) generally TV news is about news. The stations aren''t hesitant
to broadcast Iraq death tolls, and they had a press hype over Saddam''s
hanging. The conflict in the Middle East is a common topic, and
possibly the most pressing one of this decade. A huge amount of time is
devoted to discussing and analyzing the situation there, and in mly does matter. Overall, the media does
influence a huge amount of the population, yet only in minor ways. Some
of those commercials do look pretty convincing, anyway.
Miller presents a varied assortment of excellent points, and most
of them seem to be correct. "Deride and Conquer" is a very good and
insightful piece about the subtleties and nuances of television. TV is
truly an amazing invention, providing a new medium for entertainment
and education. With this newfound freedom, though, there is also a new
chance for clever media manipulation.