The 1st speaker on Thursday morning was Donna E. Shalala. I had never heard of her. So I scan the program guide and discover she’s the President of the Clinton Foundation.
She was also head of DHHS during President Clinton’s eight years in office.
The first think I thought was “what the hell did I get myself into?” and second “is this really an organization we want to belong to?” and third “I need more coffee”.
Unfortunately, the staff at the hotel had absconded with the coffee. The fact there wasn’t a riot over that was pretty amazing.
I sat there coffeeless hoping for the best. It was going to be a very very long conference if it was going to be a liberal lovefest.
I was relieved when she stayed away from politics and stuck to topics relevant to a nonprofit giving out diapers to poor families. She mostly covered issues of poverty and integrating messaging into entertainment and everyday life. She discussed some of the educational projects that she worked on throughout her career, not just ones through the Clinton Foundation.
She her presentation was interesting, informative…and a bit frightening.
She talked about and showed examples of how the Clinton Foundation works with other nonprofit corporations to get messages written into television programs in order to change people’s opinions and actions.
Her first example was SIDs. When parents were instructed to put their babies on their backs by doctors and educators, the information was ignored. When the method of delivery was shifted to television, mainly writing it into soap operas and other entertainment programs, SIDs was reduced by over 90%. Entertainment has had a huge impact on the changing of viewers opinions and behavior.
Currently there is an effort to get parents of young children to read to them. Shalala showed us several clips from popular televisions shows, including Law & Order SVU, Jane the Virgin and Elmo where messages about reading and singing to young children were inserted into the writing of the show. I happened to see the Law & Order SVU episode and didn’t think anything of it at the time. I had no idea that the show was being used to push an agenda.
Sometimes the agenda being pushed on TV shows is blatant, but this type of integration is flat out scary.
How did society get to the point where the entertainment industry has that much influential over a person’s beliefs and actions?
Yikes! No wonder the culture is so messed up. Entertainment is no longer just about entertaining, it’s about shaping views and changing the culture, sometimes for better and sometimes for the worse.
I rarely get to watch television or movies or read, because I’m just too busy. And with the state of television today…it’s not a bad thing.
However, most people spend a huge amount of time in front of the tube, an average of 35 hours a week, having their thoughts and opinions shaped and formed by unknown sources deciding what messages are going to be covertly put into a program in order to change the way they think about different topics.
It’s even worse for children, because there minds are still developing and their opinions are still forming. According to the University of Michigan, the average amount of hours children 2-5 sit in front of the TV is 32 hours per week; age 6-11, 28 hours a week.
That is a lot of time that government agencies, companies, activist organizations, etc can covertly form a child’s views on all sorts of things, some that may be counter to what their parent believe. That should scare the crap out of any parent.
I wonder if the rapid shift in the opinion of younger generations to the ideas such as same sex marriage, abortion, the role of government, etc wasn’t due in part by the influence of entertainment. I mean, it seems rather strange that even children brought up in devout religious homes have radically different ideas than their parents.
I was a sociology major in College, and I would be interested to see if those views were shaped early on by the entertainment industry or if there were other reasons that this opinion took such a dramatic shift.
Sadly, I think, like the answer to the age old question of how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop, we may never know.
So, what can we do about it?
- Stop watching TV. Yeah I hear you laughing. As I discovered at this conference, being selective about what shows you watch isn’t enough. Finding entertainment other than television is the only way to totally avoid being a guinea pig for people with an agenda. The less time you spend in front of the tube, the less time they have in influencing your views.
- Read books. Yes, you will find books with the same problem, however, there is a much larger selection to choose from and you can find authors with similar worldviews as your own if you’re so inclined.
- Fight fire with fire. Create entertainment that projects views that you espouse. This doesn’t mean, write message fiction. This means write elements, themes, characters, etc into your works that support your views, but are still entertaining.
Of all of the speakers at the conference, Shalala was the one I learned the most from. It opened my eyes to how agendas can be slipped in almost anywhere.
And, apparently, no one had dirt on Clinton or the Clinton Foundation at the conference, because I’m happy to say, everyone survived the presentation.