American Dreams, Television Networks and the Culture Industries

Jolene, 24 American

I joined a new group of women in one room, I am bothered by the loud television in the next room and ask if they could turn it off, they refused.  I said it was the  boom boom I was hearing that was bothering me, so I left.

Next, I find myself high up in the air on what seems to be a tall shelf of some kind, holding down a television set which someone (male) is trying to secure with screws & bolts to hold it, and I am having a hard time keeping the T.V. set steady, it is wobbling and am very afraid it will fall down and that I may fall down too, it is very high! Why am I dreaming about T.V. sets? 

Mr Hagen's Reply; Dreams at the Intersection of Main Street and Wall Street

To answer why you join a new woman's group and why a man is trying to secure the T.V. set would require some personal associations. There are some general ideas that I can provide as to the meaning of television in dreams.

Throughout the history of the human imagination, the invention of new machines were the product of political, economic and social demands. During the time of the industrial revolution, new machines served as the technological means to stabilize communication infrastructures and promote social order. In the last two centuries, the influence of media such as the railroad, the telegraph, the camera, the movie, the telephone, the radio, the automobile all radically changed the cultural landscape especially the inner cognitive landscape of our thoughts, imagination and our dreams. In this sense the internalization of the television became a cognitive fixture of our homes and our dreams creating global mass audience cultures. The North American weekly T.V. audience ratings inform us about how many are watching what, who are the network winners and who are the loosers.

More than any other medium in North America, it was the television set that promoted "on the scene" live news, social, political, economic, educational and entertainment messages, thereby changing our everyday water cooler narrative (story telling) sensibilities and our perception of the planet. It could be argued that the first North American political T.V. hero was created by the Kennedy-Nixon television debates. The public could watch and listen as the American political election contenders Kennedy and Nixon sparred about politics on T.V. The influence of T.V. on the American audience's perceptions of leadership "image" qualities, turned the tide of public opinion for Kennedy and against Nixon allowing Kennedy to win the Presidency. I believe that it is not an exaggeration to say that Kennedy's Presidential life and death especially in his presentation on television, marked a critical global turning point in the history of leadership, technology, mass communication and audience-influence effects.

The culture industries have created a dream factory, using commercial television broadcasting  to promote and sell their dream come true commercial brands and products. Everyday we can readily see and listen to the poetic commercial sounds at television's business highway intersection of Main Street and Wall Street (blue chip industrial manufacturers having global influence) telling us that the fulfillment of our dreams is for sale. The business traffic flow of advertising messages (which is oft-time deafening) are intended to condition (learning) audiences dreams, thoughts, behaviour, and consumption. It is in this political, social and economic framework, that the business enterprise of television, industry and all the media of popular culture has created the global marketplace. A place that Marshall McLuhan has called the "Global Village". That American TV in the global village influences the dreams such as those of Australian's is evidenced in this dream sent to the IIDR Planet Hollywood.

In 1957 Vance Packard The Hidden Persuaders warned the public of the growing manipulative influence of American advertisers and politicians. Daniel Boorstin's The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America was written as a diagnostic response to the Kennedy-Nixon debates and the power of the media. Boorstin warned Americans about the perceptual shift of American culture, where news is manufactured and truth is no longer important. What has become important is entertaining the audience and holding their attention. This thematic was satirically explored in the film Network which features news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch), network news president Max Schumacher (William Holden) and the producer of entertainment programming Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). Because of declining ratings, Beale goes on live T.V. and tells his audience that he will commit suicide, his rant; "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." (watch video), becomes a galvanizing idiom for his audience.

Thorsten Veblen had already sent a similar satirical message to the public many years earlier. Veblen saw business and technology as the driving forces of cultures. Veblen's theories have found a home in many dreams received by the IIDR, such as Conspicuous Consumption in L.A and Fear of Flying. Today, Wall Street has an army of behavioural psychologists working for them to help influence consumer behaviour. A recent MarketWatch article called "Obama's ‘predictably irrational' economic policies" (read article) is a feature written by Paul B. Farrell, who warns the public that; "Behavioral scientists, behavioral economists and behavioral-finance experts have become the mortal enemies of Main Street America. Two ways: First, behaviorists consistently put us down by reminding us how irrational (stupid) we are. Second: They're using their minds, tools and technologies against us, helping Wall Street profile (demographic) us as targets for investing products, bank customer fees, tax propaganda, etc." "Obama even made a big issue of working with behavioral scientists to minimize irrational behavior in America."

There are many more perspectives that I could provide, from my own perspective, I include my own experience. During the latter part of the 1980's, I worked for an advertising agency as a psychologist. At the time, I had already known of the work of Packard and Boorstin, only later did I discover the work of Veblen. What I found in the advertising industry, in terms of behavioural influence was even worse than I had imagined. I believe the public has a right to be informed, however also has a right to be free of media manipulation. Needless to say my career as a psychologist in advertising was short lived.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.