Interest Canalization and the Fruits of Mass Media

A lot of news All news will claim your group (whatever it is – men, autistics, etc.) is being threatened by some other group, a movement, political party, etc. The news plays a story of a member of your group getting persecuted, and you will naturally build an internal motor representation (IMR) (a sort of mental virtualization) of the “intent” of the “enemy” whom you now perceive to be out to get you by virtue of your association with the victim group. (I’m using Rizzolatti’s term for the IMR, Mirrors in the Brain, 2008.)

In seeking to “solve” the enemy’s virtualization in your mind (the IMR), you will alter your behavior from behavior X to behavior Y. Ad agencies have already run the algorithm on the news story and have already predicted various sets of behavior Y (Y1, Y2, Y3 across various demographics) and within 7 minutes they arrive with an ad campaign, which promises that buying thing Z will resolve the IMR, producing catharsis. So a story about crime somewhere in the country, followed by a prediction that crime will increase further, will prompt you to go buy another security camera. Or a story about victimization of someone from your group will make you anxious for food, drink, etc., with a predictable purchase at the end. If you watch a lot of news, ad agencies can reliably predict you will buy a lot of trash from Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. If you subscribe to some new service, even better.

The first thing they do not want you to do is find healthy resolutions to the IMR that will result in questioning the validity of the IMR in the first place. So ads and mass media will direct you where to go, what city to live on, where to put your kids. If your IMR of “crime” is “they are out to get me”, and you come upon a member of the “crime” group who is clearly not out to get you, then this renders the IMR dubious at least, but most likely false. This is good for you (you become a skeptical viewer and question the source of this news story), but it hurts sales. So mass media has a vested interest in canalizating your interests: people watching Fox News will dissociate from people listening to NPR, or people who adhere to progressive causes will tend to move to new towns with enclaves of like-minded people, and vice versa down the line. The canalization of interests helps avoid any kind of cross-contamination of castes. You will avoid “bad” neighborhoods by simply talking to or subscribing to people or services who/which share your interests and know of “good” neighborhoods to live in that contain like-minded people. They will, however, ignore the other 99% of neighborhoods that are also perfectly adequate and safe, good for jobs, good for kids, etc., because those are homes to a different caste, different dialect, etc. This isn’t by choice: it’s just mass media canalization, ans it works itself out naturally.

The second thing they do not want is for you to unsubscribe or turn off mass media. Your friends might think you’re a brave soul for doing so, but ultimately this renders you an outsider, jettisoning you into a dissident and “unclean” caste.

Many of us are culturally discouraged from having “cable” or “TV”, but binging 14 hours of “content” is fine, because “content” has the illusion of being chosen by us. If you watch Duck Dynasty when it comes on, you’re in this group. If you binge The Boys, you’re in that group. Your knowledge of the corpus of an entire series or program is a sign you are part of a group. If you don’t binge, tune in, or play games, then you are not part of an easily-defined group, which makes you a liminal user for ad agencies. Once you demonstrate adherence to a program by posting or making predictable content about it, they can bucket you. This makes them happy with you and they will reward your content and posts with more views, likes, etc. You will sell shirts, sell ads and get a share, etc. But, if you want to bridge concepts together in a novel way, they will not reward this until a measurable audience builds that appreciates this new concept-bridge. Until then you’re radioactive. If you can’t find a way to build an audience (and no they will not help you), then you shouldn’t expect the fruits of mass media attention.

Ad agencies don’t detest all people who are merely liminal or marginal figures who don’t (or claim not to) fit a category: if you can claim you don’t fit into any cultural buckets, you throw a wrench into language itself, making you radioactive, which can drive a lot of people predictably in your direction, whether lovers and haters. If you attempt a coup on a small linguistic island, such as questioning a national holiday or posing as a victim of an old term we still use, NPR will reward you with an interview, and Fox News will reward you with an outrage piece. All sources will drive lots of likes and upvotes and impressions toward you because radioactivity sucks in attention from anywhere. Platforms that run off ads will ensure your radioactivity remains: anyone who attempts to remove your radioactivity by being skeptical of your claim is merely playing the role of a grammarian or linguist, but they are guilty of rendering you inert and categorizing you into old linguistic buckets, which disrupts the flow of ads. That person is punished in any way possible: doxxing, canceling, shaming, lawsuits, etc. are all proven methods.

Anyway, be sure you smash that like bell and leave a subscription in the comments!