The Limits of Media Dream Machines
The Limits of Media Dream Machines
A recent Associated Press dispatch -- headlined â€œGadget May Help Sleepers Choose Dreamsâ€ -- told the story of a new product that â€œcan be programmed to help sleepers choose what to dream.â€ Made in
After so much progress has been made to ravage the natural environment all around us (fulfilling Francis Baconâ€™s recommendation that we torture Mother Nature for her secrets), it stands to reason that technology should also besiege our inner nature. But like wild animals and flighty birds, our dreams are loath to be tamed.
â€œThe dream reveals the reality which conception lags behind,â€
Franz Kafka said. Yet overall, dreams are not very marketable.
Experienced during sleep, theyâ€™re one of the few human activities left that canâ€™t be bought or sold.
Dreams are increasingly anomalies. You donâ€™t need to buy special clothes for them. You arenâ€™t charged extra if theyâ€™re organic. You canâ€™t invest them wisely or buy insurance on them.
Thereâ€™s no upgraded software to purchase, and no extended full-service warranty is available.
Actual human dreams are so priceless that theyâ€™re worthless in the marketplace.
But dreams are a logical frontier for digital marketers. A product like â€œDream Workshopâ€ is an apt metaphor for the media dominating mass communications, routinely pumping out words and images that -- reversing Kafkaâ€™s depiction of dreams -- revel in dubious concepts that streak ahead of human realities.
Letâ€™s say this much for the â€œDream Workshopâ€ gizmo: Presumably itâ€™s better to try to choose our dreams than to have them selected for us. But in medialand, itâ€™s difficult to tell the difference. Big profits are being made on our media-induced dreams all the time.
Constantly guiding us towards particular fantasies in our waking hours, media outlets keep pushing mass-produced visions of fulfillment -- whatâ€™s most vital to eat, drink and own; how we could be admired, desired, touched. The most intensive forms of such propaganda are TV commercials, featuring impressively high production values and dismally low human values.
With the population constantly under such media assault, no wonder meditation has become so popular. Like trees struggling to flourish -- while surrounded by concrete, air pollution and other such injury-producing insults -- many people yearn to turn off the synthetic noise for a while.
Despite the appeal of something like â€œDream Workshop,â€ we donâ€™t need to gain control over our dreams; we need to discover what our dreams truly are. This is the last thing the network programmers want to encourage. They strive to maximize confusion between marketed means and ends. The advertisers they covet are working overtime to confuse our deeper desires with whatâ€™s on the market, claiming to fulfill them.
Of course, provided we have the money to spend, itâ€™s far easier to buy products than actually attain what their ad-driven images say weâ€™ll gain. Prevalent advertising buzzwords pretty much sum up the mirage. Freedom. Sexy. Excitement. Satisfaction. What canâ€™t be bought is whatâ€™s most frequently offered to the buyer.
In the corporate media zone, when it comes to the wakened world, some dreams donâ€™t rate very high. Powerful marketers arenâ€™t on any campaign for basic social justice along the lines of ending poverty.
How many digits would it take to quantify the ratio of recent media mentions of a â€œwar on terrorismâ€ compared to a â€œwar on povertyâ€? And how often have you heard a newscaster on a television network -- or, for that matter, a correspondent for NPR News -- allude to the fact that poverty continues to kill vastly more people than â€œterrorismâ€ ever has?
â€œThere is something about poverty that smells like death,â€ Zora Neale Hurston wrote. â€œDead dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in dry season and rotting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid air of underground caves. The soul lives in sickly air. People can be slaveships in shoes.â€
Hurston wrote those words a decade before Langston Hughes
asked: â€œWhat happens to a dream deferred?â€
Unfortunately, left to media devices, it often implodes.
Norman Solomon is co-author, with Reese Erlich, of "Target Iraq:
What the News Media Didnâ€™t Tell You."