In the late 1970s, during university journalism classes, I first studied how movies, television, news and politics purposefully used manipulation techniques to control our thoughts.
It was then that I realized I was one of millions of moviegoers who unknowingly sensed the power of sublimation.
When director William Friedkin’s The Exorcist opened in 1973, it quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful horror films of all time.
Local newscasts reported viewers fainting, vomiting, and fleeing the theater, shaken by the film’s explicit depiction of a young girl named Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) possessed by demons and exhibiting blasphemous behavior.
But what we didn’t know was just how unsettled we became because of Friedkin’s insertion into the film surreptitiously—a frightening, subliminal image that was funneled straight into the audience’s subconscious.
Unbeknownst to us, there was a white-faced demon briefly flashed onscreen at 45 minutes and one second into the film.
At one hour, 43 minutes, and 13 seconds in, there is another 1/8 of a second flashes cuts in:
The micro shots were part of Friedkin’s strategy to unnerve moviegoers using both visuals and sounds that he felt stood the best chance of creating an uneasy atmosphere. The face was intended to represent one of the demons inhabiting Regan. Here is another:
The subliminal techniques worked. As of September 2022, the movie has garnered $441,306,145 in worldwide earnings.
The idea for manipulating the masses came from print media. In this day of internet advertising, propaganda and politics, “social influencers” are called in to impact purchases, choices and cultural norms. Let’s look at celebrity influencers of yesteryear:
Advertisers and bloggers know that most people will not spend much time looking at print advertisements or reading long articles. That’s where pictures and images come in.
WHISKEY A LA MODE
Here is a classic example of how hidden (subliminal) ideas, imagery, and words can be placed in print advertisements without immediate detection.
On average, people look at a print ad for no more than two seconds. In the following case the advertiser had two seconds in which to convey a message.
With this in mind, look closely at this advertisement and see if you notice anything interesting:
This is not a photograph of a glass of whiskey, this is a piece of artwork.
Take a look at this area of the print advertisement. Do you see the image of a dead wasp?
Here is a comparison of the image of the dead wasp with a darkened image of the dead wasp:
Below is a comparison of the image of the dead wasp with a picture of a wasp:
Notice that the colors black and yellow are prominent in this advertisement, the same colors of a wasp.
There are three subliminal images of birds in this advertisement.
Above the image of the dead wasp is another image. Do you see the image of a vulture above the dead wasp?
This image is a cartoon rendition of a vulture. The vulture is hovering over the image of the dead wasp:
Here is a comparison of the image of the vulture with both another cartoon rendition and a photograph of a vulture:
Take a look at this section of the print advertisement. Do you see the image of a dead white bird?
Here is a comparison of the image of the dead white bird next to a picture of a white bird:
Take a look at this section of the print advertisement. Do you see the image of a Red-tailed Hawk?
Here is a comparison of the image of the Red-tailed Hawk’s head with a picture of a Red-tailed Hawk’s head.
The image of the Red-tailed Hawk looks like it is about to take flight due to the positioning of the wings:
There are three predominant colors in this advertisement: yellow, black, and gold.
As mentioned previously, the colors yellow and black relate to the colors of a wasp.
Gold is another color of this advertisement which is the color of the whiskey in the glass.
To an addicted heavy consumer of alcohol, whiskey is as good as gold.
Subliminal images of a wasp and birds in this Calvert whiskey ad have been revealed.
Through subliminal imagery and symbolic meanings, it appears that this ad is portraying an addicted heavy drinker’s life coming to an end.
🔹It is important to understand that the subconscious mind operates with symbols, pictures and images.
🔹They convey far more information than words. They reach us on an intuitive level. We understand images by making associations with them.
In this advertisement, the wasp is a symbol of whiskey because both the wasp and the whiskey are known for their ability to sting.
🔹This stinging of the alcohol can cause some rawness and discomfort in the short-term, and in the long-term it may have other consequences.
🔹A wasp can sting multiple times without harm to itself. Wasps do not die after stinging their victims.
🔹Since the wasp in this advertisement is dead, it has lost it’s power to sting.
🔹The whiskey (wasp) loses it’s power to sting after an addicted heavy consumer of alcohol dies.
In the ad above, the image of a vulture–a universal symbol of death–is hovering over the dead wasp.
🔹Death is inevitably approaching any heavy drinker.
WHITE DEAD BIRD SYMBOLISM:
According to a Germanic superstition, the “omen most often associated with death was a white dove that would appear on the windowsill or in the room of the terminally ill and forewarn the family of the impending death.”
🔹Although a white dove has been a symbol of peace and hope for thousands of years, in this advertisement the dead bird represents the situation where the addicted heavy drinker has lost peace and hope as the end of his life draws near.
In this advertisement, the hawk is at the top of the glass of whiskey and is poised to take flight. The hawk’s back is towards the dead white bird, the vulture, and the dead wasp.
🔹Hawk symbolism is also associated with death, for the birds often act as the bearers of souls heavenward.
🔹The hawk’s swiftness of darting down and grasping its weakened prey also serves as a symbol of death, injustice, and violence.
Now here is what the advertisers knew about the demographics of their consumers at the time:
🔹The top 5% of drinkers of alcohol accounted for 42% of the United States total alcohol consumption.
🔹About 17.6 million Americans abused or were dependent on alcohol.
🔹In the United States, excessive alcohol use accounted for an estimated average of 80,000 deaths annually.
On a global scale, the “harmful use of alcohol results in approximately 2.5 million deaths each year.
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Think about how much information and statistics advertisers, propagandists, and social engineers had back then.
Now considering the enormous amount of spying via internet, cellphones, financial records, purchasing habits and locations you frequent, just how much more accessible are your customs, patterns and obsessions? How can these be used to not only track your existence, but manipulate your life?
Thank you for reading Part 2 of our Social Enginnering Manipulation series.
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