Unintentional Indoctrination

Fiction in the form of film, television, and books has an insidious propaganda effect. This effect is not necessarily conscious or intentional. In practice, it may simply be a meme as a result of prior programming.

I don’t tend to engage with much fiction, though I have in the past. I hadn’t really considered the indoctrination effects at the time. Lately, on account of my significant other, I’ve been consuming fiction via Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Starz, and the like. It’s mostly drivel, in my opinion, but I like to spend time with her, and we can connect discussing plot lines and such over a shared experience.

I find the repetition of facile but culturally prevailing themes such as right and wrong, good and evil, heroes and villains, the power of community and the detriment of the individual, except for the rugged individual, who prevails against all odd.  

These shows propagate pop-psychology beliefs and over-simplify complexity to create a digestible narrative, but which is the equivalent of eating refined white bread instead of whole grains.

My point is not that the writers are seeking to influence the masses, it’s just to point out that this is the case. People view this, and use it to calibrate their own believe systems, but it’s a recursive, self-referential model—an echo chamber. I haven’t done any investigation or research into whether people have already made this connection. I will if I get the time.

One might argue that a counter model would not be well-received, and a goal of most fiction is to gain an audience and earn some money, so give the people what they are asking for and don’t make them think about their worldview. Besides, a single film or series is likely to challenge ones prevailing filters anyway. Even if someone were to create an anti-theme, cognitive dissonance may just rationalise it as a statement, so satire rather than objective criticism.

We do have Absurdist authors, like Franz Kafka, Donald Barthelme, or even Kurt Vonnegut, who rather point out absurd situations in life and some possible speculative fictions, but these Post-Modern writers are accepted, though arguably not widely consumed, save for intellectuals and their quasi-counterparts.

If I had more time, I’d document a few examples, but these shows are typically difficult to sit through once casually let alone carefully dissect. Perhaps, I’ll do this for the sake of science.

One thought on “Unintentional Indoctrination

  1. I doubt most people take pop fiction as seriously as this. The main point of reading for most people is, I think, escapism. A secondary point may be confirmation of their own biases.

    I do think that juvenile fiction can function as propaganda, because children are impressionable.


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