If advertising would work, it would be prohibited

I know that the power of advertising apparently lays in the unconscious manipulation of our minds to guide us towards chose one product over the other. But I am not so much talking about what we call advertising, but what has been classified as propaganda. I would argue that propaganda – at least today – is just a word that is used for your opponents advertising.  That way, advertising and propaganda are pretty much the same.

But propaganda is treated as if it works perfectly. As if it in itself is dangerous. Like the idea of crack cocaine. Once you use it, just once, you are hooked and lost forever. Therefore access to it has to be prevented.

But I don’t think that this is the right approach. Especially not today, when everything that is prohibited can still be found somewhere hiding in the Web.

I am not saying we should let companies do whatever they want, since – as I am arguing – advertising does not really work. Markets are never going to regulate themselves and if tobacco companies, for decades advertise their products as pure lifestyle objects without any negative side effects, it is quite difficult for a society to compete with these billion dollar marketing budgets. Therefore I do believe that certain forms of advertising ought to be restricted.

But looking at islamist propaganda, at first one can be astonished by the sheer amount of material that pours out of Syria or Afghanistan. Upon closer inspection though, it is easy to realize that the material that is flooding Twitter, Telegram or Youtube is mostly copies. From what I have seen so far, I would guess that rarely more than ten new videos are posted each day. And most of these videos are not the highly edited and scripted videos, that are extremely professional looking . But it is the way these videos are shared, that makes the amount appear much bigger. Since many sites take the videos down as soon as someone flags them, they are uploaded on as many sites as possible. Quite often in multiple versions with different names. That can be confusing and overwhelming.

Sure, if this outpour is compared to the release of government funded PSA videos that try to inform young people of the dangers of groups like ISIS, ten videos a day is a lot. But if you look at the 24hour new circle and the general media production in the West, ten videos a day is nothing. I think limiting access to this material gives it a broader scope than it would otherwise have. It become special and interesting. Maybe we should let it drown in the stream of videos and photos that appear on the internet with little to no effect.


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