Bill Maher proves Stimuli Interpretation, not Racism
The subject of subliminal persuasion in Advertising is a controversial one. Over years the Advertising Industry has to tried to tell everyone that the charges are unfounded.
The latest airhead who's conjured up the subject of subliminal messages is Bill Maher. According to him the Drudge Report headline, “POLL HELL: OBAMA NEGS RISE,” is somehow an example of the ways in which “some of the right-wingers always drop subliminally racist messages.”
Bill Maher's charge shouldn't be seen for its contribution to proving anything on subliminal messages and their power to influence consumers (read, readers). Instead it must be seen as proving another concept in Consumer Behaviour, namely, 'Interpretation of Stimuli'.
The factors contributing to how consumers interpret stimuli include 'expectations'. That is, prior expectations dictate the way we interpret stimuli. Take the case of spiritual gurus in India. A 'believer' who attends a session by his guru, is moved to the supernatural he may experience in the room where he sits cross legged, to listen to a discourse. On the other hand, a skeptic like me is bound to yawn.
Bill Maher sees a conspiracy where there's none. He sees it because that's what he expects to see. Its the like the movie 'Crash'. Paul Haggis has constructed an American world where there's racism lurking around every corner. Racism that hangs like a dark cloud everywhere. He did it because that's the way he's interpreted what he's experienced and so that's what he expects (read Evan Sayet's take on it here) it be. Even if there wouldn't be a whit of racism in an incident. The world that Oliver Stone's constructed has him seeing a South American near dictator as a do-gooder. A do-gooder who admires a mass murderer who's projected as a 'liberator'. So guess what kind of movie he would make about W? What do you expect NY Times man Thomas Friedman to say about the Chinese totalitarian murderous government?
Bill Maher proves a point about Stimulus Interpretation and not Subliminal persuasion. Considering liberals aren't too good at realism, I am not surprised.