How the Lies Work

I last mentioned Grossberg’s ideas of how new conservatives have to embellish or make untrue statements to strengthen their image to the public.  I thought I’d mention an example straight out of the book of how these statements work.

Such statements can function to, “enable the new conservatives to contain any attack on them and even to redirect some attacks” (p.267).  For example, in Bush’s “war on drugs” speech there was a staged drug bust just outside the White House.  This was used as a false image of immediate danger, and was eventually found out by the public that it was staged.

You would think that the credibility of the White House would have suffered after Bush lied directly to the public.  However, nobody challenged the White House, nor did the lie turn into a public outcry for a new war on drugs (p.267).

I thought this was a fitting comic to explain how the War on Drugs is used by the US government

I thought this was a fitting comic to explain how the War on Drugs is used by the US government

The speech functioned more to show that any action that fought drugs was legitimate.  This reduction of politics to affect does not only happen with the war on drugs, as Grossberg mentions that the American government used similar tactics for the Iraq war (p.268).  This is not a matter of letting public opinion define political positions, but it is a matter of reducing politics to campaigning and considering how certain appeals will fit into popular sensibilities.


Grossberg states that in order to hide the economic troubles that have been resulting from policies, conservatives are, “attempting to distract the public’s attention by turning it to ideological issues” (p.257).  This is just another example of how politics is more about keeping the public at ease than telling the truth.

He goes on to talk about the fact that the public is lied to, and that events are often intentionally represented selectively.  This is done to reduce the public’s worry, especially in times of economic crisis.  This is not the media’s fault; it is a result of the relations between both popular sentiment and sales on one hand, and between the press and the state bureaucracy (the sources of information) of the other (Grossberg, p.257-8).

It is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between political reporting and human interest stories, since facts and lies are being increasingly blurred together.  The government needs to keep the public happy, and the media are always searching for the best stories.  The state has to therefore be cautious in what it releases to the press, and they often embellish or make statements that may not be completely true.


The economic crisis is effecting everyone.  It is important however that the new conservatives deal with it the best way possible so that the public remains calm and as happy as possible.  They will always make statements to show strength, even when times are tough, because they need to keep the popular culture thinking positively about what’s going on.

Although this was written in the 90s by Grossberg, it continues today, and will continue for a while.  Although some people are outraged, no one speaks out against the government because there has been a depoliticization of culture.

Good old new conservatism!

Grossberg discusses Allen Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind when he discusses youth and how they have been affected by rock music.  Bloom criticizes rock music because he says that great music should, “harness the passions to reason, but rock only appeals to ‘sexual desire undeveloved and untutored’” , and that it blurs the image of adulthood and maturity (p.196).

Rock music is not the only element of pop culture that is responsible for falsifying the image of adulthood and maturity.  Advertising and television are also to blame for desensitizing people, especially kids, and making young adults believe that they are really mature.  However, the images that young adults have of maturity are not always realistic.

He also says that rock music can cause young adults to rebel.  Bloom is frightened by the idea that rock places youth outside of social control, the family, the academy and in some cases, the nation.  He also notes that the link between rock and drugs presents another threat to the consumer culture, which is a fact proven by the American Medical Association (p.198).

This is the cover for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik album, which includes songs like Suck My Kiss and Sir Psycho Sexy

This is the cover for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik album, which includes songs like Suck My Kiss and Sir Psycho Sexy

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of hundreds of bands that have used sex in their music.  They are known for being rebellious and for doing whatever they want, which furthers Allen Bloom’s notions about how rock has given youth a false image of maturity.

Rock isn’t the only kind of music that shapes the mind of kids and youth.  Rap is also notorious for presenting controversial issues and for having explicit lyrics.  Some kids are listening to it and thinking that referring to women as “bitches” is alright.  People should be able to tell that it’s not right, but this isn’t always the case.

Music is only entertainment.  But sometimes see it as more than that, and they can use it in ways that could affect them negatively.  But if children and youth are sexualized before they are ready to be, popular culture could become even worse.  If only there was a way to effectively censor music and TV…

Lawrence Grossberg said that in a 1990 poll, “70% of 16- to 24-year-olds thought that the world was a better place when their parents were their age, and that 56% thought the world would be even worse for their children” (p.157).

Is this still the case nowadays?

With the economy in the state that it is, many can argue that yes, the world is not becoming much better for the general public.  Sure, there are many rich people in the World, but many more poor people, even in developed countries.  There is somewhat a crisis at both the economic and cultural levels.  The distribution of money is severely imbalanced and solving the problem does not seem possible in the near future.

It doesn’t help that celebrities are just getting richer and richer.  Famous people, or “Stars” as Grossberg describes them, are increasingly rewarded with mobility that helps them gain wealth by giving them the ability to switch from one career to another, say from a musician to an actor.  “Even Donald Trump gets paid to do commercials” (p.158).

"You're Fired!" Donald Trump is one of the richest people in the world.  Why does he need to be paid to do commercials?

"You're Fired!" Donald Trump is one of the richest people in the world. Why does he need to be paid to do commercials?

Why does he need to be paid?  Because nothing in life is free.  Everyone needs compensation for what they do, especially when they know they can get it.

Hopefully future generations find a way to solve the complex problems that our world faces today with poverty.  It will be hard though, since people loved to be entertained.  We help famous people get rich, and adore them.  This kind of mentality perhaps blinds us from the tough situations people face, but someday it will catch up to us.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place states that regimes of veridication provide reasons for ways of doing things by producing “true discourses” (p.101) .  These discourses are statements that exist within the true and can produce truth effects.

Advertising is full of true discourses, which act in a way to convince people that they need certain products.  For example, the Axe advertisements are all purely sexual, and pretty much tell guys that using their product will get them girls no matter what.  This gives guys a sense of false confidence, making them believe that this product can act as a lady-killer.

Such advertisements pretty much tell guys that using the product will get them any hot girl.

Such advertisements pretty much tell guys that using the product will get them any hot girl.

This is no old trick in advertising.  Sex has been used to sell products for decades, but now it is so prevalent I’d be surprised if someone actually believed these ads.  I like to think that people can be critical of advertising and can choose products based on how they work.  However, with products like body spray or deodorant, the first impression is always through advertising. So Axe body products gets away with it because sex is the easiest way to attract a guy.  No matter what people think, it’s true.  I’m a guy, I know.

This kind of advertising gives men a sense of identity: using Axe products will make you more attractive.  Who wouldn’t want that?

People wonder why young girls dress the way they do.  But with all this sexual advertising out there, they get the message that guys like girls who act or dress in certain ways.  It may be difficult to change this idea, since sexual advertising works, and it probably won’t stop for a while, if ever.

Lawrence Grossberg states that the concept of difference, “entails a sustained critique of any assumption of such guaranteed and necessary relationships” (p.39).  This poststructuralist theory is very common within popular culture and television.

The first thing I thought of when reading this was the political commercials that run during campaign times.  It seems like most of the commercials talk badly about other candidates, rather than promote the good qualities of their own campaign.  This negative advertising is so common that people make fun of it.

The most famous recent example is perhaps the one of Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, shown looking confused while a quote plays that says, “Do you know how hard it is to make priorities?”.  Now, that is not something that politicians should really be saying.  If they make a mistake, the opposition sees it as a great chance to run a negative ad.

This is the picture that was run along with Dion's infamous quote.

This is the picture that was run along with Dion's infamous quote.

Politics is very pop culture related nowadays because of this negative advertising.  With the media and cameras everywhere, politicians have to realize that anything they say can and may be used against them in their campaign.  Image is so important nowadays, especially in politics.  This is true all over the world, now that political advertising has become so prevalent in today’s society.

This is just one element of the dirty side of politics, but it is an element that is very influencial.  People are becoming more critical, and hopefully a time comes when politicians realize that the public needs more than negative information about the opposition to vote for a specific party.


In the Introduction of Lawrence Grossberg’s We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Grossberg mentions backmasking, and how it can be used incorporated into music.

Backmasked messages are messages that are recorded backwards and incorporated in music, and they are believed to be capable of somewhat brainwashing people.  He mentions that, “all of rock, even the mellow sounding stuff” is all part of an evil scheme by Satan to, “lull the youth of the world” (p.5).   The book points out how this happens a lot with rock music, but it does not only happen there.

The TV show The Simpsons shows a great example of this backmasking in music.  In one episode, Bart joins a boy band and they make a song that nobody can understand at first.  Lisa discovers after playing the video backwards that the chorus “yvan eht nioj” when played backwards really says “join the navy”.  Some controversy follows and the boy band eventually breaks up pretty quickly.

Part of the music video in The Simpsons episode

Part of the music video in The Simpsons episode

The saying “yvan eht nioj” actually became popular for a few days after that episode. I remember one of my friends  sang the song for a couple of weeks just as a joke.  Amazing how a backwards sentence can gain fame.

I’ve never actually heard one of these backmasking elements in a real song that I could really believe.  Popular culture is all about controversy, especially sexual controversy, and people will try to get others to believe all kinds of things about subliminal messages in music.  If anyone knows of a good one, let me know!!