We can change massive numbers of human behaviors if we can make effective presentations that appeal to people in all the primary representational systems and if we frame things in ways that appeal to all the major meta-programs. When we change the behaviors of the masses, we change the course of history.
For example, what was the feeling of most young men in America when asked How would you feel about going over to fight during World War One? Pretty positive, wasn’t it. Why? The representations of most young men about war were created by songs like Over There and by Uncle Sam posters everywhere saying I want you. The young man of the WWI era probably pictured himself as a savior of democracy and free peoples everywhere. Those kinds of external stimuli represented war in a way that put him in a positive state of desire to go and fight. He volunteered. By contrast, what happened when the Vietnam War hit?
What was the feeling of most young men about going and fighting over there? Quite different, wasn’t it. Why? Because there was a different set of external stimuli offered to huge numbers of individuals every night through this new technology called the evening news. It changed their internal representations on a daily basis. People began to represent war as something quite different from what it had been. It was no longer over there – it was now in our living room at dinner time as we watched in vivid detail. It was not big parades or rescuing democracy. Rather it was watching some eighteen year old kid, just like your own or your neighbor’s getting his face blown off and dying in a faraway jungle. As a result, more and more people developed a new internal representation of what this war meant, and consequently their behaviors changed. I’m not saying the war was bad or good; I’m simply pointing out that as people’s internal representations were changed, so was their behavior, and the media created the vehicle for that change.
Our feelings and behaviors are even now being changed some in ways we may not have noticed before. For example, how do you feel about extraterrestrials? Think of movies like ET or Star man or Cocoon or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We used to think of aliens as horrible gooey monsters who would come and eat your face off, sallow your home, and spit out your mother. Now we think of them as beings who hide in a boy’s closet and ride bikes with your children till they have to go home – or as guys who loan your grandpa their swimming pool to cool off on hot days. If you were an alien who wanted people to respond to you in a positive way, would you want them to meet you after they saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers or after they watched a few Steven Spielberg movies? If I were an alien, before I came to a planet Like this, I’d get someone to make lots of movies about what a great guy I am, so people would greet me enthusiastically with open arms. I’d get myself a great PR agent to change the masses’ internal representation of who I am and what I’m like. May be Steven Spielberg is from a different planet after all.
How does a movie like Rambo make you feel about war? It makes killing and napalming seem like great, merry, furious fun, doesn’t it? Does that make us more or less receptive to the idea of fighting in a war? Obviously one movie would have difficulty in changing the behaviors of a country. It’s also important to note that Sylvester Stallone is not trying to promote killing people. Quite the contrary – his movies are all about overcoming great limitation through hard work and discipline. They are models of the possibility of winning in spite of great odds. However, it’s important for us to observe the effect of the mass culture we impact consistently. It’s important for us to be conscious of what we’re placing in our minds and make sure it is supporting our desired outcomes.