The Magic Bullet

My earliest memory was the birth of my baby sister. I was two and a half years old, and I remember driving to the hospital with my dad across the Harbour Bridge in Saint John under a clear sky and full moon. I remember my dad in green scrubs, the shiny white of the hospital walls, my mother in a gurney, and an endless stream of nurses and doctors, scuttling to and fro. But what I remember most vividly is an enormous glass bottle of Coca-Cola, which I was kindly allowed to indulge in without restraint.

Imagine. My earliest memory. The birth of my beloved baby sister. My severance from the center of my parents world and my exile to satellite siblinghood. All sponsored by Coke, weaning a generation with her sugary wiles.

Years later, while traveling through Belize, the weight of this experience reached fruition. I was packed into a rusty, crowded school bus that served as public transportation in the tiny country of displaced Africans, passively taking in the brukdown and soca beats on the radio. An announcer came on and began talking politics, and in particular, health care. He was delivering plaintive warnings to the people of this poor country on the dangers of consuming sugary drinks as the only source of hydration. He claimed they caused diabetes and skin diseases. For the duration of my stay, I would only see the futility of this message. In every black hand was a bottle of pop, everywhere. I realized the immense control of the corporate marketing machine and saw a mirror to my own mind, my own experience. I doubted my values and my ideology, suspicious of the festering product placements and endless propaganda.

The modern techniques for manipulating the masses were developed in the 30’s and 40’s, in fascist Italy and Germany. “The crowd doesn’t have to must believe,” said Mussolini famously. John Ralston Saul, in The Unconscious Civilization, wrote: “corporatist language ... is broken into rhetoric, propaganda and dialect—the three ideological tools used for preventing communication.” Like viral memes, this language becomes installed near our sense of identity, wiggling. As a result, every aspect of our lives is tempered, from the way we communicate (sponsored by Apple!) to the way we urinate (sponsored by Charmin!). So how then do we as journalists make use of information, without falling into the same holes?

Around the time when Mussolini was spreading his subversive net, an emergent ideal held sway over the minds of the news writers of the time―that of the magic bullet. The journalists believed that all the public needed was a carefully aimed slug of truth that, when fired, would immediately splinter into the noetic center and spread shrapnel through parasitic paradigms...
In this issue, we have resurrected the magic bullet, because, in fact, we are still at war, but now the stakes are much higher, and the battlegrounds are binary. We are still fighting for freedom of thought, expression and assembly, and by degrees, we are losing. So our aim is to shoot uncertainty into your value systems, to destabilize your tastes, and to undermine your beliefs. Because you never know where they are coming from, do you?

From the Editor:
Kevin Murray

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