Monday, February 20, 2006

Subliminal Testing

I just got throgh watching a portion of an interesting contest, not on the Winter Olympics, but a “Moot Court” contest, a taping of a mock court contest held at Georgetown University, at which one of the three presidieng judges was Chief Justice of The Supreme Court, John Roberts. In this cotnest, two Georgetown Law students are representing one side, the plaintiff of a case, while the other side of two are arguing the case on behalf of the respondent.

Like I said, this is a contest, not a real case, though I’m not sure whether what they are arguing is concerning real law or not. If it is I need to brush up on my legal knowledge. This case involves an act passed by Congress-again, I don’t know if this is for real or not-which outlaws subliminal messages. According to the mock trial in seesion, this law was overturned by the Thirteenth Circuit Appeals Court on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment. Evidently, it was decided too broadly, to the extent that it not only outlaws subliminal messages which are transmitted to the public wihtout their knowledge or consent, it can also be interpreted as making illegal the recording and disseminating any type of subliminal messages, even those that are clearly marked for the purpose of consensual use.

For eample, suppose you happenned upon a tape that overtly played music, or featured the sounds of nature-a waterfall, sounds inside a rainforrest, a thundestorm, animal sounds, etc-but hidden inside the sounds you hear outwardly is a hidden message, one to sought to influence you to stop smoking, stop overreating, adopt a more positive attitude, and so on and so forth. This, too, would be illegal, according to the original wording of the law as written by Congress, insomuch as it as well may be disseminated over a public medium, against the knowledge and consent of potential listeners.

It was also pointed out that this law could also potentially impose undue restrictions on such venues as painting, poetry, music, and fiction, insomuch as works of art such as these tend to a large extent to contain what might easily be considered to be sublimianl messages.

Now I know that there was indeed a controversy over the use of sublimianl messages in advertisements, and many people would be familiar with the example given of the experimental movie theatre sublimianl ads inserted into different films and trailers which contained images of popcorn, soft drinks, etc. When played, these were so quickly flashed they were imperceptible to the naked eye, yet were picked up by the subconscous mind, resulting in an increase in snack vendor sales. It was pointed out that there was a potential for vast and dangerous misuse by not only advertisers, but unsrupulous politicians as well.

But, evidently, in pasing a law against this potential manipulation of an unsuspecting public, which tends to be gullible enough as it is, Congress did what it tends to do so well one is tempted to point out that it did what it actually seems to do best-it went way too far. Which leaves open the question-did it intentionally go too far, hoping no one would notice. After all, what better way of trampling free speech than by going this back door route, all the time pretending you are merely trying to insure that the back door is locked? What better way, or example, to assault the religious liberties of minority religions than by asserting the brainwashing potentials of their liturgy, music, or rituals? What better way of intruding upon the free speech rights of a sub-culture than by targeting the free expression rights o fthat group as potentially encouraging lawless behavior?

Of course, another possible explanation is simply that Congress tends to be too lazy to devote the necessary time to insure that laws such as these will pass the constitutional smell test. Which is why it is a good thing our system, more than any other that I know anything about, has a system of government that establishes, or seeks to anyway, an independent judiciary that hopefully will not be influenced by their own preconceived notions and preferences, or prejudices, against, for example, hip-hop songs or Wiccan Samhain rituals. Hopefully, this independence will remain overtime, free of undue influence by boththe right and the left of the poltical spectrum, or even, as far as that goes, by the middle.

Not only is that good for the country just on it’s face value, it has the added advantage that it should encourage the other two branches of government to actually do their jobs, as well as to mind their p’s and q’s. Hopefully, in this one specific example, a law should easily be agreed upon whereby the public can be protected against undue manipulation, while protecting legitimate First Amendment rights.

By the way, if you read this entire post, in the interest of full disclosure-I just told you to try to initiate a sexual relationship with the first attractive person you come in contact with besides your mate.