Have you ever not said something that you truly believed was true for fear of the backlash?
If so, your individuality may have already been absorbed into the horde.
In his recently uploaded YouTube critique of news media, Is CNN FAKE NEWS? – Existentialism and Mass Media, PlasticPills describes the power of the media to shape public opinion to the point that individuality is absorbed into the mindless whole.
Advertising determines desire. Celebrity determines taste. News Media determine orthodoxy. Click To Tweet
Advertising determines desire. Celebrity determines taste. News Media determine orthodoxy.
And you know what happens when you stray from orthodoxy. The same thing that happens to all heretics, they are burned at the stake.
Mass media creates and maintains orthodoxy by pruning away individuality, that is, “anything that is different, abnormal, or special.” It does this by attacking what diverges from whatever values it deems to be orthodox at a given moment.
Mass media also suppresses individuality by making the ordinary seem exceptional. Look at what your favourite 24-hour news channel is calling “BREAKING NEWS.” This used to mean a president was shot or a new genocide was underway. Now it means a president sneezed or someone misused the term genocide.
According to PlasticPills, although news media would like to pretend its purpose is to inform us of significant or extraordinary events, the actual purpose is to entertain, and in doing so it “literally creates a mass audience of idle, reflective [not in the sense of ‘thoughtful’] people, all with the same opinions and desires and discourages independent thought.”The leveling of all events to entertainment makes it impossible for people to differentiate important events from unimportantClick To Tweet
The Philosophy of “the Public”
PlasticPills is basing his argument on ideas of Soren Kierkegaard.
Kierkegaard is critical of the “monstrous abstraction” which he called “the public.” Existentialist philosophers Nietzsche and Heidegger commented on the same entity calling it the “herd” and “Das Man” respectively.
The public is, for Kierkegaard, “the concept of an anonymous group that dictates everyone’s proper behavior.” And the news media creates this entity.
Perhaps the central tenet of existentialist philosophy is the importance of individual, free, authentic choice. So they are antagonistic toward “The Public” (the horde) because it discourages independent thought and negates individual freedom.Because of outlets like CNN, there are no individuals, just masses with opinions. Click To Tweet
Zombies and Mass Media
So what does this have to do with zombies?
Monsters are about what we fear. Popular monsters are a product of our collective fears. The zombie horde is our monster because it embodies our Modern identity crisis. We like to think of ourselves as autonomous individuals, but the very presence of a monster indicates that deep down we may have our doubts.
Individuality and individual freedom are strongly valued, worshipped even, in our society. But there are forces in our society that threaten the individual. Kierkegaard and PlasticPills assert that one of these forces is the mass media. It creates “the public,” this mass of opinions from which deviation means metaphorical burning at the stake.
Kierkegaard’s Public is analogous to the zombie horde. It mindlessly walks through our streets and the mall looking for any movement or sound that diverges from the norm as defined by the horde. When it senses heterodoxy, the mindless herd turns toward the thinking individual on mass and rips out his entrails and eats his brains.
We are intrigued to watch this scene play out on the screen because we feel it play out in our lives. We fear our individuality being absorbed into the group, but the fact that the horde already exists (on television and in the theatres) indicates that the absorption we fear may have already occurred.