The first time I saw V for Vendetta was in high school for a film class, and I was watching it more so from a technical perspective of the film’s production and artistic choices. I had never read the graphic novel, but Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s depiction of a near-future dystopian society aligns with what we’ve discussed in this class about the way ideology is produced and maintained in society.
One major point made in the first half of Book 1 of the novel is how interconnected the media and political spheres can be. Of course, the post-nuclear war scenario of the story is exaggerated for effect, but it brings up the Gramscian idea that ideology is transmitted through media at the hands of those in power. The Mouth, the fascist government’s system of propaganda broadcast, falls under the direction of the higher-ups in the leadership council. They are one of the several moving parts that make up the ruling body and is a prominent messenger of shaping the community’s views and behavior.
In class, we brought this kind of scenario into our own experiences of being consumers of the media. Specifically, how does advertising affect the information we receive from media and also how we view the authority of media in general?
As a magazine journalism student, this is a longstanding issue regarding ethics and transparency in serving the public.
Israel Nebenzahl and Eugene Jaffe look into this issue in their article “Ethical Dimensions of Advertising Executions.” Beyond the highly discussed areas of deceptive advertising and advertising content, the two examine the particularly damaging effects that disguised and obtrusive advertising has on the consumers and the social community as a result. According to the article, the problem with these methods of advertising is that it violates consumer autonomy, invades the privacy of the consumer and violates their right to know when they are being propositioned for a product or idea. These are largely the methods that V for Vendetta’s political authority use to communicate their fascist propaganda. When consumers are fed subliminal messages about what’s to be valued in society, past cultures get swept away in lieu of what the dominant class propagates as important.
It used to be that newspapers back in the day were tied to a specific party communicating a certain political ideology. In terms of modern magazines, these messages instead cater to advertisers and corporate influence. The typical business model of any given media outlet is that some of the funding comes from subscriptions. But with the landscape as it is today and people less willing to pay for their information, a larger portion of funding comes from advertising.
Most reputable magazines follow the editorial guidelines set forth by the American Society of Magazine Editors, which has a section about what can and can’t be done regarding advertising to be the most transparent to the consumer as possible. However, there are plenty still who bend or reject these guidelines, and even with them in place, there is a large grey area about where to draw the line.
For example, an article from AdAge features industry leaders who feel ads should be more embedded into the editorial content so it reads as one and the same. This, in the words of Nebenzahl and Jaffe, is disguised advertising to the extreme. Then again, if a magazine were to take out its ads completely, as a Singaporean copywriter did with Vogue’s annual September Issue, 70 percent of its “content” would be gone. Then there’s the higher price tag that consumers would face (although arguably if every magazine were created without ad funding, the price that advertisers pay for space in one issue would be distributed throughout all the printed copies).
There are some publications that forgo advertising altogether, but they are generally niche markets and in the minority. The foreseeable solution lies in the consumer’s willingness to pay for true and accurate information, but with the market as saturated as it is, maybe the answer lies elsewhere.