Propaganda in the Service of Good
This sort of stuff has been going on for a long time, but it’s still kind of creepy:
Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom, the parent company of MTV and its sister networks VH1, Nickelodeon and BET. It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies. Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living.
Last week in New York Mr. Gates met with Philippe P. Dauman, the chief executive of Viacom, to go over a long-in-the-works initiative that would give Mr. Gates’s philanthropic organization something any nonprofit would cherish: an enormous megaphone. The new partnership, titled Get Schooled, involves consultation between Gates Foundation experts and executives at all Viacom networks that make programming decisions. Their goal is to weave education-theme story lines into existing shows or to create new shows centered on education.
“We are committing the entire creative power of our organization,” Mr. Dauman said. “The whole company is really engaged behind this.”
The entertainment industry is well known for the excesses perpetuated as a result of its participants’ ideological bent, but this is quite a different path. Sure, the messages are currently agreeable to the general population, but once the principle of direct and often subtle “message placement” is fully embraced and implemented, we can be sure that its targets will become gradually less benign.