Only a person who has had his head unceremoniously stuffed in a paper bag for the last few months can be unaware that primary season has sprung in the United States. Candidates scramble up and down the coasts and zoom east to west in search of that elusive undecided voter. And where there are politicians, there is propaganda. Manipulative texts are everywhere: newspapers, the television, and the Internet. Lobbyists in particular seem to create a huge amount of persuasive media at this time for any and all hot-topic issues. Energy efficiency is no exception.The subject at hand is the work of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, a group dedicated to making coal the sole source of energy in the US. Recently, advertisements can be seen on all channels, appealing to the American ideal of progress and technology. One particular commercial, “Technology Can Take Us to Clean,” particularly plays with the advancement of inventions that once seemed improbable or unwieldy. The ad begins with the quote “If man were meant to fly… he’d have been born with wings,” coupled with grainy black and white footage of one of the earliest airplanes. “Throughout history,” the narrator explains, “new ideas have often been met with skepticism.” As he speaks, the faltering airplane is replaced by clear video of the newest aerial spy drone employed by the CIA. The pattern continues—huge machines that stretch half a block transitions into a family gathering around a laptop, Edison and his colleagues admiring the faint glow of the light bulb with the brilliance of energy-saving light sources. “Technology born from American ingenuity,” the narrator continues, “can achieve amazing things.” The ad then explains that Americans for Balanced Energy Choices is dedicated to using coal as a cleaner source of fuel, even going so far as to build facilities to capture greenhouse gas emissions. The thirty-second spot ends with a glowing image of Earth from space.
While the ad seems earnest enough, it employs some classic manipulation seen in propaganda. First, the commercial references “American ingenuity,” a clear stab at comforting worried citizens during troubled times. The world may spit at the sound of an American accent, but Americans for Balanced Energy Choices suggests that the US still has something to be proud of: continual curiosity and drive to create newer and better technologies. Such sentiments sooth and flatter the population; they put the viewers immediately in a receptive mood. Who would not listen to a group that understands that Americans have brought good into the world, that the US can proudly lay claim to many of the inventions that create this global society? A second bid for the hearts of Americans is the ad’s feature of inventions that seemed absolutely improbable at first, but now are completely commonplace. There are few who have not been in intimate contact with a laptop, fewer still who have never turned on electric lights. Finally, what true-blue, hot-blooded American does not get a chill watching the flight of an unmanned plane able to put a crater in the ground the size of a house? By associating coal with these necessary and thrilling inventions, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices attempt to bring this energy source into the trust of the American psyche.This television spot demonstrates a keen understanding of propaganda. Americans for Balanced Energy Choices plays on the pride of the country that developed the airplane, the computer, and the light bulb. Their logic follows that through the development of technology, coal can be a viable and green energy resource. Whether this is true or not, this television commercial will impact the thinking of the viewing public.