Law in Contemporary Society
What do Commercials, the Idiot Box and Law School have in Common?

Law a Weak Form of Social Control


Television: The Idiot Box

Television Commercials

Law School


-- By DayoOshilaja - 16 Feb 2012

Law a weak form of Social Control

The law is a weak form of social control. It is not the reason why people adhere to a strict set of socially-acceptable behaviors. In reality, there is a complicated web of explanations for why most people live their lives inside the box instead of trying to think outside of it. We’re socialized to do so. It’s easy to follow the well-worn path then to waste time and energy trying to create a new one; not to mention the stigma. No one wants to be that person, the radical screaming at the top of their lungs about the end of the world; telling anyone who will listen that the sky is falling. No one wants to hear it; even if the sky is falling. We’ll just wait until it’s fallen and then wonder how it happened.

First it was "most people," then it was "we" and "no one wants to be different," etc. But not everyone wants to conform, by any means. And should we give spots in the law school to the conformists, or the non-conformists?


But we’re all complicit in this social conformity.

Are we really? I thought some of us weren't.

It starts inside of us; deep down inside where we refuse to let others look; where we try not to look ourselves that is the strongest form of social control, our insecurities. It’s a well-crafted game. The amorphous being we call society, which is really comprised of television, television commercials, and whatever group we happen to be in at the moment, play on our hidden fears influencing our behavior in a way that best suits their interests.

I don't think this is a very good definition of "society." I'm 53, and I haven't lived anywhere where there was a television, or watched any television anywhere deliberately, since I was 16, some 37 years ago. But I have been in society all the time.

And since we’re all educated self-aware, self-actualized beings we don’t even realize it at the time. We mistakenly believe that we decided, we chose, we did it. In reality, it’s been chosen for us and we decide to follow along,

If this is "we," who are the "they"?

Television: The Idiot Box

Television is very good at packaging the story of what is “normal.” Normal usually means an upper-middle class, individual living in either the suburbs or the “big city” dealing with #firstworld problems. They are usually white, but occasionally to pacify us they’ll be black. They’ll wear the latest-fashion clothes, have all the current technology and do all the socially-acceptable things. And in the forty-five minutes (the real length of an hour-long television show after commercials) we spend engrossed in these fictional people’s lives we constantly and un-consciously compare ourselves to them. Consciously, we know that it’s not real. After all, it is just television. We do not realize that over the years we have internalized these messages measuring our own lives against these fabled characters feeling insecure about how we stack up against them. You can see this in shows that have become iconic hits like Sex and The City. These actors are more than just characters; they are everything that modern, hip, and thirty-something women are supposed to be. Thus we aspire to be Samanthas, Mirandas, Charlottes, and Carries. So you see, socialization doesn’t just come from family and peers, the idiot box helps too.

Why limit "culture" to television? The symbolic aspects of social life are more than one distribution technology, or one cultural outlook. Music, religion, literature, sports, dance, pornography, politics, pedagogy are all symbolic systems that contribute to the formation of our identities. If there is something important about "television" that is not equally important in other aspects of culture, what is it?

Television Commercials:

Television commercials sell us happiness. “Consume the following materialistic goods and you will be happy.” This is probably why so much advertising revolves around sex; sex makes us happy. So the message is, buy this product which will improve your sex life and you will be happy. These commercials show us things we don’t have and then try and make us insecure about not having them telling us that the procurement of these items is all that we will need to reach fulfillment. The truly successful products don’t even need to advertise. We just know that we need to have an I-phone or a Blackberry because all the successful, happy people have them. It all centers around being cool, being hip, having the in-thing because that definitely guarantees happiness and if we consume, and buy and purchase, everything they tell us to then we will definitely be happy. Make-up will make us prettier and thus happier; beer is the best thing on earth and will definitely get you laid or at least get you the attention of the opposite sex. Commercials not only prey on our existing insecurities but artfully create new ones; thus creating a vicious cycle which will never be placated until you buy the next great thing.

Again, persuasion to consume comes in many forms. Television commercials are one. And?

Columbia Law School

Law school likes to exploit your insecurities around intelligence. Never-mind the fact that you had to be intelligent to get here, the new question is; are you intelligent enough to succeed here? And we all feverishly spend nights and weekends locked up in libraries and empty classrooms trying to prove to the world that it wasn’t accident that we got here. We are not affirmative-actions candidates or the legacies of past ancestors who graced these ivied walls. We are here on our own merit, because of our own academic prowess. Unfortunately, the system is designed so that 80% of us will fail, and by failing I mean being mediocre in a school crowded with the “intellectual elite.”

Why is this part of the same series?


I guess it boils down to this simple question; are you enough? The answer is inevitably no and thus we spend the rest of our lives trying to compensate so that we can be enough. First, we have to learn what enough is, television helps us with that. Then we have to learn how to become enough; what products we need to buy, what places we need to go to round out our education. And then after that it;s all about maintaining it. But the insecurities will never end and thus the cycle continue

I don't see a conclusion here. Maybe it would help to have a clear idea expressed at the front, developed in a framework of evidence and the consideration of objections through the body of the essay, so that here, at the rhetorically most important locale, the end, we could offer the reader some implications to explore on the basis of the proposition advanced at the beginning and demonstrated throughout. As the draft stands, I think the central idea is that social conformity has its root in the exploitation of manufactured insecurities. That's not shown, or even precisely stated, but it's implied. The conclusion seems to fit within that structure loosely. But no actual intra-psychic or social psychological literature is referred to, and the relevant social science seems to be made up as you go along.

So the route to improvement seems to me to be to refine the central theme, and then to bring a little more to its support. With a more worked-out thesis related to the relevant literature, probably we would find ourselves with more of a conclusion to appreciate here.


Webs Webs

r4 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:25 - IanSullivan
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM