Friday, February 22, 2013

Media, advertising, and development in Morocco

The passage below comes my dissertation. The hulking monster is nearly 100,000 words (now that I've cut this passage, it's 98,939 words). I am posting this text, which seems too good to sacrifice completely but not good enough to include in the final version.


Media and advertising play a role in development around the world, and Morocco is not an exception. Advertising sells everything to everyone without distinction, as if the masses of society were classless.[1] To do this, advertising tries to reflect “an ideal world, sanitized of any tragedy.”[2] Commercial advertising ignores the underdevelopment, poverty, insecurity and exclusion that stem from the hardship that advertising sanitizes away. Commercial advertising never mentions weapons or wars. Commercial advertising presents an innocent, optimistic, and utopian world, full of happiness where there is absolutely no injustice or inequality.[3] Moroccan writer Abdeslam Bouhani asks: In the absence of representations of inequality and injustice, where in commercial advertising is the evidence or representation or validation or testament of the hundreds of millions of excluded people and outcasts, condemned to living their entire lives in abject poverty? How do marginalized people fulfill and perceive the fantasies or illusions of happiness which commercial advertising promises and which almost never come true?

Commercial advertising conveyed via the many types of mass media is targeted, well-defined and precise. For the advertisers, there is no consideration of those who are not a part of the targeted demographic and how they may be negatively affected or suffer harm as a result of consuming commercial advertising intended for a different audience. The individuals and communities not targeted by commercial advertising often comprise an overwhelming majority. Thus, for Bouhani, these audiences consume and process commercial advertising as aborted dreams and unfulfilled longings, accompanied by feelings of deprivation, frustration (especially among the impoverished) or even exclusion and marginalization. Those who are almost always excluded from the target audience demographic include rural residents, the handicapped, ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, overweight people, poor people, and any others who do not assimilate easily into the rosy picture that forms the heart of the image that commercial advertising creates and exploits. In the case of those living in poverty, Bouhani concludes that their exclusion and marginalization inevitably increases their awareness of the horror of the economic injustice and social inequality that they experience as a part of their everyday lives.[4]

In sum, Bouhani considers commercial advertising to be playing a pernicious role in development. Because commercial advertising presents only a fantastical, sanitized, ideal version of life, the images create a world where development is unnecessary because there is no suffering or inequality or poverty. Furthermore, commercial advertising exacerbates the exclusion and marginalization experienced by the poor and other subaltern populations because they consume that which was created for the consumption of others. Because commercial advertising is created for mass consumption by an imagined homogenous, prosperous, dominant population, those outside of that demographic experience exclusion and marginalization as a part of their media consumption.

[1] Ignacio Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs," Le Monde Diplomatique, Mai 2001. cited in Abdeslam Bouhani, Sauvez la femme sauvez le monde, 1st ed. (Aïn Sebaâ: Les Editions Maghrébines, 2010). 70.

[2] Louis Quesnel, "La publicité et sa "philosophie."," Communications 17(1971). cited in Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs." cited in Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70.

[3] Quesnel, "La publicité et sa "philosophie."." cited in Ramonet, "La fabrique des désirs." cited in Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70.

[4] Bouhani, Vers le declin de "la machine à vendre"?: 70-71.