On April 13, 2013 the Project on Law and Mind Sciences and the National Lawyers Guild are co-hosting a conference titled “Deep Capture: Psychology, Public Relations, Democracy, and Law” at Harvard Law School. For more information, visit the conference website here.
Here’s a draft of the day’s schedule.
9:30 am – Coffee, tea, and pastries
9:50 – 10:10 – Welcome
10:15 – 10:40 – Noam Chomsky
10:50 – 11:15 – Francesca Gino
“Getting Sidetracked: How we are vulnerable to manipulation”
Subtle and seemingly irrelevant factors often influence our behavior in ways we fail to anticipate. In this talk, Francesca Gino will discuss a few of these factors and explain how they could be used strategically by others to change people’s behavior.
11:20 – 11:45 – Susan Linn
“The Deepest Capture: Children, Commercialism and the Corporate Take Over of Childhood”
We are all vulnerable to marketing but given their immature judgment and developing brains, children are even more vulnerable. The consequences of screen-saturated, commercialized childhood are dire for the health of children, the environment, and democracy—marketing sells habits and behaviors as well as products. Susan Linn describes the depth and breadth of the “kids market” and why the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers is so important.
11:50 – 12:05 Q&A
12:35 – 1:00 – Stuart Ewen
“The Phantom of Certitude: Public Relations and the Algorithmic Conception of Life”
In his 1948 essay, “The Engineering of Consent,” Edward Bernays wrote, “Freedom of speech and its democratic corollary, a free press, have tacitly expanded our Bill of Rights to include the right of persuasion.” In this statement, he was only echoing a view that he had been promoting for the preceding twenty-five years, that the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses” was essential to the functioning of a “democratic society.” In this presentation, Stuart Ewen will discuss the ways that compliance professionals’ ongoing efforts to guide and regulate the public mind have mirrored—and continue to mirror—parallel scientific efforts to “control chaos” in a variety spheres, and to produce mechanistic or computational models of life that seek to transform perception- and behavior-management into a predictive natural science. The profoundly anti-democratic intentions and consequences of these trends stand the heart of this presentation. So too stand the bedeviling questions: Is democracy still possible? and What is to be done?
1:05 – 1:30 – Michael Niman
“Journalism in a PR World”
Mike Niman discusses the future of journalism in a PR-dominated communication environment. In particular, he examines the migration of talent from journalism to the PR industry, the collapse of mainstream journalism and the role of an emergent alternative media as American journalism goes through metamorphosis from what it was to what it could become. Journalism is a social good that should equip people to understand and resist spin. Niman argues that mainstream American journalism, rather than rising to this challenge, has transparently succumbed to serving as an arm of the corporate PR industry, thus laying the groundwork for its own irrelevance and collapse. From these ashes, he argues, a new alternative media is emerging, combining the communication skills of the PR industry with a long stubborn tradition of critical inquiry and muckraking.
1:35 – 2:00 – Sut Jhally
“Public Relations and War”
2:05 – 2:20 – Q&A
2:20 – 2:35 – Break
2:35 – 3:00 – John Stauber
“Myth America: How the Ruling Elite – Red and Blue – Prevent Democracy”
The myth of American democracy keeps alive the two-party system wholly owned and operated by the ruling 1% whose primary objective is increasing their wealth and maintaining the status quo. Over the past ten years the liberal Democratic Party elite has copied the propaganda and political tactics of the right wing — think tanks, echo chamber media, rabid partisan grassroots and dark money SuperPacs. Rich Democrats and liberal foundations are just as committed to preventing democracy as are the Koch brothers. Seeing through this veil is crucial to organizing any independent, democratic movements for fundamental, structural change.
3:05 – 3:30 – Thomas McGarity
“Freedom to Harm: The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival”
Professor McGarity will tell the story of how the business community and the trade associations and think tanks that it created launched three powerful assaults during the last quarter of the twentieth century on the federal regulatory system and the state civil justice system to accomplish a revival of the laissez faire political economy that dominated Gilded Age America. Although the consequences of these assaults became painfully apparent in a confluence of crises during the early twenty-first century, the patch-and-repair fixes that Congress and the Obama Administration put into place did little to change the underlying laissez faire ideology and exploitative practices that continue to dominate the American political economy. In anticipation of the next confluence of crises, Professor McGarity offers suggestions for more comprehensive governmental protections for consumers, workers, and the environment.
3:35 – 4:00 – Jon Hanson
“Deep Capture: Attributions, Ideologies, and Policy”
4:05 – 4:20 – Q&A