Media Manipulation and Subliminal Messages

As pointed out by Keith (23), radio broadcast has dependently linked the current information to the people around the world. This has helped update their information base. He notes that through listing of local or international radio stations on web based sites, radio stations have continuously offered the streaming of webcast services and in-depth listing of localized digital radio around the world. This has enabled hundred of millions of people around the world to solemnly depend on international radio broadcasting for their understanding of the current national and international social issues.

Keith (27) notes that radio broadcast is the most widespread and influential system of communication especially in addressing the contemporary social issues in the current world. According to him, apart from constructing and circulating information, radio broadcast has organized people’s perception through sounds and prints which have shaped the sense of life and the general relationship in any given society. However, Keith (20) points out that subliminal perception is one of the contemporary deliberate processes anchored by radio communication technicians. It has enabled the audience in receiving and responding to information and instruction as presented by the radio stations without being aware of its content. This is due to the fact that the use of subliminal techniques in disseminating messages in the form of voices normally bypasses the audience’s conscious awareness thereby influencing his or her judgment, behavior, and attitude.

Therefore, the write up discusses the history of subliminal perception, its casualties, and the additional variables that cause it. It also discusses how sociological theorists would explain the nature of the problem and the possible solution to the problem.

History, Impact and Additional Causes of Subliminal Perception

According to Singh (1), the use of subliminal messages can be dated back to 1800’s when researchers started investigating on the impact of influencing hidden mind and telepathy. However, this became a reality in 1957 through market researcher, James Vicary. The author points out that Vicary claimed to have discovered how to incorporate subliminal messages that would control and manipulate people’s minds towards  the sale of given products. He notes that Vicary used a hidden messages “Drink Coca—Cola” and “Eat popcorn” that flashed for one-two thousandths a second in the movie, Picnic. This was to dramatically increase the sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn products of which was projected to have increased by 58% and 18% respectively.

However, before James Vicary’s discovery, subliminal messages were actively used in 1920s by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radios. Reitz (1) notes that, during this era, people regarded radio broadcast as representing voice of the devil and therefore they were sinister about it. This attitude that prompted BBC to incorporate certain phrases through backward masking that would change people’s attitudes.

In implementing this, Reitz notes that BBC used words such as “This is not a noose, no really its not” and “Can clearly be heard.” In doing so, BBC believed that the subconscious minds of these people would interpret these backward messages in ordinary manner while for fact, it served a different purpose.

For instance, the 1980s radio clip by Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven” used the back masking in hiding the potential message of the song which  for sure administered satanic messages. Cruez (1) notes that this was confirmed by Paul Crouch in 1982 who accused the artists using back-masking in hiding the truth of the real content of their clips to the audience. Crouch argued that that the song, which had track lines such as “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be a learned now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen,” if reversed would mean, “Oh here’s to my sweet Satan, the one whose little path would make me sad.”

Reitz (1) points out that the public concern and response towards subliminal messages after James Vicary’s discovery became a media manipulation tool where legislators and government imagined of using the same in changing people’s perception. The need to gain adequate authority over people became the main cause for actively engaging subliminal messages in radio broadcast. Reitz notes that both the government and advertising industry agencies such as radio broadcast have effectively used these subliminal messaging for enhancing propaganda and controlling people’s minds.

Sociological Theorists Perspective towards Subliminal Techniques and Possible Solution to the Problem

As pointed out by Vandeberg (1), sociological theorists believe that any information disseminated to the public should inter-relate ideas that allow the systematization of individual’s knowledge or perspective towards the social world. These interrelated ideas should be built on scientific research that agitates for personal concerns to be contributed by individual’s understanding on the social issues. Therefore, while subliminal messages are intentionally deployed and transmitted through radio station to influence audience’s mind set, sociological theorist believe that what is essential is whether these messages glibly or intentionally forms individual’s real decision making process. Moreover, they are concerned whether the informed individual’s perspective can ultimately be avoided.

For instance, Cruez, (1) notes that the 1985 case of families of two boys who sued Judas Priest’s incorporation of subliminal messages such as “Do it” and “Better By You, Better Than Me” in their song lacked scientific proof. According to him, the families argued that the subliminal lyrics, which were buried in the song, are what agitated their sons in committing suicide. He notes that the victims, Raymond Belknap and James Vance, were alleged to have shot themselves after listening to Judas Priest’s song. However, due to lack of scientific proof, this case was ultimately won by Judas Priest.

Therefore, Vandeberg (21) notes that sociological theorists normally believe that only each and every individual can set the direction through their hidden persuaders on how to control  what physically happens around them. She points out that the negative impact of subliminal messages through radio broadcast can be solved if each individual unleashes inner power that allows him or her program their mind with whatever system they prefer based on transmitted message. Moreover, King (1) points out that it is by strategically developing and implementing laws governing subliminal messages in radio broadcasting that can ultimately enable authorities to reduce media manipulation cases.


In conclusion, it is essential for radio stations to engage in ethical broadcasting standards that effectively align their dispatched messages with the human social life. The use of radio broadcast as a tool that changes people’s perception on social norms and culture should be prohibited.