In June of 2014, late night host John Oliver opened his program with a thirteen-minute rant on net neutrality, an issue that most Americans had never heard about and which few understood. The clip, which was seen by millions and circulated online to millions more, was credited with crashing the FCC’s servers as thousands of liberal activists flooded the FCC with comments calling for stronger net neutrality rules.
Ten months later and halfway across the globe, a popular comedy troupe in India known as All India Bakchod released its own net neutrality video opposing zero rating – the practice of mobile and broadband providers not charging end customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network.
What did the two comedy routines have in common? It turns out that the inspiration for both may have been rooted in a secret study funded by the neo-Marxist Free Press in 2010 titled “Net Neutrality for the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save the Internet.”
The Harmony Institute study found that the public had neither seen nor heard anything about net neutrality and frankly didn’t care about the issue. In fact, for more than 80% of the public, the esoteric policy issue wasn’t on their radar at all.
Moreover, those that did care about the issue tended to be of the latte liberal, Acela Corridor set – white, liberal-leaning, registered Democrats with six figure incomes.
Clearly the neo-Marxists at Free Press had some work to do. And that’s where the Harmony Institute study gets interesting. As it turns out, the Harmony Institute’s unique specialty is manipulation of public attitudes through propaganda – specifically helping “communicators create powerful public messages… based on persuasion techniques borrowed from the social sciences.”
The New York Times giddily covered the study’s release noting that it contained a “big idea about the persuasive power of movies and television shows” and that the study’s authors “quietly began an initiative aimed at getting filmmakers and others to use the insights and techniques of behavioral psychology in delivering social and political messages through their work.
The study started with the proposition that behavioral change on a societal level can be attained by working with psychologists, sociologists, and economists who are experts in the field of propaganda:
“The Harmony Institute method sets itself apart from previous efforts by supplementing existing frameworks with behavioral science research. Developed with oversight from a broad network of academics in psychology, sociology, economics, and public policy, this science-based approach uses applied theory to reveal cognitive processes…”
The study proposed injecting industrial-grade propaganda directly into our entertainment – the movies and television shows we watch.
“With a strong belief that popular movies, television shows, and other entertainment products have great impact on behavior, the Institute supports collaboration with franchises that have existing audiences and are a source of popular discussion.”
The study also suggested that completely fictional narratives to “persuade” folks about the horrors of a world without net neutrality – something the public cared nothing about – would work if the message was repeated over… and over… and over:
“When audiences enter a fictional world they take a mental journey that allows them to suspend the confines of their traditional beliefs. This allows the storyteller to propose new ideas that would have, under other circumstances, been rejected.
Psychologists suggest that the acceptance of these ideas through narrative takes place involuntarily as the brain immerses itself in the fictional world.
The long-term persuasive power of narrative resides in its “sleeper effect,” i.e. the impact of an idea increases over time when the one discounting cue, that the source of the information is a fictional account, is forgotten.
The key, according to Harmony, was that the messages had to come from the right people:
Messages resonate best when they originate from an ‘expert’ source or attractive personality… Research has found that a trusted, admired, or respected messenger is effective at establishing credibility for arguments among audiences that might have been otherwise opposed.
And we thought John Oliver was just a late-night comedy show. Silly us.
In fact, Free Press’ activist and Google lobbyist Marvin Ammori claimed direct credit for the John Oliver skit. Ammori first met Oliver at the 2012 Democratic convention and in mid-2014, emailed a friend of his in San Francisco who was close with Oliver to ask the late night host to weigh in on the net neutrality issue.
Free Press may have also had a hand in the All India Bakchod video as well. That video was produced on behalf of SaveTheInternet.in and popularized the net neutrality debate with young, tech-savvy Indians.
Moreover, domain records show that on April 14th, 2015 during the peak of the zero rating debate in India, the domain names SaveInternet.net and SaveInternet.org were suddenly transferred from Free Press to new anonymous owners in India.
The full extent of Free Press’ blatant use of propaganda and misinformation in the 2015 net neutrality campaign will likely never be known. But the Harmony Institute study they commissioned gives us a shocking insight into the misinformation, lies, and distortion that the neo-Marxists will deploy in their effort to take over our internet, media, and communications systems.
As for the Harmony Institute study itself; it’s now vanished down the memory hole of the internet. Luckily, readers can view a cached version of the entire study here.