Americans are swimming in a sea of messages.
Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists—most of whom work for one of six giant companies—spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.
In "The Persuaders," FRONTLINE explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them. The 90-minute documentary draws on a range of experts and observers of the advertising/marketing world, to examine how, in the words of one on-camera commentator, "the principal of democracy yields to the practice of demography," as highly customized messages are delivered to a smaller segment of the market.
Alfred Kinsey was a little-known biologist at Indiana University when, in the 1940s, he began compiling exhaustive data from tens of thousands of interviews about the sexual practices of men and women. The results of that research were the explosive, best-selling "Kinsey Reports." Through interviews with his research assistants, his children, people who took his sex questionnaire, his biographers and intellectual historians, this probing documentary assesses Kinsey's remarkable achievements, while examining how his personal life shaped his career.
His first film to premiere for free on the internet, Slacker Uprising, AKA Captain Mike across America, documents Michael Moore's attempt to influence the 2004 presidential election. Uninspired by Senator Kerry and the Democrats, he went on a 62-city tour to persuade non-voters to do their civic duty. Moore had two primary goals: 1) to encourage 56 percent of the electorate to cast ballots and 2) to remove President Bush from office. And he roped in big names to make it happen, like Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Viggo Mortensen, R.E.M., and Eddie Vedder (performing a heartfelt rendition of Cat Stevens' "Don't Be Shy") Though Moore acknowledges his failure, it's hard to fault his strategy, since he specifically targeted the 20 battleground states most likely to influence the results. Along the way, he offered "slacker" fare, i.e. ramen noodles and clean underwear, to new voters. Amusingly, some conservative commentators accused the Oscar winner of bribery, while community leaders in Utah and Nevada tried to ban his appearances. If Slacker Uprising comes across as partisan and self-important--witness the plentiful footage of excited crowds--Moore makes good points along the way, and the essential one is undeniable: everyone should vote, and it's disheartening that Americans need to be reminded of that fact... but they do. It's also worth noting that, as in Fahrenheit 9/11, the director continues to support the troops, and several service members to speak out at his rallies. Extras include deleted scenes, including Moore's reading of the infamous My Pet Goat. --Kathleen C. Fennessy