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Films from the Hidden Persuaders archive: Cigarettes, Snake Oil and Hysteria

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

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The Stuff that Screams are Made of (9’)

Notes from the American Air Wars (13’)

Onlining (11’)

Lily Ford, 2021


Three Zoom films by Lily Ford examine sites of anxiety around mass influence since the 1950s. The vocal audiences of the Beatles caused a moral panic in the mid-1960s. In The Stuff that Screams are Made of, Ford speaks to several fans and scholars to explore the power of the scream. Notes from the American Air Wars looks at one moment in the decades-long ideological combat between the tobacco industry and clean air activists. Onlining moves to the present day to interrogate our conscious participation in digital surveillance, drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of the society of performance.


Nothing Exists Until You Sell It (35’)

Bartek Dziadosz, 2020


Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders (1957) was a landmark critical appraisal of the relationship between the advertising industry and psychoanalysis. Bartek Dziadosz’s Nothing Exists Until You Sell It (2020) assesses the story of the book’s reception, highlighting its extensive and surprising influence. The film examines the history of the “dark art” of consumer persuasion alongside its contemporary relevance for surveillance capitalism, cyberspace, and the online economy. It suggests that advertising’s power is more nuanced than is sometimes insinuated, although no less alarming for that.


Discussion with the filmmakers led by Lee Grieveson, Professor of Media History at University College London (30’)


Screening as Part of

Films from the Hidden Persuaders archive

May 2022, Birkbeck Cinema


BIMI presents a series of documentaries on hidden persuasion, mass influence, psychiatry and politics, and psychological control. The films were made for Birkbeck’s Hidden Persuaders project, a Wellcome Trust funded initiative which investigated the history of the psy professions and ideas around covert influence and mind control during the Cold War.

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