Silence, a rare a disappearing delight
Silence is not just the absence of noise, or even unnecessary noise. It is the absence of noise made by human beings. It is rare, and shrinking. American acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, the man known as the “Sound Tracker”, defines it as “the complete absence of all audible mechanical vibrations, leaving only the sounds of nature at her most natural’”. […]
If I imagine Hell as a physical place, of torture and pain, it’s not the heat that troubles me most; it’s the noise. Hell surely means living in the unceasing din of a construction zone […]. In the Middle Ages, Christian scholars believed noise was used as a weapon by Satan, who was bent on preventing human beings from being alone with God, or fully with each other, alert and listening. The fictional devil in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis detests both music and silence. Hell, he crows, is filled with furious noise, ‘the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless and virile… We will make the whole universe a noise.’ We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth.
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
But entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages. Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman “games of the circus” that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.