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On Manuel Rosales' alleged 'subliminal messages'

05.09.06 | A reader from Caracas sent this: The term `subliminal´ refers to a technique tried out over a decade ago by some American TV producers which aspired to leave an unconscious message in the viewer. By inserting a single frame with a short text like “buy this” or “buy that” every few seconds, it was supposed to remain invisible but still achieve the desired effect. But it was shown that it did not work, and soon the idea was abandoned and forgotten. ´Subliminality´ was an imaginary phenomenon. Nevertheless, the term remained and some use it today simply as a synonym of unconscious, a pity, since it is nonsense to invent a word to describe something for which we already have a perfectly unambiguous name.

With this in mind, it is a joke that the Venezuelan Telecommunications authority –CONATEL— is invoking the subliminal effect –something that does not exist- to hassle a local TV Channel. According to CONATEL, one of the reports about the Governor of the Zulia state, Manuel Rosales, that had been re-broadcasted by the Caracas channel Globovision, contained “subliminal elements”. As a government branch, CONATEL has of course the final word when approving broadcasting licences, and Globovision is the main opposition TV channel. On the other hand, Rosales is the presidential candidate with the best prospects of victory in the coming elections in December this year. It seems that Chavez is getting worried with Rosales´ growing popularity.

But the main semantic point here is this: “subliminality´ is not a real phenomenon, it does not exist. So how come no lawyer has so far questioned its use in a legal context, which it can not have. If the government can appeal to non-existant forces, it might as well accuse opposition leaders of pacts with the devil or some other mean god of the Greek Olympus.

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