Wilson Bryan Key
Interview with Wilson Bryan Key
: Research for Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind
: Phone (27th March 2005), Interviewee’s home in
Nevada (30th June 2005)
: 27th March 2005 and 30th June 2005
: Wilson Bryan Key
Wilson Bryan Key was the
man who first popularised the notion of subliminal advertising. In a series
of books starting in 1973 he explained how the advertising industry craftily
inserted sexually explicit images into mainstream advertisements in order
subliminally to persuade consumers to buy products they neither wanted nor
needed. Over the course of his life he would sell over 8 million books. He
died in 2008.
This is an amalgamation of two interviews with Key, the first conducted
by telephone in March 2005, the second in person at his house in Nevada on
June 30 that year. Both interviews have been heavily edited (Key made some
extraordinarily slanderous claims, which I have cut ). In the interviews he
runs through his ‘discovery’ of the subliminal deception, the origins of his
theories about the technique and his controversial dismissal from an –
apparently tenured – post at a university in Canada. He then moves onto his
recruitment by US Special Forces, his role in the Judas Priest subliminal
trial and the impact of subliminal advertising today.
I really liked Key: he was a formidable, personable, hospitable,
intelligent man. At the same time, however, I was unable to stop myself
wondering whether he had in fact slipped irreversibly into a fantasy world.
How did you get interested in subliminal advertising?
In the beginning I spent a big part of my life in the military. And I had
a lot to do with reading aerial photographs. And in aerial photographs, if
you look at it from a military perspective, wherever you see something that
looks too normal, it should be there, it’s perfect, distrust that –
because someone is putting one over on you. You begin to question
I’d been a journalist and a feature writer, when I found myself writing
four or five stories all over again I decided to get the hell out of it and
get a PhD. And my life was half-way between business, advertising, public
relations work and universities. I ran a market research business in Puerto
Rico for about 6 or 7 years, and I was tied in with a political party… And
then I needed a way to make a living so I went back to teaching. Ended up in
Canada, University of Western Ontario. I was there 6 years.
What was your PhD in?
And your position at Western Ontario was teaching psychology?
Communications Studies. I was a tenured professor. I worked in the
journalism department, sometimes in the psychology department and I even
took some art classes occasionally. But my background is very
un-concentrated, I wandered all over the place. I thought, when you get a
tenured professorship you think, ‘Well now I’m safe. They can’t fire me any
more’. Well, that’s not true.
So what happened? You discovered this subliminal business? How did
that come about?
The first one was I think an illustration in Esquire Magazine, and I was
lecturing to the class on this particular article, it was on one of the
beatnik poets of the day. And I looked at the picture, I think it was of
him, a painting of him, upside down. And there on the bookshelf behind him
was an erect penis as a bookend. I walked around the table: ‘Jesus Christ!
That shouldn’t be there!’ Then I started poking around and within three
months I had a two foot pile of the stuff in my office. And then I got the
students interested. They were delighted with this. It was almost like
participating in a revolution! So I had no trouble getting material. Once I
started looking for it I started, for a month or so, looking at the pages of
magazines just off the edges, looking horizontally, not confronting it. I
knew that they were putting something into this printing. And then I
discovered the S E X business.
You see, the whole society depends so greatly on marketing, advertising,
whatever you want to call it. And to assume that these people left language
and pictorial communication alone? They have refined it to a degree vastly
beyond what anybody suspected before. And to assume everything is the same
as it is in language? Forget it! That can’t be true! They spend an enormous
amount of money. These ads, some of them that I have used in these books, I
was able to make a fairly good estimate of the amount that was spent: $10
million! In one of [my] books there is an advertisement featuring ice cubes
in an empty glass – Johnnie Walker, I believe, and that thing was in use for
at least 10 years. It’s been on the back cover of every magazine in this
country and probably many others.
The advertisers know that most of it doesn’t work. But they try
everything. And part of it depends on the volume of ads they put out. But
when they find one that does work, demonstrably, they’ll go with it, they’ll
milk it as much as they possibly can. So we tried to go in the book with
these ads that were repeated immediately. And invariably when you look at
these super-ads, you find subliminals.
Anything in communications studies that looks sincere, honest,
straightforward, that it’s all hanging out: distrust it! Distrust it very
much! Because someone is pulling your leg.
In the beginning I got a lot of help from radiologists, people who spend
their lives looking at x-rays. And they again were very well-trained in
being very distrustful. For example, no physician will read an x-ray of
someone he is emotionally involved with, his wife, for example, or his
child. Because you can’t be certain what’s there is really there: the big
question is, how do you differentiate between reality and fantasy? And our
society now has got to the point where it is extraordinarily difficult for
us to make this differentiation.
The x-ray people were very sensitive about this because they’d have
someone else read the x-ray, they wouldn’t touch it. I asked ‘Why do you do
that?’ and they said it was this business of projection. It’s like looking
at a Rorschach inkblot. And looking at a Rorschach inkblot, there’s nothing
there. Anything you put there, you are making it up. It’s a fantasy. And
that’s where a lot of my interest in this evolved.
Your suspicions were piqued by the vast amounts of money being spent
on advertising by major corporations, weren’t they?
I figured at least 10 million dollars over a period of 7 years was spent
printing one single advertisement. That probably cost $100,000 for one
artist to do it. Now, what the hell’s going on here? They’re not playing a
game. If it doesn’t work, they will know about it in 2-3 weeks. I used to
work for Seagram’s. And most ads probably don’t work. At least, not
dramatically. They do succeed in keeping the name out there. But if they
find one that does work, that one ad for Seagram’s was used for 10 years and
they spent several million dollars buying space for it. And a good ad is an
ad that sells. That’s all. Nothing else matters.
I worked in advertising for a long time. And I ran a consulting firm for
10 years. Publicly, no, they can’t admit to all this. There’s a law against
it! It would be dreadful!
Did you come across Vance Packard [author of The Hidden Persuaders]?
Yeah. And I was intrigued. I got to know Packard and we were doing some
experiments with this stuff. He had no idea that this was going on with
subliminals but he did know there was something going on with the
media. They had improved the cost effectiveness of it and he thought he was
dealing with analyses of markets and so forth, and had he kept going – he was a
damn good writer and researcher – he would eventually have stumbled upon what I
Packard got near one of the outstanding intellectuals in advertising who told
him a lot but didn’t tell him everything. He did one book on this and then
dropped it. He should have gone ahead with it. He was a good researcher. He was
on the track, just never quite made the bridge. Hell of a good writer, though.
Did you ever look into the work of [Norman] Dixon?
I’ve never met him, I always hoped I would before he died. His books, I got
them after I had written my first book. I was already into it. In fact I didn’t
have the word ‘subliminal’ for some time. A student came up with it. I said
‘Hey! You’ve put a label on it!’
I talked to a newspaper man one time who knew Dixon who said Dixon was
extremely upset about what I had done. He didn’t suspect any of what I came up
with. … He never even guessed. The fellow at the Times told me that Dixon had
admitted to working as a consultant to advertising agencies. This is third
party, hearsay, you have to be careful about it. I’m sorry I didn’t have a
chance to meet him.
Did you ever come across James Vicary [author of the ‘eat
popcorn/drink Coke ‘experiment’]?
No I didn’t. He disappeared. I knew people who knew him and worked with him
and spoke very well of him. … A lot of people were involved, many academics and
professors and so forth. Vicary had the idea of how to make money out of all
this. But the minute he gave his press conference, this became the most
threatening thing ever to have happened in the media in the United States.
Because they saw – anybody can see – you carry this to its logical conclusion:
this is big trouble. And most of those people either got fired or they backed
away from the project. One professor from medical school at Tulane in New
Orleans, we became very good friends and he told me he was so threatened by
Vicary – not by Vicary but what he was doing – that he backed away from it.
Vicary had come up with something. And nobody at the time really understood.
Vicary had a flair for publicity and when he got his name in the paper everybody
around him got scared to death. Well, they all backed away from Vicary. And I
don’t know what happened to Vicary. No one seems to know what happened to him.
This whole subliminal advertising issue – it’s pretty controversial,
I’ve said some things in my books – 5 of them – which to most people would
appear absurd. Like, the portrait of Lincoln, on the old $5 bill. In his beard
he has the letters ‘S-E-X’. It’s an old engraver’s trick and they had it in
Canadian currency at the time. One of the crown colonies had a picture of the
queen and she had a ‘SEX’ in her hair and apparently the engraver had let it
come through a little too strong. And they were picked up on it and the
exchequer in London recalled all those 50 rupee notes, I think they were.
Most people don’t want to know this. It’s upsetting, profoundly upsetting, to
many. Because the things they have trusted, all their lives – to suddenly
discover that they are fraudulent, that they have been cheated.
A lot of people think it’s crazy.
How would you counter that?
Well, I’ve made a living out of conspiracy theories! I did an interview in
Hollywood with the BBC, and I took some material with me to show how and why it
was being done. And even the producer who was running the show, he was doing the
interviewing – he didn’t want to believe it. He said ‘no!’ In his books, Dixon
says repeatedly there is no known way to commercially use this technique. And he
repeats that statement. Well, surprise!
Why should the word ‘SEX’ hidden in an advertisement – even if the word
SEX is hidden in an
advertisement – make anybody do anything?
Why is really complicated. This is a technique of communicating with the
unconscious. Hypnosis, sodium pentothal, sodium amytal, there’s a number of ways
you can get to this level – this altered state of perception. But in hypnosis,
or using these other things, the two things that are very dominant, that people
are very sensitive to, is sex and death. The beginning of life and the end of
life. All the world’s great religions focus on these two critical parts of life:
the beginning and the end.
The stuff still persists, is still making a great deal of money for a lot of
people. Including, this weekend, the Catholic Church! It shouldn’t surprise
anyone. Artists have always done this.
You really hold that these images are actually there? Surely you could
see a rude picture in just about anything, if you tried hard enough? Like
No, wait – you’re talking about Rorschach. Now, if you see something in a
Rorschach inkblot, you’re making it up. There’s nothing there. I used to take my
class, the first day on the class we’d take them out and lie down on the lawn
and have them look up at the clouds. And you would be astonished at the filth
that is floating around up there! You’re making it up!
You’re asking ‘how do you tell the difference between fantasy projection and
reality?’ And that’s not easy to do any more. Because we can make fantasies so
much more appealing than reality. So to make this distinction, say a clever
artist, photographer, who is being rewarded highly enough – that seems to be the
common denominator – can make you believe almost anything.
How did your first book [‘Subliminal Seduction’] come about?
Oh, I sent it to Prentice Hall, and then it went out. The first book, nobody
ever heard of me outside the university, but I published it the second year I
was there. The book sold 1000 copies the first month in the university bookstore
alone. No book had ever sold that much in the university bookstore! [There are]
something like 8.5 million copies of my books in print today, I am told. So
suddenly I went from being obscure and unknown to the most famous professor on
campus, which attracted an incredible amount of hostility.
…I was getting problems from the board of trustees … Their lawyers came to me
and they said ‘What would you want to resign?’ I said ‘Nobody’s gonna resign! I
am happy here!’ So my attorney at the time … negotiated the $64,000 … They
didn’t actually fire me but they paid me $64,000 to go away. For my resignation.
Why do you think the university wanted you out?
They were getting a lot of static from the advertising industry.
They felt threatened?
Oh, yeah. I was threatened! Phone calls at 3 in the morning and a voice says
‘We know where you live, we know what your child looks like. We’re gonna get you
and you’ll never know where it’s coming from!’ It’s a little unsettling. So
finally I re-negotiated it and took the $64,000. And left town.
By now it didn’t matter, of course: you had a new career as an expert on
subliminal persuasion techniques?
…This subject has taken me into consultancy with special forces, on Panama
and a few other things. And Delta Force, which deals with hostage situations,
developed a system using subliminals. They used it to get Noriega out of the
Vatican compound in Panama City.
Really? What was the system?
They surrounded the compound – it was like a city block, 15 feet-high walls –
with speakers, like they use at rock concerts. They blasted [Noriega] with heavy
metal music, which is great because the volume allows you to hide all kinds of
things in it. And it’s so ear-splitting that normal people are not gonna listen
Fort Benning had a place, University de las Americas. And he was a graduate.
They took a recording of Noriega’s voice and they worked it into this thing at
Fort Benning, telling him what a nice guy he was, how we respected him and loved
him and all this. ‘We’re your friends, we’ve supported you through all your
troubles, so surrender and come out!’
Using Noriega’s own voice?
Yes. That was part of it. The minute he saw those speakers go up, he should
have known! He was a graduate of the special forces training school! He lasted
about 5 days [after that].
How did you make contact with Delta Force?
They contacted me. Just like you did.
Can you remember the name of the person who contacted you?
Yeah, but I’m not gonna tell you. You work for these people, you sign a whole
sheaf of security documents. And I really don’t wanna make those people angry at
me. They do things that are not very nice!
But remember Waco, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians? I saw it on TV one
night and I saw these two guys walking around: DEA jackets, black jackets with
DEA on the back, and something about them looked familiar. They were dupes!
Delta Force colonels! I recognised them from the Panama thing …They surrounded
the Branch Davidians and they blasted them. They had quite a variety of stuff:
Gregorian chants in which they’d buried voices, subliminal stuff, and – [they
had] Charlton Heston’s voice as God speaking beneath the Gregorian chants,
telling them to come out. The same guys that did this, the Delta Force guys,
were involved in the Noriega thing.
It doesn’t appear to have worked very well at Waco, does it?
No. This is the problem. Outcomes are unpredictable. You don’t know how
they’re gonna come out. This was the danger… But I assume they are still doing
it and have developed it even further.
Did you go down to Panama for the Noriega deal?
Yup. I was a civilian, I was a consultant. ’89 or ’90. The thing that was
hard to believe after it was over was that he could have been so dumb as to come
out. Because he could have stayed there the rest of his life.
You don’t think it was the subliminal messages that drove him out?
Yeah I’m pretty sure it was because this thing was put together in Fort
Benning in La Escuela: there was electronic equipment in there that I’ve never
seen in any civilian institution. I’m sure they’ve gone far beyond that [since
What, exactly, was your role in Panama?
Making sure that what they were doing was feasible. …you’re dealing with
stuff that is very intangible.
How did you come to be involved in the Judas Priest subliminal trial?
These two boys [James Vance and Ray Belknap – who shot themselves in December
1985] came from a town adjacent to Reno – Sparks. Sort of suburb, really. And
one day, somebody had told their attorneys about me and they invited me to
lunch. I had never heard the term ‘heavy metal rock music’ before.
…This one particular album, [Judas Priest’s] Stained Class, which
was the subject of the case – these boys had listened to it and committed
suicide. Six hours, over and over and over again. They knew the words, they knew
everything about it. Then they took the shotgun and went down to the churchyard.
One blew his head off.
These were two young kids, 18-year olds, who weren’t doing very well in
school or at everything. The court tried to prove that they were high. Well, we
had the blood tests on them and there was no alcohol in their blood. Not enough
to qualify as even modestly intoxicated.
How much? 5-7 beers each?
Yeah, something like that.
But they had been smoking marijuana too, hadn’t they? 12 beers between
them and a joint or two might account for…?
Which they THOUGHT was marijuana, but there was no trace of that in the
urine. We checked that.
So [the attorneys] gave me a record [Stained Class] and I took it home. Wow!
There was all kinds of stuff hidden in that thing! The theme of this whole genre
of music was suicide… We took the lyrics and transcribed them – I don’t think
they’d ever been transcribed – and began to analyse them: ‘who’s talking to who
And who was talking to whom about what?
Well, [Better by You, Better than Me] was inducement to suicide …
The total content of that thing was subliminal. I analysed the lyrics. What does
it mean? OK, it’s a young man, talking to Satan, his god, asking Satan to talk
to his mother and tell her what a noble thing his life had been, how good he
was. Because he was going to kill himself. Now, it’s there. It’s not a
conjecture, or an opinion thing. I mean, you can cite that out of the lyrics. …
Then [there were the] embeds: I found that one voice that was put in, I did a
spectroscopic analysis of it, it was Halford the lead singer and in between the
phrasing, the singer takes a breath and in between the phrasing they put ‘Do it!
Do it! Do it! Do it!’ at increasing levels in the stereo. Now, that was dubbed
in after the thing was made.
Hidden in the song were secret, subliminal messages?
They [heavy metal bands] were all playing with it. The kids knew about it.
Their parents sure as hell didn’t know about it! So I went to some rock concerts
– one in Sacramento, one in Texas, and videotaped them. And this thing was
fascinating to watch. It was like watching some kind of Passion ceremony. The
band was structured on stage. You had the lead singer, he didn’t play an
instrument, and he was talking to his acolytes, his audience, and the audience
were all going like this [makes horns hand-sign]: the Devil. Satan, their God.
That’s all play acting of course, and some art designer had designed it – the
goddamn costumes were amazing. Tight black leather pants the lead singer wore,
had a tail sewed into it. Of course, everybody knows the Devil has a tail!
I started taking estimates, what would it cost to stage this? Because it was
quite a production. They came onstage with this motorcycle, and to set that up
so that you could carry it from place to place would be somewhere close to half
a million dollars. You realise very quickly that you are involved in something
that has a great deal of money. A GREAT deal of money. In fact, Variety
called it a diamond mine. More money is made out of heavy metal rock music than
any genre of other music. And CBS owned about 10 of these major groups. It was
What happened at the trial? I understand that the judge didn’t take your
view of things too seriously?
Camel Cigarettes - can you see it?
For reasons I am not privy to,
decided he didn’t like me very early. I mean very, very early. In the hearing
over the first amendment, that was 7 or 8 months after the trial started, I was
demonstrating a subliminal thing. I was demonstrating something – most people
won’t believe this – a Camel cigarette package. This was designed in 1913 and if
you look at the camel, it’s facing to the left and if you look at the four legs
of the camel, there’s a little man standing there, looking to the rear of the
camel. His hand is on his hip, his right leg is formed by the camel’s left
foreleg, his left leg by the camel’s right foreleg. He is looking backwards,
with his hand on his hip. He has an erection. And that’s been there since 1913.
Well, in 1950 they went back and they gave him a longer pecker and they gave him
a more conventional head. It used to be more triangular. And once you show this
stuff to people, 10 years on, 20 years on, every time they look at the camel,
their eyes go right to the penis! Well, I brought that up in the court and the
court enjoyed it. [But the defence] didn’t like it at all and when they objected
to it, [the judge] upheld their objection…
A lot of things went on in that trial …We went up against Sony. Now, suing
Sony was like suing God. Maybe more difficult, because they have more money… The
judge, he gave two decisions over the case. First we had appealed to the first
amendment. The judge wrote a brilliant decision on that and said no, because
once you use subliminals, these are inherently deceptive and therefore unlawful.
You cancel out your first American rights. So at that point we were pretty
enthusiastic about this, we could win this!
What really screwed us up was that our lawyers decided that they would rather
have a judge trial than a jury trial. When they told me that I almost cried! We
could have won a jury trial. But with the judge trial – and particularly this
judge who…didn’t like me at all… …Oh god! If you tried this case in a suburb of
San Francisco, you might have been all right. But in Nevada! Look, they said
they spent half a million dollars on this. That’s CBS Records. We were hawking
typewriters just to pay for the tax stamps (?) in the court. They spent 4 or 5
times that in court. The problem with the case was that if we had got the
decision, it would have opened Pandora’s Box. Because every damn heavy metal
rock composition or recording used these techniques!
Were you aware that these messages appeared in other records, too?
Oh yes. Composers were into this thing 500 years ago when they played with
compositions, quadrophonic sound and – Bach’s Cantatas are weaving these four
levels of sound in and out. You can only hear one, unless you are a trained
composer. Mozart, they say, could do all four. Could hear them, then write them
down after one hearing. It was most unusual. But most composers – the audience
listens to one level of sound. But all the other levels of sound are weaving in
and out and back-grounding. So in a very real sense I think they are actually
providing a subliminal stimulus. No-one carried this commercially as far as did
CBS records. And of course by this time all the other record companies were
A lot of the stuff that I dug up, actually, was ignored by the court. … I’ve
been in court quite a few times as an expert witness, and I won’t take any shit
from these people. They had – the judge, the attorneys kept trying to get me to
answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and I said ‘look, I’m a psychologist, I don’t work like
that, I don’t know any question about human behaviour that I can answer with a
simple yes or no. It’s not that simple.’ So at one point, or a few points, [the
judge] threatened me, citing me for contempt of court.
This ended up in a confrontation with the judge, and **** told me later, ‘The
judge doesn’t want you in this courtroom at all.’ I said ‘Hell, that’s
suppressing evidence!’ … The things that went on! We could have won it, I think,
if we had gone to a jury.
Have there been other subliminal cases?
There was one suit in Utah, against a group of attorneys using subliminal
stuff in advertising: the judge saw what he was supposed to see. Another one in
Texas was in a bar. Nightclub, a murder – and that went pretty well.
But the issue is still very much around. Sony, or CBS records, which was
bought by Sony records for $2bn. CBS records own about twelve of the major
heavy metal rock groups. Nobody ever made as much money out of music in the
history of the world as CBS Records on the heavy metal rock thing.
Is it still happening now, the use of subliminal messages in the
Of course! We saw Clint Eastwood’s movie Million Dollar Baby
recently. Brilliant. The man is a genius. But there were things in that movie
that you could call subliminal. One of the aspects is the age of the leading
character, Clint Eastwood, the fight promoter. And so he was made up to look
much older than he actually was. There is one scene where the camera hits the
back of his hand for a quite a long moment – 5 seconds. And on the back of his
hand is a large, quite ugly sore, the kind of sore that older people get. And I
saw that. I went around asking for two weeks afterwards, other people who saw
the movie: ‘Did you see that sore on his hand?’ No-one saw it. So Eastwood had
cut this in, it’s a subliminal support. For much of the movie the
characterisation he portrayed depended on his being very old, quite old. And
no-one remembered the lines in his neck, the makeup that made him look like
San Damiano Crucifix
This subliminal idea, I think it has been a part of art for…well, the oldest
one of these things I found was the San Damiano Crucifix, which dates to
1120-1130 by an anonymous Italian artist. I think I used it in my last book.
It’s in the Chicago Museum of Art. And it’s Christ on the crucifix and it’s
painted on wood and – 12th century! – there’s not much of it left.
And they bring this thing out whenever they have a religious exhibition. I heard
about it and when I saw it, it was in a vault down in the basement. And the
director of the museum, who was a friend at the time: I showed him this enormous
erect penis in the body of Christ, with testicles. And I mean, it’s there.
Once you see it, there is no question at all what the artist is doing. And – I
mean – he paled. He couldn’t believe that people in the 12th century
could do things like this. But he was an artist and I believe artists are
manipulators of perception, if they are good enough.
And of course you find Picasso. We’ve just had an exhibition in Las Vegas –
14 paintings, including Rembrandts and Picassos, a billion dollars worth of art.
And the Picasso, I’ve used in one of my books, it’s The Dream. I’ve
seen the original in New York several times. To see the original was remarkable.
There were some changes: in the original, all the prints that were made in the
painting show the penis on the head as purple. And in an art department, purple
is usually known as a genital colour. The original of that somehow has faded,
somehow it’s almost brown now. But in the reproductions of the painting, that
thing appears purple. Very light purple. It’s fascinating to see.
Picasso - Le Reve
But here again, we went – and I had students at the time, I was a professor.
Students dug up about 50 reviews of that painting ‘Le Reve’. None of these
reviewers, including Life Magazine, that reproduced it full-page back in the
nineteen thirties, no-one mentioned the penis. No-one mentioned there were 6
fingers on each hand. No-one asked the simple questions! If someone had asked
me, I would have asked those questions from the beginning. No-one asked.
The two subjects that are loaded emotionally are sex and death, and if you do
hypnosis you find out very quickly that these are the two areas that most people
that you hypnotise are extraordinarily sensitive about. In fact a lot of the
stuff in my books I found out using hypnosis. I taught students to do it, and
when you look at something in hypnosis you find, your brain at this other level
– assuming you are communicating with the subconscious, which is a word game
since we’re not even sure what the subconscious amounts to – but there is
something in the head that does what most people say involves the subconscious.
Hypnosis is a direct way of communicating with the unconscious level. In the
hypnotic state you see things in art that you couldn’t have imagined were there.
And we had a lot of fun with this, hypnotising people and getting them to look
at abstract paintings, things at a cognitive level you would probably reject the
idea of – it’s too bizarre! And yet the artist put it in there at a level that
is not available to most people.
I’m guessing that if this happens in art, it could be used politically,
The War [in Iraq]: sold like a package of cheese to the American public! The
whole thing was insane from the beginning! But it was the only thing Bush had
going for him. This guy was a low-C student at Yale when he went to college. And
he brags about not reading books! We’ve got somebody who couldn’t efficiently
run a gas station – and he’s running the country! I’m just looking at the
material used in the last election by George Bush. His people used subliminals
in both of his elections, and he got to be president. … Bush puts these things
in and it’s done now electronically, in a way that would be very difficult for
people to tell. I can see it. I’ve been working on this for years.
I have a picture of him and Barbara, his wife, standing in front of their
farmhouse, a beautiful day and so sincere: my god, sincerity just reeks out of
this – what honest straightforward people they are, nothing hidden! But you look
at it, it’s got the word ‘SEX’ all up and down the fly of his pants, she has it
all over her neck. Repeatedly, of course. They’re doing this electronically,
with a computer image programme. You can take any area of a painting and you can
choose any area, from 1-10, you can put it in A1 and you get it so low so that
it’s there, it will affect behaviour, but it’s not detectable to most people on
a conscious level. And they have refined this so completely, that – wow! There’s
nothing you can look at in this country that does not involve this.
Subliminal techniques were used to sell the war in Iraq?
Oh, sure! We sold the war. We sell a lot of wars in this country: we’re very
good at it! I remember I was with a British writer who was writing about
propaganda in World War II and we were on a TV show, and I looked at his book
and in the material – I couldn’t find subliminals in it: it was clean. Now, the
stuff that we used locally, domestically, was loaded with subliminals.
Were you aware that James Vicary’s experiment [‘Eat Popcorn, Drink
Coke’] was a sham – that it’s been argued that there never was an experiment
That’s bullshit. Look, the minute that thing hit the fan, every advertising
company – and these guys are smart as hell, they’ve got power – ‘Discredit him
in any way you can do it!’ People I have talked to, and I have talked to people
who were in that situation, backed away from him, because it got too hot.
But he gave an interview in 1962 in which he admitted that the experiment
I hadn’t read that. But from what I know of Vicary, and I never met him
personally, he was highly respected by the people around him but he had this
flair for publicity. He looked for it. He thought he had something that was
really hot – and he did – but at that time there was no precedent for it – that
was his first shot. And the data in that New Jersey theatre was good data. They
had taken the most conservative position possible, because they knew that they
would be attacked.
But there was no data there at all.
The data were never presented, the experiment failed and he later
admitted that it hadn’t happened and an investigator who visited the cinema
found that the experiment had never taken place…
I wouldn’t know anything about that … Who knows? It’s a strange world we live
in. But I do know that when he got attacked all the people who were around him
in the beginning just backed off. At that time almost anything could have
happened to the poor bastard and at that time he wouldn’t have understood what
was happening because there was no precedent to it. The minute they did the
study in New Jersey, and I’ve forgotten the name of the movie – the heavens
opened up and rained all over all of them.
Why, if this is so widespread, has there been no whistleblower?
I think that there have been. People that are friends of mine will confirm
everything I have said. Look, I’ve never been sued. And I gave names, examples.
If I made it all up, sue me! You’ll end up owning Prentice Hall, which is now
owned by Simon Schuster. Not a chance.
What would you say to people who are still sceptical about all of this
Look at the Camel cigarette package. Tell me: that’s been there since 1913
and it’s sold a lot of cigarettes. Psychological theory is a swamp that you get
covered up in mud with, very fast. The thing you cannot deny [pointing at the
Picasso painting] is that that’s a prick on the top of her head, and that she’s
masturbating. It’s clear. You can see it, you can explain it, you can deal with
it. And you didn’t know it was there before I told you! 30 years from now you
will look at that painting and your eyes will go straight to the top of her
head. You can’t help it. That’s why it’s subliminal. Nothing is hidden in these
pictures. Nothing. Except what you have hidden from yourself. Perception is