MG Media – Tom Burrell has been one of America’s leading innovators in the world of images, advertising and marketing. During the 80’s and 90’s his name sake firm, Burrell Communications was one of the top ad agency’s in the world producing ground breaking media plans that helped corporations sell tens of millions of dollars worth of goods and services.
Mr. Burrell recently released his much talked about book “Brainwashed”, highlighting the missteps of media and its intentional impact on people of color.
MG Media: What motivated you to write this book? TB: I was compelled to understand the way words and images have been used to manipulate how blacks are viewed and the way we view ourselves.
MG Media. What makes you an expert on the so-called Black Inferiority complex? TB: As founder and former CEO of one of the top agencies in the country, I bring more than 45 years of expertise with black consumers.
MG Media: What is the genesis of the White Superiority/Black Inferiority brainwash attitudes? TB: American slavery. It was in America that Africans were chained and branded, both physically and psychologically. It was here that we were first indoctrinated with the idea that we were, in fact, not humans at all, but property.
MG Media: How do propaganda and brainwashing fit together? Why did you choose such a strong term? TB: Propaganda is the outer layer of brainwashing. Marketing propaganda is the tool of persuasion, brainwashing is the outcome. Propaganda got us here, and its continued use keeps the inferior/superior mind game in play, but we can replace it with “positive” propaganda.
MG Media: Didn’t the media brainwashing that you speak of die in the wake of the Jim Crow and the civil rights era? TB: While some might argue that racist media practices died with the end of the Jim Crow era, a few thousand folks stranded for days on sweltering rooftops or in neck-deep, toxic floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 might disagree.
MG Media: What are some of the lessons you learned about black Americans during your tenure in the advertising business? TB: Burrell Communications’ research showed that African Americans have distinct psychosocial needs, desires, fears, hopes, and aspirations, all arising from a history of racial oppression. We discovered that Black preference for high-end status brands was driven by the need to compensate for feelings of low self-esteem. And our penchant for a lopsided spending/savings ratio grew out of our need for immediate gratification, based on a chilling pessimism about an uncertain future.
MG Media: How does the election of President Obama impact the Black Inferiority campaign in America?
TB: Images are powerful. Never before has America seen a black man occupying the highest office in the land. Barack Obama may have reached his Promised Land, but too many Blacks are still wandering in the wilderness.
MG Media: What are some of the disturbing brainwash messages that black adults often unconsciously pass on to children? TB: At a very young age, blacks are inundated with messages that they cannot trust one another. Children hear comments and jokes about lazy, greedy, irresponsible, or otherwise flawed black adults. And lack of love, and oftentimes violence become the inevitable conclusions of these tainted individuals’ relationships.
MG Media: Your book challenges the work of black entertainers such as Tyler Perry, Steve Harvey, Lil’ Wayne, and organizations. What’s your intent? TB: We’re all victims of the overwhelming BI campaign. The idea is to challenge everyone, including myself, to question what we put out, what we take in, and what influences we promote in our communities and the world.
MG Media: What’s the most important lesson you want readers to take from Brainwashed? TB: To understand the effects of centuries-long propaganda campaign. I want people to start scrutinizing everything we see, hear, or say about African Americans and hold ourselves accountable. We can flip the propaganda script.
MG Media: What is The Resolution Project? TB: I created the nonprofit Resolution Project with the goal of sparking intra-racial dialogue and sharing ideas about ways we can challenge and change how we perceive ourselves. Also eradicate negative images, replacing them with positive words and images.
MG Media: What is the “Flip the Script…Stop the Brainwash” competition? TB: One of The Resolution Project’s first activities will be to sponsor the 1st Annual “Flip the Script…Stop the Brainwash” campaign. This worldwide competition will honor the best positive propaganda campaigns in video, art, creative writing, poetry, music, and other media based on a theme inspired by Brainwashed.