04/08 Open Thread: Propaganda, PR, and Marketing
Hi there kids, can you say Propaganda? How about Marketing? Notice how different they sound even though they are the same damn thing? What's with that? Is the sheep's clothing on the marketing wolf just an example of propaganda, or marketing, as the case may be? Funny thing is that in a different era the US actually outlawed "propaganda", but, of course never considered messing with "marketing" because "Free enterprise". There were, of course, some feeble limitations placed on "deceptive advertising" by so-called truth-in-advertising laws and regulations, but they were not only weak, but rarely and poorly enforced, and still are. So I'd like to start with one question:
How is it that the theoretical underpinnings of "free-market-capitalism" are not antithetical to the existence of marketing? Purportedly, an educated and informed populace exists which will, acting in its enlightened self interest, seek out and discover goods and services that will fulfil its needs and obtain them for the best possible price. They will do this without any "hidden persuader" psychological based marketing, trickery, deceptive packaging, product placement campaigns, or other con games. No need for endless repetition or other propaganda techniques, which, after all is said and done, only subvert and disrupt the operation of a true free market. Similarly, if we extend this to electoral politics, another form of free-market-capitalism, again the educated and informed populace will seek out, find and choose the persons, plans, platforms, and policy proposals that will best serve their needs and elect (or purchase, as the case may be) their services without need of
propaganda political advertisements. Clearly something is amiss here.
Lastly, given that we do allow
propaganda advertising and marketing, then should it not be an open field, a true marketplace of ideas, thoughts, concerns, opinions and the like such that any can play, not simply pre-selected ideological favorites? Why shouldn't people and companies be able to lie in product ads the way politicians and parties lie in theirs? What should it matter if Maduro broadcasts a speech decrying one of our politicians the same way they decry his existence? If the Taliban wants to purchase ads on facebook, why should anybody be allowed to interfere with their right to do so and have their content spewed over the air right along with whatever rubbish the CATO Institute, the NYT, megachurch preacher Joe Fulminator, or WAPO is putting out? Just some things to ponder, as a warm up for the rest of this writing.
Here a propaganda, there a propaganda, everywhere a propaganda, or "marketing campaign", heh, as the case may be. We are literally awash in a sea of this bullshit, so what is it? How about frequent, constant, sustained repetition. In marketing the rule of thumb for any single ad seems to be three repeats "call 1-800-conJobb, that's 1-900-conjobb, remember, 1-800-conjobb!", etc. This was, oddly enough foretold by Lewis Carroll in The Hunting of The Snark
"...Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
Of course the ads themselves are repeated over and over and over (and over again). So called "News sources" use an advanced form of multiple repetitions in multiple articles several times daily as the leading edge of a campaign where after a while the allegation initially made is treated as established fact in further, more expansive "reporting" which builds from the base allegation initially laid down. Many repetitions of "xyz occurred" are then "followed up" with narratives concerning what that entails and/or led to, "because xyz occurred" followed by "as a result of the xyz occurrence", and on and on and on. When the same "News" is headlined or prominently covered for multiple consecutive days, whether in identical of endlessly shifting modified forms, be aware that, although whatever is being asserted might possibly actually be a fact, you are being propagandized about it. This is, in fact, a Brainwashing technique, adapted for marketing and propaganda, or from them, whichever came first. (Brainwashing purportedly differs in that those doing it control the victim and the victims environment completely at all times. This is contrasted to our environment, which is totally and completely under our control at all times, heh) You find various definitions, many asserting that brainwashing was "developed" by/in totalitarian regimes, which is pretty myopic and seems to be based on when the so-called democracies first began using the word. Or perhaps prisons, plantations, slave states, work farms and chain gangs, not to mention, reservations, colonies, territories and the like were totalitarian countries? Boot camp anyone? As Tuli Kupfenberg says, "sometimes I wonder".
I first became aware of propaganda as something real, part of my world, my life and my environment and all that in the eighth grade. Once I did, I kept noticing it more and more, but was never sure if it was more and more prevalent, or if I was just starting to notice it more and more. In any event, I came to react to it with extreme skepticism. My thought processes, then (as now) followed a general path of "hmmm, this is propaganda, why in hell are they propagandizing this? Cui bono? Why the hell do they want me to buy into this and what the hell do they want me to do as a result?" Cui bono, of course, is often hard to discern, or at least hard enough that I decide not to pursue it. I used to invariably wind up suspending judgement either pending further research or information, or else indefinitely on the grounds that while we may eventually learn the truth, it won't be any time soon. More and more often lately, propaganda is so pervasive that there is really very little that one can buy into without reservations or hesitation. This situation is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that more and more of what we are being fed is so preposterous, or so far off from passing the smell test, that one can simply reject it outright, or at least reject it until it is proven. (This is ignoring all of the blatant lies and demonstrable falsehoods which can simply be rejected outright in perpetuity.) It is funny writing this because I can actually recall times when one didn't have to immediately and automatically ask for proof with regard to anything and everything, but that's where we have wound up thanks to the overuse of propaganda techniques for damn near absolutely everything under the sun all day everyday..
Allowing that Brainwashing is an extreme form of the same process, propaganda or marketing is a lot more than just repetition and amplifying. I contemplated running through some of the more common techniques, allowing one to see how constant and continuous it is each and every day, but that would, of course, ba a massive undertaking. I'm still going to put some further stuff here, but everybody should read up on it a bit as well, because forewarned is forearmed, as they say. We need to really understand it in order to recognize it and be aware of it. Everybody who never read Vance Packard's "Hidden Persuaders" should, even though it is extremely dated, because it gets one thinking about the vast panoply of manipulative techniques that are in use all around us all of the time. A dive into the life, work, and works of Edward Bernays is also pretty instructive. That said, George Washington U, per the web says:
Regardless of how propaganda is employed, these common techniques are used to manipulate others to act or respond in the way that the propagandist desires.
Snob Appeal. ...
Vague Terms. ...
Loaded Words. ...
and they go into this in greater detail in Public Relations and Propaganda Techniques here: https://gspm.online.gwu.edu/blog/public-relations-and-propaganda-techniq...
Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_techniques ) has some good information and links a huge number, 89, I suspect, of specific techniques under a handful of very general headings:
1. Logical Fallacies
2. Diversion and Evasion
3. Appealing to the Emotions
4. Using Falsehoods and Trickery
5. Playing on Human Behavioral Tendencies, Mental Capacities and Processes
6. Speaking or Writing Styles
7. Reason or Common Sense
Note especially numbers 3 & 5. I mean, sophistry has been around long enough to even have had that name hung on it by Plato's time, but, in particular, number 5 wanders off into the realm of psychology and the deeper cons of today's propagandists and marketers. Also, the modern life permits trickery not really well developed of old, such as Agenda Setting, which is very much the mainstream press' primary function in the past few decades. The whole list, though worthy of perusal at least once, still doesn't do justice to vast quantity of techniques that appeal to emotions or rely on psychological and cultural reflexes and playing upon cognitive biases, which probably need to be specifically ferreted out.
The main thing is that we need to always be aware of the fact that we live in a world of incessant, all pervasive propaganda. Even facts, truths, and beneficial information are given the propaganda treatment. Forget how you floss or brush, or what with, flossing and brushing, though not nefarious, have been the subject of propaganda and brainwashing campaigns just as much as everything else in the world today. No idea or opinion is ever simply presented straight up outside of textbooks. We must be constantly aware of what is going on in order that we may combat it, being unduly skeptical of anything and everything, analysing and scrutinizing everything, holding out for proof or at least strong evidence of everything and pushing back against bullshit at every opportunity. By coincidence, Joe Shikspack had a great quote from Bernays in his Evening Blues as I was working on this, and it sums it all up quite nicely:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
-- Edward Bernays
He sure gets that right, oddly enough. Whoever controls the narrative controls the past and the present, and, thereby, the future. This is a long known and well established fact, spoken of and relied on by many who have gone before us. Accordingly, we all need to be constantly aware of and ferret out all narrative manipulation wherever it occurs and expose it for what it is whenever and wherever we can. We need to establish propaganda free zones, free of narrative manipulation, where we can talk honestly and openly with no strings attached and little or nothing off of the table. This is really a prerequisite for attempting to live our lives in a rational manner.
have a good one
Title Image is via di Propaganda (09182011: p1000798)
It's an open thread, so have at it. The floor is yours