Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Hidden Persuaders (part 2)

When Vance Packard wrote the book in 1957, he presented his case in a more alarmist tone than was necessary. No fool he, he actually, ironically, stole a page from the playbook of the very manipulators he was critiquing. Obviously, advertisers are not as successful as they present themselves, or as Vance presents them. Otherwise, we'd be making a lot more ridiculous purchases and driving ourselves deeper and deeper into debt. Right? Hey, wait a minute...

Some old department store magnate from the 19th century once said "Half my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don't know which half".

What the advertisers lack in target accuracy they can make up for in saturation. Many may try to ignore these messages, but when you are constantly inundated, when you have no choice but to swim in this sea of stuff, it is hard not to pay attention to it - especially when you trying not to pay attention to it.

Even if you manage this task, it is hard not to be influenced or affected by everyone around you who is paying attention to it. Thus, I hardly ever watch TV, yet I know, through interactions with my TV-watching fellow chimps, at least a cursory knowledge of TV land and its celebrity denizens.

It's as if we swim in a sea of plasmids, those rings of DNA information that bacteria swap with each other, and just can't help but bump into them.

Well, nothing new or insightful here, right? And yet one of the themes I choose to keep on hammering on is, despite our seeming complexity in form and function and behavior, we are still quite primitive creatures, illogical, ruled by animal passions, and predictably irrational. Fear. Anger. Comfort. Pain avoidance. Pleasure seeking. It's as if simple biological rules can describe us, our attributes, our boundaries, and all the little receptors that populate them.

And, of course, all designed to move product, which is what life does. That's metabolism. Move it, convert it, transform it, and survive on the energy of transformation.

And one of the most amazing, magical products, one that is protean, chymerical, modularly brandable, massively adaptable is that creature known as the political candidate...


  1. I wouldn't say we are primitive. The system of the body is highly sophisticated. But we are biological creatures and we cannot rise above our biological imperatives. It's why 'abstinence' absolutely won't work. Biological rules DO describe us.

  2. Give me time to e'splain myself. This particular locomotive is carryin' a lot of cars. It may never get up to speed.