15 January 2011

Persuasion and marketing

Watching the Glenn Beck program on 13 JAN 2011 was a fascinating experience as the topic was Edward Bernays and marketing. Mr. Bernays was one of the first admen to develop advertising campaigns based on psychological methods to create campaigns. To do this he relied on the works of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, who identified basic drives of the body that are part of the unconscious human psyche. Those advertising campaigns introduced the utilization of these drives (survival, thirst, sex, hunger) as part of their basis, so as to appeal to multiple levels of the unconscious mind and to utilize imagery and words that would linger in the association with whatever was being pushed. Additionally he used an 'appeal to authority' by paying for studies that would 'show' certain scientific based concepts (ex. that hunger is better sated at breakfast with a richer meal including bacon and eggs) then send those to either other 'authorities' or to local individuals involved in that area of work (for the bacon example it was physicians). Throw in some study generated numbers, an important institute or doctor and you have an advertising campaign.

It works, too, this appeal to the lowest part of the human psyche: sex sells. Reading Frederik Pohl's works (both science fiction and some his autobiographical pieces) we get to see how this had worked by the 1950's, to the point where admen could sell magazines to doctors offices that didn't want them. The process of advertising and marketing grows up around the concept of the animal part of man (that is natural man) wanting to be led to the successful conclusion of his desires. That is why sex appeal sells, as well as campaigns for getting people to eat more or drink more, and even campaigns to get you to 'switch' brands are based on things other than the actual product being sold or are secondary to that product by slapping a label on it (like 'healthy' or 'diet'). This concept of a herd driven mentality towards products was utilized in politics to sell political parties, programs and ideologies. We went from a Nation that had politicians not doing much, and rarely being reported on, to one in which they were on the airwaves, giving 'photo ops' of things they don't do in their daily life, and generally drying to mold the mind of public opinion on a constant basis.

Bernays recoiled from how these concepts were used in wartime Germany as they utilized the full suite of Freud and found it to be successful. That suite of drives goes beyond those I've already listed and includes the 'death drive' or 'destrudo'. This is part of the Freudian view of human psychology, and while psychology has varied from that even in the Freudian side of things, when one utilizes the concept of base human drives the destrudo is a functional part of that view. The Nazi Party utilized symbology and iconography to enforce this (ex. the death's head symbol as part of the concentration camp SS insignia) and through the concept that the next generation would be fiercer and 'do what is necessary' for the problems of Germany. This also worked and very effectively, to the point where Germans were turning their heads at cattle cars full of Jews going to the concentration camps. At a subliminal level they had been marketed this idea since the late 1920's as the NSDAP rose to prominence, and part of the idea was to 'perfect' Germany's culture by subtracting the 'unwanted' portion of it.

Here, as James Burke would say in Connections, I could follow many paths.

I could follow down the line of books on The Making of the President XXXX where the year would be in the X's. Those works offer insight into campaigns and reviewing them allows for a longer perspective of how marketing has not only changed political discourse and elections, but change the type and kind of people who run for office.

Or I could examine the way companies have utilized marketing to influence public opinion and then turned a small portion of their dollars into the industry of marketing their ideas to government. That forms a cycle of public funds going to favored companies that have good insider contacts so as to garner those public funds via the appropriation process, and then 'reward' that legislator by putting some jobs or work in their district and sending campaign contributions to them. By getting the idea you can 'regulate' something via appeal to public unconscious drives, legislators then push their programs forward and can find not only electoral success but money from those they regulate. This is usually done through the venue of fear, so that people come to believe they have something to fear about the activities of companies... sometimes you do and other times it is just marketing to push an agenda.

I could even look at the intrusion of marketing into grief, as was done at the recent Tucson, AZ memorial service that, for all the pleasant sounding words of the speech given by the President, the symbology and reactions clash in discord. But I've already done that, and it is actually a spin-off that I put out first to help gel a few ideas.

Instead I'm going to look at that complex between science (or at least scientific sounding) work with marketing and the problem of politicians not understanding that the Freud animal driven complex is not the be-all, end-all of psychological analysis.

The problem with going into the animal based subconscious as being the primary driver of man is that it runs into the problem of rational thought. This is driven by the irrational motivations of the body, in the Freudian venue, but has a wholly different perspective under a different school, that of Carl Jung, say. To become a functioning individual you must integrate the rational and irrational, the conscious and unconscious, and retain conscious autonomy so as to be an individual: you are not a beast in a herd but a conscious animal able to integrate and control base desires with the conscious mind. The horror of subliminal advertising, then, is to approach only the unconscious or sub-conscious mind if the conscious mind does not have the necessary understanding to properly tag the subliminal content so that the unconscious mind can weigh the import of any given message with that rational input.

Jung then posed a second part of the human psyche that was not wrapped up inside individuals, but was held by all mankind as part of our natural background. In this view of the unconscious there are also the archetypes of characters that are the pure forms of those beings we have come to represent through mythology and stories. These forms reside within us unconsciously, and we seek out these archetypes when we are troubled in our lives. As someone said of Batman: 'When I was in danger of losing my life I sought to find the answer Batman would have to my situation, and then did that action'. You rarely, if ever, reach into that storehouse on a conscious basis, and yet it is always available to your unconscious mind. Asking 'What Would Jesus Do?' is doing just that: reaching for that which is Jesus in all of us, so as to find his answer and implement it.

Now to show how this works, we have seen the slow erosion of our political and economic systems via the foundations built by the Progressive movement integrating Freudian concepts into campaigns and pushing agendas. As Bernays said, the end result was to have an elite class that would be a benevolent dictatorship to the masses. If you listen to all the Marxist rhetoric, you would expect people to take to the streets, demand ever more, as that is their base natural desires being denied by the act of government after getting them used to living at the government teat for such things as welfare, unemployment, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid... the list is long. This is what is going on in Europe, by and large and is an age-old, archetypical tradition there that stretches back for centuries or even longer. When the King withholds a good to the populace, the peasants revolt... and then are put down and submit to the ruling order.

In America, however, the concepts of thrift, patriotism and each individual making their own way in life has created a force counter to the Freudian driven addictive force for more government: the Tea Party force for less and more accountable government. The elites are being seen as failures not only on the personal scale (where government programs must win adherents) but at the National level as well. When 70% of the population does not want the debt ceiling raised for the country, they are not drawing upon a Freudian drive but a Jungian archetype that we remember from our Founding and Framing eras. America started in debt and only got out of debt when Andrew Jackson was in office: he was the first President to preside over a debt-free country, and he then proceeded to remove the National Bank from the government's rolls so that it couldn't manipulate the economy directly again.

In the realm of fiction there are very, very, very few authors that even attempt this sort of thing. The best that I've read is Gordon R. Dickson who utilizes this throughout his large Childe Cycle of works but most impressively in his novel Way of the Pilgrim. In that novel Earth is taken over by a kindly but really quite powerful alien race... we get a benign despotism to rule over us. We are handed the 'hope' that in a few generations we will become skilled enough so as to be 'brothers' to them. Mankind, as a whole, slowly begins to reject this but not openly. The first sign to show up is a simple stick figure of a man in a cloak with a staff. He is called The Pilgrim. The Pilgrim, as an archetype, exists across humanity and soon, very soon, people start to take up cloak and staff. First it is scattered, then there are more and more. The aliens don't know what to make of this, it is beyond them. Then The Pilgrim begins to manifest directly in one man and he has no conscious knowledge of what The Pilgrim does when it manifests. The message that is carried: mankind rejects your authority and wants you gone from our planet and we will all die in pursuit of this goal. By then there are millions upon millions across the globe wearing cloak and carrying staff: The Pilgrim has come. Unwilling to commit genocide and unable to deal with something they don't have, they are forced to leave: they have no pool of archetypes to draw upon, no deeply shared unconscious capability, for all their power they have met a power greater than theirs in a realm they can't even go into.

This is why the appearance of the Tea Party is such a shock to the political Left and those who invest strongly in man as a barely rational animal: we are not just animals with a thin veneer of rationality, but a rational mind deeply in contact with our own unconscious not just for our bodily needs but for our outlook in life. This is beyond the realm of politics, marketing, or even advertising as there is no way to influence our archetypes. Those who are integrated individuals are not dictated to, but they tell you they wish to live their own lives in peace and to get the hell out of their faces. We know the ways of the Rattlesnake and it is always fair in its warning and you always get it. The message is clear: back off or suffer the consequences of your ill-thought out actions.

How else can one explain the quick spread of the Tea Party movement, from nothing to political force in less than 2 years? This is a remarkably American phenomena because of our storehouse of archetypes, which is a 'can do', 'if you want it done do it yourself' and 'get the hell off my lawn' formation that is NOT present in any other Nation on this planet. Anyone with the integration capability with their unconscious that has some rational basis for these sorts of ideas CAN get in contact with these archetypes: they are universal to mankind, you just have to be flowing into their formation for them to manifest. And once an archetype catches hold, especially in times of danger, it spreads like wildfire without even the need for conscious intention beyond the need for the answer which only the archetype can give.

Now if that isn't enough to scare the socks off the 'market it to their gonads and their minds will follow' crowd, the next part will remind you of how Einstein described quantum physics: 'spooky action at a distance'.

The concept of the Noosphere is given by Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin as the 'sphere of human thought'. This concept of a 'hive mind' has been around for awhile, that being a conscious construct shared by the entirety of humanity. With that said the physical outlay of it is already happening with the World Wide Web teamed with a new set of laws based on computing, networks and the re-utilization of concepts at different scales (which I go over in this article). The reason I say this is that the World Wide Web is a construct that allows our conscious minds to interact with each other in an asynchronous, multi-media mode. This is not, perhaps, what was envisioned for this concept when it was first proposed, but the interesting parallels between the Web and the Noosphere are obvious.

With that said there is a definite unconscious part of the Noosphere that is only reflected in the consciously available material on the Web, and the rest of the material appears to reside elsewhere pre-Internet era. The Noosphere is used to explain how individuals pick up skills and knowledge faster than those people before them, and this is not even a 'direct teaching' form of learning as something like how to fashion bronze looks to be something less than a 'spread' of knowledge and more a 'multiple learning events' sort of knowledge. This is closer to quantum theory and 'spooky action at a distance' than the relativistic view of information spread via slow word-of-mouth means. There are similarities in stone structures across the world (ex. pyramidal structures in Egypt and Central to South America) that have physical understanding as their basis, which is to say the angle of repose for particles cannot exceed a certain angle that depends on density, particle size and surface roughness. The ability to organize relatively modest populations to complete these tasks is one of convergent understanding at a distance: dissimilar cultures find similar ways to organize to complete similar tasks without referents to each other. That is the unconscious part of the Noosphere at work which is a mirroring of Jungian views on archetypes, though expanded to daily process knowledge (i.e. how to do things, make things, and the necessary skills involved for them).

This, like archetypes, is not something you can market or advertise to so as to influence an individual as it operates independently of the physical basis for mankind as it requires conscious and rational thought to allow access to it. That physical basis coupled with rational thought would then be the necessary 'keys to the kingdom' to have access to this shared knowledge from individuals within cultures across cultural domains.

Where I have some disagreement with the Noosphere and individuals like Kurzweil, is the idea of a 'unity' formation of conscious minds to form one larger, complex, cross-cultural mental structure. To date there are no indications of consciousness either by activity nor by messaging of this Noosphere. The biologically based portion of it has acted more as a reference storehouse of knowledge than a communication system: more library with knowledge available than individual actively sharing knowledge by intent. The dissemination of process information and cultural archetypes has been, instead, a form of dissemination far better described by quantum physics ('spooky action at a distance' between entangled particles sharing information at faster than light speed) than by complexity theory.

What the Noosphere does allow people to do as individuals is to process information faster. This is part and parcel of the Feiler Faster Thesis (FFT) which I have examined as a phenomena multiple times. It is represented, at first, by our ability to 'catch up' with the news cycle on a faster basis over time, which is to say that the rate of our rate of adaptation is increasing. This is a 'meta' formulation of examining a process or creation of an artifact, so that meta-thinking is thinking about thinking and the meta-rate of change is the change of the rate of change. Col. John Byrd (USAF) described this as getting within the 'OODA loop' of someone else in combat: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Getting 'inside' and opponent's OODA loop is an essential part of combat operations and Col. Byrd's application of it to USAF concerns has proven to be a single instance within a huge category of human activity. That is to say the OODA loop thesis can be widened in scope (utilizing the Gould scale applicability concept) to encompass how businesses operate, how you drive a car safely, how a chess match operates between human opponents, and, indeed, how you absorb information from the news.

The FFT is the process of tightening the individual's OODA loop to be within that of the overall news presentation cycle so that you are less surprised by future outcomes than the news presenters are. Similarly you are better suited, as an individual, to understand the implications of new technology or world events due to the ability to tap into the Noosphere storehouse and find the way to hone your own perceptive skills so as to implement the FFT, since learning to do so is, itself, a skill. If you wonder why government officials, regulatory agencies and such fall out of step with the way of world events or even just social realities, it is because their outward structure cannot incorporate the Noosphere and, thusly, the FFT. Government is an external management system for the basics of ensuring safety for societies, it is not an operative system for enhancing knowledge or disseminating skills. In fact the failure of those governments that try to do this is littered with millions dead in the vain attempt to create something in the physical realm that we already share in the conscious and unconscious realms. What government is, however, is a physical safeguard of a culture and its territory and it is lent the negative powers that are granted to us by having a physical being by Nature, and we then take oversight of this created power structure for the good of all individuals within society.

Here is where the Jungian concept comes fully into play with the Noosphere: the Noosphere isn't a way to create a mass cognitive structure, but a way to allow the individual to create an individual identity within all of human culture and to find the necessary archetypes and process information so as to allow creativity to expand the overall knowledgebase and enhance archetypes, or even create new ones. Thus the individual melds their physical bodies from Nature with their rational thought system keyed to their culture to allow them to better gain individuality and creative expression of their individual self. Thus, if this is correct, we are heading into the steep learning curve era of enhanced individuality re-asserting its power over the social power structures we know as government, and not just within the USA, either.

For if we apply the Noosphere to the human condition with the understanding that it is to enhance human expression, and therefore human liberty, one must be free to utilize their positive liberty freely. That requires the greatest liberty of all: freedom to utilize your positive liberties outside of the negative power oversight of government.

If you wondered how chapters of the Tea Party can form up in the UK, Germany, Italy, Israel, Russia and Australia, now you know.

The FFT is now in play on a global basis.

Gaining one's liberty from the State has always been fraught with danger.

What happens when this goes on a global scale? My dearest hope is we do not get the kind of carnage of 1775-1783 for 10% dead and 15% fled where the 15% have nowhere to go means disaster. There are better ways to do this as Gandhi and Aquino found, as well as some of the faster transitions of power in Eastern Europe with the fall of Communism. I do hope those in power will learn from the Noosphere that it isn't worth the bloodshed to grasp power to the bitter end. There is just no teaching some people, however, for they refuse to learn from the mistakes and lessons we have learned.

For The Pilgrim will not be denied.

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