blogger or hack?


Public relations flacks and advertorial assassins have been all over the board lately: enacting paid word-of-mouth ad campaigns (wherein the newspaper adage, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” takes on new and grotesque meaning). They co-opt street art for “authentic” feel; put television ads at your gas pump; and now even right into your head with hypersonic sound.

While admittedly the ads have gotten more entertaining these past years, that means little when the result of submitting to such entertainments is irrational loyalty and mind control.

I got my share of the stuff. Why I sway to Coke over Pepsi, when I do drink the battery acid cleaners (rare). It’s why Crest is for Democrats and Colgate Republicans. No, it doesn’t make sense, but there it is. And it’s a hell of a lot more sophisticated today.

In Clive Thompson’s column for Wired, he writes:

Trolling down the street in Manhattan, I suddenly hear a woman’s voice.

“Who’s there? Who’s there?” she whispers. I look around but can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It seems to emanate from inside my skull.

Was I going nuts? Nope. I had simply encountered a new advertising medium: hypersonic sound. It broadcasts audio in a focused beam, so that only a person standing directly in its path hears the message. In this case, the cable channel A&E was using the technology to promote a show about, naturally, the paranormal.

That’s quite a feat. Not far behind, he and others are suggesting, are breakthroughs in mind science that lay bare our innermost processes. No longer will advertisers have to labor over our Facebook and Myspace sites to figure out how to tailor products to us. They’ll just know. Of course, it’s Security concerns that will make the surest work with the new mind-tech.

“We’re going to be facing this question more and more, and nobody is really ready for it,” says Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist and board member of the nonprofit Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics. “If the skull is not an absolute domain of privacy, there are no privacy domains left.” He argues that the big personal liberty issues of the 21st century will all be in our heads — the “civil rights of the mind,” he calls it.

OK. That’s the big intro. Beyond that, the underlayer, is this: this here blogosphere, where our sheltered fingers tweak each other purple, is crawling with corporate shills. And they won’t always tell you about it.

For some of you that have been out here for a while, this is a pretty obvious statement. But it was only a few months ago I stumbled across a story about Big Oil companies (now sweating, Thank God, in Washington over subsidies) leasing out bloggers and offering them all kinds of cool crap.

I was just honored by the visit of a certain retired nuclear power plant inspector (by his own profession under a former handle) who sells nuclear power ideology across the Internet. Literally, anywhere the talk turns nuclear, you will find him.

I chose to cut our conversation short after talk became disrespectful and intellectually (to my mind) dishonest. I’d already been through this with a Global Warming denier and could sense where it was heading.

I have no reason to believe the pro-nuker is monetarily motivated, but it begs the question: Does it matter if someone has a running interest in unloading their opinion on you and other e-readers?

Before you answer, let me know how this proposal strikes you (another Wired credit in order).

A study, written for U.S. Special Operations Command, suggested “clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers.”

Since the start of the Iraq war, there’s been a raucous debate in military circles over how to handle blogs — and the servicemembers who want to keep them. One faction sees blogs as security risks, and a collective waste of troops’ time. The other (which includes top officers, like Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell) considers blogs to be a valuable source of information, and a way for ordinary troops to shape opinions, both at home and abroad.

This 2006 report for the Joint Special Operations University, “Blogs and Military Information Strategy,” offers a third approach — co-opting bloggers, or even putting them on the payroll. “Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering,” write the report’s co-authors, James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning.

We could get down into the weeds on this fella, but know that the authors defend themselves by saying IT’S JUST A STUDY. At what point do ideas become so heinous that they simple aren’t offered for the shame of it? Where does action come from but from ideas and concepts in the first place?

the who sell outSo have I come this far in the evening to confess that I get a nickel for each one of you that reads the name of a corporate product listed above? Or that hypersonic adverts are whispering into your bad ear? Hardly.

I’ve been fortunate in that my career has involved nothing more than serving coffee, reporting and writing, cracking rocks, and washing dishes, or no particular order. I’ve remained outside the sales racket and do my best to be a “slender consumer,” meaning I don’t buy things to cure passing boredoms or insecurities. (It’s harder than it sounds!)

And so, if I am wrong, I’ll be wrong honestly. More or less.

Far from a favorite film, there is a memorable line in Say Anything that brings my smile out. A young, overly stylized idealist (must have been a phase) informs the family of his love interest, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.

“I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

I don’t.

And I don’t want to be sold, either. Not until I know what all this buying and processing means for our planet and its inhabitants. Not until the full impact on all our families is understood.

So what does this have to do with the environment?

A proposal:

Every time a major corporation utilizes a fellow species to sell ideas of “confidence” or “power” or “exoticism” or “cuddlyisms” to peddle their brands, a percentage of that year’s gross profit must be invested in global habitat conservation efforts. After all, loss of habitat and climate changes are already bringing on the Sixth Mass Extinction.

We start with the big’uns: Coca-Cola’s exploitation of vanishing icecap creatures; Geico’s blended gecko and the collapse of the world’s amphibians; and Pacific Life Insurance military sonar-stranding whales. Homo sapien sapiens get paid — and we’re in no short supply there. We need to find ways to spread that capital around.

coke beargeckopacific life

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2 responses to “blogger or hack?

  1. what a great blog post and an even greater idea! scary to think they can get into our minds.
    your proposal is brilliant! now, how do we get ’em to do it?


  2. Pingback: Art Blog » blogger or hack?·

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