Know your enemy

The image above is “scientifically formulated to enhance [women’s] perception of men who drink Molson […] a perfectly tuned combination of words and images designed by trained professionals. Women who are exposed to it experience a very positive feeling. A feeling which they will later project directly onto [men who drink Molson].”

That’s not my analysis; it’s what the creatives who developed the ad said about it, in another ad. The first ad, the one you see above, ran in Cosmopolitan and was pitched at women. The ad from which the explanatory text was drawn ran in Playboy under the heading “Hundreds of thousands of women. Pre-programmed for your convenience.” The full analysis is here, on the Sociological Images blog.

The lesson is essentially that propaganda relies on market segmentation; messages crafted and pitched with accuracy and intent. If you read what you’re told to read, you’ll think what you’re told to think. Avoiding such a fate means embracing diversity of input, understanding your opponents’ arguments and their reasoning even if you disagree with it. To a large extent that means consuming their media. For a rounded perspective you’ll need, at least occasionally, to read sites like DailyKos and Free Republic, infuriating and interminable comment threads on The Standard and Kiwiblog, and SOLOpassion and Gates of Vienna and WSWS and the Wall Street Journal; listen to talkback, watch Fox News and pick up both Cosmo and Playboy from time to time, for the articles or whatever. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but the point is: read, listen, watch and discuss promiscuously. Argue with those folks you disagree with; drink beer with them from time to time. Take them seriously. Insist that they take you seriously, and give them reasons to do so.

It might hurt; in fact, it often will. But it beats being a dittohead.


Edit to add: Anita points out that the Sociological Images post created a bit of a stir. They write:

Apparently the company has been getting calls from consumers and reporters regarding the Molson Cosmo/Playboy ads we posted about yesterday. It turns out the ad campaign is quite old (2002/2003) and they would like to distance themselves from it now.

As you would. Not clear whether they now regret the decision to run such ads, or whether it’s a pro-forma blowback response.

9 thoughts on “Know your enemy

  1. I don’t get it Lew.

    Your reference to “Labourite dittoheads” in a previous post was, with respect, not warranted. The analysis on the Standard has been far deeper than any other I have seen and to call the various commentators ditto heads is uncalled for.

    This post seems to be an obtuse further attack on those persons and I presume that I am amongst their ranks.

    The essence of your argument seems to be that Labour should this month decide on the candidate who may have the biggest immediate publicity cut through but you offer no analysis or justification for this. You do not quantify the extent of this “benefit”, nor do you measure this benefit against the other characteristics of the candidates. Instead you seem to think it is good and therefore Labour should select this candidate. You seem to be relying on a superficial “interest” in one of the candidates sparked by media coverage influenced by our friends on the right.

    I agree there is no conspiracy. Slater and Farrar just like messing with the left. But by going along with them you are dumbing down the contest to a simplistic choice on who currently has the slightly better looking background. The next leader of the Labour party is going to have to have more than an interesting background.

    Your evidence for your theory was the Standard’s response to Farrar’s and Slater’s fulsome initial endorsement of Shearer. Having read their posts for a number of years and watched the way that their views get repeated by the ditto heads in the MSM and elsewhere I thought the skepticism was warranted. They cannot be trusted to express the truth. Everything they say and write is intended to further the interests of the right.

    And so the Standard and its commentators tried to dissect the fulsome support for Shearer by Farrar and Slater. I only wish that other websites would do the same. Such analysis should focus on really important things such as the candidates’ respective policy platforms, what their front bench will look like, how they will repair obvious splits in the Caucus and most importantly how they will fare when facing Key in the house and on the campaign trail.

    By all means let there be a public analysis of the respective skills of the two Davids. You could start by analyzing their respective performances on the Nation and Q&A this weekend and instead of writing these debates off as “politics as usual” you should realise that the respect of the party, of Parliament and of the media of the intellectual ability of a leader to engage is actually a really important thing.

    And I believe that I can speak from a position of knowledge. I have spent extended amounts of time getting both Davids elected.

    First and foremost the leader has to be someone that the party supports. Farrar’s and Slater’s and your support is essentially irrelevant.

  2. Steady on, chap.

    It’s a generic term that’s seen popular use to describe the inhabitants of communities characterised by a high degree of ideological or cultural commonality. I do think The Standard fits that description much of the time (a major factor in my much-decreased participation there in the past couple of years) but this post was not about The Standard, or you, or the leadership of the Labour party, a topic on which I feel I’ve written quite enough this weekend. (Incidentally, you’ve totally ballsed up the interpretation of my argument, but I’ll leave that be for now.)

    Interesting to see what’s on your mind, though. Maybe I should have tagged it “rorschach”.


  3. I would like to be able to have a well-rounded perspective without having to read Solopassion, I really really really would.

    I’ve been reading Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble, in effect he’s arguing that the growth in personalisation of the internet risks turning us all into dittoheads – more and more we will simply be shown reflections of our own beliefs and thoughts. It’s a fascinating read, both in terms of the why this is happening (and the problem it’s attempting to solve) and how and why we need to address it.

    I just found a link to a TED talk he gave about it:

  4. The problem with this view is that it only serves to reinforce the status quo. You’re encouraging people to absorb and engage with the calcified and retrenched viewpoints of cheerleaders, ideologues, and reflex-action apologists which can hardly lead to new ideas and diversity.

    While I agree that it’s important to be aware of the breadth of opinion and polemical perspectives that are out there – in the sense of accepting that these viewpoints exist and are widely supported by people – there is little to be gained by feeding these people with attention. They’re not going to listen. If they were capable of cognitive flexibility, they would not have set themselves up to play the role of town crier.

  5. Lew – Great analysis. It blows me away that people are in disagreement with you when you are essentially stating common sense. mickysavage is savage in his determination to be a dittohead and learn nothing from what just happened on the 26th.

    Dad used to subscribe to Pravda on the basis of the logic you describe. He reckoned he used to get asked odd questions occasionally.

  6. Hey maetl. I’m not really advocating absorbing, and certainly not advocating that people drive themselves nuts by trying to argue the unarguable with the impervious. I don’t have a login at KiwiBlog or SOLOpassion, for example. But occasionally plunging briefly into such bracing waters is worth doing from time to time; certainly better than pretending that they don’t exist.

    Anita, I certainly agree that with the increase in niche or personalised, compared to mass-circulation general media, makes it easy to avoid such diversity and really only read people who you agree with or who are culturally similar; this is part of why I suggest actively seeking out opposing viewpoints.

    Phil, TBF the post wasn’t about mickysavage, and nor is he really disagreeing with the general thrust that an ideologically diverse reading list is to be desired. And did your old man read Russian, or did they publish it in English as well?


  7. Lew – I didn’t read it as a criticism of left and ms defensiveness surprised me.

    In a marketing environment that dual message is relatively safe. In a political environment that obvious cynicism would be identified and be flipped back on the originator. Romney is an obvious example.

    Pravda had an English version.

  8. This post sounds uncannily like a letter I once read from a seminarian nabbed exiting from a massage parlour. Playboy, eh, – you didn’t get cau…nah scrap that.

  9. kia ora all – glad i found this site. i grew up with the awareness of being from a Labour voting family on mum’s side and whilst not knowing much about it, now i think about it my father’s family were possibly National voters. i am a musician, gay woman who has been surrounded most of my life by lefties and have over recent times found myself wondering why i’m not cringing when John Key’s name is mentioned when pretty much everyone i know hates National and wants to run screaming from the room. it has been a little disconcerting but i realise that i have grown up largely apolitical so now starting to read about new zealand political history and about to accompany it with a glossary of political and economic terms. i’ve started simply with bios of certain politicians – started with Lange, Clark and now have read Muldoon…and god forbid, i’m about to look at Don Brash…but it seems i’ve hit a point where i need to relearn what i think about the right and at least i want to try to understand why they think like they do – i may come to the basic conclusion – they are economic based…time will tell. in the meantime, thanks for this article, it has in some small way confirmed the path i’m taking – to have the courage to even bring home a library book with a blue cover and see what the other half thinks about, i may even get more political and be able to know what i lean towards and why. thanks for listening to a newby :)

    ps. in my short readings and, remember, i have been an ignoramus…i was surprised to be reminded of Rogernomics in Labour, and the arguably ‘socialist leanings’ of Muldoon that seemed to frighten even his own.

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