I should know. I spent 30 years on the dark side, selling everything from newspapers to 412(i) retirement accounts. It was easier to sell the 412(i)s. Newspapers are real. They are solid. They take up space. When you are done with them you have to put them out for recycling. A 412(i) is an idea you will never hold in your hand. You will never see it. It takes up no space in your home. Assuming that you make enough money for a 412(i), you will never write out a check for it. The money is taken out of your business account before taxes. Every month you receive a statement in the mail telling you how much your account has grown. You do not own an object called a 412(i), you own an idea called a 412(i).
Another strange thing about sales is that it is easier to sell to lots of people than it is to sell to individuals. I noticed this years ago when telemarketing for Thermo-Guard windows. When I said, “Hi, this is Bill calling from Thermo-Guard Windows,” I got hung up on four out of five times. When I said, “Hi, this is Bill calling from Thermo-Guard Windows which are recommended by Dick Van Patton,” I got hung up on two out of five times. The more appealing the advertising, the easier it is to sell. A two year old would be happy to get a rag doll for her birthday, but spend enough money on the advertising and parents will kill each other over Tickle Me Elmo dolls.
People tend to underestimate the power of advertising. There are many people who feel as if they have freed themselves from the power of advertising by getting rid of their televisions. All the TV haters have accomplished is to rid themselves of the visible part of the iceberg. Even people without television are subject to Madison Ave-induced fads through peer pressure. One person gets a bug up his butt about Tickle Me Elmo, then his neighbor just has to have it. Next thing you know, there are riots in the toy stores. Internet advertising is even more subtle and insidious than many people realize. Right now, there are paid advertisers posing as bloggers, children, average people on the message boards, or simply anonymous posters. They are all out to sell something. It could be as simple as the newest pop album, or an elaborate smoke screen for Bush. Regardless of the product, enough people fall for it to make the effort worth while.
Modern advertising was created by Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew. Bernays was an elitist bastard who thought that the masses needed a means of controlling them. He was the first to apply the principle of the subconscious to create needs or beliefs. Bernays created the need for new cars when the old cars were running just fine. He created a burning desire to be cool by smoking Pall Mall cigarettes, and he created the belief that the Russians were a danger to America. Advertising has become a science unto itself. Marketing and Public Relations are part of the social sciences and billions of dollars are spent every year to discover new ways to convince us that the newest band is cool, or that all Muslims are out to destroy America.
John F. Kennedy was the first president to run his campaign fully on Bernays techniques. Kennedy did not even try to run on the issues. Kennedy made mighty speeches appealing to postwar optimism and patriotism. His lovely wife and darling children were constantly featured in the media. Poor Richard M. Nixon tried to run on the issues. Many say that Nixon debated on facts while Kennedy avoided the questions. Eight years later, Nixon ran the same campaign as Kennedy and won. Today machine politics have reached their ultimate form through Public Relations. The American public does not select a President according to the issues but to the image that the candidates project. In 1960, Nixon was much better informed on the issues than Kennedy. By 1968 Nixon had been reduced to a hopeless lush and won anyway. Democrat Hubert Humphrey tried to run an honest campaign while Nixon’s team pulled out all the stops.
Ever since Kennedy, American politics have become a matter of the best PR firm winning the election instead of the best candidate. Right after Watergate and while still reeling from the Nixon pardons, Jimmy Carter was presented as a liberal and won. In fact he was a Christianoid conservative. Four years later Ronald Reagan was presented as a great statesman. Actually he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The coming of Reagan spelled the end of liberalism in America and Americans just ate it up. It is truly amazing what advertising can accomplish. Bill Clinton was elected President by lying to us about national health, and there are still people who make excuses for him.
For the past 28 years, Democrats and Republicans have been working in tangent for the benefit of the Multinational Corporations. Yet people still see the Democrats as the friends of the poor and the downtrodden, because that’s what the PR tells us. Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table, and is known to have voted for everything Bush ever asked for. Convinced she is a liberal, voters still reelect her. With the economy tanking and the wars going strong in the Middle East, Americans wanted hope for things to get better. So that’s what the Democrats sold us, hope. It’s easier to sell an idea than it is to sell an object, and it’s easier to sell to crowds than it is to individuals. The question is, what will happen when American finally catches on?