Monday, July 29, 2019

Why tell the truth when you can lie?

It was all over the news last week, the fake presidential seal shown above. Four differences from what we used to consider the genuine article:

1. The Romanov "Double Eagle" rather than the "American" bald eagle.

2. It's clutching golf-clubs, not martial arrows,

3. It's holding cash not olive branches.

4. Instead of the Latin "E Pluribus Unum," (out of many, one) it says in Spanish, "45 is a puppet."

It's satire, I suppose, and popular. But as a communication, as persuasion, I wonder if it's missing the boat.

I wonder if we all are. Or are too often. Especially in advertising.

It seems that too many communications today don't really persuade. Don't really provide useful information. Don't really tell us anything new.

They merely confirm what we already believe. Or want to believe about ourselves.

Accordingly, they aren't real communications. They don't stop us. They don't make us think. They don't nag at our brains or upset our consciousness. 

They, instead, tell us that we were right all along.

Will the faux seal above convince a single anti-Trump person? Or will it merely add to the conviction and concomitant smugness of those (like myself) who despise the man and all that he projects and stands for?

The seal above may contain truth. But does it contain understanding of another point of view? Does it take into consideration the very real feelings of those who support our latest fascist tin-pot despot?

What about empathy?

In late September, righ before the 2016 presidential election, I read Arlie Hochschild's "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right."
When I read Hochschild, one passage in particular, I turned to my spouse (about the only person who still listens to me) and said, "Trump is going to win." At the time, the Nate Silvers of the world were predicting a huge Clinton victory.

The passage was a metaphor that a person recounted to Hochschild about her life. "Imagine America is a shining sun over the horizon. I've been patient and hard-working, and I'm standing in line to to get that shining sun. Soon I see people of color cutting into the line. I see immigrants, handicapped, all manner of people cutting in in-front of me. I'm going backward. I'm getting pushed back, while others are cutting the line."

While Clinton was calling such people "deplorables," Trump was speaking right at them. Telling them why. Yes. Hitler did the same thing. Essentially blaming Jews for Germany's defeat in WWI and the hyperinflation that followed. Germany's carnage was caused by outside forces (Jews). Trump confirmed that America's "carnage" was caused by outside forces (no matter how inside they are) people of color and immigrants and Muslims.

Trump understood people. What would move people. Say what you will about the evil of the man, he expressed anything but Clintonian-solipsism.

The more I look at the communications our industry produces, we produce, I produce, the more I believe we are not reaching people on an emotional, truthful level. Maybe because everything is laden with copy points, brand names and MUST end with a smile.

They're not communications, they're blandishments.

Where is work like this?

Do we even acknowledge the painful truths of eternal debt and shoddy manufacturing? No, all car advertising is empty roads, smiling drivers and luxurious leather. So far removed from today's realities as to be not even as accurate as a Looney Tunes cartoon.

 Do we do ads like this anymore? Or is every rental-counter staffed by winsome and smiling models? Is every business trip a happy occasion where the big deal is closed and the big raise is impending? In about half the commercials I see people spontaneously dance or high-five in celebration over something. 

Our realities have been utterly Disneyfied and focus-grouped.

We no longer as an industry have real empathy, understanding or caring.

As we near 2020, I'm dreading seeing commercials for Democrats with smiling people, handshakes and factories rising. Commercials that won't touch, persuade and be real to 99% of the people seeing them. 

Because they're lies.

And they don't have the artistry Swift employed back in the eighteenth century when he upset the world with words and images.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...”

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