FW: virus: From the shadows

Gifford, Nate F (giffon@SDCPOS3B.DAYTONOH.ncr.com)
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 10:48:11 -0500

I wrote to Prof. Tim that I became interested in Memetics as a way of
debunking Public Relations. I've been hesitant to post to the list because
the signal to noise ratio is so high. By the time I catch up on any given
thread there is usually not much to add.

I'm afraid that the breakfast cereal example I gave Tim was closer to
advertising hype ... which seems to play on the general public's lack of
math or logic skills. I think the advertising industry looks for cognitive
hooks to improve "Name Recognition". Given the plethora of consumer
choices we have we rarely comparison shop to find the best balance between
price and product quality. For instance I shave with Gillette Trak II
razor blades. I know that I'm paying a premium so Gillette can advertise
their various products, but my one attempt at experimenting with another
brand was a blood letting experience. At the $5 level or less brand
recognition is probably a rational consumer strategy. Its another sign of
the general public's innumeracy that brand loyalty exists in the auto
market ... as in "Built Ford Tough" from the people who brought you the
Pinto - America's first exploding car. Oh ... and the only difference
between mass produced beers is the ads, but never ever try to drink from a
white can with the word "BEER" on it.

So what's the difference between Public Relations and Advertising? Public
Relations people plant stories in the media. Public Relations people are
Spin Doctors. I'd love to hear all the objectivists in the group claim
there is no such thing as spin ... Spin is what got Richard Nixon a hero's
funeral. Spin is what has canonized Ronald Reagan. Spin is what elected
Bill Clinton. I'll leave it to someone else in the group to come up with a
definition that might satisfy the objectivist objections to the above

A less emotive field to discuss "Spin" on might be corporate personas
rather than political personas. Has anyone ever noticed how little fun you
can actually have at Disneyland? How about how butt-ugly their products
are? About once every six months or so a new Disney public relations
fiasco occurs and the Disney public relations machine turns it into a
parade down Mainstreet USA. Examples that come to mind are: The Disney
Civil War Battlefield, Illegal Detention of accused shoplifters in the
Disney Park, Ecological damage the Florida Park is doing to the Everglades,
the bullshit morality of the characters in the films (as one of my
coworkers told her niece "Once a beast always a beast"), Disney's
exploitation of third world labor for its overpriced merchandise (the PR
spin on this one was ... We contract with firms to produce our goods. All
firms that are aware of our "Code of Conduct" for Disney suppliers.)

I contend that Disney's thriving business is based on the meme that Walt
built. Once again, I'll leave it to other members of the group to amplify
this meme if necessary, but the links between Disney and religion seem
fairly clear to me. <Saints Mickey and Walt, "the miracle of Disneyland",
the canon of good will, the complete denial or exclusion of any reality
that conflicts with the Disney reality, the message that Disneyland is a
dream ... but sometimes dreams come true>.

The point of the previous paragraph is not to debunk the Disney myth. I
think Disney is a high profile example of selling image over substance, but
all corporations are worried about their image. The thing I object to is
when a corporation finds it more profitable to manipulate memes than to
deliver a decent product.