FW: virus: MEME UPDATE #7: Subliminal Meming

Gifford, Nate F (giffon@SDCPOS3B.DAYTONOH.ncr.com)
Thu, 8 May 1997 11:28:24 -0400

I forwarded the Virus update to a friend who responds:


The Age of Manipulation: The Con in Confidence, the Sin in Sincere
Wilson Brian Key
Madison Books (1993)

Dr. Key's fourth book on subliminal advertising is worth the purchase price
just for the pictures: liquor ads with blatantly obvious erect penises
drawn into the stream of pouring gin, "sex" airbrushed into practically
everywhere, and even a McDonalds ad with a hand dipping an unforgivably
phallic "Chicken Tender" into sauce.

I read this paranoid nutcase's book SUBLIMINAL SEDUCTION back in the late
70's. This deluded, myopic retard needs to be forced to write, 10,000
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". As is evident, since this is his
fourth book,
there is a hunger among the public to have their penchant for buying CRAP
explained to them. They would rather accept that there are stylized pricks
the ad than accept the fact that they're STUPID.

Key hypothesizes that the male homosexual taboo is at play in many of these
ads. When we perceive these images subliminally but repress them, he says,
it creates an irrational attraction to the advertisement. He showed some of
these ads to Inuits, almost all of whom saw the penises immediately and
burst out laughing. Americans only saw the images immediately 5% of the

It's always difficult to describe what's "funny"...especially if you cross
cultural lines
(Monty Python notwithstanding). My guess is that these eskimos were
laughing at
the goofy American pointy-headed doctor waving gin ads in their faces.

Although Key doesn't use the word "meme," he is thinking along the memetic
paradigm as he uses Madison Avenue's sneaky tactics to enlighten readers
about the vulnerable nature of their minds. A well written and erudite

Yes, yes...naughty, naughty big business is, once again, preying on the
witless public. The "vulnerable nature of their minds" is clearly pointed
out by
this being Key's fourth repackaging of tired and shopworn premise. Of
course, I
DO think that there SHOULD be genitalia, nude bodies, depictions of sex
et cetera in ads. They just shouldn't be obscured as reflections in ice
images in pouring beverages, or other obfuscations. They should just be
clear and unmistakable. Tony the Tiger would have just cause to shoot,
"Theeeeeey're GREAT".

I then responded:

I disagree with your contention that the Hidden Persuaders are not there
... This is based on my experience with TV. I did not own a TV for years
... When I began watching again the sex references I was able to detect in
the ads were everywhere. The only one that I remember was a panty hose
commercial with a Saturn V taking off. As the lady was putting on her
Hanes the scene kept cutting from stocking to Saturn V, stocking, Saturn

How effective the ads are is up for debate ... I would say that its a
matter of margins. An ad with the reference is marginally more memorable
than one without and thats what brand loyalty is based on ... margins.

Would the world be a better place if we tried to regulate this shit ...
definitely not. In fact Madison Ave. would love for regulation to take
place since it would make tittilation so much easier.

What's more scary to me is the embedding of senseless patterns in the
American public's consciousness through PR. In that sense this guy is a
fruitcake since the real danger is the media pushing its own agenda ...
"LOOK AT ME!!!!".

I'm not sure that real sex would sell any more products ... but I think ads
without it would certainly be at a disadvantage ... that margin thing

Brodie points out that our reptilian brains really have just three hooks
... FOOD, SEX, DANGER. The ideal ad combines all three of these ... i.e.
Schlitz Malt Liquor bull where the protagonist ends up on high ground with
a woman and a beer with the frustrated bull pawing below. The problem with
constant exposure to ads/programs like this is they crowd other more
rational paradigms out of the market. I.E. what's the point of selling a
quality Malt Liquor <Ok so its an oxymoron ... bear with me> when you can
make more money producing a crappy one as long as you plow some profits
back into convincing people to buy your Bull piss.

The answer is obviously not regulation ... since the public hungers for
SEX, DANGER, FOOD then regulation just makes it easier to play to those
hooks through implication. The answer is education, but then the question
is how to educate - or is it indoctrinate? - the great unwashed masses.
So, although I agree that Dr. Keys is probably a nut, I think that by
using the DANGER hook - You eat Chicken Nuggets because Madison Ave is
turning you into a 'mo - his means coincide with my ends.

Questions I'd have for the list would be:

1. Do you think "Hidden Persuaders" are memes ... or just hooks for
infection. I think of them as the protein shells that get the cell to
accept the viral DNA...
2. I've never read Dr. Keys book, but assuming that he proposes some
action against the use of Hidden Persuaders what do you think that action
should be? Do you agree with my contention that denying the use of the
hook just makes it more virulent?
3. Most people are not going to care about memetics one way or the other.
I forwarded Brodie's message because it gave an example of someone selling
memetic instruction to manipulate unsuspecting single women. I figured
that ought to get my friends to read the book so we could move from
exposition to debate ... Brodie points out that Memetics is a way of
analyzing the universe. As long as people deny the paradigm then they
should be susceptible to subversion by people who use the paradigm - right?
Any guesses as to what percent of the population needs to be "meme -
literate" for the viral hooks to be inefficient? Since evolution <and PR,
and advertising> works on margins will memetic immunities become obsolete
and disappear from world views .. or will they operate in a cyclic fashion,
kind of like flu antibodies? Another way to phrase this question would be
do you think that fifties sit-coms and commercials could ever be viewed as
classics to be emulated rather than camp?