Sunday, July 28, 2013

Benjamin Webb is a wannabe tyrant, why public relations is viewed badly and the BBC is crazy

Dear Benjamin Webb of Deliberate PR, as per the BBC,

The reason why PR executives have such a bad reputation is because everyone knows they exist entirely to manipulate people.  Which is what your article is - sheer manipulation, trying to pretend that their job isn't to make us pay too much for shit we do not need is somehow for the good of society.  Which is bullshit and we mostly know it, even as we continue to be addicted to it.

It does not matter how many times manipulative PR fuckwits such as yourself assert that mass media puts the powers in the hands of the majority.  Nonsense.  The majority has no say whatsoever in what advertisements are thrust upon it.  No one says to me, "Hey, Chris, what do you want to see on that billboard?"  A small group of rich, mostly white guys (such as yourself) in offices in places like New York and London decide what advertisements we see, that all of us see.  They do not poll us for our opinions, they shape their advertisements to manipulate us for the purposes of greater profit for their clients.  We know this.

Benjy even quotes Edward Bernays, who said in his book, okay, this is it's real title, I'm not making this up, and Bernays is considered the inventor of modern advertising . . . the book's name is Propaganda, and Bernays writes, "the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

(This is not taken out of context.  Bernays says this stuff all the time, about how it's the duty of rich guys to manipulate public opinion for their own good.)

Benjy goes say that Bernays didn't consider this corrosive to society.  Well, that's the problem.  Sure, Bernays applied it to helping the NAACP but the idea that it's okay to have a group of people out there who form an "invisible government" isn't an anti-democratic idea is the problem because it is massively, intrusively and obviously anti-democratic.  That Bernays, himself, used it for good doesn't mean it's a good idea to have a shadow government manipulating the masses and there are, of course, TONS of examples of PR being used malevolently.  Because I don't like bringing up the Nazis so much, though any discussion about PR and shaping political consciousness is truncated without talking about Goebbels (whom, I note, you do not mention, Benjy), I feel no trouble at all in bringing up the Iraqi War, which was sold to the American people using big Madison Avenue PR firms, based on lies and fear-mongering. 

Basically anyone can come up with their own examples of how PR leeches manipulate people because it is the common experience of people living in industrialized nations to be bombarded with a constant stream of propaganda, er, I mean, PR.  How can one say that the PR firms that are selling us lies about, say, global climate change aren't the enemies of democracy simply because there are other firms saying the exact opposite?  That just makes you mercenaries, which is a real insult - that you'll do anything for money, no matter how destructive.

Then this thick-witted moron says, okay, again, I'm not making this shit up, "If anything, PR now needs to go back into the shadows, which probably sounds more sinister than intended." 

Here's a hint, Benjy, if you end your paragraph admitting that sounds fucked up, there's a pretty good chance that it is, in fact, fucked up.  It sounds exactly as sinister as it is and your failure to realize this is a giant part of the problem.

Benjamin Webb, the thrust of your article is this - stripped of all it's manipulation and ego.  You say that advertising should return to the shadows to better implement Bernays' desire to form a hidden, unseen government that directs democracy, and you say that modern technology will help PR guys do this.  Yes, exactly, that is why we hate you.

As to the BBC, well, if this is a subversive attempt to show what a terrible group of people PR people are, good work!  I don't think that, though.  You're not, precisely, a subversive paper.

So, in the more likely event that this is serious, shame on you.  Seriously.  What editor reads this and goes, "He has a good point.  Maybe we should throw out democracy and give our government into the shadowy tyranny of PR flacks."  It's a position that is so stupid, so crazy and bizarre and grotesque, that . . . well, okay, it is of a piece with the other stuff you write.  Touche.

But, still an example of why editors are fucking jokes if this sort of thing passes muster at what is thought to be one of the best news agencies in the world.  Just absolutely bizarre and shocking, except it is also of a piece with their clumsy editorial policy of cowardice.

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