From Iceland — On Advertisement

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Published June 29, 2007

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Not all the dope this nation swallows is narcotic. Nowadays, we are all relentlessly force-fed an anaesthetic, the effects of which dwarf the blunting influence of any opium; advertising is the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to strip it of its sense and capital. It is the fine art of making you think that all your life you have longed for something which you have never heard of before. It tells you which luxuries you can not live without and the drowsiness of its sensual-lullaby affects you in such a way that if you listen to a bank commercial long enough you will start to believe you can borrow yourself out of debt.
Joseph Goebbels was the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany and played a large role in creating new anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi material for the party. He was in charge of a propaganda machine which reached all the way down to branch level and followed a simple guideline: ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it’. He knew that when people believe something which has not sprung from the lap of logic, no logical argument can rid them of the dogma established; they will think dogmatically, speak dogmatically, listen dogmatically, see dogmatically, smell dogmatically and taste dogmatically – and, sadly, it usually takes a titanic social catastrophe to shatter such a test-tube belief-system.
The American Edward Bernays is generally regarded as the founder of Public Relations. In describing the origin of the profession, Bernays commented: ‘After the war […] ‘propaganda’ got to be a bad word because of the way the Germans had used it. So I tried to find some other words and found the words Council on Public Relations.’
Every Public Relations Manager has mastered Goebbels’ art of brain-washing – but under a different title; just as you can programme a nation to hate the Jewish race you can make people believe that ‘Happiness’ can be found inside a Pepsi-can, that ‘Safety’ can be bought from an insurance-company, and that a bank ‘Loves’ football. One day light bulbs will hate watermelons and, who knows, cardboard-boxes might acquire a prestigious taste in South-American literature. As a nation we suffer from a schizophrenic double pull: Iceland fights for her life but business must fight for profits. You can not open a newspaper or magazine anymore without seeing two contradictory processes happening side by side. On the very same page, you will see the government urging you to save and the seller of some useless luxury urging you to spend. Do you, dear reader, realize we are living in a time when almost everybody reads a newspaper and the only things they believe are the advertisements? – and there is no ‘Caveat Emptor’ anywhere to be seen or heard. A few days ago, Iceland’s National Broadcasting Company – which supposedly serves as the national safeguard of culture and education – aired the documentary The Truth About Climate Change, by Sir David Attenborough, which stressed that over-consumption is the prime cause for our planet’s greatest social and ecological problems. Moments after it ended, there was a commercial break in which the nation was urged to consume like never before.
But what is to be done? Deleuze and Guattari pointed out that as capitalism decodes and deterritorializes, it reaches a limit at which point it must artificially reterritorialize by expanding the state apparatus and repressive bureaucratic and symbolic regimes. The nomad and independent thinker, however, never reaches such a limit and resists this reterritorialization. Years earlier, Jack Kerouac had simplified the same thought in an infamous declaration: ‘Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of the rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy ones. We see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.’ Steve Jobs later made use of this exact fragment in the ‘Think Different’ Apple-computer propaganda campaign… How about that Jack?

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Enough. Stop. Now.

Enough. Stop. Now.


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