Bruce Bisset: Critical thinking enemy of market

By Bruce Bisset

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Seems to me we are all involved in a war every bit as deadly as a Middle Eastern battlefield. It is a war for control of what and why and how we think and, thanks to its not-so-secret weapon, marketing, it's a war we are currently losing.

Call it propaganda, call it advertising, call it, even, "face", but modern marketing is the ultimate weapon when it comes to deciding what we believe and accept as truth.

Yes, "truth" is itself a moveable feast, but that's what makes good marketing so efficiently persuasive. You can propose any concept and get it widely accepted by society so long as you market it correctly.

That this is more so now than at any time in the past is because we have entered a post-Orwellian age; aided and abetted by the marketing of habit over rationale and convenience over substance, we have been educated not to think but to react.

Simply stop to consider that in general the product and/or the brand is more important than its composition or quality or durability or the circumstances in which it was made, and you will see what I mean.

We are reacting to an image, not a reality. To an implanted perception, not a verified actuality.

The medium is the message. That doesn't make it true.

Examples of this phenomena abound. In every form, every way, every day.

In the food we eat: A study in the US shows schoolchildren choose to buy between 66 and 99 per cent more carrots or broccoli or green beans with their lunch if the vegetables are simply renamed with catchy child-attracting phrases, such as "X-ray vision carrots" or "tiny tasty tree tops".

In the Kim Dotcom saga: The FBI labels him a dangerous felon and our entire national security apparatus jumps to break a dozen laws in hauling the guy to prison while the PM denies any knowledge of anything and is apparently believed because his image, like the FBI's mana, is a smooth piece of marketing.

In religion: Muslims literally give their lives away in protest over some third-rate piece of offensive garbage that only a handful of people in the world have seen in its entirety, more because it happened to be filmed in the US and their imams beat the Great Satan conspiracy drum than any other reason.

In project management: The supposedly-public Ruataniwha water storage scheme gets glowing vested-interest support without full-detailed disclosure of its true costs or how many farmers will actually be able to afford to sign on, yet on the basis of unsubstantiated perceived economic benefit - and we don't even know who will own it.

In local government: Amalgamation is sold as somehow cutting costs (and by presumption, rates) when any number of examples already exist to show this either does not happen or has no effect on rates. Whereas the effect on democratic choice is both substantial and disempowering.

In the so-called "war on terrorism": One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, and unless you are on the ground, and part of the culture, and understand inherently the perspectives of the participants, you cannot hope to draw those lines with certainty.

Yet through the blur of interpretation that is the bias of the mass media, we do.

And so on, and on, and on.

In this increasingly fast-paced techno-centric civilisation, we believe there is too much data and too little spare time for the average person to usefully afford to sift through the screeds to try to deduce the truth behind anything.

So our inclination is to instead simply accept what we are told, especially if it fits with our underlying "safe" habitual mindset.

It's a perfect market for the thought-police. We are sold lies as truth, or equally truth as lies, depending on who benefits for what purpose, and which it is we are expected to believe to fit that purpose.

In short, we are being told what and how to believe; and believe we do, absolving ourselves for not questioning because modern life somehow "gets in the way".

It's a cop-out of mass proportions and that, too, is exactly what the marketers of make-believe want you to think.

That it's all too hard. When actually, it's really easy. You just have to question.

That's the right of it. See?

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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