Friday, September 17, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 109: Answering the Marlboro Man mentality

Occasionally, Wikipedia hits the nail solidly on the head.

In describing the Marlboro man ad campaign from the 1950's on, it did just that:

>> Philip Morris & Co. (now Altria) had originally introduced the Marlboro brand as a woman's cigarette in 1924. Starting in the early 1950s, the cigarette industry began to focus on promoting filtered cigarettes, as a response to the emerging scientific data about harmful effects of smoking. Marlboro, as well as other brands, started to be sold with filters. However, filtered cigarettes, Marlboro in particular, were considered to be women’s cigarettes.[2] Advertising executive Leo Burnett was looking for a new image with which to reinvent Philip Morris's Marlboro brand to appeal to a mass market. In particular, Philip Morris felt that the prime market was “post adolescent kids who were just beginning to smoke as a way of declaring their independence from their parents.” [3] 

Most filtered cigarette advertising sought to make claims about the technology behind the filter. Through the use of complex terminology and scientific claims regarding the filter, the cigarette industry wanted to ease fears about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking through risk reduction. However, Leo Burnett decided to address the growing fears through an entirely different matter; creating ads completely void of health concerns or health claims of the filtered cigarette. Burnett felt that making claims about the effectiveness of filters furthered concerns of the long term effects of smoking. Thus, refusing to respond to health claims matched the emergent, masculine image of the New Marlboro . . . .

The New Marlboro not only innovated cigarette advertising, but advertising on the whole through its use of image to convey meaning. Since the inception of major advertising campaigns, advertisers felt the need to explain the product as a way of introduction or as a reminder. Advertisements went to great lengths to explain why to choose their particular brand and were particularly wordy. In the Marlboro Man advertisements, the imagery spoke for itself, and the brand was redesigned to have a “personality and a reason for being,” according to Burnett.  >>

Thus was our era born -- our era in which image, impression, and induced emotions so often substitute for substance.

How sadly ironic is it, then, to have to note with Wikipedia that:
. . . Three men who appeared in Marlboro advertisements - Wayne McLaren, David McLean and Dick Hammer - all died of lung cancer, thus earning Marlboro cigarettes, specifically Marlboro Reds, the nickname "Cowboy killers".

 So, we see the telling force of Aristotle's remark in his The Rhetoric, Bk I Ch 2:
Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible . . . Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile . . . Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question . . . . [The Rhetoric, Book I, Ch. 2]

Of these three, emotions driven by our impressions and perceptions are clearly the most persuasive; as they exploit how things seem to be to us. However, our mere strength of feelings or perceptions are no stronger than the underlying accuracy of the judgements they are rooted in. Similarly, no authority, expert or witness is any better than his or her facts, assumptions and reasoning. So, it is only when the claimed facts are so, fairly represent the truth, and are linked to good reasoning, that a conclusion will be well warranted.  

Thus, we easily see the vital importance of focussing on substance, not image and impression.

But also,  there are a couple of interesting twists to the Marlboro Man story.

First, as Sports Illustrated noted in a January 1977 story, the original Marlboro Man -- astonishingly --  is indeed a real-life cowboy, not a model posing as a cowboy:
It is a good face. It is authentic. So is the scenery, the cattle; so are the horses. But that doesn't mean you think for one minute that the owner of this good face is a cowboy. The Marlboro Man? Come on. He would be too rich by now, for one thing. Authenticity is something you find by taking pictures of about 1,000 models in that cowboy getup and asking about 1,000 housewives which model has it. If the Marlboro Man were a cowboy, that would be truly ironic.
If Darrell Winfield could just hear you. "How you do go on," he would say. Winfield is in the cow town of Pinedale, Wyo. for several unironic, quite coherent reasons. He used to live here, before he bought 40 acres over north at Riverton, 165 miles away, so he is here, for one thing, to see old friends. He is here to deliver two horses that he sold the day before yesterday in Riverton. And, primarily, he is here to rope steers in the rodeo.

When we turn to the originator of the campaign, Leo Burnett (who also created the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger), we learn that he . . .
followed Walter Lippman's philosophy of creating an image around the product. Until his time, advertising centered on long text descriptions of the product, with detailed arguments as to why it was better than competing products.
Burnett concentrated on style, creating icons as a symbol of the product. He stressed that the creator of an ad needed to somehow capture and reflect what he called the "inherent drama" of the product.
So, there is a measure of validity to identifying a visually powerful icon, that then becomes the pivot of a short, moving, authentic drama that tells the central message or story of the product, idea, or whatever that is being promoted. Indeed, as we look at the key role in our culture played by Bible stories like David and Goliath or the parable of the Good Samaritan, we can see how this has been understood for thousands of years.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a powerfully moving image and story.

Except, that such can be used to mislead and manipulate; whether by outright lies, or by telling half the story, or by inviting the listener to see things in a twisted way, leading him or her to draw unwarranted and biased inferences.

Which, we must never do.

The apostle Paul therefore lays out a challenging standard for the ethics of information and persuasion:
2 Cor 2:2 . . .  we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. [NIV]
2 Cor 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, 5 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) . . . .
Col. 2:3 In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden. 4 I say this in order that no one may mislead and delude you by plausible and persuasive and attractive arguments and beguiling speech . . .  [AMP]

A tough challenge, but one we must measure up to. END


FOOTNOTE: An interesting e-mail response reads:
Very timely, thanks for this. The way the media portrays its images these days in indeed very beguiling and deceptive. I also noticed that by relying on images to appeal to emotion rather than relaying what is actually good about the product, anything could be portrayed as ''good'' no matter what it actually was. Just show a few popular or influential people using it or create a fictitious one and you're sold. Also it seems by relying on the image to emotion technique more than arguing for the ''superiority'' of the subject Leo Burnett was also able to take on its clients competitors. Unlike ads of the past it no longer had to create ads that pitted competitors against each other. i.e representing Marlboro, Miller Light and Benson and Hedges??!

When you highlighted the use of imagery tell the story as with the Good Samaritan and, David and Goliath, this reminded me of an insight God gave me when I was questioning some advice several influential persons in my life had given me. It was that - a Principle used outside of its true purpose creates a subsystem of dominance and control.

This is what has been achieved with porn, fashion, food and much of modern day advertising. We no longer think critically,  but are almost hypnotised through our eyes into believing what is presented to us. And by simply using imagery without making any direct claims - good or bad, the advertiser abdicates himself from any form of direct responsibility.

A seeming stroke of genius on the surface but deception underneath.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 108: The marketing of evil and the porn-perversion agenda

In recent weeks, there has been a headlined constitutional crisis here in Montserrat, where there have been serious questions about a draft developed based on a Foreign and Commonwealth Office standard draft for UK overseas territories [what colonies are now called].

As I reflected on the crisis, one point that struck my attention was the phrasing in Section 9 of the earlier drafts that would have slyly imposed so-called same-sex marriage as a claimed basic human right; by implication rather than in any straightforward way. 

(Somehow, this was overlooked for several years, but once it was spotlighted, it was promptly changed, then the FCO experts insisted on a "fair exchange": sexual orientation was to be inserted as a specifically protected class in the anti-discrimination Section, 15. When the May 12 redraft appeared here, it was also written right into Section 1 on fundamental rights, as in fact the second listed item!)

Sexual orientation is a key term: it is not a legal word, but is a psychological description that ranges into all sorts of aspects of what used to be called abnormal psychology.

But now, increasingly, acceptance of "anything goes" amorality on sexual matters seems to be the accepted thing here in the Caribbean and in the wider world. 

Q: Why is that?

A: Kupelian's Marketing of Evil Strategy in action:
1 --> Desensitise to evil (benumb the conscience) by gradually increasing exposure and through glamourisation, making the abnormal, disordered, bizarre and destructive appear to be sympathetic, acceptable or even normal and even attractive behaviour. Once the proverbial camel's nose is admitted under the tent, pretty soon, the whole beast will be inside; and the former owner of the tent will be shivering out in the dark, cold night.

2 --> Jam out the messages of those who make objections, by using the classic trifecta rhetorical/propaganda strategy: distract attention from inconvenient truth through red herrings led away to strawman caricatures soaked in slanderous and often cruel ad hominems. Ignite to cloud, choke, and poison the atmosphere, polarising the community against objectors, now increasingly perceived as evil kill-joy hypocrites and threats to "freedom." (It helps to muddy the waters by conflating liberty with license.)

3 --> Convert a critical mass into tolerators, supporters and even advocates, by exploiting the perceived moral high ground captured in phases 1 & 2, so that evil is rationalised as if it were acceptable or even good.
When this is laid out in cold hard terms, it sounds ruthless and mechanical.

Ruthless it certainly is, but it is not mechanical at all; the desensitisation- jamming- conversion strategy works by so framing issues, ideas, alternatives, views and people that our emotions and impressions pull us to support what we would not otherwise wish to support. And if inhaling smoke from shredded leaves wrapped in paper that at first cause us to get sick can be successfully marketed as a mark of glamour, coming of age and "cool" iconic Marlboro Man manhood -- then, sustained for decades in the face of mounting evidence of the deadly diseases that smoking causes --  almost anything can be "sold" to us.

To see what that means practically, let us explore how a tidal wave of porn has been used to help pave the way for sexual orientation amorality, and for the acceptance of a radical redefinition of marriage to include the notion that a man can marry another man, or a woman another woman.

Let's put a face on the process (by virtue of fair use):

This lovely, fresh-faced smiling young miss (I gather she was precisely 18 at the time of this picture [and, no, I will NOT link the source that gives the context of that carefully cropped image . . . ]) would pass for the girl next door, and any young man would love to take such a beautiful young lady out on a date.

In fact, she is a rising "porn star."

The above image is a posed shot of her engaging in a lesbian sexual act, with details fully exposed. 

(NB: The accompanying videos make it very plain that she is not just posing, but indulges for fun and profit in a wide range of on-camera sex acts with her "toys" [Betty Dodson's "self-love"], her girl friends [Dr Dodson's "partner sex" does not distinguish men/women or women/women] and her boy friends [in that order].  The girl friends also have linked sites. In these sites, some pictures and videos are accessible as free samples, and others on a subscription basis, i.e. the public are invited to become regular viewers of the ongoing addictive  story of the increasingly raunchy sexual adventures of this circle of porn actresses and their support men. [Of course, this is taking the stories at face value; the "stars" could be being manipulated, or even abused, given what evidently happened to Linda Lovelace. Cf this sobering report, also. In the video evidence this girl was crying out in Spanish; which I find a suspicious contrast to the slick, fluently English web site. She may well be an exploited Mexican illegal. Porn is NOT a victimless crime. This story tells us how the two narratives: rising star vs exploited teen so often conflict; given the balance of power in the situation, I usually believe the victims. Sometimes, even when they actually are "entrepreneurs." If you still doubt me, cf. here.])

The slick marketing storyline, however, is a clear case of desensitisation in action. 

There is now a rising flood of free -- much of it amateur [or pseudo-amateur] -- Internet pornography, just a simple Google search away. All you have to do is make a simple mistake in a search and the links to the most graphic, "hard core" porn sites will start to come up. 

Thus, we are being lured into a world of graphical, aural and verbal stimulation, designed to pull us into an addiction to not only watching but participating in anything-goes action, and to eventually join the fun by (a) taking and posting public pictures of your "equipment" or adventures, or even (b) advertising in pop-ups on the same sites. And, since it is fairly easy to identify the location of a given PC on the net, even in very small territories, (c) invites will pop up for LOCALLY available, willing "partners."

Beyond such sites, cable TV channels, especially movie channels later at night -- and "later" is gradually getting earlier -- somewhat less graphic but just as addictive soft-core materials are visible, just click the remote control. Comedies now must have their homosexual characters, who are uniformly portrayed in a sympathetic or approving way. Even family-friendly time is now increasingly raunchy.

In this context, the various physically possible pairings and acts are portrayed as though they were morally equivalent. 

Indeed, astonishingly, anal penetration -- the prime cause of the rapid spreading of AIDs in the early 1980's --  is making a "comeback" as an exotic "treat"! 

(And the role of oral sex acts in spreading Herpes etc.  is neatly omitted. One finds no health warning labels on these sites. To see the significance of this, contrast every box of cigarettes you inspect in those shops that still have them. [Cigarettes were identified as a hazard, and they were sponsored by those big, evil tobacco companies. So, a morally tinged campaign was carried out against cigarettes over decades, until now they are increasingly rare and even prohibited. The dramatic contrast to porn is plainly no coincidence.])

The value of reserving sex for committed marriage is simply dismissed as ridiculous, or is even ignored as though that is so outdated it  can be simply put out of our minds. 

As to virginity, the issue is how to get rid of it in the least embarrassing way, not how to treasure it as a commitment of honour and virtue. 

In the resulting context of increasingly widespread porn and sex addictions, leading to benumbed consciences, it then seems increasingly plausible to appeal to our emotions to call for the "rights" of those who just want to "partner" a bit differently, for fun -- sex is now the most popular "body-contact sport" --or for "love."

The punchline: Who could object to such a pleasant young miss wanting a little AC/DC fun with her friends? Or, later on, "marrying" the one she "loves"? Even, if it happens to be another girl?

Try, Miss California . . .

All too soon, this example shows how those who do object can ever so easily be caricatured, slandered, rhetorically skewered and left writhing in emotional pain. 

"Serves those hypocrites right!"

Worse, with just about every cell phone having a camera and capability to text or send images etc, not to mention just about every PC, the pressure is on for amateurs to get into the action. 

For, our young  girls are now in direct competition with "glamorously" sexy and active "hot" porn stars like the one pictured. 

So, they are increasingly under pressure to "measure up" -- not only by becoming prematurely sexually active, but to do it digitally: circulating upskirt or down-blouse shots, or full nude shots and videos of self- or partner-love in action; including sexting on the cell phone as a part of keeping a boyfriend interested, when he could so easily click instead on a "hot zone" site and maybe hook up with the local live action advertised on the site in pop ups.  Often, when you pop over for a visit and a fun romp, the cameras will be rolling, sometimes with your knowledge; sometimes without your knowing it.

Inevitably, some of these titillating shots and videos then make the rounds in the local community. Then, some of the resulting pictures and amateur videos will make their way into the Internet's hot zone repositories, accelerating the floodtide of filth. 

And, frankly, filth it is.

Astonishingly, older women (up to and including grandmas!) are also being pulled into the trend. (This category is why Mrs Palin -- utterly inappropriately -- was often discussed during the 2008 US Presidential Campaign as a MILF.)

In that anything goes, besotted acidic morally toxic sexually addicted conscience-benumbed context, moral fibre breaks down, and the damage to individuals, marriages, families and the community is sharply discounted.

Then, we come to jamming by personal destruction.

For, if you speak out against what is going on -- as Ms Carrie Prejean did, but sometime, somewhere you did some glamour semi-nude [or worse] ""modelling" shots and maybe what you thought had been a private vid shared with a boy as an act of what you thought of as love, then it will all come out and be plastered all over the Internet. And, if the shaming materials were underage so the laws against child porn apply, that's no problem: "substitute" videos will be relabelled as the infamous video, and busybodies will develop and gleefully present cruel parodies  (as in this link) to mock, demean, shame, blackmail and discredit or silence you. And, if they can get in a blasphemous punch at God, the scriptures and the gospel while they are at it, they will.

You have just been jammed out, and will be forever tainted in the public mind.

For, slander and scandal work.  As any gossip can tell you.

However earnestly you may admit, publicly regret and turn from where you have gone wrong or acted foolishly,  and however staunchly you may object to the personal violation and trashing of important principles in favour of self- and socially- destructive folly and evil:

(This case is key, as the issue Ms. Prejean objected to was homosexualisation of marriage, in response to public probing questions by a homosexual advocate judging a beauty contest, live on television. That is how powerful and arrogant the homosexualist lobby now is.)
Pause: Girls, kindly think twice before pushing that record button or agreeing to pose for pictures or videos you may later have reason to regret.
So, we see how pornography and deviant sexual behaviours walk hand in hand and play a joint role in desensitising, jamming and converting the culture to moral anarchy. Which is now increasingly being embedded in law -- including Constitutional Law; right here in the Caribbean.

What a refreshing contrast do we find in Paul's letter to the Ephesians:
Eph 4:17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 

 20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness . . . .

Eph 5:1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
 3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.
 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: 
   "Wake up, O sleeper,
      rise from the dead,
   and Christ will shine on you."
 15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
 So, now let us expose and break the desensitising, jamming, conversion porn-perversion agenda, instead turning tho the good, the true, the virtuous and the right. And, let us pray for those enmeshed in the benumbing, endarkening destructive agendas that now stalk not just the wider world but our own region.

Before it is too late.

Why not now, why not here, why not us? END

Addendum, Dec 9th: I have just discovered the Manhattan Declaration. I strongly recommend reading it, at least in the summary version. Notice the balanced focus on life, marriage and liberty of conscience.  If you feel so led, please consider signing it. In my opinion, especially in the full form, it is excellently reasoned and expressed in a very carefully balanced way informed by the planks vs sawdust in eyes principle. It is comparable in historical significance to the Barmen Declaration of 1934; which denounced Fascist and similar forms of political messianism as idolatry.

Matt 24 watch, 107: Newt Gingrich's statement on the proposed Cordoba House "Ground Zero" Mosque

Over the weekend the following July 21st, 2010 statement by former US House of Representatives Speaker, Newt Gingrich (who is a professional historian by training) was brought to my attention twice. 

The statement is so important that I will link and cite it, highlighting key parts, then comment briefly:


There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. 

The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to "symbolize interfaith cooperation" when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.  It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom.   They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign. 

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years.  Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history. 

Finally where is the money coming from?  The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. 

America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. 

No mosque.

No self deception.

No surrender.

The time to take a stand is now - at this site on this issue.    >>
This superb statement exposes the many inconsistencies, hypocrisies and patent absurdities in the commonly promoted politically correct stance on IslamISM, its roots in foundational Islamic history and theology, and the challenge it poses for not only the wider world but also us here in the Caribbean.

We would do well to ponder on it carefully, even if we are disinclined to agree. 

(Ask yourself why you find it disagreeable, and then take time to explore the Quran, Surah 9 -- look closely at verses 5 and 29 ff -- and also this survey of foundational Islamic history here, noting remarks here and the declaration here on Islam the gospel and the Caribbean. A glance at the details at, especially the Nehls-Eric Book/course here (cf. their primer on controversies here), will provide references and background. Mr Gingrich, sadly, has his key facts correct. And, he quite justifiably skewers the many gaping inconsistencies in the commonly promoted views on the issue.)

It is sad that, nine years after the 9/11 attacks, many of us still struggle to get basic information on Islamism, Islam, the gospel, our region and the world straight. Not to mention, on a due and balanced response as individuals, as members of the Christian Faith tradition, and as citizens or -- most challengingly -- leaders of nations responsible to establish and protect the civil peace of justice. 

So, let us think, let us pray, let us love and commit ourselves to alertness and the civil peace of justice, and let us act resolutely. END