Caveat Emptor

Monday, 24 May 2010

There are endless things we can and have learned from nature that have daily, practical application in our lives. Velcro was invented by a guy who took a close look at the burrs that stuck to his dog’s fur. It wasn’t given to us by Vulcans. I’m sure my mom has a special place in her heart for those things, since there were innumerable times that my socks went through the wash completely covered in them. Velcro is useful, and it is kind of difficult to figure out how it could be misused.

Marketing, on the other hand, is something that nature has ingrained into us, and learning to use it as a tool for just about any job means it gets misused all the time. The most blatant form of nature’s marketing is used for sexual selection. Think peacocks, or Irish Elk. Pretty harmless, specifically targeted marketing. That easily explains the marketing phrase “sex sells.” Properly marketed, you can sell anything. With products, this has been age old; there were hucksters selling snake-​oil and hoof grease to dirt-​farmers in Ur. I’m sure the marketing of ideas dates to antiquity as well, but the proliferation of communication in the information age compounds this into a serious problem.

With proper marketing, you can sell any idea. There’s a sucker born every minute. What sucks about the suckers is that they’re more likely to believe the hype than due the diligence. So you can sell creationism, fascism, racism, and that Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslin and folks will take the good marketing as gospel. It’s Colbert’s truthiness. Facts are hard things, and thinking requires thought. Since we’re hard-​wired by nature to buy good marketing, it’s easier to buy intellectual snake oil (especially when it goes with our preconceptions) than put forth the effort to test facts for scratch, indentation and rebound hardness.

Caveat emptor, and if you don’t, God help the rest of us.

Obama Lexicon

Friday, 8 January 2010

I’ve noticed that Obama’s stock turns of phrase appear more and more often on blogs and coming from statements from other folks all over the place. To document, these are:

  • Let’s be clear
  • Make no mistake

I don’t believe this is confirmation bias. They’re used in the same rhetorical contexts, for the most part. It’s a subconscious sign that the person speaking or writing has a deep respect for (and very likely looks up to) the President.

Personally, I like it when he talks about teachable moments, when he’s dealing with thorny but morally important issues. I don’t know that I always agree with what he defines as a teachable moment, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment that there are times when it is important to learn a lesson, and to let the moment teach that lesson to you. Your reaction to that moment provides something you can teach yourself, and then others. It’s a good mechanism for thoughtful living.