Caveat Emptor

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

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.