The most evil profession goes by several different names. The most common, I think, are 'marketing', 'public relations', and 'perception management.'
These are three different names for "the practical science of deception." These people make it their job to fill your environment with lies with the intention of manipulating you into making choices that are not in your interest, because your poor choices will make their clients wealthier and more powerful. They do this because those clients promise to share their wealth and power with these hucksters of deceit.
In this profession, how well one does is directly proportional to how well the individual manipulates the tools of deceit and how willing one is to do so. A sure way to fail in this profession is to develop a moral conscience. Tell a client that you will not take his case because he is seeking to promote a lie that will make him wealthy and powerful at the expense of others, and he will find somebody else willing to take his money. The greatest masters of deceit with the least discerning conscience rise to the top.
Of course, there are a number of different people working in this field and they have different moral qualities. However, taken as a whole, those who have a concern with accuracy and honesty are clearly too few and too weak to have much of a voice
Does this sound harsh?
Harsh does not imply “factually incorrect”.
This posting is actually an extension of the posting a two days ago about the activities of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They have proved themselves willing to help energy companies act in ways that threaten serious damage to every coastal city for a share of the wealth and power the energy companies can accumulate.
This posting is also prompted by news stories in recent days of government agencies producing "video news releases." These are propaganda pieces that are made to have the appearance of a news segment. The organization that makes this video then distributes it to news stations, who then broadcast the propaganda piece as a part of their regular news broadcast. The whole piece has the look and feel of a neutral third party providing the viewer with information on this individual or organization, when it is in fact the individual or organization giving you information about itself.
One thing to note about this practice is that it is not new.
When I started to participate in political campaigns, I found out that most newspaper articles about a political candidate were written by that candidate's staff. We would sit around a table and write something up that said, "Senate candidate John Smith today condemned the Opposing Party's call today for . . ." The press release was written in the third person, in a tone and manner that allowed it to simply go to the typesetter. These press releases would then appear in the newspaper as they were written.
Public relations companies are, among other things, experts at writing press releases. One of their jobs is to create press releases and other materials that appear to be written by neutral third parties and to get those pieces in the press.
This system is not hidden. Go to the web site of any company, large organization, or political candidate and you will find a set of "press releases." Press releases are, by definition, articles written by organizations and candidates in the third person so that they can appear in "objective" media outlets as written.
Public relations companies are, among other things, experts in the art of creating press releases. It is only natural that they would extend this practice to video news releases as well.
However, I want to make here that, even though there is precedent in the print media for this type of deception, this does not make it right. We cannot build a moral defense of slavery on that institution’s long history, or even the fact that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (among others) owned slaves. Rather, the moral condemnation of the video news release applies to the print news release as well, regardless of how long it has been around.
This practice of generating propaganda that has the look and feel of a third-party ‘objective’ product extends into other realms as well. In fact, an event that precipitated my writing this blog involved watching a documentary on global warming on the Discovery Channel. The documentary was clearly written and produced by global warming denialists who wanted to give their propaganda an appearance of scientific legitimacy. The pure evil of this campaign of deception gave me a strong shove into writing a blog where I could show just how evil these types of people are.
More generally, this concerns a practice of creating advertisements that have the look and feel of condemnation a long tradition A long tradition of slavery is not a moral defense of that iAttention iMore generally, they are experts in creating material that appears to be objective whose intention is to get better wealth and power for their client by manipulating the viewer.
Video news releases are nothing more than a video form of the press release.
Another example of this science of deception was one of the motivating factors behind my starting this blog. I watched a show on the Science Channel on global warming. One would expect that the Science Channel would present good science. Instead, this show was clearly the product of global-warming deniers with as much scientific merit as your average tarot card reading. No peer-review by the scientific community would have cleared this piece of trash. Yet, here it was, appearing on my television, a 60 minute 'infomercial' for energy-company disinformation appearing as a legitimate science documentary.
Here was an example of a multi-million dollar project to manipulate people in ways that would prevent them from protecting their lives, health, and property from a real threat because convincing us to sit on our hands and do nothing would mean billions of dollars in profit for their client.
These masters of the science of deception kept the tobacco companies making billions of dollars by hooking one generation after another on a drug that would ruin their health and take the lives of many of them. There is a great deal of moral condemnation that we can give to those who kill for a profit, but no less goes to those whose job it is to market these products to those who will use them and die.
These masters of the science of deception sell people "natural remedies" that, at best, do nothing for the individual and, at worse, actually do real harm -- because convincing people in ways that sacrifice their health makes money for their clients.
These masters of the science of deception toss us into a soup of fear and confusion where we are told that the only way out is an invasion of Iraq -- because a war with Iraq means billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to individuals and companies who paid good money to get their people elected (through yet another campaign of deception that portrayed President Bush as a uniter, not a divider, and as a decent and moral individual).
This is, in fact, a science of deception.
This is the way the industry works. A company decides that it wants the people to promote a lie, because getting the people to accept this lie will make their clients wealthier and more powerful. To do this, they first have a brainstorming session where they come up with a number of theories about which lies would be most readily accepted. They then design experiments – polls, focus groups, and other tests – to determine which of their hypothetical lies would be most readily accepted. They conduct their experiments. Then, they pick the scientifically tested and approved best lies to release on the people of the world.
As a result, we find ourselves up to our neck in a muck of deception and fiction, designed, tested, and funded because of its ability to cause us to make bad choices that make other people rich and powerful.
The reason we find ourselves in this situation is because we create a culture that rewards masters of the art of deception – and those who employ them – with wealth and power rather than with the contempt-driven condemnation they deserve.
What we should be doing is identifying these masters of the science of deception wherever they are, exposing them, and treating them, socially if not legally, like we would sexual predators or neighborhood drug pushers.
The most important thing we need to do is to keep them away from our children, warn our children of their existence, and warn our children that people who grow up to do such things are despicable and evil and, “I cannot be proud of you if you take up or participate in that type of life.”
People who devote their lives to that which makes others worse off, by surrounding them with deception that seeks to fog their judgment, deserve just this type of condemnation.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Hume's Ghost for raising this issue.