Thursday, May 12, 2016

Advertising and Importation: Shouts, Signs, Slaves, and Semites

It used to be considered undignified and crude to advertise, because advertising meant you were trying to steal someone else's customers. The German butcher, Russian physician, British blacksmith, or French pâtissier may have hung a shingle, but they simply did not pay migrants to wave signs at crowded intersections, hand out fliers, or call during dinner.

For centuries, communal life in these places was organized around family and community relationships, word-of-mouth, and--stunningly, to those of us still here--honest appraisals of quality work, rather than capitalistic puffery, pictures of attractive women using your products, or (modern) pictures of attractive women using your products while married to clean-cut brown men. Longstanding tradition protected Europe and Russia from garish advertising, ensuring that anyone who tried to trumpet his products or services--particularly at the expense of other businessmen--would be considered crass, untrustworthy, desperate, and likely to be offering shoddy wares in pursuit of a quick profit, rather than offering a rich communal service that would bolster everyone's well being and pass knowledge and quality craftsmanship onto further generations.

America changed that. While retaining its European mores at its inception, the Semitic slavers' cooperatively brutal and unwanted importation of African cargo under the name of their murder god, began to break down the culture that had transferred to the new continent. At the slave markets--closed on Saturdays, but not Sundays, in recognition of their founders' and operators' culture--garish advertising and outlandish claims became commonplace. We read old slave ads now, and think of them as "hokey," assuming that, "Yeah, everyone sort of tries to build up what they're selling," but that actually wasn't how most business used to be done, since close-knit communities quickly discovered and punished those who didn't actually bake good pies or smith good blades. There's no point in advertising when everyone already knows your work; advertising is for the transient showman or the absentee owner. Human trafficking permitted the ugly side of advertising to become commonplace, on behalf of the tiny percentage of Americans who nominally owned slaves, and the international financiers--like Judah Benjamin--who actually owned and managed the system behind interchangeable fronts like Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, or Angela Merkel.

After the American Civil War but before the Holodomor, communities of Jews from Russia and Europe began immigrating to America in larger groups, and began using slave-market-style advertising to draw attention to non-slave businesses. Poor street children created by nascent megacities were beat into service as hawkers (see Dickens' Oliver Twist for the British pickpocket version), screaming about ale or newspapers or beef, and mass printing trashy garbage as "news" in order to encourage people to ignore one another, accept reality from news corporations, and ingest prodigious quantities of advertising as part of the process of being "informed." We're obscene; we're vulgar; and, there is no other way to live, because if you're among the unconnected and you don't advertise yourself with a puffed-up résumé, you'll go under. Lost in the shuffle, like the one Chinese restaurant that doesn't scar the roadway with distracting signs or fell redwoods to send out forty thousand "specials" fliers per week.

Of course, if other people advertise and you don't, you go out of business, so the advertising arms race began to take over New York and the rest of America. That's how America became such a commercial powerhouse: because its newer culture was more susceptible to change, crude and intrusive advertising found a foothold there, which was then used against Europe, forcing it, too, to change. And so, KFC pillages Japan, Marlboro poisons South America, and the concept of shame seems absent and outdated.

That's it. That's the point at which it happened; the point at which employment, profession, shopping, getting the mail, trying to sit down to a quiet supper with family, were violated, inundated, and profaned. Spam fills the inbox, pastors call the elderly, and time-outs ruin the game. The wandering grazier's bazaar replaced the farmer's township, if you will. Advertisers rely on advertising and emotions, not product quality and results, ergo it becomes more effective to mass produce the same low quality products. In acknowledging the damage wrought by advertising, we should not, of course, curse the benefits of industry or the efficiency of standardized goods. Rather, we should recognize that the benefits are often great, often wretched. A $500 mass-produced computer may help a plumber, who charges $60/hr., complete his yearly billing paperwork in 10 hours instead of in 20--benefit. If, though, the $500 computer necessitates 13 hours of hold time with an Indian support specialist, it becomes prohibitively expensive. The knife of efficiency cuts both ways, revealing opportunity costs which invisibly neuter many of the benefits of the factory system. Advertising helps disguise that process, simplifying it to the level of saber-rattling free-trade Democrat v. saber-rattling free-trade Republican, and suggesting that an aversion to Microsoft customer service must mean you want to use an abacus instead. Such deliberate lies--such advertisements--were what the older system was good at avoiding.

That replacement brought with it everything else that you hate. The iconicization of the landscape, the standardization of the product, the "greet every customer with a smile," the minimall, the same Old Navy with the same shirt on the same mannequin next to the same Apple Store in the same high end development in the same exurban gehenna busily metastasizing across the flesh of the still-moving revenant.


  1. That's a tasty drink, bartender. Powerful too, from the immediate hit I'm feeling. What do you call it?

  2. Otherwise, I think I get the essence, but give me a thumb direction here:

    You're saying that advertisement & marketing are designed to help the inferior product gain more sales and displace the superior product through chicanery, clever word-play, and appeals to people's insecurities and need to feel they are part of social progress through the items they buy?

    1. Nincompoop, you completely missed the point--the point was, it was, that advertising is primarily designed to lure a person into an atomized, gravelike existence, making them focus hell, new post.


    2. I'm well used to missing the point, it's beyond habit and probably genetic.