It seems more often than not that columnists produce material by denouncing the things that infuriate them. Being in a generally cheerful mood, I was just beginning to write a good-natured column about the holidays when I realized what infuriates me beyond all else: public relations. I’m sure many before me have grown tired of the phenomenon so if I’m not the first to express my disgust, I apologize for the redundancy and hope that my vented angst will provide more interesting reading than another dose of holiday stuff.
I can’t seem to think of a single area of life in America that has not deteriorated as a result of the pervasive emphasis on public relations. Schools care more about maintaining test statistics than expanding their curriculum, politicians align their powerful financial backers before considering constituents, and universities care more about legal liability than human life. It’s as if every significant social change becomes a shiny, waxed apple, enticing until you bite into the taste of paper and used candles.
Even the food available at the grocery store can attribute its poor quality to public relations. As soon as World War II started, a large complex of non-perishable processed food producers had arisen to feed American soldiers. After the war ended, the companies launched huge advertising campaigns to persuade civilians to buy the food, but met with little success. One big breakthrough for their public relations campaign was achieved through making cake mix that only needed an egg added. Originally, the mixes were sold in ready-made batter, but leaving the egg out filled a homemaker’s psychological need to contribute to the baking. Demand was adjusted instead of adjusting to demand.
That’s the thing about successful PR campaigns: They employ psychologists to design the hypnosis to get you craving what you don’t even want, most often with misleading promises. It’s the same with presidents. Nobody cares what a presidential candidate can feasibly do for the public, only what age group he can appeal to with what banter. Politicians and political pundits don’t even get called out on their nonsense anymore. Anyone that disagrees with one opinion is automatically lumped in the opposite category, and anyone that disagrees with both options is ignored. It’s like we’re repeatedly getting sold a wrestling match with two lame contestants (I know I don’t want that).
So that’s how we get incessant TV news specials about what the president will do for the economy, never mentioning the lack of control that the president has on the economy (despite projecting confidence). Congress gave the power to control money circulation and by extension value to the Federal Reserve in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson received campaign support for promising to sign the bill into effect and it was pushed through Congress on a holiday. Unfortunately, this fact won’t stop former President Bill Clinton from bragging, former President George W. Bush from blubbering, or President Obama from acting like he knows everything.
The truth is, even the bills “for the people,” such as healthcare, actually receive tremendous PR support from corporations in the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors. The lack of regulation of these companies had led to troubles of the present system, now we’re ready to have the rules rewritten to be even more favorable to them. To that end, passionate speeches are made in Congress, using the testimonial technique from commercials, and by the time the bandwagon effect sets in, the heavily-lobbying conglomerates are so happy with the legislation that they’ll contribute even more to their favorite politicians. Such money will be undoubtedly spent on getting re-elected (more PR).
We are repeatedly being sold ideas that make no sense. We fought World War II while U.S. Standard Oil fuel additives kept Nazi planes flying. We fought the Cold War in the ’50s, while the Rockefeller family of Standard Oil owned rights to half of Russia’s oil reserves. We’ve been in Afghanistan, while the CIA has funded one-third of the Taliban’s effort and donated millions to President Hamid Karzai’s brother. Now, we’re sending tens of thousands of soldiers to quell rebellion against a government we know is corrupt. I heard Obama’s strategic mentor, Zbigniew Brzezinski give a speech about this Afghanistan situation. Even he says it’s a bad idea, but Obama and his financial backers say they know better.
Without public relations, would there ever have been a bill introduced to invade a country that only represents a fraction of the nationalities of the Sept. 11 hijackers? I think the average American would have as much a desire to do so as to invade Sri Lanka.
However, when you hear about a devastating event on TV, and the nice people on the news say Afghanistan is to blame, I guess the least you can do is believe them, right?