Month: November 2010

Feeding (and manipulating) the masses, part 1

Feeding (and manipulating) the masses, part 1 Some of the manipulation we’ve talked about in the past has been fairly innocuous – a larger nozzle for soap, or a manipulation of yellow light that switches faster than expected to catch speeders.  But manipulation can be a lot more… dangerous. Delicious milk. As an aside, you’d be surprised what a Google search for breast milk can turn up… Take the food supply, for example. Eating is fairly important for us humans, and when manipulations affect what we do (or do not eat), they can have serious ramifications. One of the seminal stories in that domain, of course, is the Nestle milk scandal. Nestle (and many other companies, but Nestle was the largest, and quickly became the lightning rod for the issue as a whole) sells baby milk formula. This is not an easy product to sell, if you think about it – it’s a product that most mothers sort of make on their own when they become mothers.  But Nestle and a number of other companies did make it, and in the 1970s they started to give serious thought as to how to best sell it. In the Western world, manufacturers had managed to get a significant proportion of women off breastfeeding and onto formula, but the numbers had started to stagnate, and there were some disturbing hints of reversal...

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The Power of Narrative, Part 1

Sorry for the delayed post – the elections are always a busy time for me! Which brings me to today’s question – how are elections like the game of squash? The traditional answer is that the winner, in both cases, tends to be the one who does the fewest mistakes as opposed to the boldest player. But in today’s media saturated elections, it’s not obvious what really is a mistake… that’s how media manipulation works. Let’s take some examples. Remember him? Before he was a professor, he was actually a vice-presidential candidate. No, really. During the 2001 election, he lost the presidential race to George Bush. One of the milestones of that campaign was the famous “I invented the internet”  remark that Gore made. That statement was picked up by every media outlet, every late night comedian, every blog (well, the two or three blogs that were around back then) and contributed to building Gore’s image as a slightly out-of-touch, arrogant politician. Even today, most people who dislike Ol’ Al will remember that remark smugly. The problem is, that, he kind of did. First of all, Al Gore didn’t actually say he invented the Internet. What he said, specifically, was that during his time in Congress, he “took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven...

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