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Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 3

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 15, 2012

Part 3 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti examines assumptions about what is and is not healthy. He also looks at how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed ‘healthy foods’ such as muesli and juices, both of which can be high in sugar.

He speaks with Simon Wright, an ‘organic consultant’ for Sainsbury’s in the 1990s, who explains how the food industry cashed in on the public’s concerns around salmonella, BSE and GM crops. By 1999 the organic industry was worth over £605M, a rise of 232% within two years.

How did the mainstream food producers compete? Peretti speaks with Kath Dalmeny, former policy director at the Food Commission, who explains some of the marketing strategies used by mainstream food producers to keep our custom.

The programme also explores the impact of successive government initiatives and health campaigns, such as the proposal of ‘traffic light labelling’, the introduction of which the food industry lobbied hard against.

But in 2012, when we have an Olympic Games sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola, has anything changed?

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 2

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 14, 2012

Part 2 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of ‘supersizing’ changed our eating habits forever. How did we – once a nation of moderate eaters – start to want more?

Speaking to Mike Donahue, former McDonalds Vice President, Peretti explores the history behind the idea of supersizing. 40 years ago, McDonalds hired David Wallerstein, a former cinema manager who had introduced the idea of selling larger popcorn servings in his Chicago cinema. Wallerstein realised that people would eat more but they didn’t like the idea of appearing gluttonous by going back for seconds. By increasing the portion sizes and the cost, he could sell more food. In 1972, he introduced the idea to McDonalds and their first large fries went on sale.

By the 1980s, we were eating more – and eating more often. Perretti speaks with industry professionals to examine the story behind the introduction of value meals, king-size snacks and multi-buy promotions. How did the advertising industry encourage us to eat more often?

The programme also explores the developments in dietary advice – by 2003, the Chief Medical Officer was warning of an ‘obesity time bomb.’ Peretti speaks to obesity expert Professor Philip James, who made recommendations in his 1996 report that the food industry should cease targeting children in their advertisements. He also speaks with Professor Terry Wilkin, who led a pioneering study into childhood weight gain; and former Labour MP David Hinchliffe, who chaired the 2003 Parliamentary Select Committee on Health.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 1

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 12, 2012

From Introduction of BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Around the world, obesity levels are rising. More people are now overweight than undernourished. Two thirds of British adults are overweight and one in four of us is classified as obese. In the first of this three-part series, Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionising our eating habits, to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now.

Peretti travels to America to investigate the story of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener was championed in the US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary Earl Butz to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you don’t know when to stop.

Endocrinologist Robert Lustig was one of the first to recognise the dangers of HFCS but his findings were discredited at the time. Meanwhile a US Congress report blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing rise in cardio-vascular disease and the food industry responded with ranges of ‘low fat’, ‘heart healthy’ products in which the fat was removed – but the substitute was yet more sugar.

Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency. Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food outlets in Britain had quadrupled.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Deeply Captured Situation of Sugar

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 25, 2012

Mother Jones has a superb new article on the deeply captured situation of sugar.  It begins as follows:

ON A BRISK SPRING Tuesday in 1976, a pair of executives from the Sugar Association stepped up to the podium of a Chicago ballroom to accept the Oscar of the public relations world, the Silver Anvil award for excellence in “the forging of public opinion.” The trade group had recently pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in PR history. For nearly a decade, the sugar industry had been buffeted by crisis after crisis as the media and the public soured on sugar and scientists began to view it as a likely cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been called out by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had launched a review of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead. As John “JW” Tatem Jr. and Jack O’Connell Jr., the Sugar Association’s president and director of public relations, posed that day with their trophies, their smiles only hinted at the coup they’d just pulled off.

Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes. With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands, the association recruited a stable of medical and nutritional professionals to allay the public’s fears, brought snack and beverage companies into the fold, and bankrolled scientific papers that contributed to a “highly supportive” FDA ruling, which, the Silver Anvil application boasted, made it “unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years.”

The story of sugar, as Tatem told it, was one of a harmless product under attack by “opportunists dedicated to exploiting the consuming public.” Over the subsequent decades, it would be transformed from what the New York Times in 1977 had deemed “a villain in disguise” into a nutrient so seemingly innocuous that even the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association approved it as part of a healthy diet. Research on the suspected links between sugar and chronic disease largely ground to a halt by the late 1980s, and scientists came to view such pursuits as a career dead end. So effective were the Sugar Association’s efforts that, to this day, no consensus exists about sugar’s potential dangers. The industry’s PR campaign corresponded roughly with a significant rise in Americans’ consumption of “caloric sweeteners,” including table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This increase was accompanied, in turn, by a surge in the chronic diseases increasingly linked to sugar. Since 1970, obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled, while the incidence of diabetes has more than tripled.

Read the entire article and related items here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, History, Ideology, Life, Marketing, Public Relations | 1 Comment »

Racial Stereotyping and Alcohol

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 24, 2012

From Kansas City Infozine:

Accusations of racism accompanying the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent actions of Florida police are prevalent in the national media. Many are questioning the psychological motivations of everyone involved. Recent research by MU Professor of Psychological Sciences Bruce D. Bartholow has shown that consuming alcohol can lead to increased expression of racial bias. A new study by Bartholow and his colleague, Elena Stepanova of Florida Gulf Coast University, shows that simply being exposed to alcohol-related images can have similar effects, even when no alcohol is consumed.

“Simply seeing images of alcohol, but not drinking it, influences behaviors like racial bias on a subconscious level,” Bartholow said. “Walking by a bar or seeing an ad for beer could be enough to affect someone’s mindset. You don’t have to be aware of the effects for it to affect you.”

The recent study found that participants who had initially viewed a series of magazine ads for alcoholic beverages made more errors indicative of racial bias in a subsequent task than did others who had initially seen ads for non-alcoholic beverages, such as water or coffee.

Test participants were shown a series of ads for either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. They then completed a computerized task in which pictures of white and black men’s faces were shown for a split second, followed immediately by either a picture of a handgun or a tool. Numerous previous studies using this same task have shown that people often mistakenly identify tools as guns following presentation of a black face, a response pattern attributed to the effects of racial stereotypes. The fast pace of the experiment kept participants from thinking about their responses, which allowed the subconscious mind to control reactions.

In the real world, snap decisions in which one object is mistaken for another can be deadly.

“As for the Trayvon Martin case, it very much reminds me of the Amadou Diallo case in 1999, when an unarmed black individual was shot to death by New York City police officers,” Stepanova said. “Diallo was shot because officers claimed that they thought he pulled a gun, while in fact he reached for his wallet. The wallet was misconstrued as a gun by police officers.”

“Associations between blacks and guns, violence and criminal behavior played a role in Mr. Martin’s case,” Stepanova said. “Mr. Martin was essentially a victim of racial stereotypes that so many in our society hold, and that cost him his life.”

The results of Bartholow and Stepanova’s study don’t contend that every test participant was a racist, however.

“Even if people do their best to be open-minded, we are all aware of stereotypes,” Bartholow said. “Participants’ responses could have been due to associations they are aware of but don’t personally endorse. Also the results could be influenced by people’s ability to control their behaviors. A member of the KKK could hide his prejudice if he had good control of his responses.”

Analysis of the results showed people’s automatic, subconscious behaviors were most affected after seeing an alcohol ad, whereas earlier studies found actually drinking alcohol most influenced conscious, controlled reactions. Bartholow suggested the mental associations people have with the effects of drinking alcohol may have been what caused their increased expression of racial bias after seeing alcohol ads. Upon seeing alcohol, they subconsciously felt they could relax their inhibitions and allow their behaviors to be more influenced by stereotypes.

The study was led by Elena Stepanova, a post-doctoral fellow in Bartholow’s lab, now a professor of social and behavioral science at Florida Gulf Coast University. The study was published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Bartholow’s research focuses on basic aspects of social cognition as well as how social and environmental factors, along with individual differences, contribute to alcohol involvement among young adults.

Related Situationist posts:

Image from Flickr.

Posted in Environment, Public Relations, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Bad Apologies

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 16, 2011

Topman has withdrawn the t-shirt pictured above (and another that suggested that women are dogs).

The shirt is intended to be humorous.  It would appear that Topman is attempting to point out  how apologies offered by batterers to their victims are often  disingenuous.  By adumbrating the standard set of meaningless apologies on a handy checklist to be worn on a shirt, Topman seems to be saying

“Ha ha guys!  We’ve all been there, right?.  You get carried away and, next thing you know, you are pummeling your girlfriend.  Then, of course, your girlfriend wants you to be all sorry and everything.   Recognize any of these excuses fellas?  lol!”

Whatever the interpretation, it seems clear that the shirt is trivializing (even condoning) domestic violence.

Now comes Topman’s (Facebook) apology:

“We have received some negative feedback regarding two of our printed T-shirts. Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning, we have made the decision to remove these from store and online as soon as possible. We would like to apologise to those who may have been offended by these designs.”

It seems that the public relations team behind that apology is engaging in the same sort of worthless apologizing depicted on the shirt itself.

In response, we have designed a t-shirt.

 

 

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Life, Marketing, Public Relations | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Big Tobacco still at it

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 6, 2011

From The Independent:

The world’s largest tobacco company is attempting to gain access to confidential information about British teenagers’ smoking habits.

Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is seeking to force a British university to reveal full details of its research involving confidential interviews with thousands of children aged between 11 and 16 about their attitudes towards smoking and cigarette packaging.

The demands from the tobacco company, made using the UK’s Freedom of Information law, have coincided with an internet hate campaign targeted at university researchers involved in smoking studies.

One of the academics has received anonymous abusive phone calls at her home at night. She believes they are prompted by an organised campaign by the tobacco industry to discredit her work, although there is no evidence that the cigarette companies are directly responsible. Philip Morris says it has a “legitimate interest” in the information, but researchers at Stirling University say that handing over highly sensitive data would be a gross breach of confidence that could jeopardise future studies.

The researchers also believe that the requests are having a chilling effect on co-operation with other academics who fear that sharing their own unpublished data with Stirling will lead to it being handed over to the tobacco industry.

Philip Morris International made its first Freedom of Information (FOI) request anonymously through a London law firm in September 2009. However, the Information Commissioner rejected the request on the grounds that that law firm, Clifford Chance, had to name its client.

Philip Morris then put in two further FOI requests under its own name seeking all of the raw data on which Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing has based its many studies on smoking knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in children and adults.

“They wanted everything we had ever done on this,” said Professor Gerard Hastings, the institute’s director.

“These are confidential comments about how youngsters feel about tobacco marketing. This is the sort of research that would get a tobacco company into trouble if it did it itself.” Professor Hastings added: “What is more, these kids have been reassured that only bona fide researchers will have access to their data. No way can Philip Morris fit into that definition.”

* * *

Cancer Research UK funded the Stirling research into the smoking behaviour of British teenagers in order to answer basic questions about why 85 per cent of adult smokers started smoking when they were children. The researchers at Stirling have built up an extensive database of interviews with 5,500 teenagers to analyse their attitudes to cigarette marketing, packaging and shop displays. “It is a big dataset now because we’ve been in the field several times talking to between 1,000 and 2,000 young people each time – going down to the age of 11 and up to the age of 16,” Professor Hastings said. “These kids are often saying things they don’t want their parents to know. It’s very sensitive.”

Asked what would happen if he lost the fight against Philip Morris, Professor Hastings said: “It would be catastrophic. I don’t think that’s an outcome I would like to contemplate. It is morally repugnant to give data confidentially shared with us by children to an industry that is so rapacious.”

Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at Stirling, said that other universities in Britain and abroad are following the case with trepidation: “Our colleagues in the community… will not be willing necessarily to hand over information.”

Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing consists of 15 full-time researchers and operates with an annual staff budget of £650,000. Philip Morris International employs 78,000 people and has an annual turnover of £27.2bn.

Professor Hastings said that Philip Morris’s demands have taken up large amounts of time and resources, diverting his department’s attention from its primary role of investigating smoking behaviour. “We have spent a lot of time on this. A research unit like ours simply can’t afford this,” he said. “But for me the crux is the trust we have with young people. How easy will it be for us to get co-operation from young people in the future?

“Our funders will have to think carefully about the further funding of our research. I don’t think for one moment a cancer charity is going to take kindly to paying us hundreds of thousands of pounds to give aid and succour to a multinational tobacco corporation.”

* * *

Academics studying the smoking behaviour of British teenagers and adults have found themselves to be the targets of vitriolic attacks by the pro-smoking lobby.

University researchers have been sent hate emails and some have even received anonymous phone calls, which usually come after a series of blogs posted on pro-smoking websites, including at least one which is linked to the tobacco industry.

Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at Stirling University’s Institute for Social Marketing, says she was unprepared for the scale of the personal attacks aimed at discrediting her work on smoking behaviour and anti-smoking legislation.

“I’ve had a series of anonymous calls starting about a year ago,” Professor Bauld said. “These are phone calls in the evening when I’m at home with my children. It’s an unpleasant experience.

“It’s happened six or seven times and it’s always an unknown number. It’s usually after stuff has been posted on one of the main smokers’ websites.

“They don’t leave their name, they just say things like ‘Keep taking the money’, and ‘Who are you to try to intervene in other peoples’ lives’, using a couple of profanities.”

. . . . There is no evidence to suggest that tobacco companies are directly responsible for the anonymous phone calls. However, Professor Bauld has been identified as a legitimate target for criticism by Big Tobacco following her high-profile work on cigarettes and the impact of smoking bans. Her report for the Department of Health last March on the smoking ban in England found that there had been positive benefits to health and no evidence of any obvious negative impact on the hospitality industry, as the tobacco industry has repeatedly claimed.

Imperial Tobacco, the biggest cigarette company in Britain and makers of the best-selling Lambert & Butler brand, responded to Professor Bauld’s report with its own review, called The Bauld Truth. This report, which took just a few weeks to write, claimed that Professor Bauld’s study, conducted over three years, was “lazy and deliberately selective”. It claimed that she used “flawed evidence and failed to validate her findings”.

Professor Bauld said such personalised attacks were nothing new. Big Tobacco has a long history of aggressively dismissing scientific evidence linking smoking to ill health, she said. “These… are heavily peer-reviewed at every stage. Their methods are robust, whereas the evidence [the tobacco companies] draw on are not well-conducted studies,” Professor Bauld said.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Marketing, Public Relations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Donald Trump

Posted by Adam Benforado on May 14, 2011

Michael Barbaro had an article in the New York Times earlier this week exploring several lawsuits against Donald Trump stemming from his educational ventures and real estate endeavors.  With respect to the latter,

[o]ver the last few years, according to interviews and hundreds of pages of court documents, the real estate mogul has aggressively marketed several luxury high-rises as “Trump properties” or “signature Trump” buildings, with names like Trump Tower and Trump International — even making appearances at the properties to woo buyers. The strong indication of his involvement as a developer generated waves of media attention and commanded premium prices.

* * *

But when three of the planned buildings encountered financial trouble, it became clear that Mr. Trump had essentially rented his name to the developments and had no responsibility for their outcomes, according to buyers. In each case, he yanked his name off the projects, which were never completed. The buyers lost millions of dollars in deposits even as Mr. Trump pocketed hefty license fees.

What particularly interested me about the story was how Trump’s lawyers framed the issue with the hopes of avoiding liability.

The first frame was to suggest that buyers who lost their life savings investing in properties were themselves to blame.  It was their flawed dispositions — their own personal failings — that led to their downfalls: “Alan Garten, a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s company, said that, regardless of what Mr. Trump himself or any marketing materials had suggested, his role was disclosed in lengthy purchasing documents that buyers should have carefully scrutinized.”  As Mr. Garten explained further, these were losers just trying to play the victim card: “They are people who lost money and are looking for somebody to blame.”

The second frame was a fall back position, necessary because the dispositional account of fair disclosure and lazy consumers is not supported by the facts:

The marketing materials left little doubt that Mr. Trump was a driving force behind the 52-story tower: “We are developing a signature landmark property,” Mr. Trump declared in a news release unveiling it, which described him as a partner. In a marketing video, Mr. Trump called it “my first project on the Gulf of Mexico,” and even showed up to mingle with potential buyers at a lavish, catered event. “I love to build buildings,” Mr. Robbins recalled Mr. Trump telling the audience.

* * *

A confidential agreement, later made public in court filings, told a different story: Mr. Trump was not one of the developers or builders. For $4 million, plus a share of any profits, he had licensed his name. As for the mingling with buyers? He was required to do it, up to two times, in the agreement, which spelled out that the appearances last “for no more than six (6) working hours each.”

According to the document, the very existence of the license agreement was to be kept confidential. And it remained that way, buyers said, long after they bought their units.

So what is the second frame?  It turns out to be a situationalizing one: okay, fine so perhaps the victims aren’t themselves to blame, but don’t then point the finger at Mr. Trump.  After all this was essentially an unpreventable accident.  Thus, Mr. Garten “suggested that the housing market collapse, not Mr. Trump, was the cause of [the buyers’] troubles.”  As the Donald explained, in truth, this was really a blessing in disguise: “They were better off losing their deposits” because it allowed buyers to avoid the bursting of the housing bubble and the loss in home values.

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Ideology, Public Relations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Sending the Wrong Message

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 23, 2011

Joe D’Amico probably had the best of intentions when he set out to eat an all-McDonald’s diet for thirty days leading up to the L.A. Marathon. And, in fact, as a result of internet buzz, his “food challenge” ended up raising $26,000 for Ronald McDonald charities.

At the race a few days ago, D’Amico set a personal record and improved his cholesterol levels in the process!

So a clear win-win-win!

But isn’t there some Grinch out there to point out the dark side of all of this?

Not at the Huffington Post, which has been nothing but complementary (see here and here), . . . leaving it to the Situationist to rain on everyone’s parade.

Why am I skeptical about this stunt?

Well, for starters it fits in quite neatly with previous strategies by big tobacco and big food to employ salient counterexamples to show that cigarettes don’t cause cancer and eating copious amounts of fast food has no ill effects on a person’s health.

As Situationist contributors Jon Hanson, David Yosifon, and I chronicled in the 2004 article, “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” Don Gorske, the six foot tall, 170-pound world record holder for eating Big Macs (over 20,000 as of July 2004), has been repeatedly cited as proof that plentiful fast food doesn’t cause weight gain. The problem, in part, is that “we use positive-test theories to analyze the evidence we confront. If we want proof that fast food does not make people fat, and that it is, in fact, a matter of genes or watching too many Friends reruns, all we have to do is go into any McDonald’s and our eyes and minds will fix on the one or two skinny people wolfing down Big Macs.”

D’Amico may not know it, but he’s just a tool in McDonald’s box of strategies aimed at fighting the science on obesity that links the high calorie, sweet and salty foods that the fast food company sells with serious health problems.

In interviews, D’Amico hems so closely to the company line that it’s hard to believe he’s not an official spokesman: “If you make good choices and better choices more often than not, you’re going to have good results . . . . There’s diet, there’s exercise, there’s stress. There’s a lot of things. That’s something I try to tell people to keep in mind. Don’t focus on one aspect look at things as a whole.”

Ronald himself couldn’t have said it better: go ahead order that Angus Bacon and Cheese, large fries, and Chocolate Triple Thick Shake.  What’s a 2400 calorie lunch (with 91 grams of fat) going to do?  Probably lower your cholesterol!

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Related Situationist Posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Relations, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Choosing a World Cup Site

Posted by Adam Benforado on December 5, 2010

Qatar has been awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Given the mysteries of FIFA (soccer’s world governing body) decision making, I was less sure than most that the United States had this one “in the bag,” despite what the New York Times described as “an apparently superior technical bid.”

Still, I was surprised that the pea-sized (okay, Connecticut-sized) Middle Eastern nation got the nod . . . and more than a little disappointed given the human rights record of the country.

FIFA was apparently drawn to the idea of the transformative power of football and the notion that a World Cup in Qatar could alter opinions of the Arab world.  According to the head of Qatar’s winning bid, Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad al-Thani, the 2022 World Cup will “present a new image of the Middle East — far away from clichés and closer to reality.”

But the present reality of Qatar is not so pretty.

As Amnesty International reported back in June of this year, Qatari laws “prescribe imprisonment for criticizing the Emir, for writing about the armed forces without permission and for offending divine religions, as well as . . . punish[ing] blasphemy and consensual ‘illicit sexual relations.'”  In another report, it was noted that “discrimination against women [in the country] remains rife” and “[d]eprivation of nationality has been used by the government against a number of individuals and tribes to target political opponents.”  According to the UN Refugee Agency, homosexual behavior is illegal in Qatar and, as recently as 1996, an American citizen was sentenced to six months imprisonment and 90 lashes for homosexual activity.

I am hopeful that winning the bid for the World Cup could prompt Qatar to think seriously about its commitment to human rights.  There are twelve long years to improve the treatment of women, gays, dissidents, migrant workers, and others before the tournament begins.  A lot of progress could be made.

But I remain skeptical.  It appears that most of the Qatari 2022 proposal is focused on building glittering new soccer stadiums and ways to get to them (see the stunning video below).  FIFA officials were clearly wowed by the $4 billion dollars allocated for soccer arenas and $50 billion allocated for transportation and other infrastructure improvements.  What they should have been pushing for, however, was a commitment to fixing the abuses and injustice built into the Qatari legal and social systems.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Can Sports Save the World? (& what must be done beforehand) – Part I & Part 2,” and “Manufactured Hype: Can ESPN’s Agenda-Setting Behaviour save Major League Soccer?.”

Posted in Politics, Public Relations, Situationist Sports, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Merchants of Denial

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 17, 2010

GoogleTalks:  Author David Michaels visits Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Ca, to discuss his book “Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.”

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* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Corporate Situation of Universities,” The Greasy Situation of University Research,” The Deeply Captured Situation of Spilling Oil,” Tushnet on Teles and The Situation of Ideas – Abstract,”The Situation of Policy Research and Policy Outcomes,” Industry-Funded Research,” “The Situation of Medical Research,” The company ‘had no control or influence over the research’ . . . .,” “The Situation of University Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Politics, Public Relations, Video | 1 Comment »

You Spoke. We Ignored It.

Posted by Adam Benforado on October 9, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I questioned the practice of corporations (1) selling a narrative that the American public is made up of rational actors, exercising free choice, in an open market, while, at the same time, (2) working hard to “limit choice and confuse or reduce the knowledge of potential buyers.”

This morning, while cleaning up my office, I came across the following excerpt that I’d clipped from an article by Barry Berman, the Walter H. “Bud” Miller distinguished professor of business and director of the Executive M.B.A. program at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business:

If you ask customers whether they want more variety, I can tell you right now what they’re going to say: Yes.  After all, who doesn’t think they want a lot of choices?  And it’s common for consumers to be both sad and angry when a product they like is discontinued.

So don’t bother asking.  It’s better to depend on data, rather than what is often a mistaken emotional response.

Gather information from point-of-sale systems and loyalty programs, analyze product data such as sales per square foot, and conduct field experiments to determine what effect offering a wide selection of similar goods—say, 16 similar black-and-white laser printers—really has on total sales in certain product categories.

Use the findings to identify products that don’t sell well, products with high revenue but low profitability and/or high inventory carrying costs, and products plagued by production problems. Consider targeting them for elimination.

As various posts on the Situationist have chronicled, the evidence provided by psychologists and others who study “choice” suggests that Professor Berman is right.  And, if your goal is solely to increase the profitability of your company, you’d do well to heed his advice.

However, as a consumer, I think that the broader message in Professor Berman’s comments is troubling primarily because corporations go to such lengths to convince us that they are listening to the wants, desires, and ideas that we voice.  Indeed, it’s a major part of many corporate strategies.

Think about all of the advertisements and marketing campaigns that you come across in your day-to-day routine that emphasize the theme of customers speaking out and corporations listening and responding.  As Best Buy explains, “You Spoke.  We Listened.  Thanks to your ideas, we’re continuing to create future technology designed just for you.”  Moss Adams LLP, one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the United States, offers the identical statement on its website: “You Spoke.  We Listened.”  Whole Foods serves up a subtle variation: “You Talked, We Listened.”  It turns out, “Whole Foods Market has been listening to its customers for over 30 years.”

Why do all of these companies sing the same song?  The answer, in part, is because it’s music to our ears.  We like to feel in control.  And encouraging this perception allows companies to engrain the idea that corporate entities merely respond to our preferences.  That is, they do not create preferences, or steer individuals toward harmful, but profitable, products—actions that would make the case for significant regulation or legal liability.  They are our passive pals—dutifully hanging on our every word.

Perhaps I’m out to sea, but if corporations aren’t in fact listening to what I say—if they know, as Professor Berman suggests, that I exhibit “mistaken emotional responses” and am a situational character, rather than a rational actor—I don’t want them telling me how valuable my feedback is and how clever, smart, and capable a consumer I am.

I’d prefer the cold, hard truth.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Deep Capture – Part VII,” “Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance,” “Tamara Piety on Market Manipulation,” and Taking Behavioralism Seriously (Part I) – Abstract and Top Ten List.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I questioned the practice of corporations (1) selling a narrative that the American public is made up of rational actors, exercising free choice, in an open market, while, at the same time, (2) working hard to “limit choice and confuse or reduce the knowledge of potential buyers.”

This morning, while cleaning up my office, I came across the following excerpt that I’d clipped from an article by Barry Berman, the Walter H. “Bud” Miller distinguished professor of business and director of the Executive M.B.A. program at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business:

If you ask customers whether they want more variety, I can tell you right now what they’re going to say: Yes.  After all, who doesn’t think they want a lot of choices?  And it’s common for consumers to be both sad and angry when a product they like is discontinued.

So don’t bother asking.  It’s better to depend on data, rather than what is often a mistaken emotional response.

Gather information from point-of-sale systems and loyalty programs, analyze product data such as sales per square foot, and conduct field experiments to determine what effect offering a wide selection of similar goods—say, 16 similar black-and-white laser printers—really has on total sales in certain product categories.

Use the findings to identify products that don’t sell well, products with high revenue but low profitability and/or high inventory carrying costs, and products plagued by production problems. Consider targeting them for elimination.

As various posts on the Situationist have chronicled, the evidence provided by psychologists and others who study “choice” suggests that Professor Berman is right.  And, if your goal is solely to increase the profitability of your company, you’d do well to heed his advice.

However, as a consumer, I think that the broader message in Professor Berman’s comments is troubling primarily because corporations go to such lengths to convince us that they are listening to the wants, desires, and ideas that we voice.  Indeed, it’s a major part of many corporate strategies.

Think about all of the advertisements and marketing campaigns that you come across in your day-to-day routine that emphasize the theme of customers speaking out and corporations listening and responding.  As Best Buy explains, “You Spoke.  We Listened.  Thanks to your ideas, we’re continuing to create future technology designed just for you.”  Moss Adams LLP, one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the United States, offers the identical statement on its website: “You Spoke.  We Listened.”  Whole Foods serves up a subtle variation: “You Talked, We Listened.”  It turns out, “Whole Foods Market has been listening to its customers for over 30 years.”

Why do all of these companies sing the same song? 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I questioned the practice of corporations (1) selling a narrative that the American public is made up of rational actors, exercising free choice, in an open market, while, at the same time, (2) working hard to “limit choice and confuse or reduce the knowledge of potential buyers.”

This morning, while cleaning up my office, I came across the following excerpt that I’d clipped from an article by Barry Berman, the Walter H. “Bud” Miller distinguished professor of business and director of the Executive M.B.A. program at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business:

If you ask customers whether they want more variety, I can tell you right now what they’re going to say: Yes.  After all, who doesn’t think they want a lot of choices?  And it’s common for consumers to be both sad and angry when a product they like is discontinued.

So don’t bother asking.  It’s better to depend on data, rather than what is often a mistaken emotional response.

Gather information from point-of-sale systems and loyalty programs, analyze product data such as sales per square foot, and conduct field experiments to determine what effect offering a wide selection of similar goods—say, 16 similar black-and-white laser printers—really has on total sales in certain product categories.

Use the findings to identify products that don’t sell well, products with high revenue but low profitability and/or high inventory carrying costs, and products plagued by production problems. Consider targeting them for elimination.

As various posts on the Situationist have chronicled, the evidence provided by psychologists and others who study “choice” suggests that Professor Berman is right.  And, if your goal is solely to increase the profitability of your company, you’d do well to heed his advice.

However, as a consumer, I think that the broader message in Professor Berman’s comments is troubling primarily because corporations go to such lengths to convince us that they are listening to the wants, desires, and ideas that we voice.  Indeed, it’s a major part of many corporate strategies.

Think about all of the advertisements and marketing campaigns that you come across in your day-to-day routine that emphasize the theme of customers speaking out and corporations listening and responding.  As Best Buy explains, “You Spoke.  We Listened.  Thanks to your ideas, we’re continuing to create future technology designed just for you.”  Moss Adams LLP, one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the United States, offers the identical statement on its website: “You Spoke.  We Listened.”  Whole Foods serves up a subtle variation: “You Talked, We Listened.”  It turns out, “Whole Foods Market has been listening to its customers for over 30 years.”

Why do all of these companies sing the same song?  The answer, in part, is because it’s music to our ears.  We like to feel in control.  And encouraging this perception allows companies to engrain the idea that corporate entities merely respond to our preferences.  That is, they do not create preferences, or steer individuals toward harmful, but profitable, products—actions that would make the case for significant regulation or legal liability.  They are our passive pals—dutifully hanging on our every word.

Perhaps I’m out to sea, but if corporations aren’t in fact listening to what I say—if they know, as Professor Berman suggests, that I exhibit “mistaken emotional responses” and am a situational character, rather than a rational actor—I don’t want them telling me how valuable my feedback is and how clever, smart, and capable a consumer I am.

The answer, in part, is because it’s music to our ears.  We like to feel in control.  And encouraging this perception allows companies to engrain the idea that corporate entities merely respond to our preferences.  That is, they do not create preferences, or steer individuals toward harmful, but profitable, products—actions that would make the case for significant regulation or legal liability.  They are our passive pals—dutifully hanging on our every word.

Perhaps I’m out to sea, but if corporations aren’t in fact listening to what I say—if they know, as Professor Berman suggests, that I exhibit “mistaken emotional responses” and am a situational character, rather than a rational actor—I don’t want them telling me how valuable my feedback is and how clever, smart, and capable a consumer I am.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Marketing, Public Relations, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Tamara Piety on Market Manipulation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 18, 2010

In response to Adam Beneforado’s terrific post this week, “Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: When Corporations Dump Consumers,” Situationist friend Tamara Piety wrote another excellent comment, a portion of which we’ve posted below.

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To me, one of most offensive examples of this type of channeling is the price discrimination practice involved in rebate/coupon schemes. Rebates and coupons are used as a way to expand the customer base by attracting a few more customers by virtue of the illusion (for most) of a lower price point. We see it in electronics all the time – “Laptop $999 [with $250 rebate]” There are several things at work here at once. One is that the seller ( or whoever actually pays the rebate) has your money for some period of time ranging from 30 days to 6 months as an interest free loan. Second is the anchoring effect that makes $999 seem some how much less than $1,000. But the principle objection for me is that they are actually creating a staggered pricing program. Again, this might not be a problem if it simply involved selling to as many customers as possible on the basis of the price that they will want to buy. The problem is that in order to do this companies make the process of obtaining the lower price (i.e. the with the rebate price), much more onerous than it appears to be through a variety of devices that are intended to take advantage of the psychological effect of the lower price and then relying on consumer inertia, lack of attention, recalculation of the efforts and so forth to avoid actually making good on that promise. Getting the rebate usually involves fair amount of time and effort (filling out the rebate form, mailing it back, waiting for the check, etc.) and uncertainty (if you fail to observe deadline, miss a requirement in the fine print, fail to send in the original, etc.) you lose. None of these difficulties are simply bureaucratic obstacles which have the ancillary effect of depressing the number of rebates redeemed. They are intended to have this effect. And sometimes the rebate is “paid” in the form of a “gift card” rather than in a cash or check which further draws out the redemption process by providing an expiration date for the card, limitations on where it can be used, or even a restriction limiting its use to other products from the same seller.

Every single step in this process is calculated to generate some failures to complete the redemption process so that the customer doesn’t actually receive the advertised price. And this is seen as a perfectly legitimate set of strategies to maximize the sales of the same good across a range of consumers – from those who don’t care about the rebate, to those who do and intend to redeem and then fail to do so, to those who intend to try redeem and try to do so but fail to successfully jump through all of the hoops of the conditions imposed, to those, finally, who intend to redeem and successfully do so. Some percentage of the last three groups are consumers who presumably wouldn’t have brought the product but for the promised (but in at least two instances) undelivered rebate. And the difference between groups 2 and 3 and group 4 are explained by the seller as being entirely attributable to some character “flaw” (lack of attention, lack of diligence, etc.) or a “choice” not to redeem when that “choice” has been structured to take advantage of consumers’ psychological vulnerabilities (or their dawning realization that the time and effort required to pursue the rebate is not really “free” and thus it might be more rational to abandon the effort.) It is disingenuous and unfair to describe these consumer “choices” as unmediated.

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Bottom line all these tropes – “control,” “choice,” “information,” as they are currently used and understood by many, operate to absolve the seller of any responsibility for their role in driving these choices even as several full-blown, mature industries’ very existence (advertising, marketing, PR) is predicated on the proposition that it is possible to manipulate and channel consumer choices. It is a feat of sleight-of-hand to argue (in essence) that entire industries’ efforts are of no consequence whatsoever even as billions of dollars are spent in plain sight on those efforts.

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To read Piety’s entire comment, click here. Her focus is particularly timely in light of the fact that another Situationist friend, Elizabeth Warren, accepted President Obama’s invitation this week to set up a a consumer financial watchdog and warned yesterday that the time for financial “tricks and traps” was over.

The themes of market manipulation and the “choice myth” are common on the Situationist.  In addition to the sample of related posts linked at the bottom of Adam’s post,  here are few more:  Taking Behavioralism Seriously (Part I) – Abstract and Top Ten List; Promoting Smoking through SituationThe Big Game: What Corporations Are Learning About the Human Brain,” “Warren on the Situation of Credit,” “The Financial Squeeze: Bad Choices or Bad Situations?,” “No Contract for Old Men,” The Situation of Subprime Mortgage Contracts – Abstract.”

The first scholarly article (part of  a trilogy) devoted to these issues is Taking Behavioralism Seriously: The Problem of Market Manipulation (74 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 363 (1999)) available for free download on SSRN.

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Choice Myth, Life, Marketing, Public Relations, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Public Relations

Posted by Adam Benforado on June 19, 2010

Here at the Situationist, we spend a lot of time focused on new research from the mind sciences and, as a result, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there are other individuals and entities (besides academics and universities) out there working tirelessly to uncover what makes us tick.

Some of these individuals and entities are well intentioned: they want to know how humans think and behave to design better government policies that reduce suffering and improve outcomes or to create products or services that better serve our needs and wants.

Yet, there are others out there whose goals are less meritorious.  Like mind scientists, they understand that people are powerfully influenced by their situations, but their aim is not to use this knowledge to nudge people towards healthy eating choices that save lives and minimize costs or long-term savings that can help people thrive into old age.  Rather, their sole aim is to maximize profits.

Take Richard Berman, head of the public relations firm, Berman and Company.  I (along with Situationist contributors Jon Hanson and David Yosifon) became familiar with Berman’s work a number of years ago while doing research on how fast food corporations use third-party messengers to alter the debate over the causes of the current obesity epidemic.  As documented in a resulting article, Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America (Emory Law Journal, 2004), Berman is a master at altering seemingly settled issues—like whether high fructose corn syrup is good for you and whether there should be a minimum wage—because he understands how people think.

Rachel Maddow exposed some of Berman’s more recent public campaigns in an interesting segment below.

On Thursday, Stephanie Strom at the New York Times, had a nice piece on how Berman uses the nonprofit loophole to accomplish his goals:

Across two decades, Mr. Berman has founded the Center for Consumer Freedom and five other nonprofits with similarly innocuous names. His industry donors — including restaurant chains whose costs could rise if living conditions for animals have to be improved, and wine and spirits companies that might sell less liquor if MADD has its way — can claim a deduction for charitable donations or business expenses. And since nonprofit groups do not have to disclose their donors, Mr. Berman’s groups offer an even more valuable asset — anonymity for companies that would rather their customers not know they are behind certain attacks.

His critics say Mr. Berman’s organizations are little more than moneymakers for his for-profit communications firm, Berman and Company. Last month, in what appears to be a new tactic by those critics, the Humane Society and MADD filed a complaint with the New York Commission on Public Integrity, charging that the American Beverage Institute and Berman and Company were in fact lobbying and had failed to register with the state as lobbyists.

I, for one, am curious to see how this plays out.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Deep Capture – Part VII,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “The Century of Dispositionism – Part I, Part II, and Part III,”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Relations, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The Profits and Perils of Public Engagement

Posted by Adam Benforado on May 24, 2010

In my last post, I asked whether it was a threat to academia for academics to make a concerted effort to engage the public with their work.

Tamara Piety had a thoughtful response (see here).  She made a number of interesting points about the value of reaching out to non-academics and of risking being wrong.  As she explained, “I think the argument that speaking to the general public somehow undermines your scholarly credentials is often just used as a weapon to try to intimidate and silence those with novel ideas (or ones the critic disagrees with).”

Overall, I think Tamara and I are in agreement that the benefits of academics striving to translate their research for a popular audience are worth the (not insignificant) costs.  (I, or course, welcome comments from those who disagree!)

But what about mind scientists and legal scholars who go beyond penning blog posts, magazine articles, and books to actually lobbying for changes (to the legal system or elsewhere), testifying as experts in court cases, or working for corporations eager to increase profits.

Certainly, there is a long history of those interested in human psychology working with marketers and advertisers.  (Indeed, reading over an old issue of the Monitor on Psychology this weekend, I was reminded of the efforts of Edward L. Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, on behalf of Lucky Strike to convince women to smoke.)  On a different note, psychologists and law professors were instrumental, back in 1999, in producing an 8,000-word national guide for the U.S. Department of Justice on collecting and preserving eyewitness evidence.  And, just last week, the Washington Post had a story on how Emory’s Drew Westen has taken on a more formal role advising Democrat leaders in the Senate and House in anticipation of the fall elections.

Should we think about these activities differently than we think about writing for a popular audience?  What is it that makes us uncomfortable in certain cases—the possibility that money might alter judgments; that consumers, voters, or juries might be manipulated?  Isn’t it beneficial to have people with actual expertise exercising more real world decision-making authority?

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To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Heart, Brain, or Wallet…How Do You Vote?,” “Drew Westen on the Political Brain, Part I, and Part II,” “Your Brain on Politics,” “The Century of Dipositionism – Part I, Part II, and Part III,” “Mass Marketing,” and “Deep Capture – Part VII.”

Posted in Ideology, Marketing, Politics, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Deeply Captured Situation of the Economic Crisis

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 18, 2010

Here is an outstanding 30-minute video interview about the sources of the financial crisis.  The interview should resonate with regular readers of The Situationist and those otherwise familiar with the “deep capture” hypothesis.

From Bill Moyers Journal:

“How did Big Finance grow so powerful that its hijinks nearly brought down the global economy – and what hope is there for real reform with Washington politicians on Wall Street’s payroll? Bill Moyers talks with authors Simon Johnson and James Kwak, two of the nation’s most respected economic experts and authors of the new book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltodown.”

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Here’s a sample of the transcript:

James Kwak: I think there are two things. There’s a narrow and a broad view of this. The narrow view is I think Rubin is actually not lying. I think it is true that Rubin did not know what the risks were. Although he certainly should have known what the risks were. And that’s because he was fully subscribed to this ideology that free markets are good. That the market will take care of itself. That, he also suffered from a lot of the blindness that corporate officers and directors have. Corporate officers and directors manage these enormous organizations with tens of hundreds of thousands of people. They have very little idea what’s going on. They’re getting their information from subordinates, who are giving them a filtered view of the world. On the other hand, when he says, no one could have foreseen this. This is what I call an intellectual cover up. And I say that because it’s very disingenuous. Over the past 20 years, these banks used their economic power and their political power to engineer an unregulated financial environment in which precisely this sort of thing could happen. And in that sense, I think that this was not an accident. It was not a natural disaster. It was not unforeseeable. It was the product of the efforts by the sector over the past 20 years to reshape Washington and to engineer an environment that would allow them to make as much money as possible. Simon talked earlier about money. And we know that the financial sector, especially Wall Street, has been, has made enormous contributions to both campaign contributions and lobbying expenses. But I think there were, there were two more potent weapons in their arsenal. One is the revolving door. So, we’ve seen an enormous number of people passing back and forth between Washington and Wall Street over the past 20 years. This is not a new phenomenon. It happens in every industry. But there are certain things that make it especially pernicious when it comes to finance. One is that, one is a question of incentives. So, compared to other industries, Wall Street can simply offer enormous amounts of money. I’m not saying that everyone did that. I’m not saying that even the majority of people did that. But that is, that is very clear.

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* * *

You can learn more about Wall Street reform and Simon Johnson and James Kwak here.

The most basic prediction of the “deep capture” hypothesis is that there will be a competition over the situation (including the way we think) to influence the behavior of individuals and institutions and that those individuals, groups, entities, or institutions that are most powerful will win that competition. The deep capture hypothesis was described in more detail in a series of posts.

  • Part I of that series explained that the “deep capture” story is analogous to the (shallow) capture story told by economists (such as Nobel laureate George Stigler) and public choice theorists for decades regarding the competition over prototypical regulatory institutions.
  • Part II looked to history (specifically, Galileo’s recantation) for another analogy to the process that we claim is widespread today — the deep capture of how we understand ourselves.
  • Part III picked up on both of those themes and explains that Stigler’s “capture” story has implications far broader and deeper than he or others realized.
  • Part IV examined the relative power (measured as the ability to influence situation) of large commercial interests today, much like the power of the Catholic Church in Galileo’s day.
  • Part V described other parallels between the Catholic Church and geocentrism, on one hand, and modern corporate interests and dispositionism, on the other.
  • Part VI laid out the “deep capture hypothesis” a bit more and began loosely testing it by examining the role that it may have played in the “deregulatory” movement.
  • Part VII provided some illustrative examples of how atypical “regulators,” from courts to hard-hitting news networks, reflect and contribute to deep capture.
  • Part VIII contrasted different cultures for evidence of commercial interests in promoting dispositionism.
  • Part IX described the strategy of employing third-party messengers.
  • Part X summarized some of the evidence of how pro-commercial interests invested to shape legal theory and law.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Century of Dipositionism – Part I,” “Robert Reich on the Situation of Health Care Reform,” “Conference on the Free Market Mindset,” “Our Stake in Corporate Behavior,” “Tushnet on Teles and The Situation of Ideas – Abstract,” “Larry Lessig’s Situationism,” “The Situation of Policy Research and Policy Outcomes,” Reclaiming Corporate Law in a New Gilded Age – Abstract,” The Illusion of Wall Street Reform,” Industry-Funded Research,” “The Situation of Medical Research,” “The Situation of Talk Radio,” “The company ‘had no control or influence over the research’ . . . .,” “The Situation of University Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Book, Deep Capture, Ideology, Law, Public Policy, Public Relations, Video | 3 Comments »

The Policy Situation of Obesity

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2010

In 2004, Peter Jennings hosted an outstanding report, titled “How To Get Fat Without even Trying,” in which he explored some of the situational factors, including federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices, that  are contributing to Americas  obesity epidemic.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Snacking,” The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The American obesity paradox is explored at some length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Century of Dispositionism – Part III

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 2, 2010

From BBC Website :

Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

* * *

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

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The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.

* * *

Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

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The videos from Episode Three, “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed,” are below. Here is the BBC‘s overview:

In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas in America. They were inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud’s, who had turned against him and was hated by the Freud family. He believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled. It should be encouraged to express itself.
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Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people’s minds by business and politics.
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This programme shows how this rapidly developed in America through self-help movements like Werber Erhard’s Erhard Seminar Training – into the irresistible rise of the expressive self: the Me Generation.
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But the American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self.

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Part I of this series is here.  Part II is here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Marketing, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Century of Dipositionism – Part II

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 18, 2010

From BBC Website :

Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

* * *

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

* * *

The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.

* * *

Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

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The videos from Episode Two, “The Engineering of Consent,” are below. Here is the BBC‘s overview:

The programme explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

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Politicians and planners came to believe Freud’s underlying premise – that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind.

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Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, and his nephew, Edward Bernays, provided the centrepiece philosophy. The US government, big business, and the CIA used their ideas to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people. But this was not a cynical exercise in manipulation. Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American life.

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It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

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Part I of this series is here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Ideology, Public Policy, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Century of Dipositionism – Part I

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 13, 2010

From Wikipedia:

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings. His influence on the twentieth century is generally considered profound. The series describes the ways public relations and politicians have utilized Freud’s theories during the last 100 years for the “engineering of consent.”

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Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed. Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as is one of the main opponents of Freud’s theories, Wilhelm Reich, in the third part.

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Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

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The business and, increasingly, the political world uses psychological techniques to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people’s rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites Paul Mazer, a Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in the 1930s: “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

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The videos from Episode One, “Happiness Machines,” are below.  Here is the BBC‘s overview:

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.
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Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

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His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

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It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” “Deep Capture – Part IX,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “Industry-Funded Research,” “Captured Science.”

Posted in Deep Capture, History, Marketing, Politics, Public Policy, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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