|Advertising on “Huffington Post”, December 6th, 2011
The 99% are 1%. The majority of the people is not on the streets, but sits at home watching sit-coms. And that is not just some politician’s quote.
What is the real sentiment of “the people”? To get a good indicator, we would have to assess their interests, their hopes, wishes, desires, fears, worries, their faith, habits, and hate. Where should we start?
The advertising industry itself ($400 billion USD as of 2011) has already done it better than we could. All we need to do is take a look at the sponsored links on websites (yes, those annoying messages we’ve trained ourselves to avoid looking at) because what the machines that put them there assume the average reader’s interest is, is probably pretty close to what it actually is.
Take the Huff- and Puffington Post on an article about a Labrador saving two kittens left inside a bag of cat food on the road to die. The article itself gives readers what they need: courage is something cute that occurs in wild animals, not something serious we need to bother about in civilized homo sapiens.
The three advertisements underneath (and alongside!) this article represent the trias of sentiments that keeps our culture going, and keeps the “99%” from becoming the 99%. The normal, nonprotesting, average, matter-of-fact 99% are suckling the teat of Consumerism as long as they are made to sense:
- Item 1) Vanity + Sense of Accomplishment. They need to feel good about themselves. They need keep going through cycles of worry and reward: worry if they look better than their peers or if they are still attractive, and reward for compliments they receive for their appearance, which they can perceive as an accomplishment precisely because it has vexed them for so long;
- Item 2) Security + Sense of Being. They need to feel that “nothing” can happen and if “something” happens, that they are ensured in the best possible ways, so that “nothing” could make them more secured against “something” to happen. Their existential Self receives the Ultimate Consolation in the acknowledgement that they are as secure as they can Be. Their sense of fear (of the inevitable, of disease, loss, death) is systematically numbed.
- Item 3) Getting rich + Sense of Potential. They need the big Belief in easy ways to get rich; not necessarily to pursue them but to make them feel that they could do so any moment, just not now. This nurtures their sense of potential, the idea that they could be “all the can be” some day in the future.
Similar ads showed up (and will keep showing up) on an article called “10 Most Generous Moments Of The Decade” and a piece about the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.
The Huffington Post, or rather its advertising-centered business model, makes me feel ashamed about this culture. These ads are nurturing what prevents the “99%” from becoming the 99% – these ads are evil.
The way this commercial enterprise has been hailed as independent journalism, the way serious independent journalists write articles for this publication and have their words flanked by perverse advertisements, is saddening.
I leave it as an exercise to the reader to look at Internet advertisements (and advertisements in general) with such eyes as they reveal more about the “spirit of the people” than any occupy spokesperson could.