In How Your Insecurity Is Bought and Sold, Mark Manson delves into marketing, particularly how advertising succeeds by magnifying insecurity. He paints a disturbing convincing portrait of a distorted society, where capitalism feeds on our worst. In fact, it strongly resembles GOP strategy described here.

It all started with Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, pushing tobacco (of course).

... in 1928, the American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays,...

Through Freud, Bernays understood something nobody else in business ever understood before him: that if you can tap into people’s insecurities — if you can needle at their deepest feelings of inadequacy — then they will buy just about any damn thing you tell them to.

When I first studied marketing when I started my first business, I was told to find people’s “pain points” and then subtly make them feel worse. Then turn around and tell them my product will make them feel better.

In our culture today, marketing often is the message. The vast majority of information that we’re exposed to is some form of marketing. And so if the marketing is always trying to make you feel like shit to get you to buy something, then we’re essentially existing in a culture designed to make us feel like shit and we’ll always want to overcompensate in some way. [emphasis mine]

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... Bernays’ political views were like a diet version of fascism — he believed that it was both inevitable and in everybody’s best interests that the weak be exploited by the strong through media and propaganda. He called it “the invisible government” and generally thought the masses were stupid and deserving of whatever smart people convinced them to do.

... in a capitalist system, it also becomes economical to feed into everyone’s insecurities, their vices and vulnerabilities, to promote their worst fears and constantly remind them of their shortcomings and failures. It becomes profitable to set new and unrealistic standards, to generate a culture of comparison and inferiority. Because people who constantly feel inferior make the best customers.

After all, people only buy something if they believe it will solve a problem. Therefore, if you want to sell more stuff than there are problems, you have to encourage people to believe there are problems where there are none.

... the system simply creates certain incentives that shapes media, and then the media go on to shape a callous and superficial culture based on trying to always live up to something.

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Replies to This Discussion

Really, this should be no surprise to us at all.  Christopher Hitchens made much the same of religion when he said its god created us sick, then ordered us to be well.  In that it creates a need which it supposes itself perfectly suited to fill.  I have no doubt ad agencies do much the same thing ... and it works, so long as a person is insecure, unfulfilled or insufficiently self-possessed to recognize the scam for what it is.

Thanks Ruth.  I've always hated marketing almost as much as religion, but don't remember seeing the insecurity inducing side of it.  When I see it on TV, I change channels or mute it and do something else while it's on.  I'm now going to listen carefully to some of the adds, and watch for the pushing of insecurity.

Something else hit me before I finished reading your post.  I said to myself:  Hey!  That's what the church does!  Makes us feel insecure and guilty. Makes us feel like we are sinners, and need the church to help us overcome our sins.  Makes us think we have to become perfect, but can never do it without the church and god.

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