Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
If you follow American politics, by now you’re privy to the case of the many bathroom bills introduced by religious conservatives in various states.
The recent, rather unsurprising revelation that all of the anti-trans propaganda is nothing but propaganda reminded me of the utter effectiveness of the Goebbels model. Particularly the fabrication of anxiety. Or as Doob put it in Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda:
Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.
Goebbels, of course, was not alone- nor was he the brilliant creator of modern marketing. Long before him monotheistic religions had already put those principles into practice with extraordinary success. The creation of anxiety has been the backbone of interpersonal manipulation forever.
We can boil it down to this:
create anxiety → propose solution (that only you hold)
you’re going to hell → unless you follow our instructions
transgender people are going to rape your children → unless you give us money (and vote for us) so we can protect you
We see this pattern again and again with practically all issues pushed by the religious right. It’s their go-to technique.
In the case of modern marketing the model has been refined. Take this Dolce & Gabbana ad with David Gandy:
On the surface it’s incredibly benign, right? Easy on the eye. The messages it’s sending are anything but. We start with that glorious landscape. Message 1: Do you make enough money to visit places like that? Two seconds later, Gandy’s face. Message 2: Are you attractive? Then comes the face of a beautiful woman. Message 3: How does your wife/girlfriend compare? 0.4 to 0.6 seconds is a crotch shot of the man. Message 4: He’s virile. Are you? Then he dives into the water. Message 5: How athletic are you? And finally they kiss as he unties her bikini top. Message 6: How much sex are you having?
In effect the technique being used is to make the watcher feel he’s substandard. Not attractive, athletic or wealthy (all major status markers for males)- and the closest he’ll get to any of that is by paying €79 for a Dolce & Gabbana perfume. Just like in the religious/Goebbels model, they fabricate the problem for the consumer by playing to known insecurities. Before watching the ad people were probably not in the mirror comparing themselves to a lifesize cutout of a male model, or wondering how much it would cost to spend the summer in Capri.