The black arts infiltrated Strumpette last week with a fascinating posting on the “Dark Side of PR 2.0” – nefarious activity that uses Web 2.0 tools to warp the minds of the masses. The day that appeared the mainstream media (MSM) reported that the CIA is now using Facebook in its operations. Later in the week The New York Times reported on ‘Surge Spin,’ the intense PR battle underway for the hearts and minds of Americans to decide the future of the Iraq incursion. The head surge spinner, of course, is President George Bush, who is rewriting history (we lost Vietnam because we left too soon, not because we got our asses kicked in a war that never should have been) for the benefit of an out of control war machine that passes from generation to generation.
PR is the practice of driving messages to sway others to form opinions and take action. In the world of PR war is no different than lipstick. Both need to be packaged, prettied up and sold. Maybe with Web 2.0 human beings can be virtually cloned to spout nonsense that develops an audience that feeds on its own drivel to drive us to madness. Maybe that is the only explanation for Steve Rubel, the shiny head incessant gadgeteer and author of the blog ‘Micro Confusion’ under the auspices of Edelman Worldwide.
Take the Rubel post of 8/24: “Today I am posting to Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter and Facebook. I also have tons of other less active accounts too - digg, Blogger, MySpace, YouTube, MSN Spaces, Yahoo 360, Jaiku, Pownce and on and on.”
What is he saying? Besides his blog he is posting to at least 12 other social media sites. But alas, that is not enough for a true Twittermaniac. Now he has discovered Tumblr where he can create a tumblelog on his personal domain so all his postings can be aggregated through RSS into an “aggregated lifestream.” This turns out to be the weekly Rubel “next big thing.”
He writes: “Aggregated Lifestreams could be the next big thing on the web, particularly as community expands. I am also thinking about how this might be coupled with services like social networks, Twittergram, Spock and OpenID.”
Where does this lead? “Next step: turning my lifestream into a Steve Rubel widget,” he writes. Oh boy, just what we need, a Steve Rubel lifestream widget.
It is obvious that Rubel has gone insane and someone should mercifully intervene to de-widgetize him. But that does not explain the 24 comments and 23 Technorati links to this post alone, and the huge traffic for his blog, not to mention the other avenues of his ‘aggregated lifestream.’
What does any of this have to do with PR? He does not say and you have to dig hard to find the answer but I believe it has to do with a Night of the Living Dead digital version of the future. The love of gadgets has replaced real conversations with any substance and Twitter has become the false God of narcotized gear heads hijacking our minds. Through all this mumbo jumbo Rubel injects messages of Edelman clients who are inevitably involved in ‘the next big thing.’ That is the essence of ‘black PR.’ With that power you can sell a war – the next big thing - the same as you sell lipstick. You roll it all up into your aggregated lifestream, widgetize it, tag it, give it RSS, throw in some SEO and the next thing you know zombies are knocking at your door and shoving an AK 47 in your hand.
On the traditional PR front we see the Presidential race heating up, front runners emerging and messages being honed. I believe that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee for the Dems and Rudy Giuliani will ace it for the Republicans. This sets up a rip roaring full out all-New York battle between two combatants who have been itching to get at each other for years.
This week Hillary upped the ante by warning the Dems that they need to seize the homeland security issue. If there is another attack, it benefits the Republicans (read Giuliani) she said, and she is best to deal with these issues because she is battle tested by years of merciless right wing attacks. Expect the nastiness to escalate markedly as we get closer to primaries, followed by the ugliest Presidential campaign we have ever seen, to be won by the last man/woman standing.
You can bet that much of Hillary’s messaging and posturing is emanating from Burson-Marsteller’s CEO Mark Penn, who The Economist posits may be the next Karl Rove. Besides her husband, Penn is probably Hillary’s closest advisor and touted as a polling genius. How will B-M clients benefit or be hurt by the Penn-Clinton alliance? Is it pure coincidence that Harold Burson’s last blog post is a defense of lobbyists? All sorts of political intrigue as the summer winds down and we gear up for the Autumn PR offensive.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.