“What happens if some bad, bad, motherf**kers want to do this (social media)? The government? The Rand Corporation? Terrorists?” Loren Feldman says in the 8/8/07 Strumpette TOTAL RANT: Outrage for the Flies. I have to say, first thing in the morning, before the first cup of coffee, Loren’s dark unshaven face and dark pit eyes breaking through the monitor while he rants “You don’t know what the f**k you’re doing, do you?” really jump starts the day. Dis is why New York City is da media capital of the world. Cause dis is how we project. Katie Couric may deliver da evening news, barely, with perfect diction for $10 mil. Loren Feldman will give you the lowdown for free, and he doesn’t even speaka da language.
Nothing like a rant to force perspective and take the concept (social media, in this case) to another level, project the future, break through the bull and get your attention. What da f**ck is he talking about? And what’s with Loren’s sister in the revolution, Amanda Chapel? They’re two placard waving doomsayers about the dark forces of widgets and the social media contagion that is turning us into sheep about to be slaughtered. We’re talking a Facebook “Zombie” widget here, not Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Newark. Why the Armageddon-watch?
It took me several months of hard questioning, private emails with Amanda, serious examination of some of Edelman’s social media offerings, and maybe the Feldman rant to finally ‘get’ the beauty, simplicity and deviousness of social media for mass manipulation. In many ways social media is the prefect public relations platform and the discussion about it is born of pure manipulative PR double-speak. PR professionals, trained to be subservient, non-questioning, and totally obedient to client whims and ignorant bosses, are the perfect implementers of social media.
Social media breeds confusion and fear among clients, and that leads to billing opportunities. There’s business there. Crain’s New York reported recently that Edelman employs 40 bloggers and the practice is growing, along with Edelman’s Me2Revolution, accepted as the vanguard Special Forces in creating the need for and fulfilling the desire for social media under the PR umbrella.
Social media is ill-defined, non-regulated, and incredibly invasive. Its purpose is to engage users, have them enlist new friends in their passions, hobbies and work, and go out and propagate a network with new friends and prove how influential they can be by gathering even more friends – a sort of pyramid scheme of false influence based on mass psychosis. Edelman and others (word of mouth, viral marketers) constantly issue reports about how effective an individual endorsement is for a product or service, and how to turn the individual into an influencer or evangelist. In other words, how many propagandists can you create who will do your bidding and convert others to your cause?
Some PR Double Speak about social media:
Wisdom of the Crowds really means Imbecility of the Masses. Since Edward Bernays we see that people can be tricked to give themselves cancer for tobacco company profits and politicians can be marketed like lipstick, and we can fabricate ‘verifiable’ justification for war. Social media offers the tools to intensify, broaden and speed up the process of spreading rumors as fact. Who was Al Baghdadi? He was a fictitious character the terrorists cooked up to fool the Americans, who made him public enemy number one in Iraq. This hoax was concocted and perpetrated through the Internet.
The blogosphere is self-correcting really means we’ll push the limit until we get caught and then we’ll pull back until we find another way to cheat without getting caught. MWW CEO Michael Kempner is an unrepentant cheerleader for blogola (with the willful participation of swag-hungry bloggers) and Edelman masked its participations in a Wal-Mart blog and gave away Acer Ferrari computers on behalf of Microsoft, until they got caught. Well, the more you do something, the better you get at it. Web sites, blogs, Twitters, widgets, podcasts, video - are easily accessed and available tools for real bad guys to do really bad damage.
We can’t control messages anymore, it’s all about the conversation. This is the line you hear often from Edelman and others. Actually, if you examine their offerings they are usually tightly controlled, highly manipulated, walled off propaganda machines that are meant to game search engine results and overwhelm an argument on behalf of a client. PR will never be altruistic and open to free and easy conversation. Get real.
Last week The New York Times asked its readers online about what social media sites they belong to and what they use them for. Most were on Facebook and MySpace and most used them for fairly innocuous business or personal matters. The simplicity and naiveté of the 128 responses illustrated how easily they, and by proxy millions of others around the world, could be willing hosts for digitally perpetrated ugliness that can do real harm. What will be PR’s role in that doomsday scenario, and what steps do we take to guard against it? To begin to answer those questions we need to first accept the new realities of the business we are in. We are still a long way from that critical, first step.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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