“Tell the men of the East to look out for the men of the West. The irrepressible Yank is knocking at the doors of their temples and he will want to sell ‘em carpet-sweepers for their harems and electric light plants for their temple shrines.” (Frank Norris, The Octopus)
After you read this new essay on subliminal advertising, I am confident that you will be aware the connection between the above quote and the essay is at best flimsy. In this the quote does no differ in the least from the usage in the publishing market, where publishing houses remunerate editing staff specialized in irrelevant and shallow quotations – the shallower the better. But the above quote also differs from the usual practice inasmuch as it is largely irrelevant but not at all shallow.
That quotation business reminds me of some author’s 6-page (!) Acknowledgments at the end of his book. He does not acknowledge his editors’ quotation job (there are no chapter-heading quotations in that one) but he is so frank and scrupulous in his thankyous to his “ghostwriter,” his “editor,” his “senior editor,” his “researchers,” to Mr so-and-so for the title of the book, and for such and such idea in the book, and for the very idea of the book, and so on and so forth, that one realizes after perusing this that the author’s contribution is at most that single acknowledgments section, and his name on the cover.
Yet I have got another quote for you, which will reverberate with the former one over these intercalary considerations of mine.
“James Joyce’s book [Finnegans Wake] is about the electrical retribalization of the West and the West’s effect on the East: The West shall shake the East awake. …while ye have the night for morn … Joyce’s title refers directly to the Orientalization of the West by electric technology and to the meeting of East and West.” (Marshall McLuhan, War and Peace in the Global Village)
Harem or, more precisely, Purdah: A man who wants to see the world with his own eyes needs baggage consignment.
Cases 109 to 113 are taken once again from Harvard Business Review (for previous HBR cases see here). The issue is October 2016. It is extremely important to deal with cerebral material because, as you know, zombies must be shot in the head. (“Cerebral” refers to “Harvard,” of course, not to “Business,” don’t be silly.)
……………Case 109 Eva Air SEX
Eva Air is a Taiwanese airline company. The hostess has just served the passenger his meal and invites him to enjoy it with a gesture of her hand. Her other hand is concealed by copy; given how that other hand is positioned, one may think she holds something in it, for otherwise the hand would not be, as it is, somewhat lifted in the air but rather down along her body, but as she probably needed both her hands to carry the trail, and besides one sees no object whatever, coffee pot or anything like that, some parts of which would be sticking out of the concealing copy insert, in fact both hands are empty. Consequently, the concealed hand is making the same gesture as the visible hand, and what the hostess is inviting the customer to enjoy is not his meal but herself: she opens her arms to him and his embrace. This is a first subliminal effect.
Then there is a subliminal effect with the visible hand too. As you can see, a glass of wine placed between the hand and the photograph (and viewer) creates by refraction an optical illusion on the hostess’ visible hand. Through the glass, part of her forefinger is seen bigger as it is. Your brain, by experience, normally corrects such illusions and in fact, looking quickly at the picture you will not even notice (in the sense of paying attention to) the altered proportions. I beg you pay attention to these and consider carefully the object you now see. I have outlined the subliminal embed (picture 109-3) but I did a poor job with the computer mouse and am convinced that you can see the penis better on the “blank” picture (109-2). The glass swells the finger’s phalange into the shape of a penis glans, to which the other phalanges provide the shaft. The knuckle bone at the finger’s root looks like a testicle. This is a second subliminal effect.
…………….Case 110 Harvard Business Review’s Online Exclusive SEX
This is an ad for HBR’s online newsletter, dubbed “insider newsletter.” The logo above the copy shows a stylized torso with what seems to be a magic wand – represented as a stick radiating several, multidirectional beams. The object mixes magic and technology, since in the context of modern communication it could be seen as an electric antenna, and the beams as electric or radio waves.
It mixes more than just that. The stick is held in the middle of the torso, not at its margin. If you extend it in imagination, it reaches the groin. The stick is actually a huge erect penis, and it is giving off a massive ejaculate, in several spurts. The spurts are multidirectional because of a vigorous handshake applied to the penis.
……………Case 111 Wharton University of Pennsylvania’s Executive SEX Education
Copy: “Transformation. ‘The moment I knew there were no limitations to what I could achieve’.” In brackets, so we know the utterer of these memorable words is the model. The guy’s transformation is rendered by graphic means by the somewhat fuzzy contours of several of his parts, such as his hair and shirt; the fuzziness does not result from my hand trembling while taking the picture, it is in the original. The guy is transforming before our very eyes, and the background, above his head, is no background at all but a thermic, misty halo emanating from his body as a result of energetic processes at the heart of his transformation.
If we believe the copy, this uncanny mutation will enable the lad to overcome all limitations. Now what, according to you, are the obvious limitations of this guy? He does seem to lack neither intelligence nor the qualities inherent to a friendly, easygoing person. On the other hand, he clearly is a geek. I mean, try to imagine a better representation of a hopeless geek… You cannot. The limitations of our buddy here are sexual.
Executive education is often aimed at people with scientific and engineering training who want to make more money and achieve higher status in the organization world to which they are bound, by opening executive positions to them. As trainees in sciences and engineering, they demonstrated intelligence and a capacity for long studies and hard work. Now it is time to make men of such spineless clowns, and this is what executive education is for. As a consequence, the present ad is a mere copycat of Jerry Lewis’s film The Nutty Professor (1963), whose French title, Docteur Jerry et Mister Love, makes obvious the parodic reference of the film to Stevenson’s famous story about a man’s transforming personality – in the original it is the transformation of a respectable notable into a perverse brute, and in the parody the transformation of a geek into a lady killer. Higher status is the main tool for overcoming males’ sexual limitations, and key to higher status is executive education.
…………….Case 112 Wells Fargo SEX
The erotic content of the ad is hardly mistakable. The woman is sexually aroused. I have drawn two straight lines (picture 106-2) to show the tilting of her head. She is about to kiss the man or is inviting him by her attitude to kiss her. Her eyes are half-closed: these are “bedroom eyes” (seductive eyes). Her lips are puckered up. We see a perfectly triangular, dark area on her trousers at the level of genitals as if the fabric were wet with moisture of arousal.
The man seems rather indifferent, which means: This has happened to him so many times. Every business trip, the lucky guy.
Complement. Among the many preposterous distortions of reality in films of mass consumption, the female character taking sexual initiative is one of the best jokes – even better than female warriors, another recent staple of these products which is such bad taste and so much absurdity, knowing that a man’s slap sends a woman flying ten meters away (I don’t know this from experience, but I don’t need experience to know that it is so). We owe the ubiquitous initiative-taking woman of the movies to the following consideration. The hero being the man, he must be rewarded – with sex (if he is not rewarded with sex, he is a failure, not a hero). But as a hero, his behavior ought not to evidence the vulgar commonalities of his sex, that is, urgent interest in sexual acts, lechery, womanizing, and prostitutes-seeking. The only way for the film maker to solve that dilemma is to introduce on a systematic basis an initiative-taking female character who rewards the hero with her love and body, toward the middle of the film, while he is fully absorbed in his mission and quest.
……………Case 113 Harvard Business School of SEX and Drugs
Copy: “Where experienced executives become exceptional leaders.” Ex-perienced, ex-ecutives, ex-ceptional: sex, sex, sex.
The black man on the right has a penis embedded on his shirt (picture 113-2).
With his bony finger he points toward the penis of the other black man, showing it to the white guy on the left: “You see that penis?” The penis must be erect, as the guy looks to the girl and gestures toward her as if to grab her. With her left arm, the girl is giving hint of a defensive move, as if to avoid the latter’s assault; this is just a reflex, she perhaps is a little scared by the dimensions of his penis but fundamentally she thinks it is okay to be inseminated by him. (Curiously, the skin color of each of her arms is not the same, the left one being tanned –or hairy!–, the right one being not, as if the former arm were another person’s intending to grab her wrist from under the table. Possibly she is going to be gang-raped.)
There is a fifth person on the left, another guy, of whom we only see the hands and shirtsleeves. He holds his pen as a junkie holds a syringe for a shot, with his thumb on top of the piston.
The ad, thus, is about all that is needed to make of “experienced executives” tolerable members of the society.
Job outsourcing by multinationals: Everybody knows… but nobody knows who.
As a Comment to Subliminals XIV (here), I wrote: “I will see if I can find multinationals’ job figures by country. Then we will know which countries would be most impacted by automation. We may call Nike an American company but I believe they employ more Chinese than Americans. If this is true, they may contribute a higher share to Chinese economic growth than to American growth and, on the other hand, the automation of Nike factories would impact Chinese work more than American work. [In the mean time I have been looking for Nike job figures by country and did not find them. Hard task, it seems. Probably with some reason…]”
The reason is, I now know, that companies are not compelled to divulge their job figures country by country. That, again, probably with some reason.
“U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced a bill that would require publicly-traded corporations to disclose the number of employees they have in the United States and overseas. Under current law, companies must disclose their total number of employees in annual Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Peters’ bill, titled the Outsourcing Accountability Act, wouldn’t create a new regulation, but rather change the existing rule so companies would have to break down their employment figures by nation and state.” (2012) (source)
The bill was voted down.
“Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that ‘U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million’.” (source)
You bet companies don’t want to break down their job figures! That bill is key. When the American people realize and actually see (with figures) that their favorite brands employ 100 or 1.000 or 10.000 times more Chinese than Americans, they will start questioning their approach to consumption, I believe.
Add fiscal outsourcing, which is done by most big companies, as admitted by The Economist, and what I said about American multinationals contributing more to foreign growth than to American growth is wholly warranted: “The volume of money moving through such havens [i.e. “the most tax- and regulation-efficient jurisdictions”] on the way to their final destination has risen sharply since 2000 and currently makes up about 30% of all FDI [foreign direct investment].” (TE, Sep 17th-23rd 2016)
When I say “nobody knows who (does),” whereas all multinationals do, this simply means that people ought to get the figures presented to them in tables ranking the companies from highest to lowest outsourcing figures. Support Outsourcing Accountability Act.
The Winner Takes All
Wikileaks reveals: “Qatar giving Bill Clinton $1m for 5 minute meeting.” That is some $3.333 per second of presence. At this rate, Bill Clinton earns the same as 2,361,480 average Americans (Mean personal income $44,510, US Census Bureau).
If you take median income ($30,240), he earns as much as 3,475,842 or about 3.5 million average Americans.
Full-time minimum wage in US is $15,080. Bill Clinton earns the same as 6,970,125 or about 7 million American workers at the minimum wage.
The poverty line in US is $11,770. At his Qatari rates, Bill Clinton earns as much as 8,930,287 or about 9 million Americans at the poverty line.
If you know the mean/median income of the 46.7 million Americans below the poverty line (Census Bureau figures’ for 2014), then you can find how many millions of American paupers Bill Clinton is worth.
“When one comes to the ultra-modern profession of advertising, responded Schliemann, – the science of persuading people to buy what they do not want, – he is in the very center of the ghastly charnel-house of capitalist destructiveness, and he scarcely knows which of a dozen horrors to point out first.” (Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906)
“Today’s superstars [superstar companies] are using modern science to push advertising into areas that have not been tried before, raising difficult ethical questions about what ‘free choice’ means in a capitalist economy.” (The Economist, September 17th-23rd 2016)
What these “areas that have not been tried before” are, is not to be gathered, however, from that issue of The Economist. They seem to discover advertising only today, more than a hundred years after Upton Sinclair talked of it as “the very center of the ghastly charnel-house of capitalist destructiveness.” Still, it is with this admission – by a fierce mouthpiece of capitalism – of the reality of some strange “science” at the service of advertising, “raising difficult ethical questions … in a capitalist economy,” that we are proud to introduce our new cases of subliminal junk.
Cases 103-108 are taken from Harvard Business Review, September 2016.
……………Case 103 BASF Bestiality
The model, a swarthy, scruffy, unshaven man seems to come out of a film on the Mexican Revolution. After having conquered “tierra y libertad,” he now enjoys the fruits of his labor on a land of his own, gazing with touching emotion at gorgeous sweet peppers he holds in his hands – his own peppers.
A table is set on the left side of the advert, with a salad bowl and a glass of what looks more like grenadine syrup than wine. After seeing this ad, for one thing BASF poisons will be associated in your mind with luxurious green goods and poor but dignified campesinos.
Then there is a subliminal embed in the glass of grenadine, which I have outlined. A naked woman is sitting on her knees. Her head is tilting back as a big dog sniffs her pussy; she expects him to lick her genitals. As the dog wears a necklace, it is probably her own pet dog, which she acquired to satisfy her lust in this way. This is bestiality. And it is offered you by BASF.
……………Case 104 Stanford Business School of SEX
This one for another top Ivy League university, and more specifically for its executive education department. The main character in the show, the man on the right, has a somewhat disheveled and thoroughly scruffy look about him – the very look that is abhorrent to all corporate organizations throughout the world. This is, however, good selling pitch, meaning: Take a break from the horrendous monotonousness of your dreary corporate life by enrolling to our program and be for a couple of days, or weeks, the bum you dream to be.
But the ad promises more than that. On picture 104-2 I have drawn a straight line to show what the man is looking at, namely the woman’s breast. Looking at her breast and grasping an invisible object in the air… First watch, then touch; he already has his hands in position, all it takes now is a 90-degree turn.
The woman is smiling at him, encouragingly. Besides, she could not escape his grasping if she wanted, because she is manacled. Her hands are tied together exactly like manacled hands, and her watch wrist provides the clear suggestion of manacles.
The man is thinking so hard about sexual acts with the woman that he is projecting laser penises from his brain (picture 104-2). One is just leaving his skull. A second one, very bright, is bolting toward her face. Below that one, a third penis, very fat, is about to reach her on the nose, where she will have to handle it to her mouth, I guess.
The third character is the loser you do not want to be. If you look carefully, he seems quite depressed. At first glance, you may think he is looking at and listening to the other guy, but in fact he just stares into space, brewing over the failure of his life. To the very hardcore sex action that is going to take place he will remain spectator merely, if anything; he is so much of a loser that he cannot even have enough spite to be willing to prevent it. As he sits quite close to the woman, she may be his girlfriend, actually. But his luck with her is over. You can’t be a loser and keep your sweetheart when the Stanford boy comes in.
…………….Case 105 Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science of SEX
The copy reads: “What did one doctor discover during the Ebola crisis? Herself.” And she is looking fondly at one of the above men’s bum. You see her looking at the top of the world, at the stars, you say she is a woman with dreams (read greedy ambition) determined to fulfill them and to be one of the worthies of this world. Which amounts – follow the straight line I draw – to finding a man with nicely-shaped buttocks. (She looks at the only one whose presence is primarily marked by his conspicuous buttocks.) And if you enroll at Rosalind, this is precisely what you will find at last. They promise. If you are already married, then you will find the man with whom to cuckold your husband at last. Promised.
……………Case 106 Harvard Business School of Hot SEX
“Great leaders never stop evolving.” I would never have imagined that great leaders looked like that. The man on the left is just ridiculous, with half-cooked Chinese noodles dangling from his hand. The man in the middle is a juggler: there is a small cake in equilibrium on top of his coffee cup. Jugglery is the specialty of circus clowns and was formerly that of court jesters and buffoons. The lady is actually running: only the tip of her right foot touches the ground, perhaps it does not even touch it – a movement she could not make if she were walking (the other foot has been cropped out of the picture so you can imagine it does not touch the ground either). Her overcoat almost seems to have fallen from her right shoulder (you need to look at it with attention to find out that both her shoulders are still covered), it does not cover the right side of her chest, and anyway she looks quite unkempt. Her right hand lies on a jacket button, which she may be opening, in the process of taking off the jacket. Her eyes are closed and she smiles, her face turned in the direction of the guys. She is in a state of sexual arousal or even in an act of solitary sex. Expecting more (in her never-ending evolving), she is running in her haste to reach the place of the three’s sexual rendezvous and such is her lustful haste that she is undressing while running.
Harvard Business School: last chance of hot sex for the desperate cases.
……………Case 107 Laugh & Suck
A funny cartoon, and it is signed SUCK.
……………Case 108 Bottega Veneta SEX
& a nice SEX embed for good measure. (You don’t even have to enlarge the pics to see it perfectly.)
……………Complements: My Life in Subliminals
Subliminals have been a major influence on my musical tastes. The first cassette tape I bought in my life was an album by band INXS, after seeing a couple of times their clip Need You Tonight (1987) on TV.
Then, the first laser disc I bought was an album by band Simply Red, after seeing a couple of times on TV their clip Something Got Me Started (1991).
Both were successful bands in my teens. Then, recently retrieving these clips on YouTube, I found the following.
Need You Tonight
The singer’s leather jacket, near the zipper, on the chest, sports the letters SEX, in chrome or something like that, vertically. The “embed” is not particularly hard to detect, and if I remember well I had detected it before buying the album. Even though, among the various subliminal techniques used in the film The Exorcist (1973), exposed by Wilson Bryan Key in Media Sexploitation (1976), there are flash images of a ghastly face; as the film-makers themselves explained, some people see these images consciously, others do not (in this way they intended to dismiss the idea that the technique is subliminal). It could be the same with the SEX here. If you’re not really watching the clip but rather listening to it while doing something else (as occurs with TV viewing, which is often done together with another activity), the letters on the jacket may escape your conscious attention. Be that as it may, let us say the SEX on the jacket is not subliminal at all and very obvious. This is still a case of using the written word as a way to “sex up” the show. As it seems, it is hot to sport the word SEX on one’s jacket. (Or is it cool, rather?)
To see if that would elicit reaction, I dropped a comment on YouTube in the form of a question: “Is it the word SEX I read on his jacket?” No reaction so far. I hope I haven’t spoilt the fans’ pleasure with an indiscreet remark.
Something Got Me Started
From 2:20 to 2:34 (instrumental) one hears a faint female voice speaking. However, what that voice says is not to be got at all. Here is the best example I have found so far of a subliminal technique in music/on TV: the voice can be heard, by attentive listeners, but the words never. And I bought the disc. The sequence occurs after a female voice has whispered “I really love you,” to which the singer reacts with an “Ooooh” of arousal. Both songs, by the way, make supraliminal use of whispers (“Come over here” at the beginning of Need You Tonight) – already the conscious content is highly eroticized in both cases.
Here as well I left a comment on YouTube: “From 2:20 to 2:34 one hears a faint female voice speaking, if you listen carefully. Can someone tell me what she says?” No answer so far. If you’re a sound engineer and intrigued by this too, please contact me because I am ready to pay for having these occult words deciphered.