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Saturday, July 31, 2021
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Gardening

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gardening

Gardens are a time-honoured tradition, which in the past served to nourish larger families than there are now and save on grocery bills. Victory gardens played important roles during wartime to help families be more self-sufficient and less affected by shortages or supply interruptions. Today with year-round availability of produce, some of which is reasonably priced, and lack of generational hand down of gardening skills, many people forego putting in a garden particularly when living in apartments or condos. I put in a garden because it’s a pleasant pastime and helps connect with my neighbors. As a struggling novice it gives me some appreciation for difficulties encountered by farmers. A crop loss or screwup for a small plot gardener can be easily fixed by a trip to a greenhouse, but for farmers, screwups could mean physical, mental and financial peril. Working in the garden also gives me some appreciation for what it took to settle the land the way my Grandpa did with a horse, plow and sod hut in southwestern Saskatchewan. Transplant me back about 115 years, emigrating from Europe to the bald prairie to stake a claim, and farming by horse-power, I’d give myself about 2 years before I’d kick the bucket. Lying here in my air-conditioned house on a warm day makes me wonder if I have any genes left that would kick in if I was forced to live off the land.

I can usually get stuff to grow in my garden, and many of my neighbors have complimented me yearly. The truth is I was fortunate to buy a place where the previous owner put in some really nice topsoil, and because I have no fence, I get maximum sun exposure. This year might, however, break my string of nice-looking gardens. This year I could be facing a blotchy looking garden overrun with weeds. This year out of laziness I bought a seeder, with a wheel in front and back, one of which drives a seed dispenser which drops seed into a row then gets covered up. My problem is my garden isn’t big enough for the seeder, and one or two packs of seeds barely fills the bottom of the reservoir. Now as the seedlings start to pop up, I’ve got some almost full rows, some patchy rows and some rows that did not come in at all. Cap this off with birds diving in to eat the pea and bean seeds, and I’ve got a crop failure the likes of which has not been seen since the dirty 30’s. But like any other red blooded Canadian with disposable income, I’ll likely be headed to the greenhouse for bedding plants, and sneak out late in the evening (after my neighbors have gone to bed) and fill in all the spaces.

Truthfully, I’m a bit surprised I put in a garden. As a kid we had a large garden. Looking after it took some work, and summer holidays always depended on whether we’d finished weeding. The garden was rototilled to start the season with an 8 HP tiller that was designed more to shake the operator than scratch the ground. During harvest, myself and siblings would dig and pluck for days to get the potatoes, carrots and other vegetables in, and my Mom would spend days and nights getting things washed up and either dumped in bins, canned or frozen. On top of this we also harvested a few different types of crab and baking apples for jellies, sauces and pies. One year, however, Dad decided to make (hard) apple cider and bought a grinder, cider press and an oak barrel. We filled the 45 gallon barrel, and much of that winter is kind of sketchy for me as trips to the basement often meant popping the bung from the barrel and siphoning off enough for a healthy glow. Kind of makes me wonder how many apple trees I could fit in my garden, as it would certainly cut down on weeding, and might reap both tremendous social rewards and financial savings. Even if things turned sour, I could set up a roadside stand selling organic apple cider vinegar.

WTO to Discuss IP rights for Vaccines

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In my opinion, one of the unfortunate side effects of the global pandemic is that Big Pharma can now posture as the savior of humanity. Given the past behavior of some major pharmaceutical companies, they have shown themselves to be more concerned with aggressive marketing of their products rather than optimizing the health of humanity.

The World Trade Organization will be discussing the intellectual property rights of vaccine manufacturers. The concern over these intellectual property rights is that they impede the rapid manufacturing and distribution of vaccines, particularly in countries which have the most dire need. They will discuss whether the waiving of these rights will enhance the fight against the current pandemic.

A pdf of the proposed agenda for today (May 5th, 2021) is attached.

IPCW669

The Art of Laziness

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The art of laziness is best appreciated as a solo endeavor. As a kid, my efforts to practice the art were thwarted by a psychotic older brother with whom I shared a room. From the rare sleepovers Cinder-Harold was allowed on, I discovered Saturday mornings were the quintessential time for practicing laziness, as my friends were allowed to lay in bed to awaken to wafting fragrances of bacon and pancakes, with an option to partake only if they wanted. At my house, Mom would call for breakfast faintly enough for my brother to hear, but not loud enough for me. I’d lay in bed, to be awakened by my brother’s threads, not wanting to be whisked away to the farm to do all the chores (i.e. cleaning a week’s worth of horse stalls and hauling feed). Defcon 2 sounded when he’d sprint up the stairs to personalize his threats. On rare occasions when I’d challenge his bluff, Defcon 3 meant head shots and hair pulling until screams were quietened by royal decree to acquiesce to my brother’s demands. Only once did my efforts result in being able to sleep in, except when sick, but that’s another story.

These days, true laziness can only be expressed through mindful meditation, which allows detachment from procrastination. A couple of deep breaths, wiggle the toes, and progressive relaxation to unconsciousness before awakening to a moist towelette on your cheek (aka spit soaked pillowcase). Ideal laziness can only be achieved if you have nothing to do. The thread of work is enough to ruin the experience, and one has to be careful to never fill in all the dates on your refrigerator calendar. To achieve true balance for the things you have to do, you must find time to centre yourself to do nothing, and counterbalance with pleasurable activities. Indeed, some of the laziest moments I’ve achieved have been on the golf course where I’ve swapped my feelings of procrastination with the bliss of one pure strike out of 100. Sadly though, the 99 blows of frustration often lead me to question if there’s a better use for my time. Thankfully, my ruminations are short lived as I focus mindfully on my friends mounting scores, tortuous profanity and the odd helicopter club launched into a water hazard.

It is true that some of the least lazy people are medical doctors. High achieving individuals with calendars packed with appointments to cure humanity. It’s little wonder the AMA hasn’t endorsed the Art of Laziness to promote longevity. How many times have you heard of a type A personality taking the retirement plunge, keeping their foot on the gas and shifting into neutral? They lose their sense of purpose, and keel over when their neural gyroscopes go off kilter and scramble their noggins. You cannot lose purpose if you have no purpose, which is the central tenant to the Art of Laziness…with one corollary….you must move enough to ensure all your parts keep working. Your body has to be primed and toned to do things like get up out of a chair to avoid the downhill slide from fat and sassy to ashes and dust. In similarity to the hypocritic oath, however, you must do no harm. The only proper way to work up a sweat is lazily consuming spicey Tai food with a cold beer. Be lazy my friends…peace out. May they find your body in pristine condition when you achieve perfect stasis.

Spring has Sprung

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Determining how spring has sprung is a lot different these days. When I was a kid, it was when you’d get soaked dragging across a pasture of half melted manure trying to treat scouring calves. Winter boots were swapped for gumboots. The water would run, and overnight freezes would glaze over puddles ideal for jumping on. Water running brought out the inner beaver, constructing dams of gravel dumped on roads over the winter. Holes in your gumboots were soon discovered, and icy water would soak your feet as you tested the limits of your boot tops. The air, as always, became rich with rotting fragrances awaiting burn off by the sun.

One spring day in the early 70’s, the family were assembled, except for Dad, for a trip to Edmonton. I forget the occasion, but we were decked out in good clothes waiting for Dad. We waited….and….waited and decided to pass the time visiting a nearby slough swelling with runoff. It had a plank fence running through the middle, and a few boards scattered around, which we stacked up to push into the slough. We climbed along the planks pushing the stacked boards out further and further, then decided to test the buoyancy of our ‘trusty raft’. It almost held up one of us, but not the second or third as the car horn signalled Dad’s arrival. We scrabbled to shore and dumped out boots while standing in sock feet on half frozen mud. A foot squeaking sprint to the farmyard amid laughter was met with the glare…the glare that meant our journey would be delayed slightly for a quick round of corporal punishment. One by one tuning was dispensed with and all three were lined up together. The oldest was close in receiving little velocity, brother two in the middle stepped forward just enough not to catch anything, and myself, furthest out, experienced the wrap around. A winter full of “I’ll give you something to cry about” came to fruition.

These days there are no calves to catch, and I don’t even own rubber boots. Spring is signalled by the out of washer fluid light on my dash and snow melting to reveal what’s left-over from my fall cleanup. The memories of splash-dash-lash still, however, pervade my thoughts as the stench of a winter’s worth of dog poop thaws in the back yard to clear my sinuses.

How to be a Useful Idiot

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Given the rise in various “conspiracy theories” around the current pandemic and those who have been caught up in them, it is time for some explanation around how this happens and why.

I would like to dedicate this article to well meaning people who have become useful idiots in the promotion of various conspiracy theories.

I have written a related article on this topic about a new marketing technique called “Conspiracy Theory Marketing“. This article addresses a related topic, but focusses more on those who have become “useful idiots” in this process. For the purpose of this article a “useful idiot” is defined as someone who is often well meaning but does not recognize how they are being manipulated and used by a marketing campaign.

A rather nefarious technique used by vendors who seek to promote their products and/or services is to hijack genuine desires in a demographic to self-promote. This is achieved by targeting a demographic with ad campaigns that appear, at least superficially, to support their genuine desires and then present a product or service that offers fulfillment for those desires. This is at its core, highly dishonest, since frequently the product or service being promoted is either harmful or offers no real value to those being duped.

There is a long history of such activities primarily executed by marketing agencies. Here are a few examples from tobacco companies:

  • The Virginia Slims ad campaign was created to encourage more women to smoke since this demographic was seen by tobacco companies as an untapped resource of new customers since at the time, smoking was primarily a male habit. They did this by hijacking the genuine desire of women to be empowered to have more self-determination. They were successful and increased emphysema and lung cancer rates in women.
  • Another campaign from big tobacco was dubbed “The Marlboro Man Campaign.” This campaign was designed to reinforce the desire of males to appear more masculine and of course this would be achieved by smoking. As above, the great success of this campaign lead to more smoking and hence more emphysema and lung cancer in men.
  • A current campaign that is being run by tobacco company Rothmans Benson and Hedges is an “unsmoke” campaign which captures the genuine desire of people to quit smoking and then offers them their new line of products which include vaping devices and supplies. How this will shake out is yet to be seen.

There a many more examples of these techniques. The new version of these campaigns hijacks those who feel the “establishment” wishes to control them and to direct their behavior to promote hidden agendas. They are not completely wrong about that, since there are forces at work that are driven by self-interest and do impact government policy that in turn impacts all of us.

A rational critique of governments and their actions and policies is both reasonable and necessary to maintain a healthy democracy. From that perspective, the desire of those who are skeptical of governments is fair, however the key word here is “rational”. Once these legitimate desires are hijacked from rational critiques of government to irrational conspiracy theory based attacks, those who buy in, have become useful idiots.

As I noted in my previous article: “Conspiracy Theory Marketing“, if you peel back the layers on most of those who promote various conspiracy theories around the pandemic, they are relentlessly self-promoting. Those who do this kind of self-promotion could care less about the veracity of the information they are promoting, since revealing truth is not their purpose. They seek to create as much buzz as possible and recruit useful idiots to share the social media posts and videos they create to self-promote.

The unfortunate side-effect of these disinformation campaigns, is that those who would offer rational critiques of government, now appear as loonies and since their “critiques” are based on the demonstrable stupidity provided by various conspiracy theories, they are very easy to dismiss as “idiots” (i.e. useful idiots). In other words, since they offer no rational or valuable critique of the status quo, they are reinforcing the very status quo they are objecting to! Useful idiocy at its best!

It gets worse. The useful idiots who share social media that supports these conspiracy theories are supporting the marketing campaigns of those who create them and at the same time offering misinformation that can produce harms.

The other odd effect here, manifests as a kind of cognitive dissonance that occurs in these useful idiots. In order to rationalize their support of the nonsense they share, they convince themselves they are mentally superior to those who think the pandemic is a real thing and hence they are participating in a movement that seeks truth.

To be absolutely clear, the pandemic is a real thing and rational critique of how governments and healthcare systems react to, or manage the pandemic is also completely fair and desirable. The problem with useful idiots is that they fail to realize how they have been hijacked and therefore have nothing useful to add to the debate on how to manage pandemics and other healthcare issues.

We need to rationally critique our governments without falling prey to the disinformation campaigns being cynically manufactured for relentless self-promotion.

So to all useful idiots out there, time to wake up and see how you are being used, and then put your efforts into initiatives that are of value to your fellow human beings.

Big Data is Watching You

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Big Data

The title of this article is slightly misleading. Big data is not watching you, but big data could not exist without all of your activities on the Internet being monitored on a continuous basis.

So what? Since you are not up to anything nefarious, does this really matter?

The short answer is: yes it does.

First of all, exactly what is “big data”?

If all of your activities on the Internet are monitored, and everyone else’s are as well, the amount of information or data that is collected, stored and processed is massive, hence the term “big data”. It also important to note that it is not just the amount of the data that matters, but also how that data is processed to reveal connections and to characterize those connections in ways that make actions that employ that data, fruitful for those who use it.

The obvious follow-up questions are:

  • Who is doing the watching (and collecting)?
  • Why are they watching?
  • How is the data they collect used?
  • Are there any issues around how this “big data” is used?

If you participate in any social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. you are providing personal information that has value to those who own those platforms. Your internet searches, web browsing behavior, online purchases, articles you read, and videos you watch also provide information that is of value.

The value that you provide is your personal information, which is a marketable commodity that can be sold to advertisers. Advertisers buy services from companies like Google and Facebook who store your personal information. The data they have collected on you allows them to target ads very specifically since they know so much about you. What they know about you is stored in a profile that is very specific to you and contains a stunning number of different data points. This data is not only information related to your identity such as gender, age, location, profession, group memberships, and nationality, but also includes your beliefs and interests. Your stored profile also contains other information related to politics, religion, hobbies , activities etc. It also includes a lists of people you are associated with such as family, friends, professional associates and others.

Since the collected data allows very specific ad targeting, it is of great value to advertisers since they are not spending money exposing their ads to demographics who are unlikely to buy their products or services. This happens since each page you view in your browser is rendered dynamically and is customized for you with information and ads that are consistent with the profile they have assembled on you.

It is worth emphasizing how dynamic customization of what is viewed on the Internet impacts how people interpret what they are seeing. Many might assume they get the same information and ads for all those viewing the same “page” on the Internet. This is not true. You view is customized for you.

There are some side-effects of this customization that have been discussed in a previous article: The Filter Bubble.

In this article, I am focusing on how this data is used. Like all technologies, the technology itself may have no particular bias, however, how it is used may offer both positive and negative aspects.

For advertisers this technologies offers the obvious efficiencies as noted above. For those being shown advertising, they are seeing products and services that they are most likely interested in acquiring. None of that seems terribly concerning. However, what about other types of applications?

The bad boy of big data was a company called “Cambridge Analytica”. The claim made about this company was that they had inappropriately used a large amount of data acquired from Facebook in advertising campaigns they had executed on behalf of their clients. The amusing thing about that is, as noted above, the business model of Facebook is based on harvesting personal data which they can sell to companies like Cambridge Analytica. So what’s the fuss?

The answer to that question has some nuance. Firstly, it exposed the business model of Facebook to its user community in ways that are, at the very least, embarrassing to Facebook, since it demonstrates clearly what Facebook is all about: harvesting personal data for profit. This creates considerable awkwardness for Facebook, since the more they “protect” personal data, the less valuable that data becomes. This puts Facebook in the middle between Facebook users wanting privacy and their customers wanting as much data as possible. Who do you suppose will win that tug of war?

One of the major concerns raised over the Cambridge Analytica scandal was the use of psychological profiles they had developed on Facebook users in their ad campaigns. These ad campaigns where designed to target Facebook users who were identified as being in the middle ground, in elections or referendums, to sway their votes in favor of a particular candidate or cause. Apparently the clients of Cambridge Analytica were happy with the results. Facebook, on the other hand, postured as the injured party since they claimed their data had been used inappropriately.

The lesson learned: really targeted advertising, based on the analysis of big data, can change the voting behavior of those who are on the fence. This bring us into a whole new world of advertising. We have gone from lawn signs to very specific targeted ads that have impacts far beyond traditional forms of political campaigning (or other forms of campaigns).

Given that the impacts of such campaigns are real, yet so subtle that most may be unaware of their effects, should they be curtailed in some way? If they are to be curtailed, what happens to those who are currently profiting from the mass collection of personal data?

This is the current challenge around all social media. It is not necessarily just harmless fun. The use of social media by increasingly large numbers of individuals, produces a vast treasure trove of data that can be used in ways that undermine the process of democracy, which presumes we all have the freedom to choose. But are those choices free of biases created by strategic advertising campaigns? How do we make good choices when the information we are seeing is skewed?

It is fair to say information has always been presented in ways that has bias, however with the advent of big data, the key change has been that biased information can be targeted and hence can be fed to selected groups of people who can be swayed. This makes the promulgation of biased information far more nefarious due to its potential impacts on “free” societies.

We all need to take a step back and recognize how we can be possibly manipulated by the use of our own personal data, which we happily give away on a regular basis through our use of social media. It is naïve to think we are beyond the influence of targeted campaigns facilitated by big data.

Those campaigns have real effects, so be aware, be very aware!

The Filter Bubble

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Filter Bubble

One of the more pervasive and pernicious aspects of social media and web based marketing  is what is known as “the filter bubble”. This impacts all of us since the content we are viewing on the internet is selected or customized, without our knowledge, to show information (advertising, news, etc.) that is congruent with what is calculated to be our beliefs.

The intent of this content conditioning is to show individuals content that will reinforce their world view and then push advertising at them that is congruent with their world view or interests. The simple goal of that is to maximize the likelihood of a sale for advertisers.

In this article, I am discussing the impact of the “filter bubble” and in another article I will address the related issue of using “big data” to manipulate public opinion. 

The Internet and the platforms that we use have been subtly hijacked from information-based facilities to marketing facilities. While this may seem somewhat harmless, since the ads we are presented with pay for “free service”, there are concerns about how this impacts our perception and world view.  

What most don’t realize is that the scale of information collection on Internet users is massive, and of course, happens without their awareness or consent.

All of us are profiled. These profiles are stored and include a huge number of so-called data points. This includes both personal information and online behavior such as: age, gender, location, online search and browsing history, online purchase history, political beliefs, religious beliefs, video views, social media views and many many more. All of this data is very helpful to advertising vendors such as Google and Facebook in deciding what content and ads you will see as you browse the web or use their platforms.

For internet searches, you and your neighbor will not see the same content even if you use precisely the same search terms. This is because searches are executed based not only on submitted search terms, but also on user profiles that are constructed over time by monitoring the online behavior of each user.

On social media platforms, your profile will be constructed not only on your own behavior, but also on the behavior of friends, family and others you are associated with. 

Even users who are aware of this implicit contract which states: “You get my personal information and in return, I get free searches and social media platforms”, seem unconcerned, but should they be?

Is their any cause for concern about any of this? Are their unintended side-effects of these techniques? Are there broader social impacts since the filter bubble affects so many, and most of those affected are unaware of how pervasive it is?

There are a number of reasons for concern since:

  • A large percentage of Internet users are completely unaware of the pervasiveness and depth of data collection that occurs based on their identity and behavior.
  • Even those who are aware of it may naively believe they have nothing to hide.
  • There would be no filter bubble if it was not an effective technique for manipulating beliefs and behavior.
  • The filter bubble can create the misperception that each persons world view is more widely shared than it is, by skewing the content they are presented with.
  • The filter bubble can create silos of users who share common world views and come to believe they are unvarnished reality when they are a manufactured reality created by the filter bubble.

All of the points, listed above, can have very profound impacts since they reinforce or alter particular world views, which creates an artificial reality for users.

The primary impact of the filter bubble is that it tends to create isolation rather then bringing people together. In other words, it is inherently polarizing since it distorts perception to reinforce each individuals world view as being correct and dominant. Which of course makes those who don’t share a particular world view, a minority and wrong!

A related impact of the filter bubble is that it tends to reinforce binary thinking. This creates and exacerbates artificial divisions between people based on any particular topic such as:

  • You are either left wing or right wing
  • You are a pro-vaxer or an anti-vaxer
  • You are a socialist or a capitalist
  • You are religious or a heathen.
  • You are a conspiracy theorist or completely rational
  • You are pro-science or anti-science

In a debate, there should be far more nuance than simply picking sides and presenting one biased view versus another. This is the opposite of critical thinking.

Sadly, it is easier to characterize the effects of the filter bubble than it is to recommend or promote an antidote, since the effects are so broad and pervasive, and they have become effectively invisible for most. 

My purpose in writing this article, is to shine some light on the filter bubble and its’ effects and encourage others to engage critical thinking around their own behavior and the behavior of others and how they view what they are being shown on the Internet.

Awareness is an ally in combatting the filter bubble. Good luck and best wishes.

 

 

Sociopathy for Fun and Profit

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Sociopathy

Hello all my loyal friends and course subscribers! I am thrilled to announce a new (and very important!) course series from the Moople Academy for Advance Learning (MAFAL).

At MAFAL your success is our biggest concern, ok maybe our second biggest concern after lining our own pockets, but we are still concerned ok?

Today we are announcing our a new series of courses that will put you on the path to success and make you an unstoppable force.

We will train you how to get rid of all those self-limiting feelings like empathy, compassion and remorse and teach you how to enrich yourself at the expense of others. Let’s face it, you deserve their money and they don’t deserve to keep it if they can’t hang on to it, right? Why should you feel bad about that? You shouldn’t and you won’t once you have completed our new course series on how to become an accomplished sociopath.

Sociopathy is not bad at all! Look at all the hugely successful people on the planet. What do they have in common? Simple answer: they are sociopaths! They have learned how to suppress empathy, compassion and remorse to allow themselves to do whatever it takes to be successful and you can too!

We are dedicated to the proposition that sociopathy can be learned. Sure some folks are lucky enough to be born that way, but if you aren’t, you can become a sociopath by practicing what will we teach in our new course series.

Here is just a sampler of what you can look forward to:

Course 1: The Basics
1. How to ignore the concerns of others
2. Only your concerns matter
3. Guilt is for losers
4. Don’t worry be happy (while standing on someone else’s neck)
5. Lies aren’t lies if you believe them

I am betting you are already excited! Course 1 is just the beginning! We offer a full series of 8 courses all for the very low price of $1400 per course or buy the whole bundle for the incredible price of $5600, that’s a 50% savings! How can anyone resist that! So act now, this fantastic price is only in effect until you finish reading this article!

Sign up today and become the sociopath you have always wanted to be. Say goodbye to guilt! Say goodbye to empathy! Say goodbye to your conscience! All of those things are just impediments to sociopathy and sociopathy equals success!

Thank you for you kind attention and I hope to see you in class soon!

Fred Moople
Sociopath in Chief

Conspiracy Theory Marketing

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Conspiracy Theory Marketing

Let me clarify, what I am discussing in this article is a technique of marketing that is being widely used by those promoting so called “conspiracy theories”, as a way of promoting their products and services.

The term “conspiracy theory” is relatively meaningless, but for the purposes of this article it will mean: the presentation of information that is divergent from the majority or establishment view and is controversial and perhaps inflammatory. Furthermore, those presenting “conspiracy theories” really do not care whether they are true or not, since that is irrelevant to their primary purpose which is to drive attention to themselves and hence drive sales of their products and/or services.

This marketing technique is further enhanced by creating a cadre of loyal followers who believe that the individual presenting the “conspiracy theory” is providing an essential service (by opposing establishment views) and of course standing up for freedom of speech and other freedoms.

By creating, this cadre of loyalists, the marketer now has the perfect group, pre-selected for the purchase of products and services, or in the case of those running for public office, the perfect donor class.

I have written about Brian Rose, in a previous article, who operates a business in London, England to sell courses offered online and in person to promote business development.

To promote his business he operates a YouTube channel called “London Real” where he interviews a wide variety of individuals, some who promote various “conspiracy theories”.

What has worked so well for Rose, is that some of his more controversial videos have been banned by YouTube. This may seem like it is a bad thing for Rose, but in fact it is a gift that allows him to posture as an injured party, who is being discriminated against, and furthermore, allows him to identify as a free speech advocate who is standing up for all of us. The brilliance of this move is that it drives a lot of buzz and attention and of course sales of his courses. Rose has become a master conspiracy theory marketer.

A tip of the hat to his latest maneuver, where as part of his election campaign for the Mayor of London he deliberately violated local pandemic response protocols. He was fined 200 British pounds for his transgressions.

For an investment of 200 pounds (the fine),  he got a massive amount of publicity where he could claim discrimination on political grounds and drive donations for his campaign and of course sales of his courses. This is the big payoff for this technique, since it is relatively inexpensive to generate a huge amount of publicity and it solidifies support from those who believe he is standing up for them, rather than just filling his own pockets.

Unfortunately, what this means from a broader perspective, is that morally repugnant behavior can have a huge payoff.  It is both reasonable and valuable to question authority, however this marketing technique does not offer rational critiques of governments or other authorities since its primary purpose is to drive sales by stirring up emotions.

We now have a significant group who have thrown their moral compass in the garbage can because this technique works so well for them. Their social consciousnesses are non-existent and their bank accounts are swelling.

A perfect example of this technique was executed by Donald Trump and his loyal sycophants. The “Stop the Steal” campaign, which promoted completely bogus claims of election fraud, garnered hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of weeks, making it one of the biggest and most successful grifts in American history. The fact that this campaign provided the disinformation that helped spark an insurrection is the repugnant side-effect of this marketing technique.

My reason for writing this article is to throw up a very red flag about “Conspiracy Theory Marketing”. I would encourage all of those who may be susceptible to these techniques to take a hard look at the motivations behind them.

Ask the question: “Who does this serve?”.

If it is merely self-serving behavior that drives sales and social discord, do not open your wallet! Additionally, do not share social media that is designed for this purpose, since this will just make you a “useful idiot” in someone else’s marketing campaign.

Honest English

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I hate English. I’d like to think it has something to do with the great potato famine, but in truth, it’s because I have little aptitude for understanding or applying its proper usage. Awkwardness and random punctuation are hallmarks of my written expression. At times I feel like I’m disabled because I read at 33 and 1/3 while everyone else is at 78. I’d add an explanation for the numbers, but I hate young people and they’re provably googling it now anyway.

My journey into functional illiteracy began at an early age. I went through the motions at school reading what I could, but never had a chance to catch those who read more than their height in grade 4. My reading was frequently deemed a “U” for unsatisfactory on report cards. In grade 6 I was diagnosed with a grade 3 reading level, and the remedy prescribed was to read “until it killed me”. Unfortunately, I still read at 33 and 1/3, and when I flick on the TV, click the guide and program, I have to sit through 2-3 cycles of tombstone information so I can read the synopsis of an episode. In school to pass from grade to grade, I had to rely on my memory as I didn’t have a hope in hell of reading anything twice.

The irony is I mostly read and write for a living now. Much of it is procedural, with concrete subjects and requirements to follow laws of the physical world. Sadly I’ll never be able to appreciate great prose….the shades of leaves serpentining to the ground in great heaps under the old oak where grandma sat to draw her last breath… before reporting for work at Walmart.

My short musings shared with you in Tales from Lacombe are stepping stones to assist in my quest to one day write longer works to expose shortcomings of education in Alberta in the 1960’s and 70’s. I hope to then find an ambulance chaser amongst my readership to help mount a class action suit so I, and similarly affected, can retire on fat stacks of cash, which are now seemingly available for the asking.

Humour

gardening

Gardening

The Art of Laziness

Spring has Sprung

Honest English

Editorials

How to be a Useful Idiot

Big Data

Big Data is Watching You

Filter Bubble

The Filter Bubble

Conspiracy Theory Marketing

Conspiracy Theory Marketing

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