To his credit, Chris has responded to an email he received from someone who had the same concern about all this that I have. But sadly, his response doesn’t convince me he understands the gravity of recommending Goebbels. In particular, both the podcast and Chris’s response suggest that John and Chris fail to see the distinction between marketing segmentation and the “artificially dividing people into groups” that was the linchpin of Goebbels’s work. Distinguishing between cost-conscious and style-conscious consumers is hardly the same as dividing humankind into a master race and a people worthy to be stuffed into ovens.
Goebbels isn’t about market segmentation as much as it is about using fear to market. That’s a really, really important distinction. Fear is one of the most primal emotions and one of the easiest to market with, as well as one of the easiest to transmute into anger and hatred. That’s what makes understanding his work so important – to know how this is done, so that you know when it’s being done TO you.
Lest we think this is consigned to the dustbin of history, it’s happening right now, all over the world. Georgians vs. Russians, the Janjaweed and Sudanese in Darfur, and even Republicans and Democrats in the United States, if you listen to some of the election rallies when partisans are screaming “Kill him!” about the opposition candidate.
We are always only a small step away from bringing Goebbels out of the grave and making use of his ideas again. If we don’t study them carefully, we’ll all fall victim once more, and the cost will again be unthinkably inhumane.
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My response to Max:
As Chris said in his follow up post, the focus of the discussion was using fear to market. Only by understanding how these tactics work, can we defend against them.
As you said in your podcast, Mr. Godin stays at a higher altitude, not covering the detailed tactics. You may look at this as his making more general statements about “good and bad” marketing and the human condition, or academics will say that this is to ensure his books have as long a shelf life as possible. We talk about and live on the front line, which is why we like to talk about HOW things are done.
There’s a huge gap between what everyone believes is right and what actually gets done. Stanley Milgram discusses in his “Obedience to Authority” how small acts of cruelty can escalate out of control. You may hold Drucker up as your Patron Saint but when you select a link that says we recommend Nazi techniques, you practice Goebbels.
This is a sophisticated recommendation to read a book and to attempt to limit oneself to the idea that one can extrapolate only a specific idea from the book. Is that a risky proposition? Likely. Is it still something that can be done? Possibly, but not by everyone. It is risky to recommend one read a book that espouses certain evil ideas without the reader absorbing at least a little of all parts of that presented in the book.
Here’s a question – if there are certain concepts regarding marketing by fear that we should be aware of and avoid in this fast-paced world of marketing and the even faster paced world of social and new media, then why not outline them, versus asking people to read the actual book? I’m not for book-burning by any means, but this one sure sounds like a kicker to me with content that is going to be disturbing to a wide variety of people. I’d honestly prefer to see quotes from the book (within the scope of copyright law of course) and examples on how the marketing worked and what to avoid or how to be aware of aha! that fear tactic is being used! Make sense?
Not even asking for handholding, here. It’s just that if people read the book, whether they get it at the library or purchase it, doesn’t the very act of obtaining it, however temporarily, lend credence to that which the author espoused?
I can usually recognize fear marketing. What I am wondering is, are there tactics that are going over my head and the heads of others? Do I really have to obtain the book and read the entire distressing thing to grasp the concepts? Likely not. If information is there in your head, Chris, specific information, then do us all a favor and share, say, 5 – 6 points.
I somply don’t want horrific images in my head. Based on the responses thus far to your recommendation, that is exactly what I may get if I would read the book. I far prefer studying the concepts in this instance and can well imagine how they could be used in various scenarios.
I have to agree with John and Chris, to not understand the enemy is to consign yourself to defeat. Goebbels was a master manipulator, as was Hitler, and in order to prevent history from repeating itself it must be understood. In order to protect yourself from them, you must know your enemy.
Gina, you raise an interesting point, I’m not sure what I think about that. If you had not asked to have the work distilled for you I would be against the idea of letting one person do this work for another. Having someone tell you what you should think about a book is giving up your ability to interpret it the way you want to, with your own biases and opinions. But what to do when that service is requested of you? Perhaps these are stages in education: some look to the teacher, while others do their own research.
I also must apologize to the author of the original email (which I was not copied on). At the expense of belaboring the point, we did not intend to offend, but to give our recommendations on how to arm yourself against the tactics that are used against us on a daily basis. If you were offended please accept an apology, but more importantly please use this opportunity to educate.
John and Chris,
This post is a good response.
John: No, I don’t practice Goebbels when I point out that you recommended Goebbels. You did recommend Goebbels, after all.
Yet I never intended to paint either of you as neo-nazis; I don’t believe you are. And even if your responses to this thing weren’t as good as they’ve been, I’d still be recommending your podcast.
I felt you were a little careless in how you recommended Goebbels. That’s all. Not even very careless, just a little. When Chris said “if you’ve decided that’s part of your marketing strategy… if you really want to take those tactics on,” his tone conveyed, as the words on the paper cannot, that choosing that route is a decision not to be made lightly. I failed to point that out in my post, and for that I apologize.
In today’s episode of MOC, Chris explained just about as well as I could why I reacted strongly. He understands how fear marketing, mostly in the political realm, is endangering our freedoms today. I kinda wish either of you had acknowledged just how dangerous fear-mongering is the first time around.
Props to you for doing it now.
You remain my #2 podcast.
And I will use this opportunity to educate; you two are helping me think through what I need to say about the role of fear in thought leadership. For that I’m in your debt.
If you pick up a book with the knowledge that there is “evil” in it, most of us will be able to discern and ignore those pieces of propaganda.
For instance, I own, and have read, The Turner Diaries. This is a book that, presented to a reader with no forewarning of it’s content, could easily plant hateful, horrifying ideas into the minds of some (i.e. Timothy McVeigh). I read the book after the OKC bombing so that I could try to understand the mindset of the people that would perpetrate these kinds of attacks. This is what John and Chris are recommending with reading Goebbels.
In order to understand the mind or face of evil you must know how they think and what got them there. I think we could all agree that works such as Mein Kampf are not to be taken lightly, yet I guarantee that most bookstores in this country have a copy on the shelf that isn’t an order that someone was too embarassed to buy. I worked at Barnes & Noble for seven years. There was at least one copy of Mein Kampf on our history shelf for every one of those 2,555 days and I am sure that it is still there. You must know the enemy to defeat him.