Branding, Brainwashing and Corporate Logos
February 10, 2003 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Brainwashed? Moi? Does this make you uncomfortable too? Imagine it was The Wall Street Journal's or The Daily Telegraph's logo stamped on your forehead instead of The Guardian's. Or all three. We are what we read, but perhaps wide reading is a thing of the past. Beneath the po-mo jokiness, crude branding seems to have reached the normally label-resistant Left. This is particularly true in the case of The Guardian, the indispensable journal of reference for British students and teachers. How many of us nowadays make a point of reading at least two politically divergent newspapers?
posted by MiguelCardoso (58 comments total)
 
Miguel. Honestly. It's a competition. Beneath the po-mo jokiness is a bedrock of po-mo jokiness.
posted by rory at 9:49 AM on February 10, 2003


Say, that reminds me. [via obscure store]
posted by dobbs at 9:53 AM on February 10, 2003


For £88.20 per student - about 135 dollars/euros - a week for wearing the logo for 3 hours a day, rory? Paid by an advertising agency? I think not.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:56 AM on February 10, 2003


I could make a fortune with my forehead!
posted by tippiedog at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2003


it does raise an interesting point though, joking article aside. i read the guardian daily, and although i take for granted that although it's not unbiased, the guardian is *slightly* better than many other papers available.

so yes, i do read another dreadful tabloid to weigh up the balance. it's not ideal, but adding together the truth available from newspapers, tv news plus the net and even metafilter. somewhere, there's a happy medium.
posted by triv at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2003


I'd rent my forehead for advertising. Make an offer :) (no goods, only money, euro or U$ accepted)
posted by elpapacito at 10:01 AM on February 10, 2003


Does anybody have any references to the Cunning Stunts "agency" that shows them as a real PR firm? Or is it basically just a hoax/jamming group like RTMark consulting?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:02 AM on February 10, 2003


Miguel: 135 dollar/euro for 21 hours of exposure is cheap
posted by elpapacito at 10:02 AM on February 10, 2003


Does this make you uncomfortable too?
No.
posted by condour75 at 10:07 AM on February 10, 2003


I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints? Say, the WSJ and the NYT; the Guardian and Telegraph; Vanguardia and El País; The Nation and the Weekly Standard; the Spectator and the New Statesman; the New Criterion and the Partisan Review, et caetera.

People of my generation (born in the 50s) may joke about it being "fun" reading papers with diametrically opposite political viewpoints, but the truth is we learn a lot from them. I suspect MetaFilter's members, when surfing daily, make a point of checking their Drudge Report along with their Drudge Retort. Even if only in the cause of knowing your enemy...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2003


Well, I don't read newspapers daily these days, but when I do I read both the WSJ (the decent paper) and my local rag, owned by the NYT Co.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2003


"...how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?"

I read LGF and Metafilter every day. I don't know if you can get more opposing than that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2003


I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?

I read MeFi and fark.
posted by 111 at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2003


I used to read the Guardian and the Telegraph (and sometimes the Independent, but never the Times) when I lived in the UK.
posted by misteraitch at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2003


Hmm, I read the New Statesman most weeks, and the Spectator sometimes.... the Speccy has a good culture section ...
posted by plep at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2003


I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?

I read the WSJ, The New York Times (on weekends), The Guardian online, The Financial Post (Canadian), The London Review of Books, MeFi threads with followups on references cited from sources by opposing positions ... as well as watch Italian TV (here in far-flung California) ... but then, Like Miguel, I am of that generation.....
posted by poorhouse at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2003


Um, this is a joke. The Guardian's challenge (prize: something lovely from the Guardian Unlimited prize cupboard) is in responce to the ad agency story. They are not one of the featured companies (FHM and the youth pay-TV channel CNX).
posted by boost ventilator at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2003


If my forehead is a billboard, doesn't the media have to be accountable to ME first, then its readers? 'Cause that's how it works and all, right?
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2003


I get my daily opposing viewpoints from hama7, Steve_at_Linwood, Midas Mulligan etc. Saves time and effort, and provides a focus for my vitriol. It's more fun that way because then I have specific people I can name my voodoo dolls after each day rather than just ineffectually shaking my fists at media conglomerates. guys! I kid because I love.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2003


I read Mefi and USS Clueless - that's surely high in the ranks when it comes to opposing viewpoints. I find that the International Herald Tribune has a fairly good balance of opinion as well.
posted by adrianhon at 10:42 AM on February 10, 2003


Rory is correct, Miguel, this is a little Guardian ironic po-mo joke. Notice also the name of the po-mo advertising agency (yes, they do exist) - Cunning Stunts, whose name is in the noble British tradition of vulgar word play (if you need any further hints, transpose the first consonants).
I don't think many people here (London) actually think of the Guardian as left wing - it has traditionally been a Liberal newspaper with a strong literary element. It has however taken its on-line presence much more seriously than the other papers.
posted by rolo at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2003


Thanks rory, boost ventilator and rolo - I think you're all right. I accept it's a joke, but at least grant me, mounted as it is on the acceptable stereotype of Guardian-readers, that it's a well-founded, might-be-true joke. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:01 AM on February 10, 2003


Cunning Stunts is very funny. I hadn't noticed.

It reminded me of the old Monty Python "Silly bunt!" joke.
:)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2003


I try to skim all of my daily email news, which comes in from the New York Times, the Globe and Mail (Canadian), the Guardian, the CBC (Canuck again), Alternet and the UN news service. On weekends I read the Globe and the NY Times.

and, in case i'm not of "that generation," I'm 25.
posted by capiscum at 11:04 AM on February 10, 2003


Notice also the name of the po-mo advertising agency (yes, they do exist)

I'm still having trouble finding any evidence of them existing outside of this or the "Gail Porter projection" story.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:11 AM on February 10, 2003


Actually, I'm more unnerved by the hipsterized abbreviation of "post-modern." Sounds like a bastard cross-breed of powwow and hobo. Of course, since there aren't any drums or bourbon bottles involved, chances are that I'll cry into my feathers and tramp outfit if I see that shorthand again.
posted by ed at 11:21 AM on February 10, 2003


I scan my local paper (WPost) and then something not quite so pro-American (BBC) each day. It’s been interesting watching the WPost headline the space shuttle Columbia’s disaster investigation while the BBC headlines that Texans are looting. By the way, after hearing another person praise the WSJ, would this be a good place to point out that the WSJ leans more to the right than the NYT and WPost lean to the left?
posted by win_k at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2003


it'd be alot easier to read a newspaper from each side of the spectrum if one side hadn't bought out the other
posted by prescribed life at 11:34 AM on February 10, 2003


Or read each other so thoroughly - well put and, I think, true, prescribed life. Everything we read nowadays is ferociously conscious of its counterpart - so much so that it sometimes seems like a shadow, i.e. predictable.

Now all I have to figure out is whether this is a good or bad thing. I suspect bad.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:46 AM on February 10, 2003


I read the Washington Post and Times daily, but I try to catch some other papers around the world online each day, particularly when a specific region sparks and interest in my reading, like say I'll read an Indian and Pakistani paper about the same incident in Kashmir or an Arab and Israeli paper about some thing in the West Bank.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:03 PM on February 10, 2003


135 dollars/euros - a week for wearing the logo for 3 hours a day

It's a better deal than the usual- look at all the people who actually pay to wear advertising!
posted by small_ruminant at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2003


The story I've heard from within what I am forced to describe as the Journalist Community is that the journos on all the paper are drawn from roughly the same pool of people. The Guardian pay poorly and late, but you get to work on the Guardian, whereas the Daily Mail pay well and promptly, but you have to write the Daily Mail, which really is a vile rag.

I always preferred the Guardian because I liked the prose styles that their writers used and I've always been an advocate of the Cockburn Doctrine (the great Irish satirist Claud Cockburn said that, when talking to a politician, you should always ask yourself the question "Why is this lying bastard lying to me?") as they seem to be, and their cynicism has carried on through the Blair years, whereas the other papers' line always follows that of the owner of the newspaper.

It really isn't a question of agreement or disagreement with the newspaper's line, it's just that I've always found disagreeing with the Guardian more pleasant than agreeing with the Telegraph or the Times, and the actual information imparted by each paper to be essentially the same.

Opinion is something else entirely, but again I'd rather read something by a supposed opponent who I like (such as Matthew Parris) than something by someone who's roughly on the same side as me but who I think is a pompous ass (such as Tariq Ali).
posted by Grangousier at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2003


The story I've heard from within what I am forced to describe as the Journalist Community is that the journos on all the paper are drawn from roughly the same pool of people.

Oh, sure. There are a few layers: the subbers tend to be loyal, but will take shifts elsewhere depending on contractual stuff (I have a friend who subs at both the Mail and Express, if you can believe that). But subbing is technical, for the most part, not political or ethical: it's rare you'll find people turning down work because they don't agree with the paper's style guide. The staffers are basically loyal to the hilt, because no-one would work for that kind of wage unless there was some kind of vocational thing going on. The top-ranking columnists are complete sluts, especially for the broadsheets -- most recent example, David Aaronovitch, going from the Indy to the Obs just as the latter decides to alienate its readers by editorialising for war with Iraq. Meaning that anti-war types must now either read the scrappy, 'Sunday Format'-esque Sindy or just sneakily look at the bits of the Obs that don't offend them from the website.

But the days of starting at the locals, then working your way to London are long gone. You tend to get graduates from the usual universities spending time writing for trade papers, or working for wire services, and then going to the nationals. Unless you get a leg up from student journalism or contacts in academia.

The Guardian pay poorly and late, but you get to work on the Guardian, whereas the Daily Mail pay well and promptly, but you have to write the Daily Mail, which really is a vile rag.

All true. Dacre is an amazingly professional editor, a perfectionist ("Tear it up, you cunts!") and has a real sense of what works both on and in a Mail page (that is, layout and content) but the Mail is, for all its wonderful subbing, an insidious vile propaganda sheet appealing to the basest prejudices of the middle-classes with the filthy intensity of crack cocaine.

The Guardian, on the other hand, does shambolic worthiness very well, and payment much less well: like smoking banana skins.

But to the subject of the post: Monday is MediaGuardian day. (Where tired hacks get to dream of changing their jobs.) Nuff said.
posted by riviera at 12:36 PM on February 10, 2003


I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?

The only thing I read (mostly) everyday is MeFi and my email. Newspapers (and weekly magazines as well) now occupy, in my opinion, an increasingly useless space -- not fast enough to equal news as reported on the Net, and too fast to provide any time for rational thought before they're printed.

Plus, I usually don't have any fish I need wrapped, so I stick to about a dozen monthly magazines and . . . what are those other things printed on tree bark? Oh yeah, books. I read lots of books.

My local paper, by the way, only comes out every Thursday. (I usually catch up with an issue two or three weeks after it's published.)
posted by LeLiLo at 12:41 PM on February 10, 2003


As for opposing viewpoints: I like to fall asleep to Alastair Cooke's Letter from America on BBC World. I seldom agree with what he has to say, but I enjoy the soothing cadence and timbre of his old-man voice.
posted by condour75 at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2003


When I was a British student, I digested the Daily Torygraph every day.... simply because there was a special deal which made it incredibly cheap. This is an important factor for students...
posted by plep at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2003


Oh yeah, books. I read lots of books.

This is often a really good policy. I find newspapers in general good for "awareness" -- to get some idea of the breadth of things going on -- but generally terrible for getting depth. This is true to a lesser extent of news/newsy magazines (Time, Economist, Atlantic, Fortune, whatever). So to some extent, maybe your news source isn't quite as important as your sources of depth. But.. I can also see that what you're aware of will determine what you look into deeply. Hmmm.

Everyone remember the Lying in Ponds post? One of my favorie MeFi posts. I'm willing to take the metrics they used and their conclusions with a grain of salt, but the idea is great and conclusions seem at least roughly correct, and it's good to have some judgements about where papers lie. I'm finding I like where the Washington Post tends to stick, and agree that they tend closer to the center.

Hey, that post was also by Miguel. Somebody get him an award or something. It's very important to think about the bias/bent of your sources, and look for balance. It's a big world out there.
posted by namespan at 1:11 PM on February 10, 2003


"How many of us nowadays make a point of reading at least two politically divergent newspapers?"

Who reads newspapers anymore? Most of what I read are stories that I am linked to or that come up in syndicated feeds. I'm no longer reliant on having to select any particular flavor of news coverage, even though some of the RSS feeds I choose to read reflect certain opinions.

In other words, weblogs and their bi-directional, discussion-oriented features naturally tend to point me (and presumably others) towards opinions and news sources that are different than those we might normally purchase to view.

Seems like a good thing to me...
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2003


Cunning Stunts website link.
posted by Owen Boswarva at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2003


riviera:

...an insidious vile propaganda sheet appealing to the basest prejudices of the middle-classes with the filthy intensity of crack cocaine.

Best description of anything, ever.

I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?

I guess I do, though somewhat by accident. It just happens that my local metropolitan paper is a right wing scandal sheet with all the discursive subtlety of talk radio. I read the sports section. I supplement it with the online versions of the Guardian and the Independent.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:35 PM on February 10, 2003


Cunning Stunts website link.

Thanks Owen, though now I'm sad that this isn't a hoax group, but an actual bunch of crap merchants. There's a lovely little section on "viral marketing" campaigns (Flash site so I can't directly link that bit, natch).

What's that Bill Hicks bit about how all marketing people should kill themselves?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:45 PM on February 10, 2003


In other words, weblogs and their bi-directional, discussion-oriented features naturally tend to point me (and presumably others) towards opinions and news sources that are different than those we might normally purchase to view.

Seems like a good thing to me...


Sounds like you're just getting the extremes, maybe you need a little something in between? Just judging from what I see around here and other comment pages on the web, people on the web are pretty extremist in their viewpoints, even if they really believe something nearer the middle they tend to link and argue for one divergent opinion or another. Shades of gray seem like a better answer than black and white to me...
posted by Pollomacho at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2003


"By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. No, this is not a joke: kill yourself . . . I know what the marketing people are thinking now too: 'Oh. He's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market.' Oh man, I am not doing that, you fucking evil scumbags."

I assume you were asking a rhetorical question PST (if I may call you that), but it deserves repeating. Bless him and his little cotton socks.

I read The Guardian and The Sun online, for my sins. They used to be diametrically opposed, now I'm not so sure. All people who read "real" newspapers should be shot as enemies of the rainforest, or at least that's what Sting said to me the other day.

As for the forehead advertising. Why do those fecking workshy students get all the best deals? I'm skint man, I could use the cash and I have no objection to advertising FHM or it's ilk.
posted by squealy at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2003


When I was a British student, I digested the Daily Torygraph every day.... simply because there was a special deal which made it incredibly cheap. This is an important factor for students...

Heh, plep - the same happened with me (1975-1982) with The Times. We got 50% off - a nice cheque was sent to me every three months. But even then, pre-Murdoch and Stothard, (who is now ruining the sacrossant TLS with vulgar covers and entirely innappropriate reactionary screeds) it was still a far cry from its better days. So I bought the Telegraph and Guardian as well. And I still do.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:28 PM on February 10, 2003


Riviera - once more, thanks for your cogent, knowledgeable comment. It really is a privilege. I'm far too old to worry about grovelling and brown-nosing accusations. Cheers!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:30 PM on February 10, 2003


Everyone remember the Lying in Ponds post?

Namespan: did you know they acknowledged that post?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:38 PM on February 10, 2003


at least grant me, mounted as it is on the acceptable stereotype of Guardian-readers, that it's a well-founded, might-be-true joke.

Sorry, Miguel, won't grant you that either. The foundation of the joke is not that it 'might be true', but that it's exactly the sort of stunt the Grauniad wouldn't pull. Their readers are the No Logo-reading demographic, and the people working on the paper (and the website) know it - the joke comes from us knowing that they know that we (No Logo and Guardian readers) know that they'd never actually run such a competition.

I'll cry into my feathers and tramp outfit if I see that shorthand again.

Blimey, ed, better not study sociology. That 'hipster' abbreviation has been standard academic shorthand for years. Actually, that's wrong: the abbreviation is usually even more abbreviated, to 'pomo'.
posted by rory at 4:05 PM on February 10, 2003


Oh alright then, rory, be like that. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:48 PM on February 10, 2003


crash_davis: about that lgf site...

wow.
posted by ronv at 5:35 PM on February 10, 2003


Does this make you uncomfortable too? Imagine it was The Wall Street Journal's ... logo stamped on your forehead..

Imagine.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:13 PM on February 10, 2003


I'm very interested in knowing how many MeFis have the (admittedly old-fashioned) habit of daily reading at least two newspapers/websites with opposing viewpoints?
I do - I read both MetaFilter and MetaTalk daily.
posted by dg at 7:19 PM on February 10, 2003


I always preferred the Guardian because I liked the prose styles that their writers used

I've always preferred the Guardian because there seemed to be a much looser style than the other papers. It's much more willing to use freelancers of differing styles and opinions. It'll print stuff like this, for example, alongside stuff like this. I can't imagine the Torygraph doing the same.

the great Irish satirist Claud Cockburn said that, when talking to a politician, you should always ask yourself the question "Why is this lying bastard lying to me?"

I heard that was Jeremy Paxman.

When I was a British student

What kind are you now?
posted by Summer at 7:25 AM on February 11, 2003


Hey Summer: is this don't-give-the-wop-a-break week or what? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:03 AM on February 11, 2003


I heard that was Jeremy Paxman.

No, it was Claud Cockburn. It's Paxman's motto, though. I find it's proof against anything in a suit.
posted by Grangousier at 9:09 AM on February 11, 2003


BTW, I'm not sure whether this is of interest, but thinking about this thread last night, and how most of the British papers are actually avatars of their owners (The Times and The Sun being Murdoch; The Telegraph, Conrad Black; The Mail by... who owns the Mail these days, wasn't it sold?) that the 80s papers showed the division really well, that if in 1988 you put the fully-Maxwelled Daily Mirror next to The Sun it really showed how third rate Maxwell was. Particularly at that time, Murdoch was everywhere in his papers but very difficult to pin down to specifics - his will suffused them; whereas Maxwell used the Mirror as his own personal PR organ, crudely inserting himself wherever he could.

How's the Mirror these days, Riviera?
posted by Grangousier at 9:23 AM on February 11, 2003


That'll teach her, Grangousier! Thanks. ;)

Also, Ms. Always Right (just to join in the fun, no confidence whatsoever claimed!) there are, oh, extremely serious problems with this sentence of yours:

I've always preferred the Guardian because there seemed to be a much looser style than the other papers.

I'd edit it like this:

I've always preferred the Guardian [or The Guardian]because it seems [or they seem] to have a much looser style than the other papers.

[Yup, I'm that busy today!]
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:26 AM on February 11, 2003


Look, Miguel, I'm very busy with my career at the moment. You're lucky I bothered to reply at all. :)
posted by Summer at 10:03 AM on February 11, 2003


Miguel: thanks for the backlink you posted. It contained one of the most brilliant, boiled down analyses of partisan commentary I've ever seen:

Partisan commentary is like advertising -- there may be some useful information along with the distortion, but it's very difficult to make good decisions based on advertising alone.
posted by namespan at 6:25 PM on February 12, 2003


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