We need a book for children that explains propaganda and media manipulation, from the Pharaoh's pyramids through Edgar Bernays, Madison Avenue and modern "spin doctors". For every seeker of the truth, there's a roomful of advertising executives and media consultants working overtime to create a perception that flatters their client.
Just how persnickety can they get? The Daily Beast has an excerpt from Randall Lane's The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane:
"As part of a public diplomacy program similar to Radio Free Europe or Voice of America, the State Department had allocated more than $4 million a year to launch a magazine about American culture, which would be translated into Arabic and sold across the Arab world.
... One of my favorite sections loosely translated to 'Window on America.' It was a simple conceit: a photo essay showing what America actually looks like, unfiltered. A bass fishing tournament, a breast-cancer walk, the Puerto Rican Day parade—these were exotic images to most Arabs, too often poisoned about the United States by their inflammatory local press. But during one review meeting, held before a star chamber of 10 high-level State Department officials, the co-leader specifically took offense to a photograph from a classic Western scene: campers and pack mules heading out on a rugged weekend expedition.
Our team always remained vigilant about cultural sensibilities, avoiding the bottoms of shoes, or bare arms, or other seemingly innocuous images that could backfire with the Arab audience. This official’s concerns, however, were more parochial. She held up the offending photo, as wholesome as a Norman Rockwell painting, and pointed to a pack mule that, by other names, might be known as a donkey. This has to go, she said. Too pro-Democrat. And out it went."
This sort of report is why I asked to be Cultural Czar after the revolution: Day One, a guillotine set up on Madison Avenue and we'll see how long it takes the media consultants to get the message. Place will look like a berserker's bowling alley.
My fellow revolutionaries may perceive a note of hostility in this plan. Let me make amends with this more pleasant reminder of Miss Betsey Trotwood, the old lady in David Copperfield equally obsessed with trespassing donkeys:
"Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my
great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and had
hardly voice to cry out, 'Janet! Donkeys!' Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to
set hoof upon it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized
the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned
him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears
of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that
To this hour I don't know whether my aunt had any lawful right of
way over that patch of green; but she had settled it in her own
mind that she had, and it was all the same to her. The one great
outrage of her life, demanding to be constantly avenged, was the
passage of a donkey over that immaculate spot. In whatever
occupation she was engaged, however interesting to her the
conversation in which she was taking part, a donkey turned the
current of her ideas in a moment, and she was upon him straight.
Jugs of water, and watering-pots, were kept in secret places ready
to be discharged on the offending boys; sticks were laid in ambush
behind the door; sallies were made at all hours; and incessant war
prevailed. Perhaps this was an agreeable excitement to the
donkey-boys; or perhaps the more sagacious of the donkeys,
understanding how the case stood, delighted with constitutional
obstinacy in coming that way. I only know that there were three
alarms before the bath was ready; and that on the occasion of the
last and most desperate of all, I saw my aunt engage,
single-handed, with a sandy-headed lad of fifteen, and bump his
sandy head against her own gate, before he seemed to comprehend
what was the matter. These interruptions were of the more
ridiculous to me, because she was giving me broth out of a
table-spoon at the time (having firmly persuaded herself that I was
actually starving, and must receive nourishment at first in very
small quantities), and, while my mouth was yet open to receive the
spoon, she would put it back into the basin, cry 'Janet! Donkeys!'
and go out to the assault."