Re: Ad Man

Aaron Fox (aaf@CCWF.CC.UTEXAS.EDU)
Wed, 5 Oct 1994 13:08:46 -0500

A flame, in the spirit of the new bourgeois public sphere (the info superhiway)

Oct 5, 1994

The reason I don't subscribe to ANTHRO-L anymore is because it so often
resembles a USENET newsgroup rather than the kind of thoughtful and
professional forum that disciplinary mailing lists usually provide (anybody
out there get LINGUIST-L, for example?). A friend passed John Mcreery's
message (Oct. 5) on to me today, and there couldn't be a better example of
what I resent about the latest pop expansion of the bourgeois public sphere
(can adver-tizing on the NET be far behind? Time to find a new secret
hangout for those ofus who resist). JM's corporate newspeak would be much
more appropriate on a USENET newsgroup, where people speak without any
sense of obligation to a discipline or a profession or to an intellectual
community or, it seems to me, to a better, more humane and diverse world.

So I suppose I should flame and deconstruct, although it hardly seems worth
the trouble. On the other hand, there is a linkage between the kinds of
things JM thinks it important for anthropologists to think about and the
forces that are making anthropology ever more impossible to do. So here

I deeply, deeply resent JM's facile, disingenuous comparison between the
project of his henchmen (sorry, "employees," "consultants," snake-oil
salesmen, whatever) and the project of professional, scholarly
ethnographers, who learn foreign languages, who spend years studying and
living with (usually rural, typically oppressed, almost always poor) people
in their communities, who for the most part are deeply offended by the way
the adver-tizing-men and the sales-men and the capitalist
multinationalist-men and their thugs and apologists and evangelists are
fucking over the people in these places, and who are responsible to their
colleagues for deeply considered and carefully researched scholarly work as
well as to their "subjects" for political and moral advocacy.

You're damn right I "position myself as someone uniquely qualified." That's
why I have (o.k., almost have) a freakin' Ph.D. in anthropology; that's why
I have done four years of fieldwork in rural, working-class communities;
that's why I read scholarly publications for several hours a day instead of
watching the endless, sickening parade of corporate image-whoring
(adver-tizing) on TV; that's why I have a c.v. with three pages of
scholarly publications listed; that's why I'm willing to work twice as hard
as you biz-ness men for a fraction of the money you make. And I don't give
a f*** about your "potential employers and clients," JM. I don't believe I
have ANY responsibility (quite the contrary) to translate "cultural"
difference (which usually is just corporate liberal euphemistic bs for
class differences, race differences, gender differences, in short, POWER
differences) into useful data for the people like you (or your "clients")
who colonize and destroy the lives of powerless people with your
maquiladoras and your plastic trash and your "BIG IDEAS" and your "hooks"
and your "keep it simple"-s and your "basic goals" and your smiley-face
have-a-nice-freakin' day Tom Clancy/In Search of Excellence/ Inner Child
corporate psychobabble newspeak, and your way of prefacing your most
offensive statements with disclaimers of malicious intent.

"As a biz-ness person," why don't you go join a USENET newsgroup (there
must be a "sci.anthropology" group) where ignorance of (or at least lack of
serious personal commitment to) the subject under discussion is a virtual
pre-requisite for participation?

Aaron A. Fox
Dept. of Anthropology, The Univ. of Texas at Austin
Asst. Professor of Anthropology, The Univ. of Washington (from 1/95)

On Wed Oct 5 John Mcreery wrote:

>Dear Friends,
>We are, or at least I hope we are, still in the brainstorming phase of this
>discussion. Please note that my previous postings have not been intended to be
>critical, but rather to suggest some emerging links between the ideas put
>forward. We seem to be talking about a world in which businesses are
>increasingly aware that dealing with cultural differences is a critical
>component of management and marketing both. Anthropologists may be able to
>position themselves as people uniquely qualified to shed light on issues raised
>by cultural differences. As a business person I would like to hear more about
>these unique qualifications. What can anthropologists do that my current
>employees/consultants can't do (or can't do as well)?
>As someone involved in advertising, I see the issues involved in creating
>successful hooks as follows:
>Basic Goals
>(1) Awareness: Does the proposed "hook" raise awareness of anthropology?
>(2) Understanding: Does it suggest concretely what the anthropologist offers?
>(3) Differentiation: Does it distinguish the anthropologist from
>psychologists, sociologists, economists, political scientists.....etc., etc.,
>who alsoclaim special expertise when it comes to understanding what makes
>people tick?
>Communication Constraints
>(1) We need a story
>(2) It's got to be simple
>Ideally We'd Like
>(1) A big idea
>(2) That feels right to potential employers and clients
>(3) A campaignable idea--one with lots of potential for development in all
>sorts of directions
>>From what I've seen so far, we may be may be moving in the right direction.
>It's much too early to say. Let's have some more bright ideas.