The A word

By Emanuel Derman
February 20, 2012

I recently ran into someone who I had always regarded as more or less compos mentis, but they told me quite seriously that the Rothschilds ran the world because they owned countries rather than corporations. Now, I’m not immune to the charms of conspiracy theories; some things in the world are so messed up that I can see how only a conspiracy could explain them. If a small cabal of invisible people ruled the world for their own profit and pleasure it very likely would turn out just the way it has, only probably a little more organized. Unless they are fiendishly clever and add the noise to make it look unplanned.

I think the real hidden conspiracy is the conspiracy of the A____’s and think they are to blame for screwing up the world, even if they are working in the service of the Rothschilds.

I refer to the Advertisers. I’m tired of anti-depressant ads. And I’m especially appalled at how advertising funds the fortunes of the giant internet companies, the manipulative G___’s and  F____’s.  I’ve grown to dislike advertising and the way it pays and affects so much. I particularly hate it for the fact that G___ and F____ make their money by delivering me to companies who pay for me to use it, which explains most of the bad things about G___ lately. Companies used to get paid for delivering eyeballs; now they get paid for delivering souls.

I wish people could pay their own money for what they want. There should be a law that prevents other people paying for your use of things if it compromises you, just like there’s a law against bribery. Maybe having entertainment that doesn’t violate you isn’t impossible — look at HBO and movies and books, still so far supported by paying customers.

I am sorry that a lot of Big Data (not all of it), a new and interesting field for quantitative people, is driven by pleasing advertisers too.

I thought of this again when I  read an article about Dwight Macdonald* in the latest NY Review of Books. (The article is behind the paywall — hooray. If you want to read it you have to subscribe or go to a library that subscribes.) The article quotes Macdonald in the 1950s:

If the US doesn’t or cannot change its mass culture…it will lose the war against [the] USSR. Americans have been made into permanent adolescents by advertising, mass culture—uncritical, herdminded, pleasure-loving, concerned about trivia of materialistic living, scared of death, sex, old age….

I’d like a world where you somehow have the ability to pay for what you consume directly.

* I don’t really know much about Dwight Macdonald. I once met his daughter who was a teacher in the ’80s at my son’s nursery school. But I do like these other quotes about him in the NY Review of Books article (my italics below):

Politics (Macdonald’s magazine published in the 1940s) differed from all other political magazines by treating politics as a branch of morals.

And:

Macdonald believed that an active subjective judgment was a more valid way to approach moral reality than any fixed, existing system, whether it based itself on allegedly scientific Marxist authority or on divine authority. And he believed that subjective judgment was required in order to achieve any real community: “I think each man’s values come from intuitions which are peculiar to himself and yet—if he is talented as a moralist—also strike common chords that vibrate respondingly in other people’s consciences. This is what ethical teachers have always done; it is the only way we have learned anything essential about ethics or communicated our discoveries to others….”

 

3 comments

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there are numerous simple tools and browser addons out there which makes Internet ad free and less tracking of people. There are search engines which unlike google do not track users or shove ads down their throats

however most people don’t know about them because such tools do not ‘advertise’ themselves,

a number of them are introduced here:
http://donttrack.us/

Posted by runnerup | Report as abusive

Thanks, that is helpful.

In addition to the ethical dimensions, does this not also set the stage for a form of market failure?

A party to a transaction needs to know the price of the transaction in order to make a rational consumption decision. In the case of “g” and “f,” the end-user has no notion of price – and really not much of an idea that they are even party to a transaction.

I suppose it’s not all that different from the old network television business model. Perhaps we should not be too surprised if the quality of ad-funded internet services converges to the quality of ad-funded (pre-cable) network TV programming in its heyday.

Posted by Timoth | Report as abusive