Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The autobiography of P. T. Barnum

Talk about flim-flam! 'Barnum points to something sacred in advertising—its ability to turn appearances into reality. This metamorphosis serves as a kind of secular transubstantiation, and on this subject he has no peer: “Put on the appearance of business, and generally the reality will follow.” And what follows then? Profit. How is this miracle achieved? First, through false superlatives and inflated rhetoric, e.g., “The world-famous _______ is the greatest one ever seen.” Then, through repetition: if one asserts a claim often enough, the claim (true or untrue) achieves, as we say now, traction. But the process requires faith, “to teach you that after many days it [your investment] shall surely return, bringing a hundred- or a thousandfold to him who appreciates the advantages of ‘printer’s ink’ properly applied.” The making of money in this formulation of the new gospel is a sign of blessedness, and instead of prayer to effect a particular outcome, we have advertising.' More... (Via).

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