Real, Fake or Marketing?

By Angela Slezak

There’s a lot of discussion today about “fake” news and how to acquire “real” news. Fake and real are binary suggesting “news” is either one or the other. Yet there seems to me to be at least one other, huge, category for news and information – marketing.

While I truly believe in facts, they also seem to me to be a minority of the thought and communication that occurs. If I boil it down, I might say facts are generally objects (such as a car having four wheels) or effects on objects (such as gravity). If I say the car is blue, others might say it’s actually black or metallic gray. Even color is not “fact.” Color, also, can’t be described except in relation to itself.

Situations involving people and events rarely are agreed upon by the participants and observers. We might say that when an event occurs, there a handful of facts but each participant will see something “real.” To many others, our interpretation will be “fake.”

Working in the profession of analytics, I see daily that no “fact” or information goes unchallenged. Several years ago I engaged in a hearty, public debate on this with an intelligent but truly emotionally unhinged consultant. He wanted me to simply state the “facts.” I argued that I could put one variable (fact) on the slide but that interpretation would vary and laughed inside at the joys that awaited him.

Challenging “facts” both in politics and corporate is a way to procrastinate dealing with the meaning behind those “facts” such as we must stop spending money or using all the world’s resources. Challenging facts can be a smokescreen and harms those who truly want to delve deeper to understand a situation.

In another observation for the corporate world, when results are what we want to see, we rarely challenge “the facts.” When results are not what we want to see, we spend an inordinate amount of time researching and explaining them.

Rational people do a lot of rationalizing. I see it every day in my data-driven profession.

Real, Fake or Marketing?

Our public worry over fake and real news is long overdue. We avoid it because when we discover that we share our entire worldview with no one, it’s a bit disconcerting. What if there is no shared reality outside of objects?

If there is no shared reality, then meaning is easily influenced. There is where marketing enters the scene. Marketing is mostly associated with advertising but also involves the number-crunching analytics which is why you receive coupons that have exactly the product you previously purchased.

The MBA definition of marketing is about how goods and services move to a consumer. The 4Ps are product, placement, price and promotion.

Since I’d don’t have an MBA, my own definition differs. The MBA definition has a hidden premise – we have need for all the products we purchase. For me, marketing is an attempt to appeal to identity to affect behavior and drives “need.” What we need is very important, but limited. Need and want are not as clearly separated as they were before the explosion of consumer goods.

Marketing is used in politics. That “fake” news is absorbed is due to marketing’s ability to tap into your identity. “Fake” news is appealing which is why it’s used both offensively and defensively. In politics, marketing is called public relations. I’d also say it’s called propaganda, but usually in this country we reserve this term for the public relations of other countries, especially when we disagree with it.

When President Obama said the economy was doing great, this was an example of public relations. For Obama, the economy may have been great in relation to where it started. Whether the economy is doing good or bad is also a debate where “facts” are often interpreted differently by economists. Also, much of the economy is about consumer confidence so saying the economy is great is a way to boost confidence leading to a better economy.

President Obama was one to tap deeply into the data side of marketing – analytics – to determine how to effectively campaign to his base. Analytics is also the core of what is called gerrymandering where districts are sliced and diced for boundaries that provide the maximum votes for one party (for example, receiving 40% of the votes but 60% of the seats).

Health information online is prime for marketing, and not just the ads on the side of the website. If you read 100 online articles about a topic, you’ll find not only that they say the same thing, but the actual words and content are identical. That is called curated content. Finding a dissenting voice or sideline details is very difficult.

Are you doing a search online for pizza? The world of search engine optimization determines which pizza you see at the top of the screen. Did one million people love that movie? Really? Or was it marketing?

A couple of years ago, my other blog dropped in views but in a very specific proportion to its normal trend. I learned that Google changed an algorithm devaluing non-authoritative sources. My blogs are not profit-making ventures. But what if I were a small business owner dependent upon my blog or small website and Google suddenly ranked me so low, you’d never find me?

Marketing is driving almost everything you see online. If you click on a story about a gorilla attacking a child and many others do as well, the marketing engines rank “human – animal” stories high and then you will continue to see like stories. In marketing, an early mentor explained “like breeds like.”

If we try to get outside of marketing to get “news,” it’s difficult. Reading news on the BBC website reveals that they know my location and choose to feed me news relevant to my location. The problem is that I go to that site to get news not relevant to my location, but to the world. It’s increasingly difficult to get outside of our marketing cage.

Don’t Click It

If marketing is behind much of our news and information, then clicking on a link is tantamount to asking for more of the same. As consumers of information, we must be like consumers of food. We don’t eat everything we see; we’d never drink an open bottle of water sitting on a park bench. Yet, when we consume our news, we don’t consider it’s intellectual and spiritual effect on our being.

Fake news is a result of marketing which is appealing to our identity and desires, like the episode The Cage from the original Star Trek. Our captain is on a planet where they want to keep him captive by using his internal images for pleasure or punishment. He chooses freedom over the eternal picnic of his memory.

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Brevity of Thought

By Angela Slezak

Classical Chinese texts can be quite difficult for the non-native speaker to learn. There is no punctuation and it lacks many of the connecting words we’re used to in English – and, then, but, if, as a result of, etc. Also classical Chinese is more monosyllabic (uses one character) where spoken Chinese might use more than one syllable to make a word.

This brevity of thought requires a profundity of understanding. One character embeds deep meaning. Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching in English translation has 50 words; the Chinese text has 39 characters:

Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and title, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.

Tao Te Ching (Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Twitter

The brevity of ancient thought suggests the authors didn’t have much time but wanted to tell us something important while they had access to ink and scroll. Today’s prevalence of ink, scroll, and key pad make brevity of thought a necessity because we don’t have time for thoughts beyond the immediate. Our world keeps us very, very busy.

Twitter is the classical Chinese of the modern world. Below are Twitter feeds from the unknown (randomly found by typing a few letters and looking for names of the non-famous):

Late night thoughts can really get to you; they make you feel either on top of the world or below it.

Not much else is worse than wanting Chic Fil A & then realizing it’s a Sunday.

#IBM beats Amazon in 12-month #cloud revenue, $15.1 billion to $14.5 billion via @forbes #IBMCloud

I guess when it all comes down to it my dream would be to never hear the phrase totes mcgoats spoken aloud again ever

I was pre approved but at the gate @British_Airways said Muffin cannot fly to London with me. If Muffin can’t go, I can’t go.

It doesn’t matter where sexual assault happens, it is always a crime.

how dare she

After the big success of our Guide to Marketplaces we are announcing our 2nd eBook: “Understanding Social Platforms”

We will literally NEVER. Have a woman as extra and iconic as Whitney in the music industry. I MISS HER SO MUCH

I somehow didn’t realise chocolate covered coffee beans contained.. coffee. This may be another sleepless night with phil

Also: every man in the 8th arr. last month appeared to be adopting Macron’s navy suit and white shirt uniform

Teen wolf season finale on right now east coast, some say this is the greatest episode of television possibly ever……others……do not

@michikokakutani i will miss you

I actually find it comforting that Comey got a book deal because it means his publisher thinks the world will still exist next spring.

I’ve stopped pulling random Twitter feeds; it was clearly addictive so I’ve learned about the lure through this brief blog. It’s so much nothing and so interesting (although I did learn one important thing – Michiko Kakutani is retiring).

Who are these people?

Return to the ancients

The cycles of time and history are quite fascinating. Often when we get older, we become like children again. The more language and communication we have, the more we are like the ancients in a reverse aging process.

We have so many words, so many books, so many documents and so much knowledge. Are we returning to brevity of thought in response? The tai chi symbol represents extremes becoming their opposite. Is that what’s occurring here? Should we aim for the middle? What if we only spoke in 144 characters? That would be interesting.

Our last words, then, might be mama and papa, sounds easily made and used in many languages to denote our parents, those with whom we first choose to communicate.

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Mind Lies, Presidential Lies

By Angela Slezak

One of my meditation teachers often says, “The mind lies.” In her example, the mind tells you that you can’t stand another minute of sitting still but then you do. The average anxiety attack, she once told us, lasts only several minutes. If we can wait it out, it passes like a wave. But during the event, it doesn’t feel like a passing emotion, the mind makes us believe it’s much longer.

In Asia, I was exposed to “the mind” as an entity much different from the brain that we identify with here in the the west. The mind is not the real you and “object of thought” is considered a sense like hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight.

In this way, the mind is object not subject. This is threatening, especially to the individualistic west, as it tears away at identity. If I disengage from my mind, my intelligence, my personality, then what am I?

As I thought about the mind lying, I thought “the president lies a lot too.” Why do we engage with a president that lies so much? All politicians lie but this one is an egregious, unapologetic liar. Why do we engage with a president and a mind that lies so much?

When thinking about lying, I often think of the documentary The Imposter. The tagline reads, “There are two sides to every lie.”

The reason for that tagline is that a 12-year old boy in San Antonio goes missing and later turns up in Europe. The imposter (no spoiler here as it’s the name of the documentary) is the wrong age, wrong nationality and even has a foreign accent.

How did this liar convince a judge, the FBI and the boy’s family that he was the missing boy? That’s the interesting center of the film. Was the family so eager to see their son/brother that the overlooked the obvious? Was the FBI interviewer so enthralled by the tale of kidnap and horror as to welcome the relief of safety and reunion? Was the judge happy to have reunited a family?

It was an investigator covering the story for Hard Copy that immediately suspected him of being an imposter. After examining the physical evidence, he alerted the authorities.

There are two sides to the lie – the person lying and those wanting to believe the lie and ignoring what appears very clear evidence against the lie. Are we our own imposters? Do we participate in the lying of others because we lie to ourselves?

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Adena Qi Gong

By Angela Slezak

After returning from Taiwan long ago and having recently learned qi gong, a practice involving postures and breath locks, I was stunned to see in Pre-Columbian art qi gong postures I had just learned.

Take Ohio’s State Artifact, the Adena pipe. If you view this object at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio, you’ll find the placard notices that the “knees are bent.”

(Photo from Ohio History Connection Website)

Those familiar with Asian martial arts recognize this as a narrow-kneed “horse stance.” The goal of the horse stance (to my understanding) is to have a straight back so that the energy can flow unobstructed upwards.

And what is the deal with Adena pipe’s underwear? Note the swirling images that evoke the intestines, a snake, or possibly patterned clothing.

The location just below the belly is referred to in qi gong as the “dantian” or “sea of qi.” Qi is the “ki” of reiki and prana in Hindu philosophy and refers to vital energy. I would provide the ancient English word but we don’t have one. This concept is not described in our lexicon in the way meant by “qi” in Asia.

Those familiar with tai chi practice are familiar with “rolling the ball” which involves circular movement in front of the belly. The pattern we see on Adena man is quite reminiscent of that motion.

The Adena pipe has an open mouth. In qi gong breathing, you are putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Lots of Pre-Columbian art pieces have this open mouth.

Anthropologists have also seen Asian-like martial arts postures in Pre-Columbian art and culture. Felicitas Goodman and Nana Nauwald wrote a book entitled Ecstatic Trance.

Carlos Castaneda who wrote books about his apprenticeship with a Mexican shaman was taught body postures which he formed into a practice called Tensegrity. While Castaneda’s veracity is in question in the anthropological community, it’s still interesting to note in his later works that his teacher describes their shamanic lineage which includes a man from China.

Archaeological and anthropological interpretation has become more creative in the past few decades. Traditionally in the face of the unknown, much of our archaeological and anthropological interpretation is a vague “religious ritual.”

Pyramids are present throughout the world. Why not body postures for health and well being?

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Own Won Now

By Angela Slezak

Mindfulness stresses the now and being present. Early on in this learning I wondered if that meant I should take all my money and travel around the world, which is what I really wanted to be doing “now.” Reconciling the idea of being present with impulsivity was confusing.

Today I don’t struggle with this thought. Being present is relevant whether I’ve decided to cook lunch or travel around the world. It’s not about the choice between the two. It’s how I live each choice.

Etymology

Since childhood, it’s been a habit to spell out words and then re-arrange the letters into other words. That habit was due to playing anagrams as a child where you steal others’ words by making new words. Playing word jumbles and Scrabble added to this habit.

Several years ago, a friend taught me the etymology of many of the words I commonly use. The power of words has been lost, especially very recently as words have been used to confuse, not clarify. To give one’s “word” doesn’t have the potent effect that it may have once had.

The etymology of words created from anagram is fascinating, including the anagrams of “now” which are “won” and “own.”

Owning

Owning, winning and now (as immediate gratification) are the pillars of American culture. Owning appears quite natural to this culture but the cultures it replaced did not have this concept. It’s not as obvious as we’re taught to believe.

There is a lot of gratitude in American culture for the land and other objects (most especially houses and vehicles) that we own. Much care is given to the home which I see daily in the neighborhoods in which I walk. This is a large part of the American Dream.

However, owning (through shopping) has become the core of our economic existence to the point that we must forage the earth for products-of-owning. The irony for me is that we destroy our planet to create the optimal indoor and virtual environments.

Ownership appears addictive. Once we own, we want to own more, better objects.

Winning

Competition, especially via sports, is also a strong element of American culture. Our current president appears more focused on winning than possessing the object of that winning. The winning is the prize. Then there must be more winning. We chose him so his energy represents something appealing to us.

Winning combined with owning equals shopping. The coupon culture creates the sense of a deal (also an area of focus by our president). While our concept of male versus female energy is hunting (male) versus gathering (female), shopping for a deal (prey) with a coupon (weapon) seems a form of hunting.

Winning, like owning, seems addictive.

Now

Americans want everything now and business is responding. Winning combined with owning combined with now equals Amazon.com.

Amazon is feeding into this culture by creating warehouses across the country so that we can order products and receive them the same day. In a sense, this has always been the case as you can get up and go to a store, although product choice may have been limited. But to have our needs and wants met so quickly and efficiently by the outside is akin to royal treatment. Think of all the servants to royalty who stood next to kings and queens waiting to do what regular folks do themselves – fetch a handkerchief, pour a cup of tea, button a shirt, lace a shoe, run a bath.

Mindfulness reveals our planning minds yet time is collapsing in a profound way where nothing can be done at any time but now. Rather than creating a sense of being present in the now, it creates the sense of overwhelming distraction and constant reaction. We’ve become both the servant and the royalty.

Now, like own and win, seems addictive. Possibly being present is the opposite of addiction.

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Fight Club: Mindfulness Noir

By Angela Slezak

When I was younger I lamented often about the excessive violence in American film and was often told, “It’s essential to the story.” I understand movies about violent elements or events will have violence. However, much of the violence I see in movies I consider as titillating to the American psyche, a way to experience violence voyeuristically. While experiencing negative states voyeuristically can prevent us from acting out, it can also feed the energy and demand release.

There is one movie, however, where I find the violence extremely meaningful – Fight Club.

Fight Club

Fight Club is sort of like mindfulness noir – noir being a dark and dismal path to awareness – the opposite reflection of the kind and loving path. Mindfulness noir is the mindfulness you experience when you live in a place where there is no safety or, ironically, as the movie demonstrates, a place where there is too much safety.

Insomnia

As we meet our protagonist, played by Ed Norton, he hasn’t slept in six months. He describes his existence to us while sitting on the toilet ordering from a catalog (an uncomfortable image of our modern self). Our insomniac works for an auto company and helps decided whether it’s cheaper to recall faulty cars or cheaper to let people die. This is an empty and meaningless profession that is only available in a modern life full of guardrails. As he admits in his narrative, buying from Ikea and decorating his apartment provides some relief from the harsh reality of what he does for a living.

More relief is found when he discovers support groups and cries on the shoulder of a man with testicular cancer. Crying provides such comfort that our character becomes a support-group junkie attending nightly groups with for those with illnesses he doesn’t have.

Crying brings sleep to our somnambulist hero until he meets two others who change his world – a woman who is invading his support-group space and a bold and audacious male who lives in a run-down house, makes soap, waits tables and, most importantly, starts a fight club.

Fight Club

In Fight Club, the men simply engage in fist fights – no Star Wars lasers or remote drone fighting – old fashion fist fights. The first two rules of Fight Club are that you don’t talk about it. The third rule is that if it’s your first time in attendance, you must fight. In Fight Club you are a participant, not an observer. You are going to feel it.

Fighting is to be alive.

Why?

Think about what’s missing in our movie Fight Club that would be present in a fight club held by the males in our society. There is no competition, no trophies, no teams, and no winner.

In what movie where there is violence is there no winner and no loser?

This is not a movie about violence. It’s a movie about returning to the present through extreme sensation. The body is present. The mind (winning, losing) is not present.

Burn Treatment

In one particularly noir scene, our protagonist receives lye to the hand which is agonizingly painful. In response, he tries to use the guided imagery taught by his support groups when his buddy, who is pouring the lye and holding him down, tells him to “stay with the pain” and not deal with it the “way those dead people do.”

He adds, “This is the greatest moment of your life and you’re off somewhere missing it.” “What you’re feeling,” he’s told, “is premature enlightenment.”

In sitting on a mat, you stay with whatever comes from a mental and emotional sense. The noir of the film presents it as a physical agony. It certainly can feel that way.

The Real You

While there are many intense scenes in this movie, one of my favorite scenes is quite low-key and is when the protagonist begins to go to work with bruises all over his face. He’s saying, “This is who I am and I’m not embarrassed by it. How you feel is your problem.”

As the bruises increase, so does the confidence. He’s arrived at work as he is – both pained and confident. Our hero now has a messy life, not an Ikea life, living in a broken-down house with a bruised, bloodied body.

Yet he’s okay with it and has no desire to hide what he is. I’m alive; this is how it is.

Letting Go

Many times letting go of control is emphasized in the movie. In one scene it’s obvious when, as a passenger, our narrator is being driven toward a moving car and told to “let go.”

During the burn scene, we hear that only when you’ve “lost everything are you free to do anything.”

The narrator’s condo being destroyed at the beginning of the movie is the beginning of the letting go and the start of being alive.

What are we holding on to?

In contrast to mindfulness noir, in mindfulness “blanc” where you sit on a mat for years you’ll discover the myriad of thoughts and feelings that you hold.

The Tower

The noir at the end of the movie involves the demolition of several skyscrapers. Here I must reference the tarot card entitled “The Tower.”

The Tower tarot card (Rider-Waite deck) shows a tower on fire and two persons, a male and female, jumping from the building. It’s a terrible image that can evoke images of recent real-life tragedy and victimization.

In the tarot deck it refers to core energy – that of losing the ego (the tower) and having to let go and jump for freedom. The Tower card is the 16th card of the major arcana (energies), three cards after the Death card.

Death isn’t the end and neither is the Tower.

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