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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Great Sex

If you’re looking for some scandalous tidbits or lascivious life tips I am sorry to disappoint you, there are none in this post. In fact the only thing even mildly suggestive in the entire post is the title, and that is precisely the subject of today’s missive. I’m going to bet that the title caused a few more folks than usual to stop—even for a few seconds and consider reading further. The fact is that tricks like this work, only too well.

If you’ve spent more than a few minutes on the web you are undoubtedly familiar with the so-called clickbait that bids for your attention on almost every commercial media website. They all have provocative titles like: 10 things that will instantly get rid of unsightly wrinkles; or Remember Valerie Bertinelli, you’ll gasp when you see her now; and then there’s The shocking truth about Donald Trump’s perpetual tan, and so on, and so on. There are two things you can be assured of when you read such headlines—none of it will shock or surprise you; quite to the contrary you’ll be disappointed. And, whatever place you are directed to turn will require you to click through multiple pages of dross each of which is hawking some sponsored junk.

Eventually these tricks stop yielding the results sponsors are seeking and advertisers or their agents are endlessly inventive when it comes to finding new ways to promote their products, whether those products are legitimate or not. A recent article in WIRED magazine reports on the latest technique to capture eyeballs and in this case potential votes. Originally conceived by a pair of ex Trump social media gurus, a new kind of agency seeks to peddle issues and candidates through social media influencers. You know, those folks on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and other popular sites that have followers of anywhere from thousands to millions of viewers. These influencers are cultivated and invited to bid on various campaigns with which they may or more likely do not have any genuine affiliation or interest. They get paid, you see, for every conversion. In other words, by mentioning an issue or candidate, endorsing them and providing a link or tracking cookie or by embedded tracking of the kind advertisers use to remind you about that the lawn mower you looked at 10 weeks ago that is now on sale, influencers get good old-fashioned cash in their pocket.

Maybe you do not find this as dangerous as I do but beyond the cynicism of this latest attempt to rig the outcome of political campaigns and legislative issues is a clear roadmap for mass propagandizing that sadly works exceedingly well. It works because most of us are influenced, by folks we admire, who seem successful, or are charismatic, and as long as we do not look too closely or dig beneath surface it is too easy to slide into agreement with something or someone whose only fealty to facts, truth, or fair play is based on a check in the mail.

I am too familiar with radio and Television political advertising having worked on dozens of congressional and three presidential campaigns. Over several decades they have devolved to a mud-slinging formula designed to appeal to our senses and not our sense. But as the audience increasingly looks to the Internet for both news and entertainment the logic of using its most exploitive features to influence voters comes pretty naturally. But this latest trend moves well beyond the more explicit echo chamber type of influence peddled on Facebook, camouflaging itself innocently in videos about makeup techniques, unboxing children’s toys, and detailing your car. And here is the fascinating thing, we’ve been told endlessly that everything on the Internet is suspect—that all news is fake news, and nothing the media (whoever they are) can be trusted. Yet, apparently millions of social media followers are trusting people they do not know and who care not even one little bit about their welfare to guide their votes.

As Will Rogers once said, “A fool and his money are soon elected.” I wonder what he would have to say about this latest gambit? My guess is that he would remind us that the politicians are no fools, it’s the voters who are soon parted from their most precious right as citizens that pay the price.

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