Screaming the Loudest

homer's reaction to popular cultureThe benefit of teaching young people that the world is a meritocracy is that this enduring myth encourages people to try their best. As long as they believe that the cream eventually rises to the top, they’ll continue to toil diligently, confident that there’s a demonstrable correlation between dedicated effort and eventual reward.

Once the they discover the truth — namely, that success often has little to do with essential quality and more to do with marketing — previously idealistic strivers tend to become morose and indigent. And that’s not good for productivity.

Unfortunately, anyone with the even the most rudimentary observation skills eventually notices that our culture rewards those who scream the loudest, the ones who can make their message be heard above the din of everyone else’s sales pitches. We either learn to raise the volume of our yelling or resign ourselves to the vast ocean of anonymity that swallows all but the most persistent and indefatigable marketing whales.

Billboards, pop-up ads, bus stop benches, lavatory doors — everywhere you turn someone is trying to tell you something. Those who are able to shill their story on radio or television or the major newspapers are more apt to be heard, and their message, be it “our soap smells good” or “Velvet Revolver rocks hard,” assumes a credibility that someone handing out flyers on a street corner doesn’t have.

The state of our culture demands constant (and very loud) screaming to be heard above the static. If I were a record executive, a book publisher, or a widget maker, I would allocate the majority of my company’s budget to marketing and almost nothing to the product itself. Because quality and value and stuff like that is nice to talk about, but it’s he who screams the loudest who makes the sale.

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