Saturday, January 28, 2012

Springtime for Hitler

Newly unearthed photos taken in the late 1930s by Adolph Hitler's personal photographer depict der F├╝hrer's lavish lifestyle.

Hitler amassed his great wealth by mastering the art of propaganda (with a ton of thuggery to back it up).

Chapter Six of Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf presents his playbook for winning friends and influencing people.

If you follow politics, a few of the ideas may seem painfully familiar:

"The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence, nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another."

"The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble.  On the other hand, they quickly forget.  Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas."

"Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes and these must be represented again and again. Here, as in innumerable other cases, perseverance is the first and most important condition of success."

"[Propaganda's] purpose must be exactly that of the advertisement poster, to attract the attention of the masses and not by any means to dispense individual instructions to those who already have an educated opinion on things or who wish to form such an opinion on grounds of objective study."

Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925. The playbook hasn't changed in 87 years!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are You Plain Spoken?

I'm all for clarity, but not plain speaking.

Clarity helps get your point across.

But plain speaking is just dull.

As luck would have it, this weekend my wife and I caught a terrific Smithsonian exhibit on its final day.

We saw more than 100 photos, paintings, sculptures and artifacts depicting the career of Gertrude Stein, our original Kim Kardashian.

Seeing Gertrude Stein showcased America's first "celebrity-for-being-a-celebrity," best known for paling around in Paris with Picasso, rooming with the homely Alice B. Toklas, and showing up in Woody Allen's latest film.

Of all the pieces on display, I loved most the vests Stein made so famous.

In her manner of dressing, living and speaking, Stein knew how to make a statement.

"It is always a mistake to be plain-spoken," she famously wrote in 1923.

How about you? Are you plain spoken?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Second Best

During last week's Republican debate, with a little wordplay Newt Gingrich deftly turned an assault on his character to his advantage.

At one point in the debate, Rick Santorum called Ginrich "grandiose."  

Darn tootin' I'm grandiose, Gringrich responded. That makes me an American. "This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things," he announced.

Gingrich pulled off the coup because he accurately understands the difference between the word's denotation and connotation.

denotation of a word is its primary or literal meaning.  The connotation is the range of secondary, often poetic, meanings.

defines "grandiose" as (1) Characterized by an affectation of grandeur and (2) Impressive because of uncommon largeness.

Gingrich scored a point because he knew the secondary definition of the word.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nice Guys Finish Last

In consumer media, bad guys always trump nice ones.

They have to. Otherwise, we'd turn away out of boredom.

What audience would sit through Macbeth, after all, if the Scottish king only did charity work?

If you tuned into the media last week, you heard the hoopla about Verizon's plan to charge wireless subscribers a $2 fee every time they paid their bills on line or by phone.

Those greedy, slimy sons of a gun.

The news you might have missed: late in the week, Verizon dropped its plan, after 95,000 consumers signed a complaint.

The announcement was posted quietly on Friday on the company's Website. I'm certain Verizon wants the story, just as quietly, to go away.

But it won't, for a while at least.

Customers have long memories. 

Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, has more than 90 million subscribers.

If you took a poll today, I'd bet 90 million of them know the company just announced a plan to charge the $2 fee; but only 9 million know Verizon dropped that plan 48 hours after the announcement.
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