An Example of How Propaganda Analysis Can Be Used to Deconstruct PUA Advertising and Methodology

Okay folks!  For today’s post, this is what I’m going to do:  my current writing on this post will be in blue ink and bold lettering; my three posts that I’ve authored from Thinking Girl’s first thread on PUAism will be copied here again in their original black ink and regular print.  My commentary will be in this color and boldness also.

My original three posts are towards the end of Thinking Girl’s first PUA thread, which is on my Blogroll–ergo, I won’t need to post the link.  I will **copy** my posts here, and then begin to comment on them.

 The first post is dated June 21st, 2007, at 12:31 pm:

It is useful to study mainstream PUAism from the perspective that it is *PROPAGANDA.* An extraordinarily useful website resource that I would like to refer people in studying propaganda is the official website of the United States Air Force War College, a.k.a. Air University. Its link is listed in my Blogroll section on my blog, The Feminist Pit Bull. I find its Informations Operations section to be most useful, and the site is surprisingly civilian-friendly and open to the public (within certain limits).

Here I will quote from the Air University website their definitions of propaganda from the Department of Defense: these definitions are useful in terms of identifying origins and makers of propaganda:

“Definitions, from DoD Dictionary
propaganda – (DOD) Any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.

black propaganda – (DOD) Propaganda that purports to emanate from a source other than the true one.

grey propaganda – (DOD) Propaganda that does not specifically identify any source.

white propaganda – (DOD) Propaganda disseminated and acknowledged by the sponsor or by an accredited agency thereof.

counterpropaganda operations – (DOD) Those psychological operations activities that identify adversary propaganda, contribute to situational awareness, and serve to expose adversary attempts to influence friendly populations and military forces.”

Fellow feminists and feminist allies, we are engaged in what the Department of Defense would consider **counterpropaganda.** I want to emphasize heavily that propaganda and counterpropaganda is not limited to the military and political worlds; we are increasingly engaged in a world where ***propaganda has been brought down to the individual level.*** There are many types of marketing and mass communications that can be honestly be thought of as propaganda, and they are worthy of research and analysis; AdBusters to me seems like one hell of a good source, and there are numerous educational websites and blogs on propaganda; believe it or not, the Air University site has some **wonderful** links to *many* civilian sites; it’s a worthy resource, even if the Air Force is at Papa Doc Bush’s beck and call.:(

What I will do is submit this comment and submit another talking about the use of *one* of the techniques of propaganda that I view PUA sites as using quite heavily.

I was surprised when I looked at this Department of Defense dictionary definition of what it was that feminists are doing on Thinking Girl’s thread…it *IS* counterpropaganda!  I believe that this is the major reason why Thinking Girl and other feminists on this thread are getting so much flak…because essentially, without realizing it, **we mounted a counter-propaganda operation.**  The mainstream patriarchal PUA voices have been dominating the dating discussion for many men in the United States and the Western world…and, without **initially** realizing it, we’re challenging their discursive hegemony on attraction and “seduction.”

My second post, dated June 21st, 2007, 12:42 pm:

From the website wwwDOTpropagandacriticDOTcom

www.propagandacritic.com


is a listing of the most common techniques used in propaganda, although these are by no means the only ones. I will list them as follows:

1)name-calling
2)glittering generalities
3)euphemisms
4)transfer
5)testimonial
6)”plain folks”
7)”bandwagon”
8) fear

The website further divides these common techniques into three catagories and lists them as follows:

Word games
*************
name-calling
glittering generalities
euphemisms

False connections
******************
transfer
testimonial

Special Appeals
***************
“plain folks”
“bandwagon”
“fear”

Prior to analyzing the technique of transfer to the front page of a PUA website, I will ask you, dear reader, to please read through the quoted paragraphs from the “transfer” section of the Propaganda Critic website: it helps to thoroughly identify and define what the transfer technique of propaganda IS. **THEN** we will begin analyzing the use of the transfer technique in its application in my next post.

A valid criticism of my post is, “Well, why couldn’t you have just *paraphrased* the transfer technique instead of simply copying the text from the Propaganda Critic website?”  That would be a good point…but I’ve always been distrustful of the paraphrase.  Unless done very carefully, points and words can and do get distorted in the simplification.  I want my readers (and myself) to **really** understand the techniques; it is just better policy to let the information stand **as is.**  

“You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorn. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold! — William Jennings Bryan, 1896

“Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. For example, most of us respect and revere our church and our nation. If the propagandist succeeds in getting church or nation to approve a campaign in behalf of some program, he thereby transfers its authority, sanction, and prestige to that program. Thus, we may accept something which otherwise we might reject.

In the Transfer device, symbols are constantly used. The cross represents the Christian Church. The flag represents the nation. Cartoons like Uncle Sam represent a consensus of public opinion. Those symbols stir emotions . At their very sight, with the speed of light, is aroused the whole complex of feelings we have with respect to church or nation. A cartoonist, by having Uncle Sam disapprove a budget for unemployment relief, would have us feel that the whole United States disapproves relief costs. By drawing an Uncle Sam who approves the same budget, the cartoonist would have us feel that the American people approve it. Thus, the Transfer device is used both for and against causes and ideas.” (Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1938)

When a political activist closes her speech with a public prayer, she is attempting to transfer religious prestige to the ideas that she is advocating. As with all propaganda devices, the use of this technique is not limited to one side of the political spectrum. It can be found in the speeches of liberation theologists on the left, and in the sermons of religious activists on the right.

In a similar fashion, propagandists may attempt to transfer the reputation of “Science” or “Medicine” to a particular project or set of beliefs. A slogan for a popular cough drop encourages audiences to “Visit the halls of medicine.” On TV commercials, actors in white lab coats tell us that the “Brand X is the most important pain reliever that can be bought without a prescription.” In both of these examples, the transfer technique is at work.

An interjection here:  I’ve noticed that many mainstream PUAs very much like to dress their arguments in the “science” of “evolutionary biology,” clothing their rationalizations of patriarchy in pseudo-scientific drapery.  I’ve also noticed that their “scientific arguments” are pretty selective:  you hear a lot about evolutionary biologists whose views justify the patriarchal, aggressive promiscuity of early man, but you **sure as Hades** don’t hear  about other evolutionary biologists whose views might ameliorate or contradict the former.  Now, you could argue that current patriarchal behaviors **must be** rooted somehow in evolutionary biology, how else do you explain patriarchy’s universal presence on the planet?  This is a **valid** argument, but considering that we now know that there are only 30,000 total human genes, it is **equally** a valid argument that patriarchy may just quite simply be one **heck** of a lot more environmentally-caused than we care to admit!!

(Source of human gene information:

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/project/info.shtml)

Also, do we look at a patient **riddled** with cancer cells and declare, “Thus it ever was from the beginning; this is how it’s **meant** to be.”  See how well THAT argument goes over with an oncologist trying to save someone’s life. 

Gives you pause, doesn’t it?   

These techniques can also take a more ominous turn. As Alfred Lee has argued, “even the most flagrantly anti-scientific racists are wont to dress up their arguments at times with terms and carefully selected illustrations drawn from scientific works and presented out of all accurate context.” The propaganda of Nazi Germany, for example, rationalized racist policies by appealing to both science and religion.

Note how many neoconservative positions that are blatantly sexist make an appeal **also** to both science and religion.   

This does not mean that religion and science have no place in discussions about social issues! The point is that an idea or program should not be accepted or rejected simply because it has been linked to a symbol such as Medicine, Science, Democracy, or Christianity.

True enough!  However, I’m **tired** of people appealing to biased, slanted science that doesn’t take into consideration opposing viewpoints.  That’s part of the reason why I’ve developed such a knee-jerk reaction to the symbol Evolutionary Biology.  Nonetheless, I’ve seen evolutionary biological arguments that were quite good…but almost always, they’re **nuanced** and **sophisticated,** not rationalizing and with an agenda you can spot a mile away.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis has argued that, when confronted with the transfer device, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
In the most simple and concrete terms, what is the proposal of the speaker?
What is the meaning of the the thing from which the propagandist is seeking to transfer authority, sanction, and prestige?
Is there any legitimate connection between the proposal of the propagandist and the revered thing, person or institution?
Leaving the propagandistic trick out of the picture, what are the merits of the proposal viewed alone?”

The third post, dated June 21st, 2007, at 1:30 pm.     

OK, for the purpose of simplifying analysis today, I recommend (if you wish, dear reader) that you open up another window of your browser and bring up this PUA website **along** with this thread, so that you can see what I’m critiqueing as you read my post. The website you want to bring up is
wwwDOTthemysterymethodDOTcom

www.themysterymethod.com

(I did this originally on TG’s thread in order to avoid attracting spam to her site.  Here, though, on my own blog I’m providing the link.)

and you will instantly get the front page. This is the specific page I’m critiqueing for the use of transfer technique in propaganda.

What I detect is the use of three major memes and approximately three minor memes in the transfer technique of propaganda. The three major memes I detect for transfer are Sexuality, Mastery, and Science (gender psychology). I will begin my analysis as follows:

If you look up in the upper left-hand corner, you will see the title of the website, the Mystery Method. In smaller print underneath it you will find the sentence (I believe it’s called the tagline?) “Put beautiful women under your spell.” Immediately you see the use of the memes Sexuality and Mastery. To put someone under your spell is to dominate them: you’ve got them *right* where you want them. “That someone” is the beautiful woman. Look over at the far right of the page:

You will see a picture of a young, beautiful Caucasian woman with brown hair, red highlights, a revealing red dress, and a double-string of pearls. She is looking over her left shoulder with her face partially-obscured by hair, with her face tilted slightly downward; her right hand is located on her left shoulder, and her index finger is placed on her lips in a gesture traditionally evocative of silence. The image breathes beauty, sexuality, submission, and mystery-the veritable image of the Desirable Other that the artist and webdesigner imagine all men to want. Here the memes are Sexuality and Mastery (there is also a meme of Mystery, but one can argue that this in fact is secondary).

The drawing of this female is meant to transfer these memes; it does so very well. BUT-this is not the only area on the front page that is engaged in transferring!

Note the opening blurb:

“The Mystery Method
Learn the Rules of Attraction
*We are the Mystery Method: the notorious step-by-step system to meet, attract, and seduce or date beautiful women that anyone can learn and that GUARANTEES results.”

Just this one opening blurb is *laden* with transfer technique; I believe I’ve identified six memes already in this opener.

1st meme: Science/(gaming): “Rules of Attraction” (arguably, also reminds one of “Rules of Engagement,” doesn’t it?)

2nd meme: Outlawry/Rebel Aura: “notorious” (because who wants to play by the *societal* rules?)

3rd meme: Mastery: “step-by-step system” (Because practice and sequential learning makes the *master*:

4th meme: Sexuality: this one’s obvious: “meet, attract, seduce or date beautiful women”

Note on the analysis of the 4th meme: note how you seduce OR date beautiful women. Note how the implication is that you can’t do BOTH with the same woman, which hints at the “if you can get her in the sack on the first date, she ain’t worth having” mindset.

5th meme: Populist/The People/Everyman: “that anyone can learn.” The seductive meme here is that this is open to Joe Average and John Doe.

6th meme: Security/Sure Bet: “…that GUARANTEES results.” The meme here is that this system is fool-proof and surefire. In some ways, this may be the most important meme, for the following reason:

CHECK OUT THE PRICES THIS WEBSITE CHARGES!!

Please scroll down to the bottom of the webpage: you will see listed there the section for “Upcoming Events.” There are two basic programs listed: the Comprehensive Boot Camp and the Breakthrough Comfort programs. There is a section for “Availibility” (which obviously changes rapidly and could certainly create an urgency within the viewer to sign up BEFORE THE PROGRAM GETS FILLED!). Most importantly, look over to the far right of the page underneath the “Price” and “Deposit” sections. The lowest price is for 950 DOLLARS-that’s a ****minimum**** price for deposit, although the “Breakthrough Comfort” programs **are** “only” 950 dollars.

I want to contrast this with the inexpensive price of Alan Currie’s Mode One book, which is 19-something dollars plus tax and perhaps shipping and handling.

This was my “a-ha” moment, when I realized that while they might not be the *primary* targets, that men were *also* getting preyed on by mainstream patriarchal PUAism.  In fact, back on TG’s second PUA thread, someone made the **very** valid observation that men are the **primary** targets and women are the **bait.**  I tend to thing of women as the “primary” targets (Hades, we’re even called “targets,”), but a very good argument is that this could easily be a case of misdirection and deception on the part of PUA gurus.  Sure.  When hunting, we don’t alert the deer, now do we?

This is a **lot** of dough required by the Mystery Method for men to be spending in order to have a sex life. While mainstream PUAism preys on women, don’t ever doubt that it doesn’t prey on men too-it uses their hopes, dreams, angers, sense of existential powerlessness, the subsequent craving for power, loneliness, and frustration to empty their wallets. Do the techniques work? Sure-in the hands of someone who’s willing to be manipulative. And in turn, the men who are willing to manipulate women into bed are **also** getting manipulated out of their hard-earned cash, and, IMHO, their ethics and morals. The question we have to ask ourselves as peoples and as a civilization is if this is something that we really want to participate in. Jesus said, “What profits a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?”

Do we really think we can buy sexuality, beauty, power, and mastery? Do we think that we don’t hurt ourselves when we are willing to spend exorbitant money-money that could be used to invest and save, money that could be used for charity, money that could be used to build, invent, create-on learning how to control other people to get sex and banish loneliness? I realize that these sound like rhetorical questions, but I’m hoping that people ***really*** ask themselves these things.

The increasing atomization and lack of social connections in my opinion is rendering our society, both men and women alike, much more vulnerable to manipulation and propaganda appealing to the “get laid quick” and “find someone NOW” urges that many of us have to struggle with daily.  One solution will be and must be the restoration of community and social ties to our culture…but that’s not the focus of the blog.  Another solution that we can and must implement along with the restoration of community and sociality is CRITICAL THINKING.  We must–for our own integrity, morality,  mental health, and viability as a civilization!–start teaching and practicing critical thinking.  It is time for Joe and Jane Westerner to avoid falling for propaganda offering ecstasy predicated on manipulation and control,  promises that prey on the increasing feeling of powerlessness that permeates our society.   PERIOD.

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8 responses to “An Example of How Propaganda Analysis Can Be Used to Deconstruct PUA Advertising and Methodology

  1. Dan

    You sort of imply, but I’d like to emphasize, that these propaganda techniques were learned from a lot of other areas. There are endless “Get X NOW!” scams out there that use all the same structures. “The Mystery Method” is just another example. And there will always be people who fall for the “get something for nothing” promise. (Ever been on a celebrity diet?) Why that is would make for an interesting article.

    This particular example, though, highlights the desperation of some men to meet women they enjoy being with. The guys who are meeting women wouldn’t fall for such an obvious scam. (The possibility that some of the targeted men are setting their sights higher than what they can offer in return is another concern.) Most men and women do want to meet each other, but many men perceive (usually through experience) a wall of skepticism on the woman’s part (perhaps not unwarranted) that must be scaled before any sort of connection can be made. PUAs try to lower that wall long enough for a connection to happen. It’s unfortunate that what we hear about are the guys who act selfishly, giving the rest a bad name.

    Personally, I went on a very large number of Internet-initiated “coffee dates” to meet the right person. A controlled, safe, environment can lower the wall. But if you aren’t into Internet dating, you’re left mostly with random chance and PUA techniques.

    If only we were like octopuses — I would stop in front of you, change colours and do a little dance. If you liked me, we’d immediately go off and propagate the species. Instead, we’re stuck with mind-reading.

  2. hi there =)

    happened to chance upon yr blog. Interesting blog going on here. keep it up!i’ll read from now on.

    God bless

  3. scarred2062

    “You sort of imply, but I’d like to emphasize, that these propaganda techniques were learned from a lot of other areas.”

    Very, very true! I’ll be the *first* to agree with this! However, it disturbs me that so apparently so few people are *recognizing* this as such…

    “There are endless “Get X NOW!” scams out there that use all the same structures. ‘The Mystery Method’ is just another example. And there will always be people who fall for the “get something for nothing” promise. (Ever been on a celebrity diet?) Why that is would make for an interesting article.”

    Actually, I’ve got an essay in the works proposing that our culture/population has become so inundated with manipulative advertising and propaganda techniques that we ourselves have become highly manipulative **right on the personal level** and have lost a lot of our agency–our effectiveness and on the community level–due to a lack of critical thinking skills.

    Just as a for-instance: we are now expected to **sell** ourselves and our accomplishments to prospective employers. This disturbs me; I would think that in a healthy culture, **our accomplishments would sell themselves.** I’ll give you an example: I have a friend of mine who has a master’s degree in biochemistry. At one point he was one of the top FIVE scientists in the world in terms of knowledge and expertise regarding a certain chemical. (I believe it was either dioxin or PCBs.) Unfortunately, he’s a bit socially challenged and sometimes a bit prickly on occasion–not **impossible** to deal with, just a mite challenging on a bad day.

    You would think that an employer would just “suck it up” and hire him anyway based on his tremendous knowledge. Not at all! He can’t get a biochemist job because he can’t “sell himself.” (Although I’ll grant you that a lot of it has to do with the *scarcity* of chemist jobs in the U.S.–although one would think that with **his** qualifications, he **still** would have been a shoo-in.) I find that really, really disturbing–it would appear that the Pointy-Haired Boss has completely replaced sensible management. I **fault** this on a lack of critical thinking skills in the general population and immersion in marketing as a way of thinking that has literally become a **way of life.**

    “(The possibility that some of the targeted men are setting their sights higher than what they can offer in return is another concern.)”

    I hadn’t thought of that. That’s a very good point; I’ll have to consider that.

    “PUAs try to lower that wall long enough for a connection to happen. It’s unfortunate that what we hear about are the guys who act selfishly, giving the rest a bad name.”

    PUAism isn’t harmless. While I’m sure some to many PUAs have very good intentions, mucking about with someone’s walls is bad mental ecology all the way around, IMHO. Women–and men, too– NEED their walls. They exist for a reason. Real trust and comfort must be acquired in **real** ways–through long experience and an established track record. It doesn’t help anyone to use methods of manipulation to circumvent mental shields, and frankly, it’s very disrespectful to the person’s psyche. At the very best, even if the PUA is a saint in other areas, it teaches the “targets” that it’s okay to lower guards in the presence of a *charismatic individual*–IMHO, a guaranteed disaster in the long run if I’ve ever heard of one. At very worst, PUA techniques can give emotional predators devastating methods of psychological warfare on the naive and/or unprepared.

    “But if you aren’t into Internet dating, you’re left mostly with random chance and PUA techniques.”

    **That’s** the problem. (Although I’ve heard that joining enough groups–i.e., Events and Adventures, church groups, open mike nights, etc., is an **excellent** way to increase your odds to the point where you **will** meet someone.) We’re living in an increasingly drifting society with no real social moorings or roots; there’s no **community** anymore, and people aren’t being properly socialized; the art of conversation and interaction is being lost in some ways. PUA techniques, IMHO, aren’t proper socialization!! Random chance isn’t such a bad thing, if you know how to take advantage of the **opportunities** when they come along. Unfortunately, because we’re *losing* socializing abilities, we can’t seem to take advantage of the opportunities that come our way…

    That’s why I would love to see a return to the **extended family** rather than either the nuclear family or single-parent family. When there are a number of adults living in a house–i.e., grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., **family life was a hardened missle silo, just about impervious to negative outside influences.** Children had numerous adult role models; if Mom or Dad was a bad apple, you at least might get exposed to Uncle Joe or Grandma Bessie, who could be **good people.** You could **have** several people working in the household, but there was almost always someone, and often *more* than one person, around to watch the kids and interact with them. The extended family had its problems–lack of privacy and interference among others–but as a unit it was extremely stable and effective. It also provides **superior socialization** skills. Because our society is in such a flux, I seriously think we need a return to it…this would require serious changes in zoning and housing codes, however. But the return on our efforts would be **enormous.**

    In the meanwhile, now that I’m thinking about it, I think it would be a very positive thing for our culture if we actually formed “conversation clubs.” You know Toastmasters, those fine folks who teach the art of public speaking? We could sure use an organization **like Toastmasters** that teaches the fine art of having an interesting conversation, replete with etiquette and other forms of socializing! No seduction agenda, no garbage, no crass peacocking or strutting or dressing like Britney Spears to get attention–just clubs that teach the endangered art of capturing someone’s mental and emotional attention by **articulating what’s on your mind and what you care about.** Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to the bar and see myriad conversations by groups of women and men who are passionately discussing methods of oil-spill cleanup and species preservation instead of, “Did you see what that slut Paris Hilton did??” Wouldn’t it be great to find groups where they were debating–in an interesting and lively way!–the merits of Spinoza versus Nietzsche, for example? Or even something more down-to-earth like old-time folklore remedies and “old wives’ tales” that proved to be semi-accurate? We USED to have conversations of this caliber a long time ago; Jane Austen would vouch for that, I think. From relearning the art of socializing, we can then **get on** with simply allowing attraction to naturally occur, instead of artificially “creating” it.

    “If only we were like octopuses — I would stop in front of you, change colours and do a little dance.”

    Hee, hee, hee…does it count if **my boss** changes colors and flops his arms around while discussing Hilary Clinton?:) Oh, that’s not an octopus mating dance but rather political road rage?:) Whoops, I need to be *better socialized.*:)
    (Sorry, I just had to laugh…your comment reminded me of one of my poor boss’s pet peeves.:))

    “Instead, we’re stuck with mind-reading.”
    Another humorous thought: ex-CIA remote viewers as dating instructors teaching the fine art of telepathically searching for one’s mate.:) Hear that knock on my door? They’re coming over right now. “Hello, Mr. McMoneagle and Mr. Morehouse, how are you today?”:)

    (I should warn my readers that I’ll do *anything* for a cheap laugh at times.:)))

  4. scarred2062

    WTGS:

    Welcome aboard!:)

  5. Scarred the Feminist Pit Bull

    Testing a post to see how it shows my public nickname~

  6. Scarred the Feminist Pit Bull

    Yes!! This is what I wanted to do all along. Can you tell I’m new to blogging?
    :)))))

  7. Doug S.

    One thing – the “30,000 gene” result probably doesn’t really reflect everything encoded in our DNA. A “gene” is a stretch of DNA that codes for a piece of protein. The rest of our DNA has been somewhat ironically labled “junk DNA” because it didn’t code for proteins and therefore didn’t have any obvious purpose. However, there is evidence that DNA that is not part of a “gene” does serve a useful function. Some of it codes not for proteins, but for RNA that performs functions within a cell.

    See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_DNA for more information.

    None of this, however, affects the so-called “nature-nurture” debate one bit. Human brains are amazingly malleable and adaptable.

    Scarred: Doug, thanks mondo for the clarification! I appreciate the input greatly.:) Sometimes it’s easy for lay people to overlook scientific details, so this is very helpful.:) And yes, I’ve heard and want to read the latest research that documents the plasticity of the brain.:) This is wonderful.:) Any recommendations for good books for laypeople?:)

  8. Doug S.

    I don’t know much about books about brain research, but Scientific American (and its new companion, Scientific American Mind) tend to be good sources of information on just about everything. It’s a shame their web site requires you to buy a subscription, but such is life.

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