On March 3rd, former presidential Advisor for Green Jobs, Van Jones, was giving a speech to students of Colorado College on the subject of the environment. A video segment of the speech has become the subject of consternation due to some of his comments concerning parental respect:
“First of all, many of you have had experiences like no other in human history, in that you actually know stuff, at a young age, and are more knowledgeable at a young age about important things, than your parents or grandparents. This is strange, for us. It used to be, you know, the little kid, ignorant, not knowing very much, would go… (acting out the part of father and son) ‘Well, son, go and milk the cow.’ ‘Yes I will go and milk the cow.’ Then you go and try and milk it with your foot. ‘No, son, we don’t milk cows with our feet.’ “We don’t?’ ‘No, we use our hands.’ And there was a basis for young people to respect old people. And then you came along, and your whole life has been, ‘Um, baby, honey, daddy’s trying to work the dvr. Can you come and help out?’ (mocks a child working the dvr and acts exasperated) Since you were like six… You have the wisdom and the genius of all peoples… Everyone of you is a walking technological superpower.”
Jones declaring to a group of students that there is no longer a basis for young people to respect their elders is shocking, but if one examines the complete narrative of the speech, it becomes obvious that he is using a well-worn marketing strategy: anti-adultism.
The anti-adult narrative is a formula often used in the entertainment media, but advertisers are particularly deliberate offenders. A typical scenario depicts a parent’s ineptitude in grappling with modern realities while an insouciant son or daughter treats the parent like an annoying child. An example of this narrative can be seen in this Verizon ad. The commercial was eventually canceled due to its offensive nature.
The reason this portrayal is so hackneyed is because it employs an effective marketing technique. The goal of the strategy is to build a bond between the youth and the product. By exploiting the generation gap, the product becomes the exclusive property of the younger generation. The meme also carries a message that portrays the older generation as incompetent, stupid, and a failure. Jones is using this approach to manipulate the demographic of his audience.
Shortly after Jones establishes the anti-adult narrative in his speech, he goes on to explain to the students that their parent’s generation failed to effectively deal with the problems that society has been facing:
“You’ve inherited stupid political paradigms from people ahead of you in line. Here is what people of my generation have been debating about since I was your age and I’ll be forty-three this year. It boils down to this: jobs versus the environment. Another way to say that is: who do you love more your children or your grandchildren…Now this strikes me as transparently stupid, but in fact, this has been where Americans have been ultimately stuck since the nineteen-seventies.”
Of course, once Jones establishes the bond with his audience, the product that he begins to promote is the Green agenda. He finishes his speech by calling upon his audience to find its deeper patriotism in order to solve the problems that previous generations were too inept to fix. His audience of technological supermen will finally “achieve liberty and justice for all.”
Jones is not alone in employing this approach. In an interview for PBS’s Frontline, Mark Crispin Miller, author, media critic, and Professor of Culture and Communication at New York University explains the psychological manipulation that is employed in this type of marketing strategy:
“So there’s often a kind of official and systematic rebelliousness that’s reflected in media products pitched at kids. It’s part of the official rock video worldview. It’s part of the official advertising worldview that your parents are creeps, teachers are nerds and idiots, authority figures are laughable, nobody can really understand kids except the corporate sponsor. That huge authority has, interestingly enough, emerged as the sort of tacit superhero of consumer culture. That’s the coolest entity of all, and yet they are very busily selling the illusion that they are there to liberate the youth, to let them be free, to let them be themselves, to let them think different, and so on. But it’s really just an enormous sales job.”
Although Miller is critiquing the ethics of immersive marketing, one can see the parallels between what he is describing and the messages that are being sent to young voters through entertainment, media, and many leftist organizations. The Left’s prevalence within the world of arts and entertainment has given them access to the sophisticated research that has been exerted in the quest to manipulate the human psyche, and although they claim that it is unethical to use such techniques in advertising, they are unabashed in applying these methods to potential voters.
This is a problem for conservatives. While combatants on the Right drone away on talk radio, write policy critiques, and organize an occasional gathering to quell feelings of insignificance, those on the Left are using sophisticated marketing techniques as a means to win future voters. In order for there to be a battle, there must be two sides in the fight. With strategic heavyweights such as Van Jones on the cultural battlefield, the Left is currently winning the propaganda war by forfeit.