Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pimping and Soft Power

I'm A Pimp


I work in PR,  

PR, advertising, propaganda -- do we persuade -- or seduce?  Are we whores -- or pimps?

 We have many ways to make our work seem respectable.  We call ourselves "professionals" and we tout our experience and education.   We talk about "messaging" and "narratives", "influence" and "impact", "dialog" and "discussion".  On term we like use is "soft power", which means our clients can get their way without violence or intimidation.  Isn't that what pimps do?  Supply an alternative to rape?  


Academics as Pimps

While "soft power" is increasingly used in advertising and PR for all kinds of things, it is a phrase invented by Harvard professor and former State Department apparatchik, Joseph Nye -- to describe the leverage conferred by Nation Branding, as an adjunct to national diplomacy. 

How can "power" be soft?  Is that like sex with a limp dick?  Meaning: buy a dildo?  Is that better than the real thing?

Back in the good old days of Imperial China, the Eunuch's ran things. Not having balls, they were not prone to rash decisions -- and they could look after the Emperor's harem, too.  in addition -- they were the core of the nation's Literati.  In many ways, they were like academics -- champions of the Mind over mere Muscle.  Soft Power -- but ever so acquiescent  in meeting the visceral needs of the real rulers of the land.

"Soft Power" not only enhances nations -- it improves the prospects of those who serve the nation's  rulers .  In this sense, Academe is a neon-Confuscian facilitator of inverted or subtle authoritarianism -- it stands for retrograde cultural hegemony. And to achieve status in Academe, you must pass "peer review".....

The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the emperor holds one end of the stick, and his first minister the other; sometimes the minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk; the red is given to the next, and the green to the third, which they all wear girt twice round about the middle; and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.---Jonathan Swift

The primary drive of academicians must be status -- which is tenure.  So academics pimp for the "Deep State".

Of course, there are a wide range of people attached to the academic world -- and some of them are independent-thinkers and contribute to the progress of the humanities. One can think of  Noam Chomsky, for example.  And in the area of "public diplomacy", Nancy Snow. 

Soft Power As Magic

"Soft Power" is just too simple an idea.  It gives the illusion of explaining things -- when it does not.  As I have said before, all good PR focuses first on justifying itself, targeting its primary target -- whomever pays for it -- not the ostensible audience.   So all PR concepts must be easy to "pitch".  Which "soft power" certainly is.

In the world of pimpery, it is tits and ass.

 Of course, if you can sell the client, you can sell the national or ethnic group they belong to -- because ultimately they all share the same assumptions.

Magic, mystification, imagination....the willing suspension of disbelief -- really, of critical thought.  it is all about not thinking --it is about visceral reaction.
 
 Our modern shamen -- aka academics -- or simply akademics --are like everyone else in many respects.Which no doubt is why (studies tell us) more than half of college students graduate even less capable to critical thinking than before they joined the academic world

They need money to buy bread, butter, beer, and .  As pimps, however, they want more -- nice cars, nice clothes, status, respect.     They need to have some skill or ability ordinary people don't -- like lawyers, doctors, and hedge fund managers --but their main skill is looking like they have special power..  Yes, like lawyers, doctors, hedge fund managers -- and pimps -- a little confidence goes  al long way. 


Of course, professionals of all kinds do have certain useful skills.  If you're getting divorced, you do need a lawyer.  If you break a leg, doctors come in handy.  And if you have loads of money, find a really good hedge fund manager.


Which is to say, a good pimp always has his uses.

Academics for example often come up with useful notions or ideas about the world and how it works -- primarily in naming things. At their best, they promote discussion, dialog and creative inquiry, with these "namings".
                                                                                                                                                                  This is what "soft power" is -- a label.  Beyond that you have to read Nye's books, which are long and complicated and full of footnotes. And then you have to read the books and articles in the footnotes. And it goes on forever and you give up and just take Nye's word for it -- that he understand something we do not.



 What Is Soft Power?

Joseph Nye was pimping a concept to the US State Department and political establishment.   He made sure this idea was an appropriate label, which summed up their thinking, that whole "speak softly but carry a big stick" thing that had been around since Teddy Roosevelt.
  
Many countries that are smaller than South Korea do well with soft power. The political clout of countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian states is greater than their military and economic weight, owing to the incorporation of attractive causes such as economic aid or peacemaking in their definitions of their national interest.

For example, in the past two decades, Norway, a country of only five million people, has taken a lead in peace talks. Similarly, Canada and the Netherlands have enhanced their soft power not only by their policies in the UN, but also by overseas development assistance. Such legitimizing policies are readily available to South Korea.

Nye's concept is something like this:

 Soft Power:  Will You Still Love Me In the Morning?


As I said "Soft Power' is a label -- rather like labels you put on drawers.  In this case, the drawer is not too well organized.

Nye insists that  "Hard" Power cannot be coercive. Not:  "Do what we want or we will hurt you.' But 'Hey honey wanna good time?',

 "Soft Power", he says, works through "attraction".

He also insists it is not "propaganda" -- it must be credible.   A good pimp teaches his whores not to look like whores. And it must be mutually beneficial -- meaning the client has to come back for more.  

Which brings to memes and primal relationships.

"Soft power" is a pretty girl without makeup who you want to fuck.   No, false tits are not acceptable.

According to Nye, that is  -- the Harvard Hippy!  Let's just all love each other. (But don't forget to wear a condom!). Nye is raking in the cash.

But -- it aint that simple.  


"Soft Power"Aint Soft


"Soft Power" aint actually "soft", as Hillary Clinton (aka "The Hillary") has indicated in her embrace of 'Smart Power", the tactical application of "Soft" and 'Hard" power. And a lot depends on how you understand "power" itself.

Before Nye, there was  Gramsci's theory of hegemony and Foucault's writing on power relationships.   Also Lyotard, Bourdieu and Lukes.  Their writings are...um...dense.  No convenient labels here.No convenient prescriptions, which bureaucrats in a hurry can apply or politicians can use to inform a soundbite. Instead you get pretty intense hermeneutics and involved dialectic. 

Consider Nye’s treatment of attraction. As the premiere contemporary analyst and advocate of soft power it would seem crucial that Nye have a sufficiently considered and articulated view of this phenomenon. But Nye is quiet on the character of attraction. In fact, in order to figure out what Nye thinks one must read between the lines – and even his implied account yields disappointing inconsistencies. For instance,on the one hand Nye (implicitly) theorises attraction as a natural objective experience when he describes the allegedly universally attractive values of cosmopolitanism, democracy, and peace.On the other hand,Nye implies that attraction is a social construct;he emphasises the utility of public diplomacy for ‘converting’ foreigners so that they become attracted to ones’ own values.In short, Nye assigns two ontological statuses to attraction – one as an essential condition and one as a result of social interaction.This dual ontology is meta-theoretically problematic, which makes for bad theory; but even worse, it sows confusion about the kinds of practical expectations one can stake on soft power. 
 
This is Janice Bially Mattern in "Attraction in World Politics Why `Soft Power' Isn't So Soft" (short title). You've never heard of heard  of her have you.  Of course not.  This is academic mumbo jumbo.Nye at least has the sense to make his stuff more or less accessible.

However, if you take the time the to parse her article, Mattern has a point -- "attraction" in any power relationship is also coercive. 

Now,  that is one of those things that should be fairly obvious.

"Soft Power" As Omote


Nye realizes that too.  He must have gotten questions about this point a few zillion times from undergrads at Harvard.  But having presented a thesis he has to defend it

He  tries to get around the issue of coercion by insisting that you cannot have  "soft power" -- without credibility -- thus (he says)  distinguishing it from propaganda -- which, of course, cannot be effective without a measure of credibility.   Nye's 'soft power'  cannot be projected therefore by any kind of governmental action -- including media messaging, PR, advertising, promotions of any kind, or public diplomacy.  Yes, it is the girl without makeup or false tits.

This is not good for "Cool Japan"--  whose purpose is  to attempt to manage global public perceptions of Japanese culture. The argument taken simplistically invalidates an institutional effort to promote a national image.

Such promotions are like profiles and photos on a dating site -- what the Japanese call "omote" -- surface only.

International Relations:  Fuck or Fight



Nations are collectives -- they are made up of people - and their consensus comprises a group mind. National identity is like personality -- an interface.  Our inner  minds are full of dissent and contradiction-- so too the public mind.  We, as individuals and as a people have executive functions that try to rationalize, coordinate and control inner turmoil -- but which inevitably owe their being to larger Self (or in the case of nations, Culture)  within.

Now think of international relations.  Two nations are like two people trying to get along.

And what is the basis of all relationships:  fuck or fight.

Japan and the US = fuck. The US and Russia = fight.
We have always had  explanations for what "Soft power"refers to.


Sun Tzu and Machiavelli knew all about "soft power' -- or something like what people referring to when they use this word -- which, of course, varies.

What Color Is "Soft Power"?

There are questions on top of questions.

What color is "soft power"?  Definitely not black. 

And why all the hoopla about this pastel concept?

Terms like this are a simple labels for nasty, complicated stuff that happens in the real world.  They are suitable for polite cocktail party conversation.  Of course, they are also dualistic -- yin yang things.  "Hard" power, with all it entails, bombings, dead babies and the remain in shadow, there -- but hidden in the pauses in chitchat as you reach for canapes.

"Soft power is like the olive in the martini, it helps the drink go down easier, without having to digest anything heavy.

Terms like this are conceptual buckets for a lot of stuff that are hard to understand.  If you want to eheck out all the garbage in the bin, you need to buy a big heavy book by some one like Joseph Nye or his ilk.   That's the Catch. Seemingly simple terms like "soft power" are magical mumbo jumbo--at a deeper level, we must defer to the Mystery that only Those In The Know can decipher, something lurking in a hundred pagers of footnotes.

Most people don't bother thinking too much. The Japanese government for example has allocated to "promoting"  Japanese "culture", which they define as a mix of anime, manga, girl-bands, cosplay, and deconstructed/ reconstructed tea ceremony concepts -- as "soft power". .  This money flows into the hand of LDP cronies and ad companies at the same time that the government says it has no resources to help people suffering in Fukushima.  And, of course, this initiative has nothing to do with "soft power" nominally refers to;  nation branding.    If it does -- Japan is in deep doo-do.o

                                                                                                            


 What color is 'Soft Power'.  I think the Japanese think Pink.

Or maybe Green, as in money.

This is quite different what Americans think "soft power" is.

 





    








 What Is Soft Power?


When Joseph Nye coined the term he was not at the time thinking of anything pink  -- or military green either.
  
Many countries that are smaller than South Korea do well with soft power. The political clout of countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian states is greater than their military and economic weight, owing to the incorporation of attractive causes such as economic aid or peacemaking in their definitions of their national interest.

For example, in the past two decades, Norway, a country of only five million people, has taken a lead in peace talks. Similarly, Canada and the Netherlands have enhanced their soft power not only by their policies in the UN, but also by overseas development assistance. Such legitimizing policies are readily available to South Korea.

Nye's concept is something like this:

 Soft Power:  Will You Still Love Me In the Morning?


So there is a lot of things that go into "Soft Power' -- and they are all quite different and generally speaking not well defined.

Nye insists that  "Hard" Power cannot be coercive. Not:  "Do what we want or we will hurt you.' 

 "Soft Power", he says, works through "attraction".

He also insists it is not "propaganda" -- it must be credible.  And it must be mutually beneficial.

Which brings to memes and primal relationships.

"Soft power" is a pretty girl without makeup who you want to fuck.   No, false tits are not acceptable.

According to Nye, that is  -- the Harvard Hippy!  Let's just all love each other. (But don't forget to wear a condom!). Nye is raking in the cash.

But -- it aint that simple.  


"Soft Power"Aint Soft


"Soft Power" aint actually "soft", as Hillary Clinton (aka "The Hillary") has indicated in her embrace of 'Smart Power", the tactical application of "Soft" and 'Hard" power. And a lot depends on how you understand "power" itself.

Before Nye, there was  Gramsci's theory of hegemony and Foucault's writing on power relationships.   Also Lyotard, Bourdieu and Lukes.  Their writings are...um...dense.  No convenient labels here.No convenient prescriptions, which bureaucrats in a hurry can apply or politicians can use to inform a soundbite. Instead you get pretty intense hermeneutics and involved dialectic. 

Consider Nye’s treatment of attraction. As the premiere contemporary analyst and advocate of soft power it would seem crucial that Nye have a sufficiently considered and articulated view of this phenomenon. But Nye is quiet on the character of attraction. In fact, in order to figure out what Nye thinks one must read between the lines – and even his implied account yields disappointing inconsistencies. For instance,on the one hand Nye (implicitly) theorises attraction as a natural objective experience when he describes the allegedly universally attractive values of cosmopolitanism, democracy, and peace.On the other hand,Nye implies that attraction is a social construct;he emphasises the utility of public diplomacy for ‘converting’ foreigners so that they become attracted to ones’ own values.In short, Nye assigns two ontological statuses to attraction – one as an essential condition and one as a result of social interaction.This dual ontology is meta-theoretically problematic, which makes for bad theory; but even worse, it sows confusion about the kinds of practical expectations one can stake on soft power. 
 
This is Janice Bially Mattern in "Attraction in World Politics Why `Soft Power' Isn't So Soft" (short title). You've never heard of heard  of her have you.  Of course not.  This is academic mumbo jumbo.Nye at least has the sense to make his stuff more or less accessible.

However, if you take the time the to parse her article, Mattern has a point -- "attraction" in any power relationship is also coercive. 

Now,  that is one of those things that should be fairly obvious.

"Soft Power" As Omote


Nye realizes that too.  He must have gotten questions about this point a few zillion times from undergrads at Harvard.  But having presented a thesis he has to defend it

He  tries to get around the issue of coercion by insisting that you cannot have  "soft power" -- without credibility -- thus (he says)  distinguishing it from propaganda -- which, of course, cannot be effective without a measure of credibility.   Nye's 'soft power'  cannot be projected therefore by any kind of governmental action -- including media messaging, PR, advertising, promotions of any kind, or public diplomacy.  Yes, it is the girl without makeup or false tits.

This is not good for "Cool Japan"--  whose purpose is  to attempt to manage global public perceptions of Japanese culture. The argument taken simplistically invalidates an institutional effort to promote a national image.

Such promotions are like profiles and photos on a dating site -- what the Japanese call "omote" -- surface only.



International Relations:  Fuck or Fight


 A corrective to academic mumbo jumbo is simple commonsense.

 Back in the Paleolithic, people balanced what the Shamen told them with what they knew of the world.  They only turned to the Shamen -- when all else failed.

The same applies with academic concepts of power.

Nations are collectives -- they are made up of people - and their consensus comprises a group mind. National identity is like personality -- an interface.  Our inner  minds are full of dissent and contradiction-- so too the public mind.  We, as individuals and as a people have executive functions that try to rationalize, coordinate and control inner turmoil -- but which inevitably owe their being to larger Self (or in the case of nations, Culture)  within.

Now think of international relations.  Two nations are like two people trying to get along.

And what is the basis of all relationships:  fuck or fight.

Japan and the US = fuck. The US and Russia = fight.

The G-String Concept of Academic Theory

So when we think of IR (international relations) and "soft power" it is important to keep a sense of perspective. It all comes down to fairly simple human things, that we all know.

Even academic positions come down to this.

Right now, the  G-String Concept of Academic theory is popular -- skimpy and sexy is better -- but you still have to hide stuff and make it seem mysterious.

 Victoria Secret underwear is hidden -- it is underneath.  It is also expensive and classy -- as long as it covered by expensive, classy outerwear.    Simplicity plus mystery -- a winning combination.

Nye's G-String is "soft power" -- a skimpy idea hiding a whole lot that you really want to get into-- but can't. And oh there is so much there -- in deep.

Diplomacy = Bargaining


 Which brings us to a number of scenarios.  (TED will never invite me!)

Suppose that the parties in a "power transaction" are more or less on an equal footing.  There is no power relationship as some writers would have it, unless you both want something the other has, which therefore must be negotiated, where one person is not strong enough to simply takes what he wants. 

If you are bargaining in a market for, say, a watch, and you don't need it that much, it is easier to get a fair price.  You an always walk away.  On the other hand, the seller can always find another buyer.  This is a free market.  Such negotiations are relatively fair transactions.  So the power of each party cancels out -- almost --  whomever is the better negotiator has a small measure of advantage.

Transactions of this kind depend on equality --and very often a sense of community --which rarely exists in today's large, hierarchical mega-societies -- and hardly at all in the global context.

One must ask whether honest diplomacy is really possible at all internationally.   The US clearly thinks it is not since it almost never bargains honestly -- always trying to maintain a position of power.   America has never liked free markets -- either at home or abroad, preferring monopoly management.   


"Soft Power" -- the Power of the Pimp


Consider this scenario.

You are a well-off businessman.  You're horny. You meet this classy, sexy woman in a bar, in a $5000 dollar dress, beautifully made up, with just a hint of her very expensive bra' strap showing.  In terms of status you are equal.  You have something she wants:  money.  She has something you want: sex.

But she always has the advantage.  Because your physical needs give her leverage.  Can you resist those tits?  That ass??  Not after two cocktails - -which you paid for.  Soon you are in your hotel room and where did you put the credit card?

The woman is playing from a stacked deck. She has control.  If you like,  she has "hegemony", a position of power that takes advantage of your emotional and primal wants.You can get what you want only if you pay.

What if you don't pay?  .  Because if you don't, there is a big, nasty, very violent man somewhere to make you pay.  So "soft" power is backed up by hard power.  This is what The Hillary calls Smart Power -- and given her experience with Bill -- she should know!  Ultimately, there is a pimp somewhere, usually invisible -- to enforce the deal.

That is generally US policy.  "Talk softly but carry a big stick", said Teddy.  Talk about freedom, democracy, free markets, individualism and other nice things -- but bomb into oblivion anyone who tries to implement any of those things on their terms, without benefit to Uncle Sam. 

Getting in bed with Uncle Sam is not a good idea.  And ditching Uncle Same -- once you have been in bed -- can be traumatic.

We Are All Pimps -- and Whores


Pimps of course prefer to be invisible.

In some sense, pimps are all those who control others. Those who are controlled are 'ho's.  Yes, if you are a middle manager for a company, you are a whore.  And you are also a pimp. 

 http://revolutionarylifestyledesign.com/what-you-can-learn-from-the-pimp-game-about-women-and-life/

The power of the pimp does not lie in violence -- nor even in threat of violence -- but in perceived strength.  The 'ho must see the pimp as bigger and better than they are.  The 'ho must love and admire the pimp and seek to be them.  While the pimp must keep them dependent and needy.  The pimp and his power is largely invisible; whereas the 'ho must feel naked, without the ability to conceal or hide anything.

Disciplinary power, on the other hand, is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility.
--Michel Foucault

In the beginning, the Pimp is seductive.  He offers dreams and hope - in exchange for submission.  He asks a woman to accept things on Faith.  As Christians believe in the Lord, so 'ho's believe in their pimp.   Religions and brothels have similar functions.

Sex traffickers are atavistic -- they make slaves of women using violence -- well, is what Foucault would call the application of Sovereign Power, the manner in which societies were ruled before the Industrial Revolution -- not the "disciplinary" power that came later -- which is based upon how we see the world --that is, perception and knowledge

A clever pimp first seduces -- deconstructing and reconstructing the 'ho's world view, their being-in-the-world  with the pimp himself as Prime Mover.   Derrida, Heidigger and Foucault all have their different takes on the metaphysics of such situations but to put it simply the pimp dynamically reshapes the 'ho's understanding of both the world in which she exists and her inner world, exposing primal needs.

In this sense, we are all pimps and whores in one gigantic brothel. When Nye talks about the 'credibility' of 'soft power', he is talking about the appearance of 'credibility'.  The point of 'public diplomacy' is that it should not look like propaganda -- but fulfill the same function -- seduction and control.

Is this not coercion?  The best coercion is invisible and intangible..

When "Soft Power" becomes "Hard".  

Consider Russia.
When Gorbachev came to power, the USSR had suffered a major defeat in Afghanistan.  Looking outwards in the global Panopticon, which was one of the fruits of new media technologies, the Soviets could see Western countries enjoying fashion, stylish cars, and all sorts of consumer goods.  Of course, that was not everyone -- but the media didn't focus on the poor or the homeless.  So, Russia was like a 15 year old runaway -- wondering why she couldn't have nice clothes  and love.  
This was the seduction phase.  Gorbachav and Yeltsin opened their legs to the Free Market and surrendered to the Great Western Pimp, aka the US of A.  The country broke up.  The US and the West promised all sorts of things - -which the Russians believed.  

By the time, Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia had been royally screwed, in all its orifices.
 Putin did what he could to correct the situation.  But that meant rejecting the blandishments of the West and insisting on mutuality.
The Great Pimp didn't like it.   It didn't like it when Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected in iran. It didn't like it when Jacob Arbenz was elected in Guatemala.  Or Allende in Chile.  Or Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela.  Or when Hamas came to power through democratic elections in Gaza.    

Nowadays, the "thug" Putin is smeared daily, hour by hour in the Media.  And we have the Ukraine and the drums of war.

As we have said, Pimps only resort to violence when they fail to control their whores. 

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