• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


Bombing the Senses


The long recession has reduced consumption, so how does the “business community” – an oxymoron since businesses try to destroy their competitors – sell its crap to people it laid off? The potential buyers. Advertisers — the avant garde of the “sales community – must somehow get these consumers without money or  credit (suckers) back into “the market.”

The right wing mouthpieces for the “business community” that fired these once industrious workers now labels them lazy welfare cheats while marketers still try to figure out how to sell them the latest sugar-coated turds — excuse me, vital products with healthy chemical preservatives and taste additives.

After all, Americans, conditioned through decades of sensory bombardment, expect buying new products will bring happiness on earth. They can also purchase salvation in the hereafter

My wife’s grandmother donated money to a TV preacher – dressed in a garish pimp-like suit. Elmer Gantry of the tube assured Granny God would reward her contribution to His cause.

Secular pitchers entice us: buy this IPhone; enrich your life. Focus groups and consumer surveys marketers once tested merchandise, to discover what colored dye made toothpaste most palatable, or the proper wording to transform Ex-Lax into something soft and cozy. As if!

Companies like Google, GM, CBS and Campbell Soups biw invest in science and technology that manipulate brains to send messages to hands  — to sign credit card slips.

The newest “hidden persuader (see Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders published a half century ago) involves what the NY Times called “Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain.” (Natasha Singer, Nov 13). The “neuromarketers” could sell you “new and improved dog shit” to replace Botox: your wrinkles will disappear and you’ll get a tan – if they got to your brain.

Since the brain uses “only 2 percent of its energy on conscious activity, with the rest devoted largely to unconscious processing,” neuromarketers scoff at “inherently inaccurate” consumer surveys and focus groups. The “participants can never articulate the unconscious impressions that whet their appetites for certain products.”

According to Dr. A. K. Pradeep electronic patches monitor subconscious brain levels, “where consumers develop initial interest in products, inclinations to buy them and brand loyalty.” (Founder and CEO of NeuroFocus, Berkeley, Calif)

NeuroFocus hooks its volunteers to EEG sensors  and an eye-tracking device. The vols watch commercials or movie trailers. “Researchers” then match brain-wave patterns with video images ads or logos they’re viewing “to measure attention, emotion and memory,” says Pradeep. “We basically compute the deep subconscious response to stimuli.” Analyze those electrical patterns, he says, and “you find it represents the whispers of the brain.”

The flourishing “brain-whispering business” has generated new
“neuromarketing firms,” like MindLab International and NeuroSense, which “specialize in the latest mind-mining techniques — EEGs, M.R.I.’s, eye-tracking — or in older biometric methods that track skin, muscle or facial responses to products or ads.”

Major corporations desperate for techniques to sell at time when consumers are kicking their buying habit invest in brain-pattern probing in hopes of keeping consumers addicted. Will some turn to crime to satisfy their habits? This  “brandwashing” —branding plus brainwashing — aims to weaken adults’ defense mechanisms making truth and untruth more difficult to discern.

“But ,” objects Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, working to safeguard digital privacy, “if the advertising is now purposely designed to bypass those rational defenses, then the traditional legal defenses protecting advertising speech in the marketplace have to be questioned.” NY Times Nov 13

Dr. Pradeep  disagreed. “If I persuaded you to choose Toothpaste A or Toothpaste B, you haven’t really lost much, but if I persuaded you to choose President A or President B, the consequences could be much more profound.”

“Neuromarketing scientists can “distinguish whether a person’s emotional response is positive or negative,” said Dr. Robert T. Knight (professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UC Berkeley abd chief science adviser at NeuroFocus), but luckily have yet to perfect techniques that defines whether “the positive response is awe or amusement.” Knight added: “We can only measure whether you are paying attention.” And “the technique has yet to prove that brain-pattern responses to marketing correlate with purchasing behavior.” Not yet!

Neuromarketing represents a trend, one that indicates further mental gymnastics that combine high tech with sales trivia. Hey, we’re still the greatest country in the history of the world. We now spend more money on breast implants and Viagra than on Alzheimer’s research. Now that points to the future.

As the late George Carlin quipped: “By 2020, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.” 

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow whose film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP opens at the Havana Film Festival, Dec 11, 2010 at the Chaplin Theater. CounerPunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD.


October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook Is Listening to You
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid