Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

May 30, 2007

Is "Sophisticated Marketing" a Form of Torture?

The New York Times reported today that the harsh interrogation tactics used by the United States since September 11, 2001 have been criticized by a panel of experts as being "outmoded, amateurish, and unreliable." (One might add the term "immoral" to this litany of criticism, but this latter term clearly resides outside the scope of the panel's purview). The story included the following tantalizing sentence:

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. (emphasis added)

I am highly curious about the "persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing" that the study participants were alluding to, but could find no more information in the story about them. So I went to Google and keyed in "sophisticated marketing techniques."

I received the following strings of text on Google's SERP:

Colleges and universities are turning to sophisticated marketing techniques to lure students to their schools...

Sophisticated marketing techniques are key to best HMOs' success...

(The regulator) did hold them out as examples of companies that employed sophisticated marketing techniques... designed to scare and manipulate seniors into purchasing annuities...

Food manufacturers and chain restaurants use aggressive and sophisticated marketing techniques to attract children’s attention, manipulate their food...

OK - now it's becoming clearer. If "Sophisticated Marketing Techniques" have been proven useful in luring students to schools, getting people to sign up with HMO's, scaring seniors into buying insurance, and getting kids to eat unhealthy food, why shouldn't we try them out in lieu of waterboarding? After all, if the whole point of "sophisticated marketing techniques" is to induce people to act against their best interests, why not use them to get some terrorist to give us the X and Y coordinates of Osama Bin Laden?

Sophisticated marketing techniques have been used to achieve extraordinary levels of suffering and ill-health in America: maybe it's time to that they finally be directed at our enemies, especially if, as they experts have concluded, they're a form -- a "lite" form, of course -- of torture.

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