Fake news, fake threats, and marketing

I avoid the news like the plague but I do like zombie stories. I’ve been thinking about why zombie stories are so popular in American culture. Cracked has some funny hypotheses (excitement, free stuff, simple choices, immediate promotion to head honcho). I think all of those are part of it. I also think that zombies are the perfect example of fake news style marketing.

Robert Anton Wilson warned us of how news could be used for marketing. He made up a conspiracy he called the fnords. In the Illuminatus! Trilogy, the word “fnord” is hidden in all sorts of text – news especially. We have been trained not to see the fnords. We ignore them at a basic psychological level so they are essentially invisible. But they make us feel scared and apprehensive. Everything you see and read has fnords hidden all over, especially the news. The only exception is advertising. Advertising is our one relief from the relentless attack. This encourages consumerism.

Zombies are the same thing. They represent all the fake threats that haven’t happened, but that we sense might happen. And these fake threats are really good marketing.

Yesterday, despite my best efforts, I ran into a “news” report about a new and worsening crisis at the Fukushia Diichi power plant. It was garbage. No, the reactor is not falling into the ocean. It’s as stable as ever. Yes, it is still dangerous to go in. Yes, it will be an expensive clean-up. Recent assessments indicate it might be even more expensive than earlier estimates.

So why make stuff up? Why put “Japan declare state of emergency as Fukushima reactor 2 falls into the ocean” as a caption on an image?

Ads. The original fake story has ads plastered all over. How to win the lottery! Photoshopped pics of Emma Watson! You won’t BELIEVE what happens next! Fast relief from all the anxiety we JUST CAUSED! Click! Click and Consume!