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Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say [Paperback]

Douglas Rushkoff
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 11 2002
Noted media pundit and author of Playing the Future Douglas Rushkoff gives a devastating critique of the influence techniques behind our culture of rampant consumerism. With a skilled analysis of how experts in the fields of marketing, advertising, retail atmospherics, and hand-selling attempt to take away our ability to make rational decisions, Rushkoff delivers a bracing account of media ecology today, consumerism in America, and why we buy what we buy, helping us recognize when we're being treated like consumers instead of human beings.

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From Amazon

In 1994's Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Douglas Rushkoff extolled the democratic promise of the then-emergent Internet, but the once optimistic author has grown a bit disillusioned with what the Net--and the rest of the world--has become. His exuberantly written, disturbing Coercion may induce paranoia in readers as it illuminates the countless ways marketing has insinuated itself not just into every aspect of Western culture but into our individual lives. Rushkoff opens with a series of pronouncements: "They say human beings use only ten percent of their brains.... They say Prozac alleviates depression." But "who, exactly, are 'they,'" he asks, and "why do we listen to them?"

Marketing continues to grow more aggressive, and Rushkoff tracks the increasingly coercive techniques it employs to ingrain its message in the minds of consumers, as well as the results: toddlers can recognize the golden arches of McDonald's, young rebels get tattooed with the Nike swoosh, and news stories are increasingly taken verbatim from company press releases. "Corporations and consumers are in a coercive arms race," argues Rushkoff. "Every effort we make to regain authority over our actions is met by an even greater effort to usurp it." As he surveys the visual, aural, and scented shopping environment and interviews salesmen, public relations men, telemarketers, admen, and consumers, Rushkoff--who admits to being one of "them" in his occasional capacity as paid corporate consultant--concludes that "they" are just "us" and that the only way the process of coercion can be reversed is to refuse to comply. "Without us," he assures, "they don't exist." --Kera Bolonik --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Until recently a cyber-optimist who, in popular books like Cyberia and Media Virus, augured a digital revolution, Rushkoff now warns that the promise of the Net as an open-ended civic forum is fading as relentless corporate marketers peddle their wares and capitalize on shortened attention spans. In a scathing critique that extends far beyond cyberspace in scope, Rushkoff identifies the subtle forms of coercion used by advertisers, public relations experts, politicians, religious leaders and customer service reps, among others. Retreading territory covered by critic Neil Postman and others, Rushkoff provides additional examples of how the ordinary person is often unsuspectingly manipulated, whether in the shopping mall, at a sports event or in a Muzak-drenched store or office. This analysis is particularly strong when deconstructing the "postmodern" techniques of persuasion that advertisers use to reach increasingly cynical target audiences, including commercials that self-consciously mock the marketing process. Rushkoff also argues that mass spectacles (e.g., rock festivals, Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, Promise Keepers rallies) foster "tribal loyalty" but are often contrived, commercial or downright destructive. He devotes a chapter to pyramid schemes used by cults, infomercials, Internet con artists and get-rich-quick marketers. His freewheeling survey underscores the social cost of these coercive strategies, which, he says, tend to make us see one another as marks. Despite his up-to-the-minute examples, however, his overall analysis is not fresh or original enough to take the place of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why we buy? May 12 2004
I was wondering why I bought this tape. Well, it was because Walgreen's had a bunch of bargain tapes prominently featured in their store, and the music playing had a subliminal message that said buy me. Seriously, Rushkoff does a good job of detailing how people are influenced to buy a product, subscribe to a belief, or follow a messianic leader.
I think Rushkoff is suspious of all people or companies trying to sell a product. However, in most cases, he details how Western style societies have been influenced by consumerism, and how companies have refined their selling habits to sell their services and products. Rushkoff does not just stop at the selling of products. He talks about why people join and stay in cults, why people follow political leaders, the effects of the worldwide web and internet on people, and pyramid schemes. In modern marketing, as well as these, people are coerced in subscribing to alien beliefs or products. This is why people need to understand these principles in order to avoid the damage of coercion on their person.
The book is relatively interesting. A good book for those interested in the decision making process of the Western consumer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening analysis of our vulnerabilities Sept. 23 2011
Even those of us who believe ourselves to be savvy consumers, and strive to be rational beings, are prey to subtle forms of manipulation that affect not only what we buy, but how we vote, what we do, and even what we think! Rushkoff's analysis of atmospherics, spectacles, public relations, advertising, pyramids (or Ponzi schemes) and virtual marketing is enlightening -- although I do think the parallel he draws between Apple and a cult is far-fetched (but then, so would say a true cult convert!) The hand-to-hand chapter on sales techniques is fascinating. I am still trying to figure out how ever I'll manage to resist some of the clever approaches used to create goodwill, instill confusion and elicit compliance. The state of suspended animation achieved by good salesmen is also used by CIA interrogators and based on dissociation, when one's current situation is reframed in fantasy (e.g. during a demo drive, when the customer is asked whether that's the type of vehicle he would like to own, it is the same as if while reading a book, you were asked if this is the kind of book you can imagine yourself reading). I was surprised at the author's respect (and resulting wariness) for neuro-linguistic programming (he claims NLP trechniques are used for mass manipulation while they should be restricted to therapists); my understanding is that NLP is a monumental hoax. Mr. Rushkoff may not be as immune to cultish fads as he believes himself to be, but then he is still young, if no longer the 26-year-old who was, for a while, seduced enough by a New Age cult to pay for two or three 200$ "color cleansings".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mediocre and annoying Nov. 13 2002
By algo41
This is a very mediocre book, and somewhat annoying to read. It is annoying because Rushkoff attempts to coerce the reader into accepting his subjective views with a breathless, repetitive use of the same adjectives and opinions throughout. It is mediocre because it is short on substantive research - either psychological or market research; possibly, a lot of the good market research is proprietary. Its strong points are Rushkoff's anecdotes, and some good summaries of what is going on in marketing, including advertising, sales environment, and salesmanship. Incidentally, I am fairly liberal, so it is not my ideology speaking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read May 8 2001
By A Customer
Let's put it this way, if you have any interest at all in understanding how you are constantly being manipulated and controlled by the media and countless other forms of predatory vermin, you MUST read this book. Actually, even if you don't care, you MUST read this book anyway.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars coercive tactics presenting coercive tactics March 16 2004
i first read this book last year and it blew my mind. since then i have read alot of political authors including but not limited to noam chomsky, morris berman, howard zinn, al frankin, micheal moore etc. and i recently reread this book. i was rather dissapointed the second time.
coercion is a rather elementary look at manipulation compared to other cultural and media analysts but it cant be denied that rushkoff presents the basic facts that millions still dont even recognize or even seem to care about their manipulation. His basic argument "why we listen to what they say" is a beuatiful yet huanting line which is relevant in our everday lives, and yet the majority of us dont even question it. it is imperative that we understand all different forms of maniplulation and or take action to subverse the medias teaching.
i reccomend, if you would like to get more in depth, read any of the authors listed above.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult read. April 22 2003
This book is a little long which, for me, translates to it having missed the mark. Although I've a long standing belief that people are coerced into acting, buying and believing a variety of things as a result of the manipulation of truths and half truths and had hoped to find evidence for support, I'm sorry to say I did not. The opening chapter's examples amounted to childish story telling and it wasn't until much later in the book that Mr. Rushkoff opened the door, ever so slightly and much too late, to reveal a place where untold millions are spent to fool and deceive. Too little too late, for me.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars How "they" short-circuit our better judgment
Douglas Rushkoff used to be a lot more hopeful that the rise of the Internet would free us from the "arms race" of manipulation and counter-manipulation to which we're subjected... Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2002 by John S. Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars A look at salemenship for a consumer
Douglass Rushkoff , to put it simply, here tells us about the psychology of a purchase, whether we are sold on a product, service, idiology, or way of life. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by "socrates_eight"
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective mix of empirical and anecdotatal evidence...
This is an enlightening read--a broad overview of subtle coercion and a definitive explanation of the ubiquitous "they" who have so much influence over most of us. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2002 by OldBookGuy
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
This is a very interesting book written by a very accessible author. The book deconstructs the various methods of control that big business exerts over consumers. Read more
Published on April 21 2002 by steve h
5.0 out of 5 stars PLUR Generation Founding Myth
A charismatic Brit and his entourage of overeducated dropouts take over a piano factory in Oakland, intending to squat there and throw the most massive raves the Bay Area has ever... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Douglas Rushkoff is a Double Agent
In the early 90's Douglas Rushkoff wrote a book titled "Media Virus." It described how the Internet Age would render marketing usless. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2002 by Mark Wieczorek
4.0 out of 5 stars "We are all coercers, and we are all coerced."
Douglas Rushkoff, a man best described as a cross between Marshall McLuhan and Malcolm McLaren, here presents a brilliant expose of the all-pervasive coercion in modern Western... Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2001 by Timothy Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great bathroom read!
I thought this book was easy, entertaining and scintillating. It's also highly relevant in this uncertain time, e.g. [...] article on how TV acts as an opiate for the mind.
Published on Oct. 18 2001 by H. Russell
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