Coercion by Douglas Rushkoff: Book Analysis

Pages: 21 (7762 words) Published: April 12, 2011
Introduction: They Say

The first part of the book introduces the idea of "they," the people who seek to influence our lives in some form or fashion, and it poses questions about our collective cultural behaviors that have become an everyday event. The author introduces himself to us the readers. He also expresses his reason for writing the book by pointing to the backfire effect his previous books. Because he was a media/advertisement consultant, he acts as a "double agent" writing down and reporting the coercive practices from everyday people to large corporations. And that is exactly what he does in the book. He does not reach to conclusions and point at the responsible parties, but instead he strictly reports the facts, although no conclusions are necessary since the facts simply and clearly speak for themselves.

Rushkoff writes down most of the coercive tactics used by "them" and says that everything is coercive. Attempting to change someone's view point is okay, but its when our influence becomes too overbearing and mainly destructive that influence turns into coercion. Although no technique of coercion is ever outdated, it is the style of the technique that changes. For example, the technique of offering a free gift, which either has a catch, or is included in the purchase price, or is fairly inexpensive, rarely works nowadays. There are three main and distinct responses to advertisement or coercion: the "Traditionalists," the ironically named sophisticated "Cool Kids," and the "New Simpletons." The Traditionalists are the type who is "die-hard" for their political party, believe they are not tricked into buying unnecessary things, and thus, have the most trust in people. The "Cool Kids" are the type who is weary of advertisers' usual tactics rewarded by "noticing" the coercion, although just superficially. The New Simpletons are the type who wants a straightforward explanation. As the reader begins to feel that this whole coercion deal is a big conspiracy against us, Rushkoff assures us that "they" are us. Chapter 1: Hand-to-Hand

This section opens by introducing us Mort Spivas, a mechanical bed distributor. Rushkoff had just received a phone call from Mort informing him that he was in the hospital. After going to Mort's apartment in Queens, Mort tells the author that his own "heart attack" was do to his guilt in coercing a couple into buying a mattress from him. The author cleverly describes this classic example of the "hand-to-hand" technique and how easily some people are coerced into buying things they would never have guessed that they wanted. Coercion actually has a horrible effect not just on the people coerced, but also the coercer.

The first step Mort used in hand-to-hand coercion was placing himself into the couples' shoes. Mort knew that the couple lived in a lower-middle income neighborhood in the Bronx. So he took his beat up car and a modest suit to wear for the sales pitch and told the couple that his grandmother used to live there. To insure a sell, Mort "inspected" the old bed and instructed the couple to buy a whole new bed set, even though the bed only need a new mattress. Mort also said some outrages things to get a desired effect, like fires had have been reported with the old bed set. After the sell, Mort wasn't through with the couple yet. He coerced the couple into buying extra things for the bed set and sold them unnecessary financing. He made it sound almost too good to be true. Mort sold the couple $5000 worth of merchandise for something worth only $2500. To seal the deal completely, Mort gave the couple a free gift. This way they would feel badly about returning the bed set, after they had received a free gift.

Rushkoff argues that the people from whom Mort Spivas learned his coercive business engagement, like Dale Carnegie among others, legitimize "people-handling" by raising it from a crafty dealing to a "philosophy of life". The CIA engages in similar practices and...
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