Oct 11, 2014

The Latest Thing in Guru-dom

Of Gurus, Self-Promotion and Image Crafting

Part I:  I Enjoy Positing -- Do You?

Let me posit two kinds of people: the Gurus, and everybody else.

Actually, heck, let's make it three since that's such an appealing number, and toss in the Official Conventional Wisdom Arbiters (OCWA, as Morris Berman would be quick to point out, were he here. Of course he's tending to his own self-proclaimed obscure blog, though he's got nothing on me in the Obscure Blog Dept. (OBD) I'm sure.)

Or maybe they are the FARMers:  Fatuous A**holes Retailing Malarkey. Choose your own acronym. The point is they are the official word from on high, the appointed (by who?) Voice of Reason, that the "Lamestream Media" (haha good one) listens to above all others... The credentialed yahoos who run this joint, can you dig it.

And let's give them their due. They have an impressive edifice of tomfoolery called the Academy that wanks around with particle accelerators and such, and it can't all be just for show.

Respect. Word. Word to the particle accelerators. Nuc-u-ler reactors too. And Whatnot.

But this story is really about the Gurus...

Self-proclaimed, uncredentialed types, who hang up a shingle and call themselves Experts. And don't think I'm knocking them, either. Nine times out of ten, they strike me as the more respectable crew, if I'm generalizing. I would hesitate to say the FARMers can be counted on to supply even innocuous, safe and harmless advice. It's often more like a drip-drip-drip of self-destruction from that camp.

Examples? Well, let's see... "Eat healthy (i.e., eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and a lean piece of chicken.)"

Um, not so much, thank you. Our commercial fruits and vegetables aren't that nutritious nor even satiating; whole wheat bread is not an ideal carb source; and the body needs fat, too (it is one of the three major macro-nutrients, in addition to carbs and protein.)

No wonder the kids are rebelling against Michelle Obama's "healthy" school lunches. They're starving!

Bring some lard with you from home, kiddies (and I'm not even joking, as long as it ain't none o' that there partially-hydrogenated lard.)

Part II: Advertisements for Themselves

The Gurus can get it wrong too, I hasten to add. And yes, if you dive into their alternative advice full-throttle, you run the risk of doing some harm to yourself. So choose your Gurus wisely, and test the waters a bit, if you can resist the lure of Instant Transformation.

The Gurus, the more commercially-minded ones anyway, have begun using all the same arts of persuasion the Old Media types long since perfected, you see. (Finally I'm getting to the point of this essay... geez.) They are working that old-time Image Voodoo on you-doo...

Giant "billboards" of themselves on the front pages of their websites, for example. Photos of themselves glowing with heath and vitality (heck one of my favorite recent finds even re-named himself "Vitalis.") And, just between ourselves, I think they are Photoshopping the images a little bit.

Yep. I mean, I'm a huge fan of Dave Asprey, and I don't fault him for doing so, but I'm just saying. He has, like, this new publicity still where he's got some mysterious hoodie sort of dramatically draped across his face, that looks like it was shot by a fashion photographer. Which is one thing, I got no problems with it, let me repeat. But then too, it sort of looks touched up, giving his face this bronzed, god-like appearance, of fine-grained veracity or somethin'. It might be a littttttle bit much. Just a tad. But like I said, they're starting to pull out the full-on Madison Avenue arsenal of mind-control, these cats. The Hidden Persuaders. I'm sure you and I are immune to all that shiznit, but you know how it is, our softer-minded brethren might be weak of will, and need an occasional reminder...

Really though, this isn't even so much a word of warning as it is just an observation on the current scene. In olden days these brilliant self-promoters would have either had to make themselves acceptable to the FARMers, and become FARMers themselves (and thus suppress many of their unique insights and contributions); or, use whatever marginal media and forums they could scrape together... Obscure radio stations... Ads in small magazines... Self-published books or pamphlets with limited distribution... Maybe trying to fill speaking halls from town to town... I have no idea. Obviously that kind of limitation would bar all but the most charismatic types from getting any significant following.

Maybe these guys would have been travelling medicine men in a past life? Although our popular idea is that those salesmen were all quacks, whereas I think some among our current crop (e.g. Asprey, Vitalis) have really valuable ideas.

But it is interesting how they are using the Internet -- and this is constantly remarked on, I know, what I find new is that some of the self-made Gurus are getting slicker in their presentation. They are becoming more accessible to the average Joe or Jane, who would not have bothered with some primitive HTML site of old, with bad formatting and ugly color schemes.

And another not entirely new idea, the whole scheme of "branding" oneself that has been bandied about, also seems to be reaching new heights among our modern gurus. Or perhaps I should say, trickling down and becoming more democratized. We've had Oprah and Martha Stewart, of course, and many others, but those were personal "brands" that played within the rules of the farm exclusively. Now, that kind of "branding" and subtle appeal to the hind-brain is breaking out onto the fringes of the farm. In a way that was not possible pre-Internet.

It suggests a sort of scary climax, if this keeps up... We've already had millions of little industries of   
Me pop up, everybody's got a Facebook or Twitter account, or a blog, etc. But what about if this trend of slickness trickles down even further? What happens when everybody feels obliged to have a slick personal brand, with giant glossy re-touched photos, and a product line with a made-up catchy name? Like Dave's Bulletproof Grounding Mats(TM) or whatever it is he sells.

Part III:  The Glamorous Lives of Cartoonists

In fact, I sort of think about doing something like this myself... Who wants to read comics by an anonymous nobody? Wouldn't it be better if I plastered this site with dramatic photos of myself brooding, smoking cigarettes, standing atop weathered buildings or wandering the rain-swept moors? (And since I don't have any moors handy, I'm sure you'll forgive me if I just do an image search and drop myself in via Photoshop..)

Maybe the front page of the site should just be a giant photo of myself amid scattered comic book pages, hunched over them, brush in hand, shirtless, cigarette smoke swirling in graceful arcs across the room. Caught in the midst of creative passion. I remember something like that from Paul Pope back in the late 90s, actually --- he sort of presented himself as one part cartoonist, one part fashionista and one part rock star.

I do often go around shirtless. So it could work. The weak of mind will then buy my comics... bwa ha ha. Just to associate themselves with the romantic mythos growing up around my person.

At a surface level, they'd be like "What brilliant, fine work this is." At a subconscious level, in their reptilian hind brain, they'd be thinking "Maybe if I read this, the glamorous life of the Cartoonist will rub off on me, if only just a little bit..." And, "I want some of that swirling cigarette smoke of his! Even if only vicariously..."

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