Why the Mainstream Prefers Suckers, Clowns and Cynics

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One thing that became clear to me when formally studying marketing was that marketing controls people’s lives a lot more than they might think. People think the illuminati or the government controls them, but it is only through marketing, media and public relations that anyone follows a command. People of average intelligence in exponentially disproportionate circumstances of wealth and influence can only exert that influence through a circuit of willing marketers, spokespeople and co-signers who authenticate their status. In other words, power has to be co-signed and promoted in order to be influential. The so-called powerful of today are not powerful usually because of any personal feats or specialized genius. They are usually powerful because of how valuable their brand is perceived not necessarily their net worth. Their power is based on the positioning of their brand in the markets of influence whether it is politics or business. Their positions are kept in place by an interconnected media that transmits tested messages to a mass audience outside of their personal crowd. Yes, some may have the ability to buy expensive things, but it is the perception of others that involves respect and thereafter power.

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Within the interconnected medium of cable television, social media, on-demand video, radio, social events and public businesses, thousands of cultures co-exist. However, there is still a mainstream culture that operates on top of that structure which is more measured, tested and directed. The messages that are transmitted through the mainstream are intended to cultivate a certain set of brands which in turn will hold certain amounts of perceived power.  The people who stand in between that power and the masses are marketers. Marketers come in all shapes in sizes; from artists who compose jingles for a local business to Warner Brother’s movie studios which distribute DC comic’s film projects, to CNN or Busta Rhymes, or a YouTuber doing a reaction video to Game of Thrones. These are all examples of brand marketing that affects the mainstream.

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Although, individually, we exist in specialized pockets of underground culture, the real effect of mainstream ideology is embedded in society throughout the entire culture. The mainstream culture is a way that each of the groups is instructed on how to perceive each other and interact when they’re away from their particular tribe. The main source of influence comes from the media. Mainstream media exists to program certain patterns on the minds of its subjects that make them more susceptible to its messages. With overt lies engineered between repetitious scenarios of fear, helplessness and confusion, the media molds the character of all those who accept its input willingly or unwillingly.

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The mainstream media uses fear as a primary tool to precede its messages of consumption which it props up as a remedy to solve the problems it creates or identifies. Most products look to solve a problem or need, but in order to ensure demand, many advertisers intensify the problem or find new ones to make products for.

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The repeated patterns of manipulation by the media inevitably manifests basic personality types that we see all too often in American society. These types of mainstreamers exemplify one or all of these main character types; the coward, the clown, the sucker and the cynic. These programmed lanes help classify and position targeted markets of consumers which are fed certain types of messages. These messages help confine the individual to a category of the buying public who are programmed to purchase certain goods. Once these personalities are programmed they can be directed toward pre-packed remedies to whatever bothers them. The four types discussed here are defined by their base character traits; the coward, the clown, the sucker and the cynic.

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The foundation of all the mainstream personalities is the comfort with being a coward. From a young age, mainstreamers are taught that conflict and confrontation are bad, so they fear it. Mainstream life prepares the victim to be a victim and run away from conflict. Stoking fear with constant reminders of ever-present dangers lurking around every corner, or in every ounce of food they consume, or with every economic forecast, the mainstream media seeks to paralyze its audience with fear and paranoia.

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The point of making mainstreamers cowardly is for the impulse to inaction. Cowards don’t cause a problem. Cowards stay in line and don’t speak up for themselves. Cowards fear retribution, repercussions, retaliation and consequences. Mainstream life provides a comfortable community of like-minded individuals who all unite behind common fears and more importantly, the products they buy to remedy those fears. They fear home invasions, so they buy guns and burglar alarms. They fear sickness, so they take whatever drug the doctor prescribes. They fear ridicule, so they buy the ‘correct’ fashions. They fear looking old, so they wear make-up and get cosmetic surgery.  They fear Mexicans, so they want to build a wall. They fear terrorists so they buy more guns. In mainstream American society, cowardice is encouraged. Notice how comfortable people are with claiming that something terrifies them.

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However, coward is a strong word, so the coward seeks refuge in other identities. The clown tends to be more liberal by nature of their sense of humor, which conservatives seem to lack. Clowns want to factor everything down to jokes and humor. They tend to respond to intense situations with nervous laughter instead of anger. They tend to value comedy as a high form of social/political/religious commentary or critique. In the retelling of harsh events they will tend to smile and laugh nervously in confusion at the circumstance. They also tend to fear confrontation and violence and would rather soften a harsh mood with comedy. The media instigates this notion by propping up comedians as high entertainment.

 

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While in clown mode, a mainstreamer can shrug off conflict with laughter and bewilderment rather than action. Harmless mockery and insults don’t rise to the level of real action to those in power. Clowns are tolerated like court jesters because their aggression is passive. It diffuses the instinct toward action because humor lessens the situation’s intensity. Of course laughter is essential for a good life, but notice when it is used as a defense mechanism. To many, complaints are easier to voice when shrouded in a joke, sometimes to test the waters and gauge a response. Jokes are a slick way of hiding feelings of aggression or dissatisfaction while not having to admit it. Humor is a safe space for those who don’t want conflict.

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Suckers are gullible people. The popular phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” is attached to the notion that “a fool and his money are soon parted.” The phrase about suckers is usually attributed to legendary showman and conman, P.T. Barnum. However, the phrase seems to have come from someone who used the idea to describe people who came to see Barnum’s exhibition of the Cardiff Giant. The giant was a hoax based on the one perpetrated by George Hull and later purchased by David Hannum. The original hoax put on exhibit by Hannum attracted so many people that Barnum offered $50,000 to purchase it. When he was turned down, Barnum created his own and drew larger crowds. Knowing that both were fake, Hannum concluded about the crowds who came to see Barnum’s exhibit that, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

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Merriam-Webster defines a sucker as someone who is easily tricked or gullible (Webster). That is behavior desired by mainstream media because marketing is based on the other part of the definition of a sucker. A sucker is “a person irresistibly attracted by something specified <a sucker for ghost stories> (Webster)”.  Marketers want to create suckers for their products, or in other words, extremely loyal customers. That is the goal of any corporately produced product; people who consume because of an insatiable need. It’s not polite to call people suckers, but that is the goal. Perpetually encouraging mainstreamers to mindlessly follow trends is a key factor in keeping popular culture popular. Markets try to create a herd mentality that steers individuals in a particular direction through momentum.  To marketers, suckers are susceptible to consumer messages and it is the media’s job to keep them in that state. When media asks the audience to suspend disbelief and just buy in to the premises they’re putting forth, that is part of the way that they create more suckers. With every small lie that is accepted to back up their narrative, the farther from reality one becomes. For instance, by the time we realize we shouldn’t necessarily be consuming cow’s milk as often as we do as humans; we already like the taste of ice cream, cereal and have a range of medicines to cure lactose intolerance. Acceptance of the small lie that cow’s milk is ‘good for us’ has led to entire industries that have momentum which sweep up more consumers (suckers) every day.

 

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Creating more cowards, clowns and suckers, and an atmosphere for them to thrive in, is one way the media sews a system of compliant individuals. Cowards react to fear, clowns are nervous in the face of fear, and suckers just follow the leader no matter what. Cynics on the other hand, are the conservative versions of clowns. Cynicism is steeped in sarcasm, mockery, and what has become known as ‘snark’, something modern entertainment thrives on. Because “the cynic takes a negative attitude toward action (michaelteachings.com)” snark becomes the ultimate weapon for the passive-aggressive types. Some people are cynical as way to feel superior to those who see benefits in subjects they disagree with. Cynics believe “that only selfishness motivates human actions and disbelieves in, or minimizes, selfless acts (dictionary.com).”

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As stated, “the cynic takes a negative attitude toward action (michaelteachings.com).” The cynic does the opposite of action; he mocks. His words make note of the subject, not with a joke so much as a complaint as his only action against the offense. So, a cynic sees something disagreeable, yet only mocks as a response. Unlike a sucker or a clown, the cynic is fully aware of the negative situation they find themselves in. Still they are paralyzed by pessimism that tells them things can’t get better.  So outside of complaining, they choose to do nothing. That is the trap of the cynical mindset; they chose only to complain. The benefit of this type of personality is to remind everyone about the flaws of the things they now possess. The cynic tells you what is wrong with reality which may encourage others to seek out new remedies or old remedies with new, updated features. The cynic is also useful to the marketer and those in power. He helps keep the masses dissatisfied and wanting something else.

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These personalities may seem irrelevant to you, but to a marketer, they are valuable in predicting the course of consumer buying. They help keep people in business and other people in power. The goal of some marketers is to manipulate the public in to consuming things they don’t need or things that are bad for them. Other marketers seek to enlighten, enrich, educate or build up a clientele based on positive reinforcement. The benefit to having an underground culture that opposes the mainstream is that negative marketing tactics can be rebuked and positive practices can prevail. Hip Hop Kulture rose to prominence partly because of this idea.

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Hip Hop began, in part, as a rebuke of mainstream culture. It warned of the tactics of the mainstream media. Hip Hop warned against suckerism, being played and believing the hype. Hip Hop didn’t encourage cowards to be victims; it encouraged people to get some heart (or courage as in the cowardly lion). Hip Hop had elements of fun since the party raps of the 1970’s but it never encouraged Hiphoppas to be clowns. True School Hip Hop always had an element of seriousness and ‘keepin’ it real’ to any of its humor. One easy example of this is Slick Rick’s Children’s Story (1989). The song is rapped in Rick’s light-hearted English accent and starts like a bedtime story, but soon takes a left turn into the hood mentality.

Once upon a time not long ago,
when people wore pajamas and lived life slow,
When laws were stern and justice stood,
and people were behavin’ like they ought ta good,
There lived a lil’ boy who was misled,
by anotha lil’ boy and this is what he said:
“Me, and you Ty, we gonna make sum cash,
robbin’ old folks and makin’ tha dash”,

The entire tale is filled with drama and hardcore realities but always seems playful because of the way Rick spits the verses like a song.

Ran up the stairs up to the top floor,
opened up the door there, guess who he saw?,
Dave the dope fiend shootin’ dope,
who don’t know the meaning of water nor soap,

While cowards, clowns, suckers and cynics exist in the hood, just like everywhere, those people are more influenced by mainstream culture than by Hip Hop which was built on the opposite mindset.  Hip – is the knowledge, Hop – is the movement; knowledgeable movement. The Hop part in Hip Hop, symbolizes movement or action. Hip Hop always embraced the idea of moving beyond foul circumstances and rising above. It was about rising from the bottom to the top by overcoming adversity in the face of critics and cynics. Hip Hop is about defying the odds and remaining optimistic regardless of how bleak it may sound. Also, Hip Hop is not about jokes at the core of it as Slick Rick reminds us…

He was only seventeen, in a madman’s dream,
the cops shot the kid, I still hear him scream,
This ain’t funny so don’t ya dare laugh,
just another case ’bout the wrong path,
Straight ‘n narrow or yo’ soul gets cast.

Good Night. (Slick Rick – Children’s Story 1988)

 

 

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Kurt Nice

Kurt Nice aka Kurtiss Jackson is a behind the scenes pioneer in the Hip Hop Kulture, creating the first nationally distributed video mix tape series, Shades of Hip Hop, in the late 1990s. Since touring the country with the Stop the Violence Movement and the Temple of Hip Hop as KRS-ONE’s National Marketing Director, Kurt Nice has been a constant commentator on conscious Hip Hop and its relevance to the new rap music of today, through radio and cable appearances. contact Kurt at info@hiphoplives.net

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