Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 7


V&V’s NoCoat campaign was a case-study in the eschatology of emotional appeals. It towered, a kind of Überad, casting a shaggy shadow back across a whole century of broadcast persuasion. It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase. It just did it way more well than wisely, given the vulnerable psyche of an increasingly hygiene-conscious U.S.A. in those times.

(p. 414)

Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, claimed that American advertising was an inspiration for his propaganda. The goal of propaganda is to create a sense of fear and lure people into accepting an ideology. The more subtle, the more effective.

I had never given too much thought to advertising creating fear and using that fear to sell products. But it makes sense. Advertisements for home security systems are all about the fear of someone breaking into your home. Even just showing a picture of a baby in a high chair waiting to be fed will subconsciously create a fear for parents about the health and well-being of their child.

Media is bombarding us with information all designed to heighten our fear, whether it’s the news, advertising, or memes on social media. The irony is that all this fear-mongering is making me fearful about where our civilization is heading. There is just no way to escape it.


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5 responses to “Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 7

  1. Ha, I did not know that about Goebbels. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    • Yeah, I had done an internship while in college at the Wolfsonian Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of propaganda arts. I had to write a booklet on Nazi propaganda that accompanied a screening of Leni Riefenstahl’s films. Learned a lot about Goebbels’ philosophy regarding propaganda.

  2. Potent. Neuromarketing really runs very much below the radar, activating the unconscious/subconscious. It’s amazing how few know about it (but then, its very nature is to distract, and trigger the ‘fear buttons’ of the limbic. Intentionally.). A friend has shared about the work of Edward Bernays in this area, too. Some troubling comments, and topic overall. But awareness seems at least one step in the right direction, given the increasing barrage, yes? Thanks for another fab post, Jeff.

    • Hi Jamie. Glad you are enjoying the posts as much as I enjoy yours. I’m not familiar with Bernays, but I agree, it is a troubling practice. Awareness is also the key to a lot of things 😉

      As always, thank you for your thoughtful comments.


  3. Pingback: “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 12: Final Thoughts | Stuff Jeff Reads