Monday, February 3, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Six - The True Meaning of PR

Remember how Madison ended the last chapter with a big smile, confident that he was still in control of the situation and capable of getting the outcome he wanted?

Madison lived through the following day.

It was awful for him.

His best-laid plans had not worked!

Madison's feeling betrayed, since Heller is ungratefully sabotaging the publicist's efforts to make him famous, and also afraid, since Teenie is going to be pissed that Gris isn't being tortured, and Hisst might not like his organization's criminal activities being leaked to the press.

Madison wondered nervously if he was losing his grip.  Maybe he was not neurotic enough lately and, as a consequence, maybe his genius was slipping.

'cause remember, psychology makes you think bad is good and up is down.  You have to be crazy to work here, it's mandated by the Nazi-psychologist-PR conspiracy.

Angry mobs are mobbing places, angrily, places such as the Dagger Club, a "shabby dive" frequented by Apparatus officers.  It's gotten so bad that there's corpses littering the cities because the morgues are overworked.  Even seventy-six stories above the street, Madison can hear the crowds marching and, of course, singing.

Death to the Apparatus!
Death to the men of crime!
Death to the shabby criminals!
Death to the "drunks" in slime!
Death to the shameless murderers!
Death to their leader, too!
Death to the Apparatus!
Death to the whole (bleeped) crew!

"Something seems to have upset them," said Madison.

And if all that wasn't enough, the former circus girl Flip keeps making sexually suggestive comments, copping feels of Madison's hiney, and when subtlety fails outright suggesting that he lie back so she can give him a "(bleep) job."  In this atmosphere of emergency, Madison springs into action, turning down the woman's offers of cooties and meeting with his top five reporters.

One Madison-trained "journalist" gives the grim report that they've lost their place in the press, which is fully devoted to the aftermath of the Gris verdict or the latest mob death toll and burned buildings.  Another reveals that the Domestic Police has no hope of controlling the situation, and the Army is too busy holding the Fleet hostage to help.  And an uninvited Flick bemoans the loss of a prime bank-robbing opportunity, what with all the IDs just laying the streets next to the corpses of their former owners.

I'd say Flick is supposed to be the Madison clique's comic relief figure, but I can't think of many examples where the story's comic relief occasionally hijacks the plot for several chapters at a time.  It'd be like if in The Phantom Menace, Jar-Jar went and... no, let's not go there.

The consensus from the alien publicists is to wait for things to blow over, but Madison knows better - the sacred teachings of PR know that it's useless to fight the tide, so you always go with the trend, and find ways to make things even worse!  The aliens are incredulous that with every city in the Confederacy in flames, hospitals overworked, traffic control "shattered," the situation could conceivably deteriorate any further.

"No," said Madison.  "The progress and advancement of a culture is measured by how much worse things get.  The greatest authorities that ever lived proved that constantly.  Lord Keynes, Karl Marx--real geniuses like that--kept that principle continually in mind.

The problem with a "satirical" work like this is that we can't be sure if this is Madison utterly misrepresenting Marxism and Keynesian economics, or the author not knowing a damn thing about what he's talking about, again.

The irony is that Madison is, if not in the ballpark, at least breaking windshields in the parking lot: in Russia, early revolutionaries - not sure if this included the Lenin's pals, I'd have to check - admitted that one of their goals was provoking government repression, making things so miserable for their fellow Russians that the peasantry's paternal conception of the czar would crumble and the population would be radicalized.  Something I'm sure other insurgencies have used to make themselves feel better.  I've even heard a theory that Ralph Nader's hopeless 2000 election bid was an effort to give America the worst president possible so Nader could win the 2004 election, which I'd say was a partial success.

That's why they are almost worshiped.  They were also some of the greatest PR men that ever lived.

PR has now ceased to be an occupation and is now an epithet.  Any historical figure you don't like?  Think they made things worse?  They were such a PR.

Now let's take up the three Cs again: maximum Coverage, maximum Controversy, maximum Confidence.  The only way we can obtain those is to make things worse." 

And again, the Voltarians are like "how could things be worse?"  Again, they tell Madison that there's riots in the street and the Fleet and Army are useless and the Domestic Police is about to collapse from the strain.  Again, Madison tells them that they "MUST" escalate the situation.

"How?" they gaped at him.

Madison leaned forward.  He beckoned.  They put their heads near his.  He whispered.

When they drew back, they were staring at him with awe.  "OH, MY GODS!" the horror story writer said.  "He CAN escalate it!"

Madison smiled.  Now he would get things back on the rails and going in the right direction: at Heller.

And again the author teases us by not revealing Madison's plan.  Or maybe he hadn't thought of it at this point and needed to buy more time for him to think himself out of a corner.  Take your pick.

Oh goodie, this adds another wrinkle to Madison's characterization.  So he's initially a clueless hack who wants to help his clients by making them famous, in a way that will completely destroy them, if not civilization as we know it (see his plan to start WWIII over the "Whiz Kid").  Then it turns out he's actually a cynical practitioner of "Black PR" fully aware of the destructive potential of his field.  Then he gets to Voltar, and continues to slavishly follow his old boss' orders even though he's several light-years away, but in doing so callously and expertly manipulates his new boss like a puppet.  And now he admits that PR's purpose is to make things worse.

So Madison wants to help Heller by making things worse for Heller, because that's what PR's goal is, be he also knows there are Black PRs out there who make things worse for people as a way to hurt people, and he's not mentally capable of noticing this strange similarity but he is cunning and clever enough to manipulate one boss even while he worries that his other boss will use his wizard powers to punish him if he doesn't finish the job to make Heller famous by destroying Heller in a manner different from the Black PR method of destroying people even though they're just doing what PR is supposed to be doing although Madison's doing the same thing but he's not a Black PR...

Back to Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Five

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