The Thing with Slogans

I am constantly amazed at how Americans seem to judge everything by first impressions. On occasion I hear people comment about clothing, for instance someone might see a T-Shirt that says Astros and they immediately assume that one supports the Astros. Or they see a hat with a big A on it and assume one supports the Atlanta Braves. I have zero interest in organized sports and I was only barely aware that the Astros were a baseball team or that an A signifies the Atlanta Braves or that the Braves have anything to do with baseball until people waved and smiled or yelled “Go Atlanta!” Is the “Braves” even correct? I’m not sure. To me, these are just a T-shirt and a hat which I change often with no regard for what is printed on them.

Same with usernames online. I find that people often completely misinterpret online names, assuming they mean something when usually they don’t mean anything at all having been randomly selected. I once selected a username that sounded a bit like marijuana and people would–mysteriously to me–leap to the conclusion that I must smoke pot. I don’t. Now it has become almost impossible to tell a joke online. People often miss the joke entirely and conclude that the statement was serious and that I was trying to insult someone and they go berserk. Very puzzling to me since I never deliberately insult anyone and certainly not online.

Visual impressions are also typically wrong. If people see a person in a wheelchair, they often conclude that the person is crippled and cannot walk. Movies often use this as a trope where the person in the wheelchair suddenly gets up and stands and the audience is supposed to be surprised and realise that the person was completely normal and doesn’t need the wheelchair. Whereas in real life there is rarely such a thing as someone who is so disabled that s/he cannot take a single step and from what I have learned over the years is people in wheelchairs just need assistance and can often walk for short distances. There is nothing deceptive about this at all, only the short-sightedness and ignorance of observers.

Now to books. I have seen books that advertise that by reading the book one can reliably come to conclusions about people from a single glance, like Blink. This is total nonsense! It only reinforces the tangle of misimpressions that unthinking people have. I have read so-called  ‘reviews’ of books that are themselves genuine works of art and when I looked at the book itself I discover that the book is trash written by the equivalent of a six year old. Perhaps Equus should publish a collection of reviews that were written better than the books ostensibly reviewed.

Book covers are the same. The most beautiful book covers I find typically camouflage trashy books. Plain vanilla covers often cover intelligent, well-written ones. Why don’t book readers take the extra step and go to Amazon and click on the Look Inside button before they buy? They would immediately see that reviews and covers may be irrelevant. I knew a novice writer of little talent who threw together a Kindle in a couple of weeks, put on a sexy cover, and sold large numbers of his ‘book’ for .99 each. He made a lot of money, tho he did have to pay a lot more to a team of promoters who talked up his ‘book’ on FB. More fake reviews, which paired with the fake cover, tricked many into buying his product. Who will read such after he dies? Or even next month? How has he contributed anything to civilization with his Kindle?

Slogans suffer from the same defect. Given the small ability that most people seem to have in perceiving value or facts, and their tendency to focus on short slogans of little meaning, the voting public seems obsessed with slogans and respond to them as if they were responding to a new-colored toilet cleaner. Programmed to buy something bright and shiny, they are always disappointed when the election is over.