(I just finished reading The Rebel Sell
by Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter, this blog is about my thoughts)
Overall, I found the book to be filled with fallacious reasoning that led to specious argumentation in numerous points.
Fundamentally, they seem to be more concerned with consumerism as regards to a capitalist angle than human rights. They address counter culture more than counter consumerism. I felt No Logo was about raising awareness of how advertising is used to persuade your desires and inform people of the issues of job loss and the terrible working conditions of people making our junk. This book is not a response to that. I found many of their arguments quite unnecessary, but that could be because I’m not aware of the stupidity of others and their activities. All too often though, I felt they would pick an extreme position on an issue and argue against that. Bravo guys, you showed extremists were wrong. *clap clap*
The fear is that once some illogical arguments are made, how does one know if the others are sound (especially when the authors are your source of information)?
Another major point is that nearly all of their arguments are based on inference or observation. How about actual evidence? If describing someone, it is best to match self-report with behavioural data. If you just guess at what something is, it is just conjecture and other opinions are just as valid. (Not a good way of doing things.)
The following are thoughts while I read. Some of points are specific, some are only intelligible if you’ve read the book, and for some of them I just didn’t think it worthwhile to put in the energy to show how illogical something was.
I found their coverage of Freud confusing. They mention Freud’s theories, say they are mainly discredited, then keep mentioning Freud’s theories. Additionally, it is hard to separate what are the logical implications of Freud’s theories and what their interpretations of them are.
Whilst I understand their analysis of American Beauty
, I disagree with it.
In their discussion of Fight Club
, they slightly misreport a scene. It wasn’t a businessman, but it was a priest. I probably remembered it so well because it was such a great scene.
“Being Normal” was actually decent. I didn’t know it had to be said that “some rules are good” but if so, congrats boys. Anyone who supports the statement, “no rules” is an idiot.
They also misrepresent our economic system and don’t seem to realize some facts about consumption. Why is it important not to buy Nike’s? Not to be cool, but because of human rights! And if you follow with, that’s just cause caring about human rights is cool, well then so what? That’s what will make the world better.
They manage to discuss the prisoner’s dilemma and competition without any mention of evolution (used the word once, but it was the layperson’s definition). That is saddening, because the evolutionary framework would have been wonderfully useful here, having much greater explanatory power and evidence to support it. Ah well.
They don’t give enough credit to the criticism of mass society. How do you explain boycott’s? How about Pepsi moving out of Burma?
Extreme Rebellion (page 154) – When you just use observation, it can go both ways. Here is a more ideal (equally valid) version of such an analysis.
· You don’t just buy organic to be cool, it is because it might be healthier, and the companies that force GMO on you and your crops are hurting farmers.
· You might give up a gym membership so you can spend time with a loved one.
· Living in the moment is also about appreciating what is in front of you and not letting thoughts of the past and future ruin the present.
· Repairing one’s own things brings a sense of accomplishment and worth, as well, one is not dependent on someone else (contractors are late and might overcharge)
· Making your own clothes might be so that you know someone wasn’t beaten or mistreated to make it for you.
“Uniforms and uniformity”
It’s not the uniforms that are the problem, it is how we are taught. There is too much recycling of info and not enough critical thinking. If people are actually saying uniforms are evil then they are just dumb. People don’t always know what is best for them.
“From status-seeking to cool hunting.”(page 207). A lack of conscious memory for ads does not mean they don’t work! That entire paragraph was one of the most spurious arguments of the entire book. Again, they pick the extreme and argue against that, bravo. As well, Starbucks sees their stores as advertising.
On page 213 they say, “Consumers are extremely savy…” No, they aren’t! There are so many psyc studies to indicate that people have irrational beliefs associated with products they value, possessions, and the influence of those in their environment.
They actually mention Daniel Dennett (the smartest thing in this book), but then they soon use the word “guarantee.” Why? That’s just silly. One of you is a philosopher!
Free-range chickens aren’t free range. That was the most interesting thing thus far.
McDonald’s is the problem because it is not good for you. Consumers do choose things that are bad for them. Smoking, drinking… etc. As well, franchise operators still follow orders from head office so there isn’t as much independence as they think.
“Thank You India”
“Many listeners found the level of self-absorption implicit in this remark positively breathtaking. Did she imagine a billion voices in the sub-continent rising up, crying out as one, ‘you’re welcome, Alanis. Whenever you need us, we’re here to help?” (page 252) What the hell are they talking about!!! This is so presumptuous and likely highly inaccurate. How about reading the lyrics? Or how about presenting actual support for your stance on Alanis?
They say Japan and Hong Kong represent a new form of commercialism. This is a recent development. Post war Japan has been so Americanized that there isn’t much of a difference. But by talking to the older Japanese and watching their movies and themes, one sees a sadness because nature is not being respected. The gods in all living things are being pushed aside for concrete and development.
As for the Native coverage, I know things weren’t as rosy as they are made out to be, but there is likely more reverence than anything the white man has had. Columbus’ thoughts on greeting the peaceful ‘Indians’ is that they would make great slaves. And they keep dismissing Alanis, doesn’t help guys.
Page 278, “in the end, it may be that the only ‘authentic’ form of travel is business travel.” So dumb.
On page 297, they say “the sewing machine soon begat the sweatshop.” No, it didn’t! Bastard people who exploit others ‘begat’ the sweatshop. Do they think there were no sweatshops before sewing machines?
Page 325, “but the fact is, an enormous number of people don’t care about the environmental consequences of their actions, and they’re not going to be talking into caring anytime soon.” What does this mean? Don’t bother trying? Don’t do anything? They unjustly criticize Naomi Klein for not doing enough, and then provide little in the way of a thorough plan to change things. (As an example of what one should do, see E.O Wilson’s The Future of Life
, chapter 7 titled “The Solution.”) As the aforementioned sentence indicates, it sounds like they have given up hope in some areas. Thanks for the inspiration guys. I’m not ready to give up yet.
Decent points are made, but I think they failed. My main concerns in life are critical thinking, human rights, and the happiness of the world. They were not the main concerns of this book.
It would seem that I am used to a different style of argumentation. In well-written science books, there are numerous experiments to back up any argument and there are multiple footnotes or end notes on every page. Books like The Rebel Sell
(and even No Logo
a little) do not use much experimental, referenced data, nor are they thorough in their coverage. In The Rebel Sell
, there are only 9 pages of notes. They don’t even have their endnotes numbered!?
For comparison, Daniel C. Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life
has a 25 page bibliography; Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
has 19 pages of end notes, and 29 page of bibliography.
These books are wonderfully well written and provide intelligent analysis of complex issues with specificity and experimental data to back up their viewpoints. I recommend them to everyone.
Lastly, if you had to choose between No Logo
or The Rebel Sell
, pick No Logo