I just saw a stunningly fallacious defence of marketing lies and I couldn’t avoid writing about it. Apparently, Naomi Dunford got so upset that someone complained about Marketers manipulating the truth that she decided to say something about it. The type of defence she followed is the type of thing mothers teach their little children not to use, the classic Tu-Quoque fallacy.
Basically Naomi is telling us that because everyone “manipulates the truth” to an extent, we have no reason to complain about Marketers doing the same or taking them to task when they do so. A Marketer is apparently justified in hiding the ugly truth of his products through deceptive tactics as long as they’re not outright lying (only because that’s against the law obviously) since everyone is doing this kind of Marketing anyway; Promoting the good and hiding the bad.
At the very start of the article, we are given some examples of this type of activity that many people engage in to show us that we’re all guilty in a sense. Well, first of all, there are many people who do not do any of these types of activities. By broadly painting everyone as a certain “sinner”, Naomi only comes out as insulting.
Secondly, and far more importantly, all of these activities are condemned to a degree, depending on the severity. If I continuously lie to my friends, blaming my wife for not going out when in truth I’m not in the mood, then sooner or later the time will come to pay the piper. Someone will figure it out, either my wife or my friends and I will get my just condemnation. This tells us that while some people may be manipulating the truth, it does not make it accepted.
What Naomi seems incapable of distinguishing is that there are many types of “truth manipulation”. There’s white lies, there’s lies and there’s damn lies (and then there’s Statistics.) Many of the types of examples she gave us would fall into the category of white lies or simple lies. The former, while are generally accepted by society due to them being utilitarian (lying in this case bring about more harm than good) can still be considered wrong by the target. The later, while they can be occasionally tolerated, certainly are frowned upon and one too many of them will strain a relationship. That is, all these acts that Naomi pointed in her Tu-Quoque, do not really prove that we are wrong to condemn her career’s tactics, but is rather a puny attempt to skirt the issue for those poor marketers.
But in truth, “manipulating the truth” in marketing is for most people a much greater evil than either white lies or lies. It falls in the ‘damn lies’ category and for a very good reason. There’s no recourse for the person who was mislead. You can always break a relationship with someone who always tries to come out good through lying, and this act by itself is punishment enough most of the time, especially if you inform other people that he knows. But for a consumer, once a product is bought and there was no “lying in advertisement”, there’s nothing they can do.
This kind of manipulation hurts people in a very practical sense and thus we have reason to discourage it. We do not appreciate your “Marketing” making us buy the wrong product just because you failed to mention something. If your product is good, then list all the good and bad together and let it stand on its own merits, not by manipulation.
So we have reason to discourage Marketing, but how do we do it? By the only way we can, words and private actions. We condemn the Marketers who engage in such behaviour and we boycott procucts and companies who insist on hiring their services. We do this in far more intensity then other lies because the weight of the harm that marketing does is greater as well. The purpose of all this is clear. We want this type of truth manipulation for profit to stop.