Still Derisive About Marketing

Mon, 25 Jul 2022

TL;DR: Somebody get John Carmack some Ex-Lax. The man’s full of shit.

WARNING: This is a (possibly disjointed) rant about marketing. Read at your own risk.


I saw this tweet from John Carmack today..

I remember feeling derisive about marketing as a young techie — it wasn’t creating the value. Nowadays, I often marvel at how much amazing value is present that people just don’t know about. If only there was a way to bring it to their attention…

…and I have some opinions that I’m not going to bother hiding behind a <details> element.

Admittedly, this is Twitter. Expecting nuance and substantive examples in 140-280 characters is a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, where’s the beef? What “amazing value” is Carmack talking about? Even if it’s valuable to Carmack, why does he think it’s valuable to anybody else?

For example, you might want to hear that $BAND has a new album coming out. You might even appreciate a push notification bearing that information. If I’m not into $BAND, I would instead regard such a notification as spam and entertain idle, murderous thoughts about how Vlad Tepes would know how to deal with the people trying to “bring to my attention” the “amazing value” of a new $BAND album.

In fairness, you’d probably feel the same way if I had gone back to commercial publishing, put out a new novel, and hired somebody to tell anybody who might possibly give a shit (or at least rip a half-decent fart) about my crap. If you saw ads for my next novel, you too might wish that Vlad the Impaler would deal with me as he once dealt with invading Turks, criminals, and people who text at the theater.

Don’t tell me about the value of advertising, marketing, or public relations. It’s all bullshit.

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George Carlin: Advertising and Bullshit (click to view)

There’s a reason people like John Carmack change their minds about the value of marketing and become less derisive: they have shit they want to sell. The consent manufacturing machinery they once derided is now useful to them. They have bullshit of their own to push.

Likewise with the notion of “relevant ads”. I’ve seen ghosts. I’ve seen demons1. I’ve seen Jesus H. Christ test-driving the hotrod he built for Al Jourgensen with Mary Magdalene riding shotgun2. I’ve never seen a relevant ad.

I’ve seen techies try to decide what’s relevant for me, however, but only I can decide that for myself. Besides, these are the same bunch of ignorant shitfountains who think that human social interactions and relationships can be reduced to third normal form. They don’t seem to get that the mere fact that I looked at a product listing does not and should not be taken to mean that I have any intention of actually buying it3.

I remain convinced that Bill Hicks was right about adverting and marketing; there’s nothing wrong with either that can’t fixed by setting up a suicide encouragement hotline for its practitioners.

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Bill Hicks on Marketing (click to view)

What John Carmack and anybody else who believes in the power of advertising and marketing should understand is that advertising and marketing are processes for the engineering of consent.

“The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest.”

~Edward Bernays

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Online Great Books #51: Propaganda by Edward Bernays (click to view)

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.”

~Edward Bernays

I’m not interested in being controlled or regimented. I don’t want somebody else’s idea of “amazing value” brought to my attention. Value is subjective, and I will seek out what I value for myself.

Lastly, it’s easy for John Carmack to talk about incredible value all around that just needs to be brought to people’s attention; he’s a multimillionaire who can afford to indulge every marketing-induced whim and fancy. When you aren’t getting paid enough, and what little you do make has its value eroded by inflation caused by excessively high CEO salaries and corporate price gouging, ignoring “incredible value all around” is a survival strategy. Tweets like this reveal him to be another tone-deaf techie.


  1. Not the ones named in the Ars Goetia, but more prosaic ones like httpd, sendmail, and xinetd.↩︎

  2. You see all kinds of shit when trying shrooms at a Ministry concert in the late 1990s.↩︎

  3. I have no idea how women put up with sales staff asking them if they need help when they’re idly browsing, and I’m probably better off not asking, but it’s one of the reasons I loathe brick and mortar shopping. Adtech is the digital equivalent.↩︎