Sunday, January 25, 2009

Assume Your Audience is Intelligent

This is the time of year for Diet/Fitness books. After the holidays, it's natural for people to make committments to healthier living. The apocolyptic bottom came, for me, the other day, when I walked past Barnes and Noble on 6th Ave., and saw a new fitness book in the window by, none other than TO, aka Terrell Owens.

The topics that the existence of this book, and others like it, underscores, for me, and no, I didn't read it, nor do I intend to, are, fad diets and flawed partnerships.

Jeffrey Bland PHD , once said that if you walked into any bookstore and purchased any fad diet book on the shelf, took it home and executed what it proposed, you would experience positive results. He then said that the only thing that proved was that if you, "Stopped consuming grease filled bags, shoved through anomymous glass windows into high speed automobiles", you will become healthier.

Point being that there is always some truism in just about every diet/health book out there, and any change from blatently toxic behaviors will probably be good. But deeper, fundamental truths are a bit more elusive.

The second thought here concerns celebrity endorsements.

If we keep buying it, they'll keep selling it. Publishers are in a, for profit, business. It's not their fault if we buy an air brushed picture of someone who's only claim to fame was that they were on a sitcom 20 years ago. Nobody's holding a gun to our heads. Dumbing down only works if we allow it to. When ideas become more attractive to us than aging celebrities, our collective conciousness will move forward.

Partnerships with superficiality waste resources. The ideas are the true celebrities, because that's the substance. The interminable phalanx of self help glop purveyed by these people are like so many fast food meals, lots of calories, but very little nutrition.

I grew up, unapologetically, "Grateful Dead". Their publicist and biographer, Dennis McNally, once said that, in their entire 30 year performing life, they adhered to one, underlying principle; "Assume your audience is intelligent.". Now, when the Dead stopped playing in '95, I read in some industry publication that they were the highest grossing live musical act in the country. They accomplished that with very little traditional industry support. This suggests, to me, that the idea has some pretty strong merit, and you can be successful, not by pandering to the lowest common denominator, but by challenging people to rise to their greatest self.

I'm no economist, nor foreign policy wonk, but common sense tells me that this idea could be applied to our larger ship of state, too. Hopefully, it will.