By Val J. Peter
The postmodern age in which we live is called the Age of Marketing by many experts. It was preceded by the Age of Aquarius starting in the late 1960s where the individual was supreme, where self-centeredness was exulted, where narcissistic self-interest was proclaimed by the media to be the meaning of life. It was a time when the individual was exulted. The new Age of Marketing, which we live in today, is one in which the individual is not exulted, but rather manipulated.
This is in large part due to the advances that have been made in the area of social manipulation by marketers. In the olden days, we were all aware of the powerful marketing that went on for children, selling toys, cereal, games and the consumer view of life. We're way beyond that now as certain groups in our society are employing marketing techniques intentionally to condition adults to arrive at, not our own conclusions, but their desired conclusions.
If you have to read one article, it would be Paul E. Rondeau's ''Selling Homosexuality in America'' in the Spring 2002 Regent University Law Review.
What Rondeau does is introduce us to the best theories and techniques of persuasion today. They are based on the assumption that you can persuade someone to adopt a view without appearing to do so. In their book Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuation, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson called this ''pre-selling.''
The most widely recognized model for marketing is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) by Richard Petty and John Cacioppo. The words ''elaboration likelihood'' look at the chance of prospect ''that a message receiver will elaborate on a message by thinking about it and reacting to it by comparing it to his or her preexisting thoughts and beliefs. . .'' (Terence A. Shrimp, Advertising, Promotion and Other Aspects of Integrated Marketing Communication, 6th edition.
The ELM is perhaps the most widespread popular, current theory of persuading people and changing attitudes. It predicts two kinds of message processing and change of attitude, namely, the central root and the peripheral roots. ELM's research shows that the central root embodies high involvement of the consumer and leads to a more permanent change of attitude than do the peripheral roots.
ELM is the acknowledged way to go among proponents of gay rights. It fits beautifully with the gay rights movement because ELM insists that it is much more important to influence attitude than is the attitude or opinion itself. There is emphasis on cognitive dissidence. There is insistence that behavioral change precedes attitude change. Rondeau says that is why the focus of the gay rights marketing is calling people names -- homophobic, bigot, lacking in compassion.
The 4 P's of marketing are progress, price, place and promotion. Gay rights folks are not selling dishwashers or autos. They are selling an issue, namely acceptance and approval of their lifestyle, but the methods are the same.
Tammy Bruce, who styles herself a lesbian feminist and is the former president of the L.A. chapter of NOW, says: ''In each case, the critical thing is not to let the public know how it is done.''
In the old days, the traditional way to price products was thought of in marketing as an exchange of bipartisan satisfaction. That exchange relationship is not critical to gay marketing. What is critical is something called ''exaction pricing.'' This simply means that the gays will exact an emotional price from targeted groups for not buying into the gay rights idea.
Remember in 1973 when the American Psychological Association changed its position and no longer put homosexuality in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a mental disorder. This was a marketing decision and it was the first step toward achieving gay rights goals of normalization. And it starts with convincing people that homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle. That's where marketers come in.
In 1988, two Harvard-trained social scientists, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, wrote a clever homosexual marketing plan ''dismissing the movement's outworn techniques in favor of carefully calculated public relations propaganda . . . laying the groundwork for the next stage of the gay revolution and its ultimate victory over bigotry.'' Kirk and Madsen said: ''To one extent or another, the separability and manipulability of the verbal label is the basis for all abstract principles underlying our proposed campaign.''
The campaign has three phases. Phase one is called desensitization which Kirk and Madsen describe as a ''continuous flood of gay-related advertising, presented in the least offensive fashion possible.'' You want to flood the market with normal-looking gay people doing normal things so that the public no longer takes a double look at people identified as gays.
In this phase, it is good to have well-known ministers, priests and even bishops with good reputations stand up and proudly say they are gay. That's very helpful. It is very helpful to produce a movie like BrokebackMountain and make sure the Academy Awards notice it. It is good to also write books for school children such as Joey Has Two Mommies. It is good for a parish to be gay friendly when a gay couple wants their adopted child baptized.
This is all part of desensitization. It is good to have gays on the news helping the community and suggesting that it's all genetic and that they're really very nice people. It is good to welcome gay parishioners publicly. Kirk and Madsen say: ''It is not overt coercion. It is one group's covert orchestration of compliance by another group through structuring the consciousness of the second group.''
In other words, the whole idea we need to remember is that this is nothing more than conscious manipulation of you and me to change our Christian views without our realizing the manipulation involved. This first phase, namely, desensitization, is clearly seen in the June 2008 document or game plan ''Make Change, Not Lawsuits,'' created by nine pro-homosexual groups.
The first step, they say, is desensitization. Start with winning over your family and your friends. Insist that they treat a gay married couple the same as any other couple. Make them feel you are nice folks. The document says: ''Couples who want to, should get married, call themselves married, and ask (sometimes demand) that family, friends, neighbors, businesses, employers and the community treat their marriages with respect. Making the marriages of same-sex couples a conspicuous part of American society will help us get something we'll need to win ultimately, namely, public acceptance.'' Get state legislatures to see this public acceptance and pass gay-friendly legislation.
If desensitization is the first phase in selling homosexuality, the second phase is a new pricing concept called ''exaction pricing,'' defined as ''the economic or emotional price being exacted from target groups for not buying the gay rights agenda.'' It is also called jamming, making use of associative conditioning and direct emotional modeling.
Rondeau calls exaction pricing ''psychological terrorism meant to silence expression or even support for dissenting opinion.'' It is a scare tactic that says it is important to beat down anyone who opposes the gay agenda. In this regard, shouting, yelling, hollering and fiery rhetoric are powerful marketing tools.
Call them gay (less offensive), not homosexuals. Call them a humble, long suffering minority, not a savvy group wanting recognition. Call the opposition homophobic. Laugh them to scorn. Ridicule them publicly. Look at what they did to Dr. Laura. Have her apologize publicly. Scare preachers by suggesting laws forbidding them to claim the Scriptures are opposed to homosexual activity. Make it a crime of hate speech.
Show pictures of Nazi concentration camps where homosexual were tortured and murdered. ''Gays can undermine the moral authority of homo-hating churches . . . by portraying them as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step . . . with the latest findings of psychology'' (Kirk & Madsen).
After jamming or exaction pricing, the third phase is conversion, which Kirk and Madsen call ''conversion of the average American's emotions, mind and will through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media.'' Laugh to scorn the sacred Scriptures. Why would you rely on Scripture? After all, Exodus 21:7 talks about a good price for selling your daughter into slavery. Then there is Exodus 35:20 where you must kill your fellow employee who works on the Sabbath. And remember Deuteronomy 14:18 where the Chicago Bears would have to wear gloves rather than touch the skin of a pig. You want people to live and let live. You want them to say, ''I changed my mind.''
Rondeau puts it this way: ''Pederasts, gender-benders, sadomasochists and other minorities in the homosexual community with more extreme peculiarities would keep a low profile until homosexuality is in the tent. Only strong and favorable images of homosexuals should be displayed.''
It is important, finally, to remember that priests and bishops are very susceptible to what Rondeau calls the illusion of being informed and enlightened. Why? Because priests and bishops are pastoral people and, in this postmodern age, they need very much to be liked and they need to be seen as caring, sharing and compassionate.
If being liked takes first place, then truth takes a distant second or third place. This is a great temptation of any mega-church, namely, to bring vast crowds into the fold at the expense of truth.
If this slick marketing or environmental conditioning wins the day, what will they say 100 years from now? Will they look at our age as having made a giant step forward in human progress, or as an example of early mass marketing gone astray? This is Rondeau's question and mine, too. TP
FATHER PETER is executive director emeritus of Boys Town in Boys Town, Neb.