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Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? (1982) (theatlantic.com)
179 points by mlthoughts2018 51 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 237 comments



This is a fascinating account of a very large-scale advertisement campaign that succeeded in radically changing the views of millions of people over a few years.

I wonder what kind of such campaigns are going on today, changing our thoughts without us noticing.


Have you ever read manufacturing consent?

Household products like soap and flour used to be generic and without brands. Brand names were invented to differentiate identical products. The entire history of marketing in the 20th century is appealing to people’s emotions with emotional oversimplifications. Their goal is to creat an uninformed, irrational consumer.

There was a huge campaign against man made global warming, and its worked, a significant amount of people believe its a hoax.

Many people thought Iraq was behind 9/11, or supported Al Queda.

Propaganda is all around us, and it works!


Wait, what? Branding is an important solution to the problem of validating product quality, as it attaches consequences to selling an inferior product, and thus saves on search costs.

Yes, it's possible to waste too much money on branding, but the existence of brands, which creates incentive for consistent quality and attributes of a product, is not a bad thing in itself, even for commodity goods like flour and soap.

IIRC, one of the old problems with general/convenience stores was having to ask around about which products are good, and branding has mostly solved that.

(To answer the obvious objection: yes, regulation is another way to ensure consistent quality, but that has its ups and downs, like being slow to catch up with changing consumer preferences.)


Consumer brands pre-date the FDA. The earliest adverts for branded foods tended to emphasise purity and safety above any other merit of the product, at a time when adulteration was rife.

In the absence of other oversight, a brand name provided a degree of trust - advertising is a form of costly signalling, indicating that the advertiser is investing in their reputation and would have something to lose by selling a shoddy product. The brand of flour I've never heard of is far more likely to be padded out with gypsum or chalk than the brand of flour that has advertised in the newspaper every week for the last four years.

We're seeing the inverse trend today, with sites like Amazon being flooded with white-label products of unknown safety and quality. In many product categories, there just isn't a brand with widespread recognition, or the sheer number of off-brand products has drowned out the branded products. These white-label sellers have little or nothing to lose if they sell a shoddy or outright dangerous product - they just take down the product listing, put up a new listing and buy enough five star reviews to get the ball rolling again.

https://www.atticpaper.com/prodimages/081111small/heinz.jpg


No time right now to write more...but I have wondered what brands existed in say Roman era...Greek era...Persian era...etc...surely they did!


"Silver hallmarks in the UK date back to the medieval period and the practice of applying them as a guarantee of the purity of the precious metal represents Britain’s oldest form of consumer protection."

https://www.antiquestradegazette.com/guides/information-guid...

The romans would have had guild marks on things like pottery, I just don't know of any online guides for them.


You didn't have mass distribution on the scale you have today without middlemen, and so word-of-mouth and personal recommendations should have probably sufficed for most markets, as they do in some markets today (e.g. job and employment)


In all probability, people's names were their own brands, like they still are in small towns today.

I can imagine two Romans walking down the street, and one saying to the other "Oh our family has been buying meat from Spartacus' family for generations now, they're the best when it comes to that sort of stuff."


Or place's names, like Champagne.


I don't know about commercial brands but some gladiators were paid quite handsomely by sponsors[1], not unlike top-tier athletes today (actually, some arguably earned more than modern athletes[2])

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2016/08/10/how-athl...

[2] https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/01/18/the-highest-paid-a...


Falernian wine would probably count as a "brand" of wine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falernian_wine


The baker down the street was the only "brand" of bread available, I suspect. Although personally knowing who is making the product fulfills a similar function to branding.



"None of these contains an atom of impurity or adulteration" (from the vintage Heinz ad) is quite a bold statement.


Unfortunately they were homeopathically poisonous due to water memory.


You absolutely can still grade commodities. A discerning distributor who has discerning retailers who have discerning consumers has plenty of incentives not to comingle inferior material into his shipments.

The fact that consumers aren't very discerning is exactly created by brands -- they have learned to discern based on identity instead of by quality, because brand recognition is less effort than material inspection.

Additionally, a brand certainly does not provide the attachment to consequence that you claim, once a brand has consumers' loyalty and a sizable market share it can adjust quality with relative impunity.


Toilet paper. Buy the cheap stuff and compare to the high end brands. Worlds of difference.


Less than the "price differential" difference. And artificially created - not because of real extra cost needed to make it better, but for market differentiation. So that the same manufacturer, under two brand names, can sell to the poor and the middle/upper class at different prices.


What point does this make that addresses mine?

Of course there are different qualities of toilet paper. In a commodity-style market for toilet paper there would be competition on both price and on quality axes and there would likely be multiple points of equilibrium between quality and price.


I think the point is that, in the opinion of many people, the basic, stupid strategy of walking to the toilet paper aisle and buying the first thing that matches something you saw on TV actually works in terms of getting a pretty OK objective quality instance of the product pretty much all the time pretty much anywhere you go, for a ton of different household products and commodities.

People choose to differentiate by superficial brand identity specifically because it creates the experience they want: reproducible access to consistently acceptable quality.


Which actually doesn't work when buying a car, because some premium car brands are notoriously unreliable, prone to basic manufacturing defects, expensive to run, and inefficient.

Their only selling point is a certain mid-market bling. No one making a rational decision would ever buy one.

But this is basic US MBA strategy. Cut corners on tangibles, replace them with hype and marketing bullshit targeted at a specific demographic, then leverage The Brand™ to charge the highest possible prices.

Use both formal traditional advertising and informal online astroturfing to maintain the illusion of value.

It's called marketing, but in reality it's industrial-scale behaviour modification.


One of the great selling points of the low-end Yugo was that it had a defroster on the back windshield, to warm your hands while you pushed it.


First heard that joke in the 80s, only it was for Lada


> The fact that consumers aren't very discerning is exactly created by brands

But we use a lot of different manufactured goods in our daily lives today, many manufactured in ways that require expert knowledge to appraise. It's unreasonable to ask for the average person to be well-versed in them all.


Being well-versed in the products they sell is the role the shopkeeper used to have.


Hey, a discerning distributor builds a brand around its being discerning. This may be entirely organic, because reputation accretes all by itself, through merely doing transactions with enough customers.


Costco.


The point is that branding often has little relationship to quality. It does allow brands to charge higher rates for basically identical homogeneous products.

As a teenager I worked in a potato chip factory. We also made chips for competing brands. Often this amounted to changing the bags the chips were put into. These brands would then charge different prices for the identical product.

I once sat in on a lecture by a former CEO of a very successful grocery store chain. He noted that if you buy anything in a can you might as well buy the cheapest good because there were basically identical behind the label.

Choose almost any kind of product. Often times multiple brands are created by the same parent company to provide the illusion of competition. Sometimes there are differences in quality/features but sometimes not.


I've eaten a lot of cans of food in my day, and I can say with certainty that they are not all the same. That's not to say that the expensive brands are the best though.

Maybe it's different in the USA, but there's definitely a huge variation in quality across canned goods in Australia. Most cans under a dollar aren't worth buying in my experience.

They aren't all made in the same factory either, the cheaper cans tend to be made in Indonesia or other developing countries. I try and avoid food manufactured in developing countries, I've seen what their food safety standards are like, not to mention the pollution and heavy metal risk, or if it's even what it says on the can (even Europe isn't immune to this, see the Horse Meat Scandal). I have no particular reason to believe that my can of Tuna from Vietnam actually contains Tuna, or that it's free of mercury or lead.

A 50 cent can of baked beans or spaghetti doesn't taste anything like a proper Heinz can, the beans are usually fine but the sauce is atrocious. But there are brands that are cheaper than Heinz that are just as good (don't taste the same though).

Cheap cans of fruit are almost universally terrible. The fruit in the tins is terrible quality: underripe, overripe; too sweet, sour, or bitter. Bottom shelf tinned pineapple feels like I'm eating timber.

Vegetables tend to be fairly consistent, although the cheapest cans of tomatoes often contain added water or tomato juice.

Coconut milk/cream is worth paying for the premium brands, the budget brands are so watery. Pacific Island sourced coconut milk tends to be better, at least in my opinion.

Fish is a real mixed bag. Not just for taste, but for sustainability, human rights, and pollution. It's worth doing some research into what brands are best. Some of the more expensive brands are actually the worst.

Plain legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans etc.) are the only canned goods where the cheap brands seem to be the same quality as the premium brands.

Your statement [branding often has little relationship to quality] still stands though. You can get high quality, cheap packaged food, you just need to spend a bit of time looking for the right brands (which may involve trial and error). Going for the most well known or most expensive brand is definitely not the way to ensure you're getting the best quality food at a modest price.


> Fish is a real mixed bag

Here in Brussels a few years ago, it was found that 1 in 3 kinds of fish that was served in restaurants did not match the type of fish on the menu.

150 restaurants were visited, 5 types of fish were ordered and 36 different types were served (lots of Pangasius). In 95% of cases, "red tuna" was actually white or some other kind of tuna.

Source (in Dutch) https://weekend.knack.be/lifestyle/culinair/een-op-drie-viss...


I used to work at Sysco foods and while I never attended one, the sales guys used to talk about "can cuttings" as a big sales tool.

Basically, they would cut open cans of other providers and cans of Sysco products to show how much more product vs liquid they provided, or maybe the quality... Not really sure.


You can debate endlessly the merits of different products in theory or in actual cases, but not that there are differences in quality. If multiple things are made on the same assembly line, don't you think they have dials they can adjust for different clients?

I remember buying a generic roll of aluminum foil once, because what could possibly go wrong with something that simple? Why should I pay the premium for a brand name? Well, it was not wrapped around the spool quite right. It wasn't completely worthless, but it reminded me that there is a huge amount of detail that needs to be gotten right even for products that occupy little if any space in your mental world when you don't work in the industry. And a factory can turn dials to make infinite variations for different clients, including quality control. I remember trying some generic cereal, and it was very similar to the branded equivalent, but there was something odd and gritty in it.

However, I think what leads to people being receptive to claims that it's all the same is the degradation of brand name quality - as soon as someone recognizes that brand equity exists, they can exploit it by cutting costs until people notice it. There's always going to be a lag that is profitable in the short term and information technology is making this more efficient, measurable, and tempting. My suspicion is that this is why white label goods are becoming more popular - it's not that brands are less useful in principle than they ever were, but everyone who owns a brand is succumbing to the temptation to strip mine it and this is making consumers become more cynical and devalue brands in general.


> IIRC, one of the old problems with general/convenience stores was having to ask around about which products are good, and branding has mostly solved that.

I lived in Africa for a little time, so I had to learn to do that. As an introvert geek, it was painful.

But going back to France, what strikes me is how much more efficient eventually this solution is.

So many brands failed us: intel, oracle, facebook, etc. They haven't paid nearly close to half the price of how they misbehaved with their customers.

Brands don't allow me to build much trust.

Local sellers however ? Well, once I befriend local shop owner, I trust him or her to really tell me which products is worth what.


Even street drugs use branding, in the absence of advertising and regulation.


Pressed ecstasy pills are probably the best example of this. For instance, the old White Doves back in the 90's. People are reluctant to buy a press they haven't encountered before, and are more happy and willing to buy a familiar "brand" of pill.

Of course, once a particular press has a reputation for quality, the fake imitation presses come in, diluting the market and eventually destroying the brand's reputation.


LSD printed on bits of paper with images on it predate that.


Let's not forget marijuana strains


Imagine how much better drug use would be if dealers respected trademarks!


I learned about that from watching Stringer Bell in "The Wire".


Lots of life lessons in The Wire :)

https://youtube.com/watch?v=KbbZc2pab9k


Branding is an important solution to the problem of validating product quality

Yes and no. Any number of brands now is coasting on quality it’s not had in years, it’s made in the same factory in China as the “knock-off” version and just gets a different sticker on it.


This practice is called cashing out brand equity and it’s a calculated move to increase profit margins despite damage to the brand.

The key here is that the brand itself does lose its power in the process. It’s a self correcting problem.


Indeed but only after the consumer has been shafted. If only the reputational damage passed transparently to the actual owners and people started to say “I’m never buying anything owned by XYX Private Equity Firm”


Branding is an important solution to the problem of validating product quality..

Often the only difference between a brand item and the generic version is the label. The contents are identical. Branding doesn't validate quality in that case.

Here in the UK Kellogs actually ran a campaign telling consumers "We don't make breakfast cereals for anyone else." The generic shop brands cereals started to get good enough that people thought Kellogs were making the cheaper stuff as well.


I think "validating quality" here means "you always get the same expected quality", instead of "branded product A is better quality than unbranded product B", so I'd say it still applies.

In other words, unbranded cereal can, and most of the time is, better than shop brands, but that does not remove the fact that, when buying Kellogs in any shop you get exactly what you expected.


>Wait, what? Branding is an important solution to the problem of validating product quality, as it attaches consequences to selling an inferior product, and thus saves on search costs.

For the products mentioned (soap, detergents, toothpaste, and tons of other stuff, etc) it was just an artificial way to differentiate the same thing, and make people pay for the brand name...


> Brand names were invented to differentiate identical products. The entire history of marketing in the 20th century is appealing to people’s emotions with emotional oversimplifications. Their goal is to creat an uninformed, irrational consumer.

Gosh, that is so different from my own experience. Let me tell you about a brand I trust: Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Toscano Olive Oil.

Anyone who knows olive oil knows that it can be one of the scammiest products there is. "Italian" on the label may only mean that it's bottled in Italy, blended from stale olive oil from all over Europe and the mideast. It may have off odors and flavors, but you won't know until you open it. And how old is it? Your guess is as good as mine.

This Toscano is the real deal, and it proudly lists the harvest date on the label. They don't have it all year round - when they run out you have to wait for the next harvest. So I have a few bottles of the October-December 2018 harvest in our "olive oil cellar" (a cool closet).

Another good one is Trader Joe's Greek Kalamata olive oil, which also lists the harvest date.

Both TJ's and Costco have lesser oils too; it's not just the store brand but the specific product brand that tells me I will be getting a quality olive oil.

I don't see what's wrong with that.


>Brand names were invented to differentiate identical products.

Wrong. Brand names were around during Roman times. Roman pottery has been unearthed which shows brand names and logos. It isn't anything new.


The sentence before the one you quoted refers to household items like flour and soap, not pottery.


Brand names for soap and flour go back well over 100 years. And before they had names, they would have been associated with a store - “Jim’s mill has crappy flour”.


> Brand names for soap and flour go back well over 100 years.

I mean, that's the point, right? Each one's history stretches back at least 5-10k years.


Brand names for household products came into their own not to differentiate identical products, but rather to differentiate identical-seeming products. I.e.. because of the scandals of adulteration in the Victorian age.

http://www.artisanfoodlaw.co.uk/history-of-food-law/19th-cen...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=U29jOkKqI2kC&pg=PA96&lpg...


>There was a huge campaign against man made global warming, and its worked, a significant amount of people believe its a hoax.

Hell, the Southpark guys did and made fun of it for years... and now they're like "wait a minute, it is real, our bad"

>Over the last two episodes, Parker and Stone have attempted to correct the mistake they made over a decade ago, as the boys beg Gore to help them fight the destruction of ManBearPig. While in 2006's South Park climate change was some silly myth, now it's a very real horror that most people still choose to ignore.

.

>South Park has never been one to say it was wrong. It's a show that will gladly stand by its depictions of everything from suicide to terrorist attacks and the prophet Muhammad. So, to admit it was wrong about its take on climate change 12 years ago is a surprising sign of maturity.

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a25127458/south-par...


Have you ever baked? There is a big difference between using a consistent brand like King Arthur flour and a generic brand.


It works both ways though, to some degree. Once someone is aware that the cost of branded products factors in the massive spending on propaganda, the rational decision is to buy off brand.


Soap is far from identical - every soap has a different smell Wich is a major factor in consumer choice.


>> Household products like soap and flour used to be generic and without brands. Brand names were invented to differentiate identical products.

And so people could choose to not buy bread/flour containing alum or chalk, both once common practice.


Found out recently my 77 year old mother (who spends a lot of time on Facebook) does not believe in global warming. I was completely shocked. She’s very religious and perhaps is targeted as a “low information” decision maker.


Branding in soap goes back hundreds of years


All the examples that you say are quite old. What huge propaganda campaign is going on underhandedly in 2019?


"It is normal for tech companies to hoover up behavioral data about us, to package it up, and to sell it on to others for whatever purposes they want"


They already mentioned the global-warming thing. "Global warming either isn't real or is completely natural, so we shouldn't try to fix it." It's been taking a beating recently, but they've only doubled down on it, and it's still got a lot of momentum.


Just off the top of my head:

-Lots of relentless propaganda trying to differentiate and demonize political parties (liberals/democrats bad and hate america!) when in reality there's not much difference between mainstream elements of both parties outside of wedge issues.

-Lots of green-washing propaganda (consuming product X is good for the environment)


Add "super foods" to that list, which vary in actual health value but are all heavily supported by their associated agricultural consortium.


The former has been going on forever; the latter has been going on for at least as long as environmentalism itself.

Also, both of these are "industry trends", where I think what the parent is asking for are campaigns unique to a single company and a single advertising agency, but with far-reaching effects on public perception beyond that company's brand.


Israel has been lobbying and campaigning relentlessly for the past few decades to obtain and maintain political support from the West.

The campaign has successfully instilled a few formulas in the public opinion- for example:

1) that Israel has a right to defend itself; (notice how subtly it shifts the issue from that of whether it is defending or attacking, to whether it has a right to defend itself from attacks).

2) that Israel's right to exist needs to be constantly reiterated. (Which implicitly suggests that it's possible the speaker doesn't recognize it- you don't ask somebody who criticizes France to declare it has a right to exist).

3) that the reason Israel is attacked is hatred and anti-Semitism. (And not, of course, that it is violation of international legality and human rights).

4) that there is no meaningful distinction between USA's objectives and Israel's. (While Israel and USA are separate countries and by nature have different objectives).

Some less official but widespread ideas are the negation of Palestinians existence (they are just Arabs) and a "might makes right" principle ("Palestinians have lost and should get over with it").


Hey @dang — why do you allow these off topic rants?


It looks like a direct answer to the grandparent question "What huge propaganda campaign is going on underhandedly in 2019?" You may think it's wrong, but I don't see how it's off topic.


Russia collusion


Keto or anti-keto -- one of those.


I tried really hard to find a profit motive as Keto was catching on a couple years ago, and I couldn't. Nobody was selling much. I'd lean toward anti-keto.


Of course there's a profit motive for Keto: selling books, movies, and magazines. Haven't you seen all the magazines at Whole Foods pushing keto and paleo diets? Or the "experts" selling books pushing them?


This was before all that. I couldn't even find a book. I found Keto by going through every diet subreddit and looking for which ones had the most before and after photos that were significant, and not sponsored by for-profit programs (like weight watchers).

Intermittent fasting seems similar at the moment. Promising results, and I can't find a sponsor. Sure, given any trend, people will find a way to make a profit. But the kernel of these seems fairly organic, unlike say, the "South Beach Diet."


There's also a profit motive to sell water, so maybe hydration is a scam too?

To ericb's point—there's a massive difference between a profit motive of selling optional advice versus selling the "product". Like many real diets, keto is little more than a subset of foods already available at the supermarket. It's not like someone was trying to flog a special powder or vitamin pills.


A book can easily cost as much as a special powder or vitamin pills. And yes, someone writing some pseudo-scientific book pushing "hydration" (in reality, over-hydration) is a scam artist too. I'd be very surprised if there aren't any such books out there.

I case you're wondering, this "hydration" thing basically is a scam too, just like keto. Fun fact: it's generally impossible to die of dehydration, unless you genuinely don't have access to freshwater. People will drink when they're thirsty. No athletes have ever died of it. However, a significant number of athletes have died of over-hydration (water poisoning). Just like keto, it's dangerous and unhealthy.


"Books aren't free" isn't a coherent criticism of an idea. Nobody is claiming exclusivity or special authority over the concept of diets which trigger human ketogenesis.

Your level of unqualified certainty about keto diets is amusing. I personally know a number of people who are sticking to that diet and they've all had their health objectively improve as a result. (Weight, body tone, lipoprotein subfractions.)

In one case, he had chronic fatigue that his GP (family doctor) couldn't resolve, nor two expert referrals who tried medications and special diets. The keto diet led to an effective cure (the key factor was narrowed to the consumption of sugar, even relatively small amounts) and when combined with other health marker improvements, now considers his keto diet as necessary for a tolerable existence.

So yeah, dangerous and unhealthy.

(And for the record I've no idea what "this hydration thing" is. When I cited hydration I wasn't talking about some special diet, only to the basic concept of not being dehydrated.)


Brexit


Are Snap-on branded tools “identical” to Harbor Freight “branded” tools? I mean a wrench is a wrench, right?


Heavily depends on the tool. There are a lot of youtube comparisons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bytkgeo9Q1g

There is still a ton of play in most the tools with moving parts. (AKA don't buy a drill press because there is a huge amount of play in the HF versions). The cheap home depot tools though are actually pretty good if you get the reasonable ones. AKA a good Ryobi 18V drill is just as good as the yellow or red ones that cost 2x-3x as much despite the "contractor grade".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTuiMcOXAwk

(there are a bunch of videos with people killing dewalt drills, batteries, etc. At least over the past few years their reputation doesn't appear to be deserved.)


Anecdotally cheaper brands of power tools seem to have a higher rate of return despite being mostly sold to consumers who are extremely likely to use tools in a less demanding fashion compared to contractors that who buy more expensive tools. This leads one to believe that the more expensive brands are better made and more durable and therefore worth the premium. If you time your purchases around frequent promotions you probably will pay less than 2x for the better quality tool and may well even save money in the long run.

Example if you pay 1.8x the cost for a tool that lasts 10 years vs 1x for 4 years of service you will actually have paid LESS not more.

One also notices that pro's tend to buy brand name tools rather than budget brands even when they are budget conscious in other ways.


Not if you're a professional mechanic intending to use it every day for 30 years. I believe that breakage resistance and level of wear and tear are not the same.


And if they're not identical, do you really need the quality of the more expensive one (supposing it is in fact higher?)


There are large differences in wrench quality. Cheap wrenches have poor tolerances in the heads leading to burred nuts. Also there can are superior designs in some ring spanners to reduce burring. Ok if you only want to use a nut a few times, but if it's a machine you want to be servicable it's very impotant to use decent quality tools.


Harbor Freight hand tools are surprisingly good these days.


I'd wager their wrenches are damn close to identical unless perhaps you're using a lengthy cheater.

(Machines more complex than a simple lever probably have more room to differentiate themselves.)


They aren't the same. At the very least, good wrenches are forged, shit ones are cast. Just for starters.


Harbor Freight sells lots of drop forged wrenches:

https://www.harborfreight.com/8-piece-sae-offset-box-wrench-...

I wouldn't buy their stuff if my job depended on my tools, but for something I need twice a year at my house, no problem.


My point was that you won't put enough force on either of them to discern a difference without a cheater bar. Maybe if it's a very small wrench.

I'd like to see you torque a 1" harbor freight wrench to the point of failure with your bare hands. I don't think you could do it even with your full body weight or something to push off of.

There are certainly cases where products differ enough in quality that there are pragmatic reasons to avoid some brands and prefer others. But I think standard wrenches are a poor example if you're trying to convey this point.


Sure. It's usually cheater bars that bend/break cast wrenches. Not common for around the house stuff, but very common for rusty bolts on cars, for a shade tree mechanic. Though the tolerances on cheap wrenches can certainly round off nuts even in around the house situations.


> I wonder what kind of such campaigns are going on today, changing our thoughts without us noticing.

Political campaigns are usually comparable in scope.

Obama, for example, beat Nike and Apple to win the "marketer of the year" award https://adage.com/article/moy-2008/obama-wins-ad-age-s-marke...

I remember being so excited and enthusiastic. People were banging pots and pans in the streets and celebrating. But looking back, I am not sure what happened. I don't even know why I was excited. And that's the power of propaganda and marketing, it presents a fuzzy abstract canvas and allows everyone to imbue their own, private hopes and dream onto it.

In the more recent history, the "Russian collusion" is probably another campaign where so much effort was spent on, families were torn apparent, a lot of mental energy put into it, and then it kind of fizzled out. All of the sudden everyone stopped talking about it. It went from "it was a sure road to impeachment" to everyone at the same time deciding to ignore it.


After eight years of Bush, people were prepared to believe just about anything would be an historic watershed of honesty and good governance. For the last of the Bush years, every day seemed to bring an unprecedented new scandal that overshadowed all previously unprecedented Bush scandals by such magnitude as to render them meaningless. Finally, we had the Attorney General of the United States testify that he could remember nothing to do with why he fired numerous US Attorneys on the eve of an election. And then Cheney shot somebody and his victim apologized. And so many other things. It was easy to believe that Obama wasn't controlled by the exact same people.


It's a conclusion that you can reach from publicly available financial information, transportation logs, and behavior of the accused. It's not like there's nothing there, it just hit a dead-end because you have a situation where the complicit and co-conspirators are now responsible for the sentencing aspect of proceedings, so the house is basically going to sit on the continuance of the investigation. Additionally a lot of the relevant investigations were handed off to the relevant state prosecutors so the accused can't pardon himself and his underlings.

My point is, it's not so much a propaganda campaign as an obvious juicy news story to be written about and it's predictably not reported on lately because nothings happening out in the open right now, but watch by October 2020 it'll be a thing again, because it'll be politically expedient again.


Like the Clinton impeachment, it went from substantive issues to arguing about the meaning of words. A large number of people were indeed prosecuted for various offences: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/20/17031772/m...

And it was proven that the campaign received help from Russians. But the help appears to have been one-directional; no proof that it was requested or directed explicitly by Trump. He just let it happen, which is apparently fine.


Obama's election was a positive milestone for race relations in American history. If that's not worth getting excited about politically then I'm not sure what is.


Was it though? Did race relations improve during his 8 years. I guess, but I am not too sure...


Obama's election was sold as a positive milestone for race relations. Once he was president he devoted almost no time at all to race relations, and conditions for many PoC actually deteriorated, because he discarded his popular base instead of creating an integrated social movement.

(Ironically - if that's the word - Trump has been far better at creating the latter than Obama was.)

A lot of people actually believed the Hope and Change slogans. But it turned out there was no real cause for hope, and very little significant change.

And that's marketing for you - illusion over substance.


Before 1972, there were 0 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Now there are 33 and nobody bats an eye - but it's taken 50 years to get here.

I find it hard to believe that this important first step is not to be celebrated as something to be a part of. Results are not instant.


Are you hydrated adequately? Drink more water! brought to you by Coca-Cola and American Beverage Association. Those bots spamming about hydration in twitch chat? thats them.

>Coke and ABA also spread deceptive messages about hydration—giving the misimpression that many people suffer from dehydration, according to the complaint. “We don’t believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration,” said Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne.

https://cspinet.org/news/lawsuit-alleges-coca-cola-american-...


So that is where the “hydrohomies” stuff comes from on Reddit? Probably a second order effect though, considering that communities original name


Uh... I really don't think so. Those communities are very specifically about only drinking water, ideally tap water, and absolutely hate soda. As tongue-in-cheek as the entire thing is, soda is the enemy there. If rasz thinks that the people spamming about hydration in Twitch chat (or anywhere else) have anything to do with Coca-Cola or any other company, he's wrong, and simply jumped to conclusions based on previous experience. This entire "movement" is literally about only drinking water, and the health benefits it provides over drinking soda, juice, etc. Maybe it's sponsored by lemon companies, since a slice of lemon is about the only thing that those communities allow in their precious water.



Talking about Coca Cola, they spend literally billions in advertisement annually. I find it quite fascinating to think that maybe nobody would drink Coca Cola anymore, would they stop advertising it. What a crappy product if you think about it...


Almost all seasonal marketing campaigns:

- Modern consumer Christmas as invented by Coke

- "Back to School" made a lot more sense when you were actually sending kids off to boarding school


No, modern consumer Christmas was invented by John Wanamaker, who also invented the department store.



Did Coke really substantially influence Christmas? I always felt that that was some kind of weird anti-Christmas and/or anti-Coke propaganda in and of itself.


I think it's probably more accurate to say that they cemented and popularized what's now the canonical image of santa (though there was lots of prior art).

If you want a more indisputable fact of Christmas influenced marketing, check out Japan & KFC Christmas:

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-kfc-became-a-christmas-t...


Baby formula is one I often think about. There are a lot of people who need it for biologicial reasons, but for the rest most of the research I hear about says that breast milk is better overall. For the same reason we cannot catalogue and add every essential nutrient and vitamin into a 'meal pill', I wouldn't trust them to be able to do it for baby formula either.

Yet the formula is very popular, especially in China (they have to limit the quantities per person here in Australia since they grab so much to send home). So sometimes I wonder if this is a problem or not.


Baby formula is interesting in that it seems to be used as a signaling agent for class differentiation. Which is to say, that the poorer the region the more likely parents will show how much they value their baby by giving it formula. Conversely the amount of time and effort necessary to breast feed a baby means that in more affluent areas baby formula is greatly shunned by mothers.

Mind you, this is mostly my experience with the subject from people I’ve talked to and haven’t seen any formal study.

Also, while I strongly believe that mother’s milk is vastly superior to formula, I was more than happy to supplement with formula with my twins. Producing milk for 2 is a full time job, also not possible for most women. I think formula generally is fantastic, but I also think it preys on a vulnerable population (parents of newborns).


In my experience breastfeeding is much easier than formula. Not sterilization, no cooled boiled water, no trips to the kitchen at night, no need to bring lots of extra things on trips, etc.

Breastfeeding seems harder for about 10 days at the beginning - and if you use formula in this period you won't get enough milk and you are stuck with formula going forward.

(Twins could well be an exception I've no experience with twins!)


It's been a while since I looked into it (I don't have kids or plan to), so I can't give you references, but I remember coming to the conclusion that there's little difference in outcome between formula and breast milk, once other factors are taken into account.

It's better to feed your child breast milk, if only because it's cheaper and there's no particular reason not to. But there's now an entire culture shaming parents who choose feed their child with formula instead of breast milk, even though there may be (and often are) extenuating circumstances for their choice.


> It's better to feed your child breast milk, if only because it's cheaper and there's no particular reason not to

Downsides: Only mothers can breastfeed = more work for them. Yes you can pump and refrigerate and have dad feed later with a bottle but pumps are garbage, time consuming and makes mom feel like a cow.

Moms may feel self conscious breastfeeding in public and in conservative cultures it's probably impossible.

Mastitis: painful infection. Already had this 2x in 5 months, requires antibiotics.

Our first kid was formula fed, our second breastfed. Second one is much less work for me as a dad.

Main upside to breastfeeding is that you don't need to carry around formula for two years, find a microwave, sterilize bottles etc. When traveling this is gold. Another upside is that I think breasts tend to stay in better shape aesthetically when not breastfeeding.


I don't agree with the shame at all, and my personal opinion is it's probably better because it's cheaper and equipment-free as you say and years of evolution mean that it works well enough in most cases.

While looking into this though I noticed that a manufacturer's site (https://nutricia.com.au/early-life-nutrition/karicare.html) actually has a popup saying that breastfeeding is better. I wonder what prompted that, community outrage?


Formula is pretty popular in Australia too, it's just that middle-class Chinese don't trust the local product to be safe (and arguably rightly so, given the number of issues they've had with it).


Get a book on raising a newborn. See how much content there is on breastfeeding. It should be about 10% of the book. The content on formula? Add water, shake, that's it.

If you think formula does not solve any problems for a very large part of the population then you have no clue what you are talking about.


Baby formula is fine for everyone, at least where there is access to clean water. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-nuanced-view-on-breast-vs...


Yeah, please don’t try and guilt new moms into feeling bad if they have a hard time breast feeding, or can’t, or even don’t want to. Formula is perfectly fine and really makes the whole first year of child rearing way way way more manageable.


I have no stake in this, and I'm not trying to guilt anyone. Do what you need to.

The overall outcome is more important than any one factor. This applies to any activity, opportunity cost is always looming over us.

It looks like that applies to the studies too based on the parent's link - looking at just one factor finds some differences but then there's no overall difference by age 5. So that's definitely something I'll pay more attention to when the next headline rolls around.


A very small number of women genuinely don't produce enough milk. Most will produce enough but struggle to keep up for the first 10 or so days. Using formula in that period means they will never increase production enough.

Breastfeeding after that is way way easier than pissing around with powders and bottles.


>Breastfeeding after that is way way easier than pissing around with powders and bottles.

*Provided the mother isn't employed


The US really needs to have better maternity leave!


Breastfeeding is optimal for a baby. We are not responsible for hiding facts from mothers in order to manage their feelings of guilt.


> I wonder what kind of such campaigns are going on today, changing our thoughts without us noticing.

Practically all advertising is designed to change your thoughts/behaviors. The delineation between real content and advertising is thinner than ever and the ads are more targeted than ever.

Looking at global warming we have large scale disinformation campaigns that include politicians, "news" outlets like fox news and astro turfing.

Astro turfing is becoming more and more frequent as the web becomes more centralized.


I suspect that shampoo/conditioner/etc are two of them. Many skin/beauty products also. A lot of what is advertised versus what isn't.


Conditioner is indispensable for untangling long curly hair.


Conditioner as it is sold now, or something particular to the formula? The conditioner I see promises to nourish hair, add strength and elasticity, hydrate, balance, deal with "split ends", etc.


Yeah that's a bunch of BS


election rigging through orchestrated social media campaigns?


Veganism is an obvious one.


RussiaGate was generated by the DNC as a post-hoc justification of their loss to Donald Trump. Most people on the left bought into it. The org central to manufacturing the narrative was Hamilton 68, which was a creation of the think tank "The Alliance for Securing Democracy". It had both Democrats and Republicans on the board, including Neocons like Bill Kristol.

https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/hamilton-68/

Noam Chomsky made one of the more enlightening statements on RussiaGate:

https://www.democracynow.org/2018/7/27/noam_chomsky_on_mass_...


Some of the media pogroms against China in recent years might qualify. Huawei, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Uighurs, the Yulin Dog Festival, the list goes on, but coverage of the country has been almost universally negative.


Well it's [CCP] existence is objectively a net negative for the world, so what do you expect?


I envy your certainties.


I think it’s easy to imagine an alternative history merely by looking at Taiwan.


Or another one by looking at Putin's Russia. Or at Africa.


Truthful coverage of their actions resulting in being disliked isn't persecution. To call minimal accountability persecution is incredibly privileged.

It is like NSA employees whining at being called snoops when they spied on literally everyone!


What's positive about China's behavior in Hong Kong or their treatment of the Uighurs?


Media pogroms? It takes a lot of nerve to use that word applied to a powerful government that has interned a million Uighurs without any due process at all. Yeah, that government is treated so unfairly. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.


My personal favorite are currently "Bill Gates is a great guy", and "Microsoft loves open source". They have been fantastically orchestrated for the last few years in regular medias, but also on sites like HN, reddit or even imgur (!).

And it worked very, very well. The pro BG and MS sentiment is growing more and more every day, while 15 years ago, they were evil.

Partly because the communication was amazingly good, smart, and on the long run. Partly because they Gates and Big M did do good things in the mix to support the narrative, and so it looks very real.

It's nicely done, you'll notice a few posts here and there, but the real work is done in the comment, like gardening.


On "MS loves open source" ...

I'm a long-time Red Hatter, and it's been nearly 12 years (or maybe more) since I installed a Windows Desktop. With that out of the way ... I see what you mean (some of it might well be orchestrated), still, we should try extra hard in not letting prejudices or cynicism come in the way of sincerely giving credit where it belongs.

(I know you are acknowledging MS's contributions to open source, albeit in a back-handed way :-))



Came here to reccommend Diamonds are Bullshit. It's a fantastic piece.


Indeed, but just as Keynes warned that markets can be irrational longer than you can be solvent, women have been thoroughly indoctrinated by De Beers and it's hard to buck the trend.


Marry a guy instead, boom, problem solved!


Than you may irrationality want a diamond!


"Real men prefer industrial diamonds." -DeBeer's next marketing slogan



From the dates of post we get;

-Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?; September Months from Filing to Divorce:7, June MFD:4, Debruary MFD:0/12

-Diamonds are Bullshit; May MFD:3, March MFD:1, March MFD:1

-Diamonds Suck; May, November, February

There is a study which found spike at filing divorces at February; https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/why-divor...

From this with MFD values it is (not) sensible to say these people want a divorce and seriously don't want to keep the ring and disappointed at the prices they got.

Then there is this (probably doesn't really warrant being called a) study put marriage spikes to October, September and June; https://www.theknot.com/content/is-there-an-off-season-for-w...

From this it is (an even shakier prediction) to say these were asked to (or tasked with) buy a diamond ring, vehemently opposed it and wants rest of the world how to avoid it.


yet people keep buying them!


One thing I don't quite understand - why didn't a second-hand diamond market form, if one could get diamonds so much cheaper that way?


The article touches on that:

* Marketing to discourage such sales ("a diamond is forever" "a diamond is a family heirloom")

* Few people would be willing to sell something for 1/3 - 1/5 of what they paid for it if said item in no way degraded. It just sucks psychologically


But if the second-hand diamond market existed, then they would only have bought it for 1/3 to 1/5 of the current price, too. (You could still face that problem getting the market going in the first place...)


DeBeers used to mandate Jewelers do not buy used diamonds under threat of inability to buy new ones from them


Because the 2nd hand valuation is so much lower than the purchase price, there aren't any sellers.

There's TONS of demand to get a diamond for 80% off retail, but many diamond owners would rather not sell than accept the massive write-down on their "asset".


Great, (very) deep dive into a well-known cartel. Also a lesson in the power of marketing, advertising & PR. But from 1982... I'd be interested in hearing about contemporary outcomes of the events described.


It is amazing how much of what we perceive as part of our culture and is really manufactured by personal and economic interests and we are not even aware of that.

Diamonds:

When the campaign began, in 1967, not quite 5 percent of engaged Japanese women received a diamond engagement ring. By 1972, the proportion had risen to 27 percent. By 1978, half of all Japanese women who were married wore a diamond; by 1981, some 60 percent of Japanese brides wore diamonds. In a mere fourteen years, the 1,500-year Japanese tradition had been radically revised.

Bacon & Eggs for breakfast:

http://levick.com/blog/public-affairs/history-bacon-breakfas...

Some other examples?


The same Edward Bernays also did a PR stunt to market cigarettes to women, calling them "torches of freedom", associating women's smoking (which was considered taboo at the time) with feminism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torches_of_Freedom

It is covered in the Adam Curtis documentary, 'The Century of the Self'.


Everytime a friend is talking about a diamond ring for their wedding, I have to keep telling myself "keep your mouth shut!"


I strongly recommend getting a stone other than diamond. A few months after the engagement no one will ever care for the rest of your life, with the exception of the jewelry sales person who missed out on the commission.


My wife and I decided on getting a Moissanite stone for our engagement ring. We highly recommend it. Due to the lower price, the stone is much larger than what we would have bought at diamond prices. Due to its refractive index it catches the eye a lot more (far more vibrant than a diamond) and it gets a good bit of notice. People often comment how impressive the stone is, without knowing its not really a diamond! I highly recommend this stone to others, its really a good deal especially since the patents on making gem quality/sized stones has run out.


Sounds just like a lot of recent talk about college. :P


Diamond earrings can be worn daily, and keep looking good. I know because my wife has a few.

As for an engagement ring... don't get me started about the whole ritualistic marriage thing. The diamond ring may be not the biggest waste. I'd rather buy my spouse jewellery that can be worn and enjoyed at any time instead :)


A Ruby is far more scarce and much more beautiful than a diamond.


>A few months after the engagement no one will ever care for the rest of your life,

A big fat white stone on a finger will draw eyes for so long as a woman wears it. Every woman your wife meets will make a judgement call based on that ring for the next 20 years.


Buy a big fat moissanite or cubic zirconia, and no woman will ever be able to tell the difference.


A man who does that signals that he buys into all the social hype, but is too cheap to really buy in ... and he'll be forcing his wife to either reveal that or perpetuate a lie.

Why not just be a real man, speak and live the truth. Eschew the lies.

Why can't we all just do that as a society? It doesn't matter how much you love each other or your mutual respect? Why do rings even matter?

It's the kind of irrational behavior that has destroyed an entire planet!


I wouldn't go that far. He may well not buy in to the social hype, but understand that it exists and begrudgingly play the game his own way for appearances only. It'd be the smartest move in many cases. The game is rigged so lying to beat it isn't something I'd condemn, especially if his wife is of the same mind.

I definitely agree with your last point, but wasting resources to display fitness is found all across the animal kingdom and sadly it doesn't seem like we've moved past that yet as a species.


Or...

>buy fake diamonds

>lie to everyone, including spouse

>fudge the books so spouse can't see suspiciously low-ball jeweler transaction

>launder savings through local cash-money businesses

>use hypnotic sedatives to repress memories of the lie


This comment sounds so much like a spambot I decided to see what GPT-2 would generate for "Real men don't buy fake diamonds":

> Real men don't buy fake diamonds. They buy real diamond rings. Fake diamonds just aren't worth anything, let alone being used for a marriage contract. So I'll be keeping the diamond wedding.

It also produced this beauty:

Real men don't buy fake diamonds. Fake men don't pay fake taxes. Fake men don't lie about their motives.

Fake men can't read. Fake men can't keep their promises.

Fake men know how to hide from the truth. Fake men can't make promises they can't keep.

Fake men can't even tell the truth when they think nobody cares, if everybody's watching.

Fake men lie just because they can.

Fake men are the same as us.

They just don't know we're watching.


>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJxLtdur5fc

Of interest in relation to GPT-2


Wow, that looks exactly like some kind of "motivational quote" that my relatives might post on Facebook. I wonder if you attributed this to some famous person and seeded it on the internet somewhere, how far it would travel.


One of the first signs that we're moving into a post-AI world will be an AI New Age guru-bot running a self-branded business generating "inspiring" quotes, books, and YT vids with no human intervention.


Ah relative AI advancement - smarter than humans only because some have degraded themselves to be indistinguishable from literal noise.


Can you release this through Creative Commons in some form?


> This comment sounds so much like a spambot

Do you think the comment you're replying to is against fake diamonds because they want you to buy real diamonds?


The comment expresses the view that the whole diamond thing is bollocks. It's just oddly melodramatic in my opinion and takes these wild swings that spam comments on my WordPress blog take.


Not sure why you are getting downvoted.

The guys who get women fake diamonds may result in an uncomfortable partner when someone wows over the diamond.

In my case my wife was a scientist - so a man made diamond was perfect. Same thing physically, less likely to have a conflict origin. My advice, if you know your partner well - get something that works for them. For some that's a diamond.


I know plenty of people with "diamondesque" jewellery and I think they look great. There's more reasons to buy jewellery than just social hype.


I'll preface this as stating I am not a gem snob and truly do not care what people wear. My wife and I went with a moissanite and we're perfectly happy with our decision for her engagement ring, and will probably buy more moissanite in the future.

That said, when it comes to cubic zirconia the stone will definitely scratch with regular wear over several years. If you see a clear stone with scratches, its obviously not a diamond/moissanite and probably cz. To a careful observer, its also not incredibly difficult to tell the difference between diamond/moissanite/cz with the right lighting. Cubic Zirconia lacks the refractive index to really match the brilliance of a similar diamond/moissanite.

Ultimately though I fully agree with the idea of wear whatever you think looks good.


I saw a program on TV about this guy who would marry women, take all their money, and leave.

One of the victims was interviewed, and when she confronted the guy with doubts of his sincerity and asked whether the ring he gave her was even real, he took it and made a big scratch in a mirror with the stone to prove it was a real diamond.

Later she said, "After he disappeared, I discovered that cubic zirconia can also scratch glass"


And my wife would use that information to discount whatever shallow, materialistic fools judge her by her jewelry choice.


Those women aren't worth being friends with


Or you/your wife could just find better friends that won't judge you for such petty crap. Believe it or not, materialist obsession with conspicuous consumption is not universal.


I used to feel this way until I read about the costly signalling in terms of game theory.

Maybe this type of signalling isn't universal but it definitely serves a (not-always-evil) purpose.


'Petty' fails to meet my bar for 'evil', but whatever. Try your best then, explain to me in terms of game theory why I should want friends who judge me for not purchasing overpriced jewelry.


The theory is not that 'failing to buy over-priced jewelry is bad'. The theory is that buying high-priced jewelry is a stronger signal of commitment than buying cheap jewelry.

This is because, if someone is not comitted, it's easier to demonstrate commitment falsely to many people by purchasing large quantities of cheap jewelry. Buying over-priced items forces the person signalling committment to put their money where their mouth is.

Think of it as the cost of fake commitment; our culture of wedding-rings, etc, is an attempt to increase the cost of fake commitment.


The malignant genius of the diamond industry is not that they invented signaling or game theory, but that they convinced the public that the "proper" way to signal was to give the diamond industry money for an overpriced rock.

There are an almost infinite number of healthier ways that we could signal commitment. There's no need for a middleperson, and there's no real value that the diamond industry is providing in exchange for their 'cut' of the money. Diamonds have always been relatively easily faked, and no one other than the recipient will likely be able to tell a fake diamond from a real one -- so they're not even particularly good public signifiers. A private gesture would work just as well.

Honestly, if the engagement process involved dropping a bundle of cash on a public sidewalk and lighting it on fire, even that would be a better system than diamonds.

If the whole benefit of this is that we're making it costly to get married, and thus costly to blithely propose to someone, then I dunno. Getting rid of money is not hard; it's very, very easy. We don't need a complicated, ethically challenged system for that.


I have to disagree that there are any healthy ways of costly signalling at all. Yes, there doesn't need to be a middle-man but there does need to be a sacrifice, some type of value destruction.

On a technical level, you're probably right about diamonds. It's probably a legitimate signalling hack in the romantic sense to buy a zirconia and pass it off as a real diamond. This will probably be a short-term play if women start catching on.

I also disagree that a private gesture ever works as well as a public one, if that's the comparison. Public gestures signal commitment to a wider group, therefore increasing the cost of defection. Public commitments are one of the prime examples of costly signalling (as compared to private commitments) out of game theory. Not saying I'm a game theory authority, or that game theory is always right, but this is textbook.

I agree that burning a pile of cash is even better than giving diamonds in terms of signal-quality.

Seems to me that the global human cost is lower if you have middle-men involved. You have a similar signalling cost but humanity overall retains some value by paying the middle-men, whereas the burn-cash strategy leans 100% towards signalling at the cost of value retention.

Edit - potentially lower if you have middle-men involved.


> I also disagree that a private gesture ever works as well as a public one

What I meant with that is that diamonds are a bad public gesture, because no one other than your immediate partner will ever be able to evaluate the authenticity of the diamond. If you're going down the diamond route, you might as well do a private gesture because diamonds already can't be easily publicly verified. If you're concerned about being public, then skip the ring entirely and pay for your partner to go on an expensive trip, or donate money to get something named after them. These are gestures that a fraudster would be unable to easily replicate.

> Seems to me that the global human cost is lower if you have middle-men involved.

If your concern is that you don't want the money wasted, then at least donate it to a charity, or give it to a local business. Some of them would even be willing to officially recognize or publicly name something after your partner, which again would be good public signaling because it would be hard to fake.

The investment signaling theory of diamonds is that we've all decided that in order to efficiently signal, we're going to give money to someone we have no relationship with, who isn't providing a useful or unique service, who has a long history of unethical practices (even if they've cleaned up a bit recently), and who employs the majority of their workforce and conducts the majority of their investments outside of our communities.

If society was actually thinking about engagement from a purely rational signaling point-of-view, it wouldn't pick diamonds as the way to signal. But somehow the diamond industry convinced society as a whole that they were an essential part of the process. What I would contend is that I don't think there was anything rational about that advertising campaign; it preyed on people's emotions, their vanity, and their misconceptions about how the market worked. It's a prime example of an industry making a social system less efficient and more harmful than it otherwise would be in its natural state.

My point is that regardless of whether you think of a diamond as an investment, or as an inherently meaningful item, or as game-theory signaling device -- it's really bad at being all of those things. No matter what direction you come at it from, diamonds are a kind of crappy scam.


Because a friendship has multiple aspects and you've determined the friendship taken as a whole is a net benefit to you.

For example, maybe they have a great sense of humour, or give good advice, or they invite you to things you like the sound of, or you share a great many interests with them.


> For example, maybe they have a great sense of humour, or give good advice

If they think failure to purchase a diamond makes you a lesser person in any way, I sincerely doubt either of those might still be true...


In this age of people marrying in their mid 30s after cohabiting, isn't a $10,000 diamond trivial as a signal compared to the opportunity cost of the time spent cohabiting?


Probably, yes... I'm not advocating any particular method of costly signalling, just that it's a valid concept


Who said anything about friends?


Engagement rings are status symbols, and many women, perhaps even most, will care about it for the rest of her life. Many women I know upgraded their stones after the family's economic situation improved over time.


This is one of those American things that just doesn't make sense at all from an European perspective.


I wanted to check because I wasn't sure, but you are very right: http://www.diamondshades.com/files/3614/0966/2121/Consumptio...

I did not expect that much difference!


Where I'm from, engagement rings are a matching pair of plain gold bands. You get them together as a couple after someone has proposed. Also, marriage is something most people do in their 30's, not their 20's.

(The whole concept of the guy spending a fortune on a piece of jewelry before confirming that the girl actually wants to marry him is sexist bullshit, why does he have to make the effort and take the risk to prove his "commitment", but not her?)


Did your link still work when you posted it? Now it's returning a "This Account has been suspended" message.


It was working, HN probably killed the site.


or any other developed nation's for that matter


Personally I'm very glad that we are moving away from that culture. Most of my friends (late 20s, early 30s) opted to skip the "big rock in a setting" for just a shiny enough ring that looks good.


Lots of things are status symbols.

Not having a fancy engagement ring is a status symbol for certain circles too, or having an engagement ring that is fair trade, not diamond, self made, or some other set of adjectives. A lot of people are really preoccupied with signaling objects, what those things are changes but the drive doesn't really.


That is quite high on my "I shall never marry anyone who ..." list


Why anyone sane would marry such people is beyond me.


Sometimes it's not a rational belief, but rather an insecurity brought about by a culture that always took this belief for granted.

It's complicated precisely because it's signalling, so in context insecurity over the size of the diamond might not be an actual red flag. You might decide to take a principled stand on the matter, and I agree that insistence on a large diamond is a deal breaker, but not everyone has the same upbringing, cultural belief system, or social environment.


I've met plenty of people who've married a woman (or man) that they don't truely love. It's a lot more common than you might think.

There's a whole variety of reasons why that might happen. Societal expectations, economic reasons, insecurity, etc.


What about people showing off their car, perfect pictures of their vacations on social media, some set of achievements or trophies, their perfect "battlestation" computer setup, etc. etc. etc.

People are generally obsessed with status symbols, jewelry isn't really any worse than anything else.


> "What about people showing off their car, perfect pictures of their vacations on social media, some set of achievements or trophies, their perfect "battlestation" computer setup, etc. etc. etc."

You know plenty of people don't do any of this stuff, right? I get the feeling you meant that to be a broad list that would have virtually everybody covered in one respect or another, but if that was your intention you failed.


Everyone demonstrates their status-seeking in different ways. A really common one is to emphatically state how little such things that commonly motivate others also interest you. I guess its ok if that is your thing.


Status seeking, sure. Materialistic approaches to that? No, that is far from universal. Me snearing down my nose at people with materialist obsessions is certainly a form of status seeking, but not of the materialist variety.


I did say and mean generally, not virtually everyone.

I do think people who are not particularly interested in status signaling are somewhat rare.


I think that opinion probably reflects your immediate environment more than anything else.


Noticeable economic status differences (read: status symbols) are one of the most motivating forces in social behavior.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of...

>...apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” The more noticeable status disparities are, the more concerned with status people become, and the differences between the haves and have-nots have been extremely pronounced during the economic recession of recent years.


You’re not looking close enough. Most people signal status, even if subtle.

Talk about a book you read? Talk about how a certain restaurant is terrible? Talk about where you went on vacation? Talk about your job? Talk about music you like?

All those things signal status.


Yes, but this discussion is specifically about materialist signaling.


These aren't always equal, someone showing off their car because it's their hobby and they've spent months on it or someone spending a heap of time building and customizing their perfect battle station is very different to buying a rock. Within those communities someone buying their way in is often a negative signal.


My wife would have broken off our relationship if I'd even whispered the suggestion of buying her a diamond, I think.


I want to be clear I'm not talking about your wife, because I don't know her obviously. But the women who "don't care" or would be against buying a diamond tend to fall into two categories. The first is relatively privileged women whose avoidance of diamonds is a status symbol in and of itself, often accompanied with some woke virtue signaling. And the second group is low status and she secretly wants a big rock but knows she won't get it, so she attempts to send the same signals as the privileged woman.

Everyone cares about status symbols. And engagement rings is one of the most prolific. It goes right next to fancy vacations, fancy cars, and fancy coffee.


I disagree with this. I don't think my wife falls into either of these categories and we consciously chose moissanite instead of diamond.

Our choice was mostly founded in finance, but because we thought it was a waste of money not because we couldn't afford it. She also had no interest in walking around with a $5k+ insurance liability on her finger, but she enjoyed the aesthetic of a clear centre stone. The small stones in both her engagement and wedding bands are diamonds because they are cheaper due to being more readily available.

We don't use it as a status symbol or for virtue signalling. Neither of us are active on social media, and I don't even think there is a photo of it online. She normally doesn't even wear the engagement ring, just the wedding band (which is very thin and basic). Our friends are aware it isn't a diamond, but because they asked not because we forced it on them. People who don't ask can think it's whatever they want, neither of us derive our self worth from whether her ring is perceived to be a particular type of stone.


Do you disagree with this Nobel Laureate Economist?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of....

>...apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” The more noticeable status disparities are, the more concerned with status people become, and the differences between the haves and have-nots have been extremely pronounced during the economic recession of recent years.

It's important to recognize we're talking about generalities here. But status symbols are one of the most important motivating factors in social behavior. Sure, maybe for your wife that's not a status symbol she particularly cares about, but do you really believe that's the majority case?


This might be hard to accept if you're a status-game player, but some people don't play, or if they do play, they know it is silly and try to minimize it. I could give examples, but you'd mistake them for some sort of signalling.


I'm curious about your thoughts on the remarks by this Nobel Laureate Economist on status and behaviors:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of...

>...apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” The more noticeable status disparities are, the more concerned with status people become, and the differences between the haves and have-nots have been extremely pronounced during the economic recession of recent years.


I'm not claiming there are no status games. I'm claiming that it is possible to see them for the empty thing they are and opt out, and that some do to an extent, without that opting-out really being just another status signalling game.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


I provided a citation that clearly explains status symbols are the second biggest motivator for social activity. Can you provide a citation around what percentage of the population consistently opts out of status symbol behaviors?


I claimed some people don't play status games and their opting out is not some other type of signalling.

If we can agree that one hermit, living alone in the woods, exists somewhere in the world, then we can agree that my claim is true: Some percentage (percentages do not imply whole numbers) of people opt out of status games.


You are being very condescending.


millennials see diamonds as bougie (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/20/millennial-couples-arent-buy... etc.)

I'm surprised the bottom hasn't fallen out of the diamond market already.

They are falling though:

https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/diamo...


Can't figure out if this is an argument for or against bitcoin.


But there's little harm done.

Nobody needs a gem-quality diamond (and the industrial diamond market wasn't really manipulated). It's not like they were colluding to raise the price of insulin or wheat.

The fact that people were willing to accept the idea that they needed a diamond is as much the responsibility of the people who wanted to buy them, as it is the responsibility of those who marketed and sold them.


Little harm done, except to children in Sierra Leone forced to mine the diamonds at gunpoint to enrich warlords.


That's why I've just bought a lab grown one - don't feel too happy thinking of something she'll (hopefully) be wearing for nigh-on 60 years being the result of some of the horror stories out there.

(Ignoring the fact that the demand even for lab grown ones is caused by such accounts...)


80% of mined diamonds are used for industrial purposes, rather than cosmetic.


Agreed, but we're discussing the cartel/price-fixing aspect here, not the other end of this dirty business.


Socially, there is a “need” for status symbols, among many people.


Should people not meeting their “status needs” for luxury goods be something that society needs to care about on any level?


> The fact that people were willing to accept the idea that they needed a diamond is as much the responsibility of the people who wanted to buy them, as it is the responsibility of those who marketed and sold them.

They were marketing diamonds to girls in school [0], shaping whole new generation to value diamonds. How can we expect children to defend themselves against such manipulation? I find this whole campaign amazing in its reach and abhorrent in its content.

[0] "N. W. Ayer outlined a subtle program that included arranging for lecturers to visit high schools across the country. 'All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions,'"




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