Cover image for Coercion : why we listen to what "they" say
Coercion : why we listen to what "they" say
Rushkoff, Douglas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead, [1999]

Physical Description:
321 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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P94 .R87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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They say that human beings use only ten percent of their brains. They say the corner office is a position of power. They say you haven't met your deductible.Who, exactly, are "they"? More important, why do we listen to them?In Coercion Douglas Rushkoff argues that we each have our own "theys"--bosses, experts, and authorities (both real and imaginary) who have taken over much of the decision-making power in our lives. Unfortunately, not everyone to whom we surrender this control has our best interests at heart. What's most troubling is that the more we try to resist their efforts at persuasion, the more effort they in turn put into finding increasingly sophisticated--and invisible--methods of coercion. Indeed, the last fifty years have been marked by a kind of arms race between these authorities and our selves.Douglas Rushkoff is in a unique position to guide us through these hazardous societal influences. Having for years been the champion of the new media, the Internet, and the liberating forces of interactive technology, he now examines the process through which such innovations are being co-opted by the powers that be. Rushkoff's message is a wake-up call for anyone who has the uncomfortable sense that our actions are being shaped by forces beyond our control.

Author Notes

Douglas Rushkoff was born on February 18, 1961. After graduating from Princeton University he received an MFA in Directing from California Institute of the Arts.

He has written numerous magazine columns on topics including cyberculture and has been aired on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR's All Things Considered and published in The New York Times and Time magazine.

Rushkoff has taught at the MaybeLogic Academy, NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, and the Esalen Institute, and he teaches media studies at the New School University. Rushkoff lectures around the world about media, art, society, and change at conferences and universities. He consults to museums, governments, synagogues, churches, universities, and companies on new media arts and ethics.

Rushkoff won the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity. He is on the Boards of the Media Ecology Association, The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, Technorealism, The National Association for Media Literacy Education,, and Hyperwords.

His bestselling books include graphic novels, Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, Coercion, and Life Inc.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

From media analyst Rushkoff comes this very enlightening and somewhat humbling look at the ways we are manipulated every day--not only by the media but also by our closest friends. According to Rushkoff's carefully documented thesis, we're bombarded pretty much constantly by appeals to our vanity, our desire to belong to a group, our need for approval. We're taken in by people who turn our own cynicism and distrust of manipulation into newer, much more subtle forms of persuasion. From the attractive sales clerk who compliments our choice of clothing to the bosses, parents, friends, and coworkers who make our decisions for us while making us believe we're thinking for ourselves, Rushkoff reveals all the tricks we use on one another--and reminds us that, no matter how clever we think we are, we're always, inevitably, being manipulated. An essential book for anyone interested in the power of media and the mechanics of deception. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Until recently a cyber-optimist who, in popular books like Cyberia and Media Virus, augured a digital revolution, Rushkoff now warns that the promise of the Net as an open-ended civic forum is fading as relentless corporate marketers peddle their wares and capitalize on shortened attention spans. In a scathing critique that extends far beyond cyberspace in scope, Rushkoff identifies the subtle forms of coercion used by advertisers, public relations experts, politicians, religious leaders and customer service reps, among others. Retreading territory covered by critic Neil Postman and others, Rushkoff provides additional examples of how the ordinary person is often unsuspectingly manipulated, whether in the shopping mall, at a sports event or in a Muzak-drenched store or office. This analysis is particularly strong when deconstructing the "postmodern" techniques of persuasion that advertisers use to reach increasingly cynical target audiences, including commercials that self-consciously mock the marketing process. Rushkoff also argues that mass spectacles (e.g., rock festivals, Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, Promise Keepers rallies) foster "tribal loyalty" but are often contrived, commercial or downright destructive. He devotes a chapter to pyramid schemes used by cults, infomercials, Internet con artists and get-rich-quick marketers. His freewheeling survey underscores the social cost of these coercive strategies, which, he says, tend to make us see one another as marks. Despite his up-to-the-minute examples, however, his overall analysis is not fresh or original enough to take the place of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

According to Rushkoff (Cyberia, Media Virus!), advertisers and marketers are becoming increasingly adept at finding new ways to coerce consumers into buying unwanted products. "The more complex, technological, and invisible coercion gets," he writes, "the harder it is for us to rely on" our ability to detect the hard sell. "As soon as we become familar with the new terrainÄbe it the mall, the television dial, or the InternetÄit is the goal of the coercion strategists to make it unfamiliar again, or to lure us somewhere else." Rushkoff is particularly interested in the ways that corporations and other for-profit institutions have drawn on underhanded techniques developed by cults, pyramid schemes, dishonest salesmen, and the public relations industry. The good news is that ordinary people "have the prerogative to stop, to think, and to disengage." Lively and well researched, this is recommended for public and general libraries.ÄKent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: They Sayp. 1
Chapter 1 Hand-to-Handp. 27
Chapter 2 Atmosphericsp. 73
Chapter 3 Spectaclep. 111
Chapter 4 Public Relationsp. 147
Chapter 5 Advertisingp. 181
Chapter 6 Pyramidsp. 215
Chapter 7 Virtual Marketingp. 257
Postscript: Buyer's Remorsep. 297
Bibliographyp. 309
Notesp. 317