Harry’s Razors: Not Making the Algorithmic Cut
There’s a radio show on Sirius/XM I listen to sometimes; they talk politics, aim for an independent but plain-speaking stance, and it’s pretty good. They also have commercials.
In addition, I read the New York Times on my Ipad. And for several weeks now, one of the ads from the radio show has been popping up in almost every Times article I read, day after day.
I mention this because it shows both the pervasiveness of today’s wired marketing machinery, and its limitations.
Pervasive: Sirius/XM is an example of how Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother society is growing, its tendrils silently stretching & enfolding us like those of the morning glory vines that are taking over the little garden plot outside my kitchen door.
The network knows & tracks everything I listen to, and (besides turning it over to the NSA & whoever other real Spooks want it) uses this “data” to pursue its real goal, that is, selling me stuff. And to do that it sells the data to others likewise tracking me, including the New York Times.
Nothing new or surprising here; part of today’s totally quotidian. And the demographics seemingly make good sense: a Times reader who listens to an earnestly thoughtful show on politics: should be prime for “quality,” somewhat-above-middlebrow products.
Now the limitations part: the product in question is a razor; Harry’s razor, to be specific. Take a bow, Harry:
Harry seems determined to make me a customer: the ad usually pops up several times in each day’s Times, in different shapes & with varying copy. As I say, this has been going on for weeks.
And with each appearance, it reinforces my bemusement. That’s because of how, despite all the impeccable logic applied by the various marketers involved, assisted by their expertly high-tech algorithms, the ad is an utter misfire: I am just not a candidate for Harry’s merchandise.
I mean no disrespect to Harry or his product. The reason I’m not buying is no secret. In fact, it goes all the way back to the late fall of 1971. I was living in suburban Boston, and working on my book, Selma 1965, about the great Alabama civil rights campaign. It had become clear that to finish it, I needed to revisit Selma, and do more interviews and on-location research.
Some will remember, others can look it up: Richard Nixon, not a fan of my generation, was president; the Vietnam war still raged, the culture clashes of the late Sixties, although well past their sell-by dates, dragged on in many places. So I decided that for this trip, I needed to go under cover. Which would require drastic, possibly even traumatic action.
The concern for trauma was focused on my daughter, then barely two. So I took steps: sat her on her mother’s lap, and made her watch me unsheath the tools and begin the surgical prep for donning the disguise. Her eyes wide, she sucked on two fingers, her sign for anxiety, throughout.
Yes, I made her watch me shave, so she would still recognize me afterward. Thankfully, we both survived, and the book got finished.
That was just short of 45 years ago. And as soon as I returned from that Selma trip, I put away the razor, for good. The resulting beard has since accompanied me everywhere, and lord willing, will join the rest of me in the cremation chamber when that hopefully distant time comes.
As I say, this is public information. I have flaunted my hirsuteness here and elsewhere repeatedly; and such shameless displays will likely recur.
It’s something of a consolation to me that despite all this exposure, the Wizards of Wired have yet to notice this routine but significant bit of my personal “data.”
I mean, we know that the accumulation of our inividual information continues apace. Soon they will know everything, or at least everything that matters, beyond our darkest secrets, to everything we can’t resist buying.
I’ll know that day has come when I click on the stately, magisterial icon for the Times, and then, under Paul Krugman’s acerbic opinions, or alongside their latest bit of Pulitzer-hunting reporting, up pops this item.
And then, friends, well & truly, I’ll be sunk.