King Mythology: The Return of the King
Week 1 Thinking about Power: it’s use and abuse.
This page is part of a series of thought provoking pages designed as a
compliment to The Return of the King Bard Mythologies Series.
Fear and Power – the Domestos Story
I spent 20 years working on the Archetypal and Mythic Roots of Global Brands. This included looking through Advertising History Reels. Most of the work was instantly forgettable but what would emerge occasionally is a spot that was immediately memorable, fun and effective. One of these was a toilet cleaner, Domestos and the Ad was called Big Bad Dom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnZspwJsJ2o.
The Ad from 1987 was hugely successful in growing the Brand. Our work involved identifying the Archetypal roots, Heracles (Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry) and the resulting Campaign Germworld https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5JGEY0Z4og
was to lead to the fastest growing Brand in the fastest growing category of Unilever for a decade.
What the experience illustrated is the power of fear and the appropriation of cultural myths as a means of influencing people and getting their attention and loyalty.
Power and the Visceral Emotions
What has been in the public domain in the last five years has been two public and controversial election campaigns run by Donald Trump in the 2016 election and the Brexit Campaign led by Boris Johnson and strategist Dominic Cummins. Both Campaigns made extensive use of cultural myths to elicit a visceral emotional response from the viewer. The campaigns also made considerable use of sophisticated big data to micro target vulnerable segments of the population.
The use of cultural myths by soon to be 45th President of the US included:
- The Cowboy Myth: homesteader in trouble due to hostile forces more powerful than they or local law enforcement (if present) can deal with. In essence, there are baddies about. Need strong man with gun to come into town to do the dirty work. The cowboy not nice man but in context of job to be done, homesteader doesn’t care. Baddy killed and order restored.
- The Moses Story: You citizen are under all manner of government regulation and restriction. You are a captive. Only me (Moses) can lead you out of this captivity to a promised land.
- Poor Boy Makes Good: essentially the plot structure of Trump led Apprentice Reality TV Series. Compete and win and you will have an entrée into elite business society.
- Rot at the Top: the powerful and the elite are corrupt, self-serving and in essence rotten eg House of Cards Series
- Mob at the Gates: be very afraid. You are about to be invaded by illegal immigrants, terrorists, rapists and the worst. Follows plot of Star Wars, Independence Day
The cumulative effect was to stir up fear, hatred and anger and yet also a sense that help was at hand, if allegiance was pledged to the strong man. And remember, he isn’t expected to be a nice man. There is dirty work to be done. See my Myth of Trump videos on the Bard Mythologies YouTube Channel
In the case of Brexit the Cultural Myths were in many ways similar:
- Mob at the Gates: be very afraid. You are about to be invaded by illegal immigrants. Indeed if you don’t vote leave 54 million Turks will be coming to the country
- Chosen People: a variation on the Moses story but essentially reminding the English that they had a special superior and chosen role in the world that they were losing. it was essential to “take back control”.
- Rot at the Top: the powerful Europeans are taking £350 million from the National Health each week that could be used to improve services and salaries.
Again the affect was to stimulate fear, hatred and anger and a sense of recovered identity of superiority – chosen-ness.
Both these Campaigns were covered in popular documentaries: The Big Hack and Brexit. These documentaries also highlighted the abuse of Social Media and Big Data. It also has to be said that the Campaigns also played nasty and loose with the facts. Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law described the Brexit Campaign as “one of the most dishonest political campaigns this country [the UK] has ever seen”.
The Implications for Kingship and the Expression of Power
What all this means is that the nature of the battle ground, the style of fighting, the means of acquiring and holding power has changed. This is partly cultural and partly technological (social media). The forces let lose are centrifugal (pull us apart)
and take us to the extremes on both sides, moving cultures towards Civil War. The fighting can be nasty and unpleasant.
What does all this mean and what can we learn from the ancient King Stories like Lugh that is of relevance today.