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We are all capable of being idiots to varying degrees. This can be a good thing. Idiocy helps to make us more interesting as a species; it makes us spontaneous, unpredictable and amusing. Are you a ‘useful idiot’ though? The ‘useful idiot’ is a term used by ideologists and spies. It describes a person who can be exploited by their propagandist puppeteer or spymaster handler. They will do their bidding unquestioningly, often for small reward and sometimes at morbid risk to themselves. It’s not a nice term, but then propaganda and spying aren’t nice lines of business. Hang on a minute: isn’t marketing a form of propaganda? Doesn’t propaganda seek to influence the attitudes and beliefs of people in order to affect behaviour? Don’t various companies have lots of data about you that they use to ‘know you’? Isn’t that spying? Don’t be judgmental, readers – you benefit from this – you like the targeted offers, apps and discounts tailored to you. However, I think you that we’ll all be better off in the long run if the interaction between consumers and providers isn’t a dark, mysterious and unknown space.

 

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