September 5, 2015

I was tempted to write: Authenticity. If you can fake that, you've got it made...

... in the context of this morning's post, "Can Mommy Bloggers Still Make a Living?," about the troubles a mommy blogger has adapting to "native" advertising, that is, monetizing the blog by accepting money to promote products in what looks like regular blog posts. For a mommy blogger, that means integrating your writing about your children with praise for various foods, cleaning products, and what-all. The famous mommy blogger Heather Armstrong said: "The problem is I have to give my readers what they want, I have to give the brand what they want, and I have to be authentic to who I am. And combining all three of those needs is so so so exhausting that I was having panic attacks routinely."

The famous quote is, actually, "Sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Wait. Sidetrack: What's the difference between "authenticity" and "sincerity"? I ask the question out loud and then answer it before Meade takes a shot at it. I say, "'Sincerity' is when you believe your own bullshit," then add, "You know, sincerity is a big topic I teach about in Religion and the Constitution." That's a topic I've discussed here. It's my absolute favorite topic in law teaching. "Authenticity" is more objective: Are you really what you purport to be?

Anyway, the famous quote is attributed to George Burns. Interestingly, last night I watched an episode of the old Burns and Allen TV show — this one (the only one filmed in color):

The reason I watched that was that I was thinking about Gracie Allen because the new puppy — blogged just below this post — is named Gracie. "Was she named after the great comedienne?" I asked the kids, who didn't know, but said another possibility had been Lucy — strong evidence of yes.

Based on that episode, the old show depended entirely on Gracie's misunderstanding absolutely everything, but being completely, energetically upbeat and delightful about it. She causes endless problems for the people around her, but they never get mad at her or say one mean word to her. They just keep trying to fix the problems, even as she finds new ways to screw things up by misunderstanding whatever they say.

And the meshing of concepts that makes all this bloggable is that the old Burns and Allen show had native advertising — the best native advertising ever. As Bill Bryson explained in his memoir of growing up in the 1950s, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid":
On The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, my favorite program, an announcer named Harry Von Zell would show up halfway through the program and stroll into George and Gracie’s kitchen and do a commercial for Carnation Evaporated Milk (“the milk from contented cows”) at the kitchen table while George and Gracie obligingly waited till he was finished to continue that week’s amusing story.
Go to 11:43 in the embedded video to see the native ad for Carnation milk in that episode. It runs like just one more sequence, beginning with Gracie making Swiss cheese sandwiches and cutting holes in the bread to match up with the cheese holes, so you can "see where the holes are." The ad part begins at 14:23.

So, native advertising — it can be done, and the badness can be part of the goodness.

Here's another example of Harry Von Zell butting in to flog evaporated milk:


Zeb Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...

"You know, sincerity is a big topic I teach about in Religion and the Constitution."

Also when you explain Ted Kennedy's opposition to Bork or Barry's opposition to Roberts?

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Feigning sincerity is probably the easiest con to learn and, even in the most benign environments, one we learn from an early age. Also, dudes are generally far better at it than chicks.

rhhardin said...

Adorno has a nice book with title "The Jargon of Authenticity." I may have a long cite of his of Christian Schutze somewhere...

hmm. Oh well, here it is, the stenciled speech for all occasions :

Most honored Mr. President, ministers, secretaries of state, mayors, advisors, administrators, and assistants, highly esteemed men and women of our cultural life, representitives of science, of industry, and of the self-employed middle-class, honored public of this festive gathering, ladies and gentlemen!

It is not by chance that we are gathered here today for the purpose of celebrating this day. In a time like ours, in which the true human values have more than ever to be our innermost concern, a statement is expected from us. I do not wish to present you with a patented solution, but I would merely like to bring up for discussion a series of hot potatoes which do after all face us. For we do not need ready-made opinions, which anyway do not touch us deeply, but what we need is rather the genuine dialogue which moves us in our humanity. What brought us together here is our knowledge of the power of encounter in the forming of the intrahuman sphere. The things which matter are settled in this intrahuman sphere. I do not need to tell you what I mean by this. You will all understand me, for in a particular and extraordinary sense you all have to do with people.

In a time such as ours - I have mentioned it already - in which the perspective of things has everywhere begun to waver, everything depends more than ever on the individual who knows of the essence of things, of things as such, of things in their authenticity. We need openhearted people who are capable of this. Who are these people? - you will ask me - and I will answer you: You are they! By being gathered here you have proven more thoroughly than by words that you are prepared to put emphasis on your concern. That is what I would like to thank you for. But I would also like to thank you for energetically opposing, by your commitment to this good cause, the flood of materialism which threatens to drown everything around us. To say it in a nutshell from the start: you have come here to be given directions; you have come to listen. From this encounter, on an intrahuman level, you expect a contribution to the reestablishment of the interhuman climate. You expect a restoration of that homey warmth which seems to be lacking, in our modern industrial society, to such a terrifying degree ...

But what does this mean for our concrete situation here and now? To pronounce the the question means to pose it. But in fact it means much more than that. It means that we expose ourselves to it, that we surrender to it. That we must not forget. But in the rush and busy work of the day, modern man forgets it all too easily. But you who belong to the silent majority, you know of it. For our problems stem from a region which it is our vocation to preserve. The wholesome perplexity which comes from this situation opens perspectives which we should not simply block out by turning away in boredom. It is important to think with the heart and to tune in the human antenna to the same wave length. Today no one knows better than man that which is of importance in the end.


``Stenciled Speech for Festive Occasions''

Christian Schutze ``Gestanzte Festansprache,'' in Stuttgarter Zeitung, Dec 2, 1962; quoted by Theodor Adorno _The Jargon of Authenticity_ p.89-91

Emil Blatz said...

I can almost imagine that Bea Benaderet was hot when she was young. Not a thought that came up watching her on Petticoat Junction or The Beverly Hillbillies.

traditionalguy said...

Gracie was our blonde Lab. Her name and the 4 street numbers where we lived then is the password that does it all.

Her name was Gracie, but she was totally cute until her name became Gracie Girl.

Quaestor said...

I know of two dogs named for Gracie Allen, one is a very arthritic retired service Labador, the other is an elderly part-dachshund mutt that has been living in a no-kill shelter for years. The second Gracie has earned her exile by being truculent and noisy, and how the second Gracie got her name is a mystery. The other was named as she was for an important reason, which I know because I asked. Service dogs come to their clients pre-named, which must not be altered or mispronounced by contract. If a client alters or mispronounces the dog's name, or fails to use the given name consistently, it constitutes breech of contract.

Dog training is an art rather than a science, consequently professional dog trainers, who are much more often than not women, are passionate technique bigots. Anything about dogs or dog training that cannot be demonstrated scientifically becomes dogma. Deny dogma, or even doubt dogma, and one becomes a heretic, an object of scorn and hostility. Dealing with a dog trainer is much like dealing with a Creationist, which explains why the service dog is named Gracie. The trainer believes that dogs understand and respond to names of two equally stressed syllables, therefore Gracie (GRAY-CEE) Phoebe (FEE-BEE) and Zoe (ZOH-EE) are useful names. She further believes that monosyllabic names and polysyllables of three or more are perceived by dogs as meaningless noise. A plausible hypothesis, but I made the mistake of pointing out that most plausible hypotheses are false, and got a glower and a contemptuous snort in reply.

Wilbur said...

When I was a little boy, a Baptist minister and family lived a couple of houses north of us. His two little girls were named Faith and Grace.

They were known to all of the neighborhood kids as Gracey and Facey.

Quaestor said...

Sincerity is the among the more useless sentiments, but not entirely useless in that sincerity does protect against deliberate lies. How useful sincerity is in a universe of infinitely more falsehoods than truth, is debatable, but the progressive attitude is to favor sincerity over authenticity.

Wilbur said...

Harry Von Zell is interesting to watch; the beautifully modulated baritone, the crisp diction and all that. And not even a scintilla of sincerity about him.

He used to host "Celebrity Golf", a 30 minute show where Sam Snead would play some celebrity like Hoagy Carmichael a 9 hole match for charity. You used to be able to catch it around 4:00am on The Golf Channel. Harry was predictably oily, but charming in his own way.

Wilbur doesn't sleep much.

Mark said...

Of course, in practically every episode, George would tell Harry Von Zell that he was fired. Harry was never sure if he was serious or if it was just a running gag.

virgil xenophon said...

Actually, the original source of the "Sincerity" quote was Studio Head Louie B. Meyer, who told it to Burns (who later confirmed it years later) although most of the public still believes that Burns was the originator because he quoted Meyer so much..

Guildofcannonballs said...

"...sincerity is a big topic I teach about in Religion and the Constitution."

And you don't realize your bigotry in teaching, or not, sincerity in UnReligion and the UnConstitution. Other-than-indoctrination exposes rhetoric and its fallacies for posterity.

So be it.

What will be, will be.

And we know, based on this post, if Althouse is tempted toward action the thing will happen.

Unique meanings of tempt or temptation will do to excuse any and all whatevers.

Ann Althouse said...

@virgil xenophon

I said "attributed to" because what I'm seeing at Wikipedia is that it's originally from the French novelist, essayist, diplomat and playwrigh Hippolyte Jean Giraudoux (29 October 1882 – 31 January 1944) in the form: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made."

Wikipedia says: "similar statements became a routine part of the comedic performances of George Burns."

I'm seeing elsewhere in Wikipedia; "Another quote often misattributed to Giraudoux is, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." A version of the saying was ascribed to Giraudoux in Murphy’s Law Book Two by Arthur Bloch published in 1980. But actor George Burns also put it in his own 1980 memoir. The joke has been traced to a 1962 newspaper column by Leonard Lyons, in which actress Celeste Holm quotes an unnamed actor saying, '"Honesty. That’s the thing in the theater today. Honesty… and just as soon as I can learn to fake that, I’ll have it made.'"

I'm not seeing the Louis B. Mayer attribution, but I'm thinking it's a line that once said got repeated by a lot of people.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's something called "Quote Investigator":

"Groucho Marx, Samuel Goldwyn, and George Burns have each been credited with versions of this remark. George Burns did include a version in his third memoir in 1980, but this was a relatively late date. QI has located no substantive evidence supporting an ascription to Marx or Goldwyn. The earliest evidence QI has found for this type of remark appeared in a syndicated newspaper column by Leonard Lyons in 1962. The popular Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm attributed the words to an anonymous theater actor: 'Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. invited a panel of performers – including Celeste Holm and Shelly Berman – to discuss the trends in show business. Miss Holm spoke of the vogues in acting, and said she heard one actor say: 'Honesty. That’s the thing in the theater today. Honesty … and just as soon as I can learn to fake that, I’ll have it made.'" ETC. ETC. ETC. "In conclusion, the first evidence located by QI for this class of remarks was dated 1962 though it may have been in circulation years prior to this date. The coiner remains anonymous. Early examples were tailored to the worlds of acting in the theater and appearing on television. George Burns helped popularize the expression via his third memoir. Attributions to Groucho Marx and Samuel Goldwyn are not supported by evidence at this time though Groucho was alive while the expression was being propagated."

Guildofcannonballs said...

Where is the "Sincerity UnAthwart Considering the Abysmal Lack of Math Knowledge/Skills/Ability Amongst Law Professors?" course?

None of these types would do an impromptu* interview and risk credibility and prestige. They think it is smart and, well, NOT PEDESTRIAN, to create possibilities rather than engage anything approaching "if/then... AND WE INCORPORATE THE RESULTS INTO THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUS TRANSPARENTLY."

Only danger and risk lie that way, as opposed to the code-hearing smart set.

* I just defined impromtu as me you (*&%^&(% (*&T^*(^ of a known )(*^( (*% back behind the (*^*(&%^^ (^(^(%^ *^%.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

This reminds me of a favorite post from years ago on Dial M For Musicology - here's the close:

In my classes I often like to point out that the artistry of singers like Bob Dylan is largely directed at fashioning a rhetoric of authenticity. You hear Dylan’s hard-prairie voice on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and think, ah, the splintery authenticity. But the chewed-up R’s and flat vowels and the moments of high intensity where Dylan overshoots the pitch are just as carefully crafted as the portamenti on a Frank Sinatra album. What’s particularly impressive about Dylan’s sixties albums is how he was coming up with a whole new vocal-performative code for each album. It’s a remarkable acheivement: between 1963 (Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan) and 1967 (John Wesley Harding) he invented half a dozen ways of being authentic.

averagejoe said...

I met Harry Von Zell's son back in 2007. He must have been in his seventies and working as a messenger in Los Angeles. Harry Von Zell made the infamous live radio gaffe of calling Herbert Hoover "Hoobert Heever".

Guildofcannonballs said...

The importance of noting the influence can be for gain or for altruistic wisdom-spreading "en devours*".

Like we all travel concurring airlines with supra-ultima strong regulations improving safety and suchnot.

CatherineM said...

I was just watching George Burns roast Johnny Carson on YouTube and realized Burns had a toupee. When I was a kid and he was in those "Oh God" movies, my grandmother would say every time he appeared on TV, "He LOVED his wife! Her passing almost killed him!" That's what she loved about him.

rhhardin said...

The shortest path in the thesaurus from sincerity to authenticity is


If a shortest path is done right, any 3 in a row mean the same thing, and any 4 in a row do not.

If so, they have in common candour and truthfulness, but not each other.

This is not a distinction that the thesaurus makers had in mind, but one that turned up.

Laslo Spatula said...

The concept of Authenticity died with the expansion of Media.

Once other people can view you, you no longer control your Identity.

If you cannot control your Identity then Authenticity is simply a Fashion.

If you are viewed as Fashion you Live in a World that tells you who you are.

This leads us to: Authenticity without Innocence.

Does this necessarily lead us to Law Professors?

I am Laslo.

Bayoneteer said...

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." If you need more incentive than that edit books (T.S. Eliot), work as minor bureaucrat (Mellville), teach (Plath), practice medicine (Doyle) or be a dcker worker (Hoffer).

Laslo Spatula said...

1. I'm drunk-ish.

2. I'm Dropping the Mic after this.

The only Authenticity that exists in this World belongs to aborted babies.

They alone have not had a chance to prove they are Authentic.

They alone have not had a chance to live up to anything.

They alone have had no time to be Hypocritical, Wise, Judgmental, or Solid with Honor.

They alone have not had the chance to be Pro-Choice based on their experiences.

Dropping that fucking mic.

I am Laslo.

William said...

I have a vague memory of Kierkegaard writing something about how hard it is to be authentic when you don't have a true self. Maybe for such people they can only be authentic when they fake it. In any event it's not such a hard thing to fake. Bill Clinton was good at it. His wife not so much, but maybe she has a real self to betray.

hoyden said...

Obama oozes sincerity as he tells us we must support his latest budget, Iran peace deal, or whatever. Obama fools so many people people. Is the DNC-MSM fooled or are they playing along?

BN said...

The world is a stage and you and I are mere shadows on the walls of a cave. However sincerely we may believe.

Nichevo said...


So you're saying, Dylan could sing right if he wanted to?


You wouldn't know sincerity or candor if they took turns going between your ass and mouth. That would mean laying it on the line and telling us what you really think. Your game is the diametric opposition to sincerity. You probably can't tell the difference anymore, wherefore you are such a deeply fucked up human being.

mikee said...

The Truman Show, with live endorsements by the supporting cast, and Wayne's World, with Wayne and Garth displaying Doritos, carried this issue of product placement to its logical conclusions.

If you see a label in any entertainment medium, that label paid to be shown there.

I, for one, fondly recall Emelio Esteves in "Repo Men" wherein generic food, in 1 gallon white cans labeled "Food" with a barcode, filled the role of unsold product placements.