Edward Bernays was regarded as the father of American propaganda. This dark art is politely called public relations and marketing in corporate circles. He was a long-standing career man, and he died in 2003 at the age of 103. Bernays sold women the idea that smoking was better than eating, and Lucky Strikes were to been referred to as feminist “torches to freedom” (while privately begging his wife to stop). Later, he used manufactured populism to warn Guatemala of a communist threat. He also helped to engineer a CIA-backed coup to install a dictator who was more in line with the interests of United Fruit Company.
Bernays described his method as “A rubber stamp inked, with advertising slogans, and editorials with published scientific data, the trivialities, the profundities, and the innocence of original thought.”
The tools of a propagandist’s Pandora’s Box are still largely the same despite decades of evolution. Although the technology used to conjure fake public support is more advanced, access-hungry stenographers or rote messengers are still available for a small amount. LIV Golf is not able to afford this level of service, so it’s not as cheap. Yet, the Saudi-backed circuit tried to create buzz for its finale at Donald Trump’s Doral Resort in Florida with predictable clumsiness. This belies its budget. The Crown Prince MBS seems less to return the more Greg Norman spends.
Friday saw a flood of players posting on social media, expressing their joy, gratitude, and amazement at LIV’s growth and game-changing effect. They communicated with all the spontaneity of hostage tapes but from well-paid captives.
“What an incredible year it was. Sergio Garcia wrote, “Game-changing.”
Louis Oosthuizen said, “It’s amazing to see LIV grow the sports.”
“This year was amazing and I can’t wait to see what the next ones bring.” Eugenio Lopez Chacarra: “I’m honored to be part in Fireballs.” Fireballs is his team, not the missiles that his employer has been dropping on civilians in Yemen since the Spaniard was fourteen years old.
Bubba Watson said, “I am so proud of the Niblicks” and referred to the team that owns Watson but for which he hasn’t played due to injury. It’s been an incredible year. From five months ago, to today, LIV Golf is thriving. Yes, that’s what I meant. LIV Golf is taking off.”
Graeme McDowell wrote, “Making the leap into a start-up product like LIV was exciting and rewarding to be a part of.” His followers were not convinced. One replied, “Are they really standing over you with a sabre when you’ write this crap?”
Golfers become bots and sell masse stories of success and traction, despite little evidence that LIV is actually “taking off.”
LIV events have a worldwide audience that is comparable to Super Bowl viewers. This is in addition to the fact that there are many more spectators than the LIV event’s global viewing audience. The game-changing event in Miami that is growing the sport was being sold on the secondary market for $4. Despite LIV buying time on Fox Sports to promote its product, there is no TV deal. There are no major sponsors who would be willing to do the Good Ship Shark hazmat suit. LIV pays those who promote LIV as a great success or aspirations to be. Believers are more difficult to find than those in the LIV congregation.
LIV may one day be the successful company its paid promoters and would-be bootlickers say it is. For now, however, LIV’s only storyline is money. This gives LIV lasting power, provided it serves the needs of an isolated, mercurial benefactor. However, sports fans are not likely to give allegiance to cash-centric businesses (Jay Monahan would be wise to point out that this is true for FedEx Cup payouts just as it is for LIV purses).
The conclusion of LIV season this weekend won’t bring an end to the associated theatrics. There will be rumors of new defections, threats of litigation, more bluster and more claims of conspiracies. There will be a constant drumbeat calling for an end to the rancor. It will not come from only those who don’t want to fight and want an exit ramp to easy streets. But it will also be from industry leaders who see an opportunity to suction Saudi cash and need to first position themselves as acts of reconciliation for the benefit of the sport.
Watch out for the ethical acrobats that are trying to convince you that long-term commerce cannot be held hostage to immediate concerns like rights abuses and bonesaw murders. These moral ciphers are the last push of Saudi propaganda. They appear to be outwardly respected and have the goal to excite critics and doubters to the point that accommodations can be made and checks can be cashed. A long winter lies ahead.