Stick to the script!

Years ago I worked at a telemarketing company. Arguably the worst year and a half of my life. Towards the end of my stint there, I worked as a “team manager”, which basically meant I was responsible for firing people on an almost daily basis for not reaching their quotas, and for acting as the tireless policeman of the sacred words refered to as “the script”.

“Stick to the script” was the mantra. Deviation from the script was not tolerated. You don’t have to think about what to say, just stick to the script. You don’t have to concern yourself with fears that you may sound wooden, and superficial, and completely unbelievable to the person on the other end of the line, just stick to the script!

You see, at one point in time, someone within the company wrote the script, which was then passed on to the small army of telemarketers, who would call people at all hours of the day and night, and read the script.  The script contained exactly what the owners of the company wanted to be communicated over the phone.  That’s why telemarketing companies write scripts.  It keeps the pitch simple.  There is no need to complicate the pitch by having your telemarketers bumble it up with their own thought processes.  The idea is to keep the message simple and to the point, and then have it repeated over, and over, and over again.  That is the simple, horrifying beauty of the telemarketing script.  It actually works.  If you call enough people, and say the same, predetermined words enough times, you will get results.  All you have to do is stick to the script….

Today is July 3rd.  Tomorrow is July 4th.  Predictably, this means we are being told certain things, since tomorrow is a national holiday, and national holidays are obviously a prime target for would-be agents of terror.  Today, like so many other holiday-eves over the past decade, we hear familiar lines from a very familiar script… 

“According to intelligence and law enforcement officials, there is no specific terror threat for the holiday”

“While officials say no specific threats or terror plots have been discovered, they are stepping up security over concerns about so-called “lone wolves” and ongoing concern about al Qaeda”

“There are reports of concern over another terror plot involving Al Qaeda targeting a U.S. airliner, possibly timed to the London Olympic Games”

“we need to remind our citizens to be vigilant – to be aware of their surroundings…”

I must confess that I am growing exceedingly weary of hearing lines from this incredibly unoriginal script…

Every time we approach another national holiday, or big travel weekend, or 9/11 memorial, or the next Superbowl MCMLXXXIV, we hear the same litany of warnings;  There is an increase in terrorist “chatter”, but there is no specific threat, though we must remain vigilant, and we must report any suspicious activity, and of course there has been an increase in overall “security”…  If you see a bag left somewhere unattended, then you’d better report it.    Be prepared.  Have an emergency kit.  And by the way, enjoy your holiday!

The dutiful telemarketers of the media (also sometimes refered to as “reporters”) make sure the public receives a constant dose of “the pitch”.  We get our regular “courtesy calls”, reminding us that the threat is still very real and very serious.  Of course, the nefarious plotters of American doom aren’t hatching their schemes from caves in Afghanistan anymore, now their evil lair resides somewhere in Yemen and the Arabian peninsula.  They are like cockroaches, these terrorists, who scurry around filling whatever empty crevice they can find that would provide shelter.  That’s why we’re “monitoring” them so closely.  Now these crafty muslims are trying to recruit European and Asian looking individuals to serve as suicide bombers,  which is why we must now be even MORE vigilant, since apparently racial profiling won’t be as useful as it once was.  (pardon my excessive use of sarcasm there, couldn’t help it…)

The script which I constantly hear being read from in the media somehow makes the one I used to read from as a telemarketer sound like pullitzer-prize material by comparison.  By some amazing feat of creative marketing, the message has now been tailored to basically describe a terrorist mindset which has actually become ever so much more stupid and simplistic since the days of Sept., 2001…  Unlike then, when Bin Laden & Co. were in their prime and capable of masterminding an attack which was precisely timed to coincide with the lowering of our radar and air defense systems, nowadays the typical architect of destruction is apparently more inclined to just try leaving a suitcase full of explosives in a crowded place.  (maybe the NSA has detected “chatter” which indicates that Al Qaeda is just getting lazy…?)  Not only that, but it would seem that now the terrorists are so dim-witted that we don’t have to worry about tipping them off that we are on to their latest plot.  Right now we have just discovered that a Norwegian, “believed to be in his thirties and with no criminal record”, is their next intended infiltrator of the free world.  Maybe we don’t know everything about this newest recruit, but we know some:

“…intelligence agencies must now find an individual who fits the profile of an al Qaeda convert: “Someone 18 to 35, someone who is from Norway, someone who has traveled to places that are jump-off spots to go to Yemen. Now, you’ve got maybe tens of thousands of people, or thousands. But you want to crunch that down to who has connection somewhere else in the database, and focus on those people.”

Yep, we’re hot on his trail.  Do we have to worry that we may be inadvertently warning the Scandinavian jihadist that we are looking for him, as we broadcast these details on Good Morning America, just before the latest dish on Katy Perry?  Nope!  (Don’t be silly, Al Qaeda are muslims so they’re not allowed to watch anything with Katy Perry…)

What?  Shut up.  Just stick to the script…   

The only problem is that every script has a goal, an ending, a “close”…  Telemarketers do not call people up and interrupt them at the dinner table just in the hopes of having a nice chat.  The script is designed to take you somewhere you somewhere, to prepare the listener for whatever is coming at the end of the call.  The script of “homeland security” is no different.  These endless reminders to “be vigilant”, and that there is ongoing “concern” for yet another plot”, are all about keeping the public engaged in the message, in anticipation for some big close.  It’s like when you watch a news cast, or t.v. show, and for the better part of an hour, you are constantly being “teased” with the same brief clip, which they show before every commercial, but never let you see the whole thing until the very end…

Fortunately, my time spent in that modern purgatory known as a “call center” finally ended.  I slept in one morning, showed up two hours late, and got canned.  Never been so happy to be fired in all my life.  The company eventually folded, and last I heard was being investigated for engaging in unethical business practices.  And alhough I may not be spending any more soul-sucking hours in that dreadful place, I can still tell when someone is reading from a script, giving me a pitch, prepping me for the close…

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3 thoughts on “Stick to the script!”

  1. Well put! You know I never thought of it like that, more as a mantra. The old nutshell of repeating lies until they sound true.

    Personally I think many of us could be in a golden age of freedom of speech, despite the huge amount of information available to people, many places either are or only a few side steps away from 1984.

    I just wonder if it will be clamped down on before a critical mass of critical thinkers is reached…

  2. Unfortunately; when it comes to those who are perishing… the well groomed news presenter or his absolutely Gorgeous female counter part cannot lie!

    john B

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