Pioneers of Promotion: How the press became so liberal and the need to undo it

Pioneers of Promotion and the Modern Media

I’m a little old to be saying things like, “something changed my life.” Instead, it’s more like I’ve been looking for my car keys all my life, and I finally found them in the least expected place.  And you could probably tell after finishing up another great book called Pioneers of Promotion that I really enjoyed reading that fantastic book.  It’s another one that I picked up at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, this past summer, and it turned out to be a real treasure.  When I first found the book, I held it in my hand for a long time, considering whether or not it would be of any use to our modern times or if it would be just a fun history lesson.  As it turned out, it was the skeleton key I had been looking for to many of our modern problems, the evil we were all witnessing turned on its head in such destructive ways.  The book is about press agents Toby Hamilton for Barnum & Baily Circus, Moses P. Handy for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and John Burke for the Buffalo Bill Wild West show essentially all who wrote the rules for modern marketing, which hasn’t changed at all over the last hundred years.  It was strangely relevant to me as the first professional career I wanted to do growing up was as a film director.  So I have some detailed experience with the inner workings of the media, which I have used for the current freedom movement that was a tough decision for me over a decade ago.  I had many connections forming in Hollywood; I knew agents on Wilshire Blvd, but I had to become someone else to play that game, and I grew to resent those forces.  Now I understand how those forces were put in place and what they are protecting to this very day.  To say it was a fabulous book by Joe Dobbow would be a magnificent understatement. 

Even more relevant is that over those years where decisions had to be made, did I want to form my life around the unsaid rules of a career, or did I want to use my natural talents to fight for justice?  My involvement in wild west shows that impersonated micro versions of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West were central to my life.  For a few decades now, I often talk about my reset weekend at the Annie Oakley Western Showcase in Greenville, Ohio, where I participate in the event directly inspired by Buffalo Bill.  I have a personal friend who looks so much like Buffalo Bill Cody that they hire him each year to be their event mascot.  And I got involved in this group because one of my favorite movies was Bronco Billy by Clint Eastwood growing up.  I have been thinking about these themes for a very long time.  This lost America was at the heart of the themes I was always in love with.  I saw more of it than most because I had traditional farmer grandparents and parents who exposed me to these dying elements as a kid. But it always left me a little bit thirsty and never quite satisfied.  When I became an adult, I latched onto these old western images for clarity into a time when America was great, was the envy of the world, and was growing into an economic threat to the various aristocracies that had been jealously guarding their power in whatever little groups they resided in.  I have always loved the idea of a Buffalo Bill America, but I didn’t understand why or how relevant it could and would be for me later in life.  It’s just something I knew and, to this day, is at the core of everything I do, more than ever. 

Life moves fast, and I had been out to Hollywood pursuing that career when justice called.  I learned the games and how to play them, but ultimately it came down to me something the Ned Buntline used to say about authenticity, which I’ll talk about later.  But I didn’t want to be one more phony out there just creating images for a commercial industry.  I didn’t just want to be in a show.  I wanted to be the real deal, almost in reverse of how Buffalo Bill came to be, or the promotors who brought pulp fiction to the preservation of the Wild West, which has preserved in so many ways our modern understanding of America and prevented its complete destruction from the various elements of the world who absolutely hate it because they didn’t think of it first.  So going down that path didn’t allow me to travel the west as I had wanted and explore the things that interested me most.  It took me many years to block off the kind of time I did in 2021 to discover everything that was always right under my nose.  Looking back on this year, it was just a bit of a miracle that I was able to spend a day at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for a day with most of my entire family, grandkids included.  We went to that region in our RV to explore Yellowstone, which we did.  But going to the rodeo there in Cody, Wyoming, then the Center of the West turned out to be like finding those car keys that I had always been looking for.  And it wasn’t just the museum, which was fantastic, but it’s the books I bought from there which were so unique and specific to problems I was always wondering about.  Pioneers of Promotion turned out to be everything I was looking for when we set out west to retouch ourselves with America after the 2020 election disappointments and get a firm understanding of what America was.

The modern villains essentially hated the Buffalo Bill Wild West. They turned the tables on what Burke, Hamilton, and Handy had done to launch the contemporary press agent concept to the world, which is at the center of all commercial enterprise to this very day, including website development.  There was a line from Pioneers of Promotion that John Burke said to critics of the Buffalo Bill Wild West show that I found tremendously appealing and relevant to my own view of the world when he lashed out, “Damn it all!  What we are doing is educating you, people!  I am not afraid to say, sir, that the Wild West symposium of equestrian ability has done more for this country than the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, or the life of General George Washington.  Its mission is to teach manhood and common sense.  We are not traveling to make money, sir, but only to do good.”  Those who wanted to destroy America copied the methods of these pioneers of promotion and sought to do the opposite.  To uneducate America into a conquered condition, and it’s there that we must focus on undoing the mess.  And that started with Trump, a P.T. Barnum type himself who had served as a platform to return to these American ways of thinking.  Burke and his friends from that period of the late 1800s knew what they were doing.  It was attractive to me all my life, and now it’s quite clear what the weapons have been to undo America through the same method.  And the intentions toward our own demise that much clearer.  It’s one thing always to know it, but it’s quite nice to have it all summed up in a moment of revelation that solidifies thought and inspires action in ways that just weren’t possible before knowing something firsthand. 

Rich Hoffman

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