This American Life, Indeed

Ira Glass photo The latest recipient of the Hicks Dictum Award is that hugely over-rated antiquarian, Ira Glass, who has this to say about how he views his own output:

“I think we’re ready for capitalism, which made this country so great. Public radio is ready for capitalism.”

One might ask what makes Mr. Glass think PBS and NPR have ever been anything but subservient to capitalism, but that is a side issue. The main point is that everything Glass says is a turd falling into your drink.

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How They Sleep at Night

sleep One question raised by the nature of the totalitarian behavior management discipline that is big business marketing is how its practitioners live with themselves. Here is some verbiage from a comment on today’s Advertising Age site that sheds light on that matter:

“Everyone keeps talking about the consumer. But since when are ads anti-consumer? Ads can be pro-consumer. They can be wonderful, creative stories with an arc and feelings and resonance.”

The author of this revealing comment is (you can’t make this stuff up) one Scott Portugal.

Despite his own breezy justifications, the marketing practitioner is indeed bothered by himself, to the point of paranoia, in fact. “Everybody” is attacking his work.

Next, notice the convenient definition of advertisements. Ads, Portugal tells himself, are what they can be, and what they can be is inherently valuable stories. You know, like Beowulf, The Grapes of Wrath, or your favorite podcast?

And, of course, the real question for everybody not living in a state of self-imposed idiocy is since when are ads pro-consumer (and what the fuck is a “consumer”)?

The level of delusion here is simply spectacular. And, thanks to corporate capitalism, it is the bedrock of the planetary culture. We’re in huge trouble here, folks…

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Consumer Theater!

In the least surprising news possible, there’s a new form of marketing research. It is Consumer Theater, a new way of doing focus groups that is “a proprietary Firefly and Second City methodology.”

First off, a major Hicks Dictum Award to the moribund corporate-comedy shithouse, Second City.

Meanwhile, take a look. This is what “co-creating with the consumer” looks like. The role of “the consumer,” as always? To divulge more.

consumer theater

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The Hicks Dictum

Bill Hicks “Here’s the deal folks: you do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever. End of story, OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head, everything you say is suspect, and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”

— Bill Hicks, 1961-1994

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Behind the Internet of Things

Nothing excites the MSM like capitalist techno-fantasies. The so-called “internet of things” is one such orgasmic delusion. But, in our our market totalitarian society, where profit is priority #1 by a wide mile and marketing is the main cultural engine, what, really, is this “internet of things,” to the extent it’s anything at all?

robot factory The latest issue of Advertising Age reveals the extremely sordid and predictable truth: It’s yet another way of making a still-unconquered dimension of personal life into a big business marketing platform:

The Internet of Things has promised to turn our everyday interactions with stuff into data for logistical and marketing applications.

But now that more and more corporations, including Diageo and Mondelez, have tested actual web-connected products in the market, the industry is approaching the next stage of connected appliances and food packaging. That means figuring out where all that information will go and how it will be used. IoT platform company Evrythng sees a home for data generated by connected thermostats, bottles of booze, designer handbags and washing machines in first-party marketing databases. The firm is partnering with Trueffect, a digital ad firm specializing in first-party data targeting, to work towards devising ways marketers can use data gathered when consumers use their products. The firms hope to directly communicate with those consumers and, yes, perhaps target ad messages to them.

Interestingly, one of the first to deploy the new data-scraping method is corporate booze peddler Diageo:

The spirits brand introduced its “Smart Bottles” of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which feature electronic sensors, at the Mobile World Congress in March in Barcelona. In addition to helping the firm track whether bottles have been opened and where they are in the supply chain, they could be used for targeted marketing. “For instance, Diageo could upload promotional offers while the bottle is in the shop but change that information to cocktail recipes when the sensors show the bottle has been opened at home,” noted the company in a press statement.

All this is the other side of the ongoing, but virtually undiscussed in the mainstream, second robot revolution, by the way. That, in turn, is capitalism 101 at this point, a fact unmentionable in this society, despite its dire consequences.

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The Land of Private-Sector Boondoggles

The New York Time Magazine this week carries a brief essay about how South Korea runs its internet. They don’t do what we do here in the proving ground of capitalist dictatorship. While we permit private profit ranchers to own our internet infrastructure, South Korea has its Ministry of Science lay and control the pipes.

The results are predictable:

Seoul is blanketed with free Wi-Fi that offers the world’s fastest Internet speeds — twice as fast as the average American’s. Back in 1995, the government began a 10-year plan to build out the country’s broadband infrastructure and, through a series of public programs, to teach Koreans what they could do with it. South Korea also eased regulations on service providers to ensure that consumers would have a multitude of choices — in marked contrast to America, where a handful of cable and telecommunications monopolies dominate the market. Such healthy competition in Korea keeps the cost of access low.

To maintain South Korea’s lead, the country’s Science Ministry recently announced a $1.5 billion initiative to upgrade Korea’s mobile infrastructure. By 2020, the government predicts, it will be 1,000 times faster — so fast you could download a feature-length movie in approximately one second. In the same time frame, the Federal Communications Commission hopes to wire most American homes with broadband Internet with speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, or roughly one-sixtieth of South Korea’s goal.

Here’s one telling result:

American mobile design is fetishistically minimalist. Silicon Valley applauds itself for good taste in this regard, but this aesthetic has sprung up partly in response to a deficiency: Americans have learned to strip out bandwidth-guzzling elements because they slow down loading times. Korean designers, lacking such bandwidth restraints, can stuff their apps full of all the information and widgets they like. On-screen real estate isn’t an issue, either, because Koreans prefer massive phones. While the “phablet” — the missing link between a phone and a tablet — is popular as a punch line in the United States, it’s been in high demand in South Korea for years.

This trans-Pacific gap in bandwidth is so pronounced that Korean developers often have to strip down their software if they want to take it stateside.

None of this, of course, enters into our pathetic debates over whether to place a few paltry regulations on our holders of licenses to steal. Despite such stark facts, even our reformers dutifully refrain from mentioning what a terrible idea it is to let capitalists own basic public facilities.

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