Russian Propaganda!

princess and the pea drawing So, the society’s liberals are feigning outrage that the Russians apparently spent a few million dollars generating a handful of pathetic, tone-deaf gestures “designed” to influence or disrupt “our democracy” (you know, the process we have whereby the loser of the popular election gets to take the office). The supposed outrage is about as deep and convincing as is the Democratic Party’s various other poses in areas of social justice, which is to say not in the least.

It is an open and obvious question: What possible impact could such a picayune thing have had, given the scale of the larger marketing operations that pass for presidential campaigns, to say nothing of the wider $2+ trillion sea of big business marketing that so thoroughly suffuses and dominates the society?

And, while we’re on this topic, take a look at this report on the troll factory from the WaPo. The WaPo wants you to think Orwell, but doesn’t it sound rather more similar to an ordinary workday in an advertising agency?

Once again, paging Dr. Heilbroner:

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?

Internet of Spying Things

eyeball Not surprisingly, it turns out that “smart home” stuff is just another advance in the techniques of big business marketing/corporate capitalist totalitarianism.

Gizmodo has a fascinating report on this topic. In it, a journalist and a computer whiz figured out how to spy on the “smart home” spies. By building a special router, the computer whiz arranged to port to himself a copy of the outgoing behavioral data sent from the journalist’s “smart home” back to the journalist’s ISP (and associated big business data harvesters). Here is what the computer whiz found:

I had the same view of Kashmir’s house that her Internet Service Provider (ISP) has. After Congress voted last year to allow ISPs to spy on and sell their customers’ internet usage data, we were all warned that the ISPs could now sell our browsing activity, or records of what we do on our computers and smartphones. But in fact, they have access to more than that. If you have any smart devices in your home—a TV that connects to the internet, an Echo, a Withings scale—your ISP can see and sell information about that activity too. With my “iotea” router I was seeing what information about Kashmir and her family that Comcast, her ISP, could monitor and sell.

There was a lot to see. Since the router was set up at the beginning of December, there hasn’t been a single hour of complete silence from it, even when there was no one in the house.

Of course, given how we have allowed our media ecology to be devoured by corporate entities and interests, the masses are never going to get adequate, coherent information about this mind-blowing Orwellianism and its obvious connection to TPTB in our flailing, catastrophe-courting society and world. Nonetheless, have a read, TCT folks. It’s what’s happening, behind the curtain.

MLK in a Pickup Truck

Much ado about Fiat-Chrysler’s atrocious use of an MLK voice-over in a Super Bowl ad for Ram pickup trucks. A Golden Hicksie to whoever sold FCA the right to the words, of course. But, to my mind, the really interesting question is why FCA made this move. Are they trying to take pick-ups to the ghetto? That seems pretty doubtful. The other, more plausible possibility is that the gawdawful thing was a ploy to trigger the extremely predictable backlash howls from liberals, and thereby flatter the proud whiteys who constitute the existing pool of Urban Cowboy trucksters, suggesting that standing ups for trucks is also somehow standing up for what’s right, plain, decent, American, etc.

Any way you slice it, what a world we live in!

Layers of Exploitation

cookie jar photo Karl Marx saw exploitation as the core behavioral process in any class society. Overclasses always rule (and indulge themselves) by means of regimes for taking advantage of those who lack alternatives to being taken advantage of.

For rather obvious reasons, this remains a big and vastly under-researched topic. How exactly do rulers deploy threats and tricks to keep paying themselves from the sacrifices of others?

In the corporate capitalist epoch, one thing they do is big business marketing, which, as TCT readers know, is a form of class-struggle-from-above.

I mention all this because The New York Times today is running a letter from Lawrence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock, to his firm’s shareholders. In the letter, Fink acknowledges that one of the foundational features of modern corporations is their ability to operate without direct accountability to the public that grants their charters:

Society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private,serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.

Behind closed doors, this is how CEOs understand their basic situation, though, as soon as the public inquires directly into this confidential fact, the CEOs of course flip over into insisting that even the largest corporations are merely enlarged mom-and-pop shops and thus nobody’s business but their shareholders’.

But, off the record, they know: Under present arrangements, one of the exploited parties is definitely the public in general.

Ad Tolerance

Here’s what they’re working in the overclass, as the world faces multiple immanent threats to the material basis for continuing the project of human civilization:

With endless ways to consume content, consumers are developing preferences for live, streamed, online and ad-supported content. Understand watching behaviors and consumers’ tolerance for different ad characteristics.

The associated video shows that, to corporate capital’s main task force, the big question is how to keep tricking people into wasting their lives spectating the trivial and stupid “content” that exists to deliver advertising into passive brains.

The basis for the whole thing, as enunciated at the 28-minute mark by the woman in the video is “what consumers are willing to tolerate.” Not exactly the free-choice utopia of econ textbooks and political speeches, is it?

And need we comment — yeah, alas, we do — on the use of the words “consumer” and “consume” here? The bias is so massive and massively obvious, yet what passes for the progressive left continues to talk exactly like this.