A Remarkable Letter

omerta Microsoft, undoubtedly trying to exploit overwhelmingly clear public preferences to boost its market share, is apparently planning to release the next version of its web browser with “do not track” as the default setting.

In response, the Association of National Advertisers has sent Microsoft an open letter of omerta protest. It is well worth your study, as it speaks volumes about the true nature of the relationship between corporate marketers and so-called “consumers.”

Notice, first of all, that the ANA and the Fortune 500 signatories accuse Microsoft of “Making the Wrong Choice For Consumers.” Go back to the right choice for consumers, is the message. Making choices for consumers is (of course) just fine, so long as they are the correct ones. And by correct, we mean the choices that the signatories know are best for “consumer interests” and “society as a whole.” Never mind that, even with zero political leadership on the topic, 86 percent of “consumers” expressly disagree with what the corporate overseers dictate.

Also contemplate the spectacle of these overclass warriors daring to speak of the concealment of choices about how the nation’s media run! Why is it that virtually all mass media operations in the United States are dependent on corporate advertising sponsors for their budgets? Is it due to robust public debate and preference? Or is that outcome also a “choice” that has not been, and cannot be, left to the “consumers”? The sponsors of ALEC’s efforts to kill public internet service want us to pretend it’s the former, rather than the latter. Cats everywhere are laughing up their lunch…

Finally, dig the pure Don Corleone closing to this rather amazing letter:

ANA’s Board is prepared to engage in direct conversation with Microsoft. Representing thousands of brand owners that are responsibly pursuing productive pathways to consumer engagement, we believe in a far different course of action. We respectfully suggest an immediate dialogue with key Microsoft executives prior to the anticipated release of Internet Explorer 10. We look forward to your response to our invitation.

Paired with the fact that this thing was broadly released to the marketing trade media, the only conclusion you can draw is that this precedent is a dire threat to the system, so the threat to Microsoft must be proportional to the danger of its planned policy.

Meanwhile, from the citizen’s —not “consumer’s” — perspective, it’s immensely sad how such a fragile, inch-deep power structure remains so thoroughly safe from public ire. As we work and wait for some adequate penetration of its prevailing national hologram, we can at least keep ourselves up-to-date on its true nature. This letter is a keeper in that regard.

12 Replies to “A Remarkable Letter”

  1. How do you find these bon mots from the Behemoth? These are all incredibly heinous developments, but in this “election” cycle, to have us think of ourselves as “citizens” instead of “consumers” seems far-fetched.
    What am I a “citizen” of? I have no rights compared to a corporation, or compared to a corporation front. There is no politics in the US of A., hence there can be no “citizens,” other than Dow and Xe and Nike and Google and their benefactors. What do you consider yourself a “citizen” of?

  2. Martin, I use the word “citizen” in the abstract, as an analytical concept of humanism and political philosophy. I’m certainly not arguing that voting presently means very much, if anything. I’m wondering if I can even stomach voting for the Green Party candidate, given the braindead “neither left nor right but forward” tripe in which they they continue to cloak themselves.

    It will take a big social, and well-organized movement to render citizenship meaningful again in this market-totalitarian society.

  3. Michael, you keep talking about a “well-organized movement” being the only imaginable dignified way out (with which I agree), yet all signs point into the opposite direction (greater atomisation and decline in capacity among people).

    So, the idea takes almost sort of a quasi-religious status as a symbol for hope to never be achieved but worth striving for (which, even if true, I’d still agree with).

    But as someone interested in seeing actual positive change (preferably within my lifetime…), this is deeply unsatisfying. Clearly there are policy choices that can and should be made, but they are all in control of huge bureaucratized institutions that by now pretty much run themselves without any real human input. Even so, they are also controlled by people interested in keeping them that way.

    How is a positive change to come? Clearly the political process is at this point useless, the bureaucracy and the market are irrational at the aggregate. So what is left there? climate resource crises and underclass violent uprising?

    Even this will not necessarily change anything – the technology and the power to supress such ideas or to shift the negative externalities have been so perfected that the only result will be to shrink the “golden billion” somewhat and extend the dream.

    I feel as if people and countries behave with the concentration camp mentality: “you die today, I’ll die tomorrow”.

    I’m neither determinist, nor nihilist, just syaing that the ‘math’ for humane progress doesn’t seem to add up…

  4. One of my favorite professors used to remind people of how unexpected most big events have been. Few see revolts coming.

    Nonetheless, based on what we can see, it’s certainly hard to be an optimist. Jared Diamond says he’s 51/49, and not only is that probably an intentional exaggeration for audiences, but he is more sanguine about things like business corporations than we TCTers are.

    But, as you say Marla, it is the only hope, so even if it’s 5 percent, what else does one do?

  5. P.S. I don’t much like the concept of the golden billion. There may be 50 or 100 million people that enjoy something like true freedom of choice. The median resident of the United States is far removed from that sphere of living. Over-stating the spread of power plays into the overclass’s hands, IMHO.

  6. That’s a good point – many major changes have indeed passed unnoticed until they actually happened. But there is a flip side of that – trends that seem crystal clear fail to unfold in the expected direction or timescale (heck, Marx was convinced that the final crisis of capitalism was just behind the corner in his lifetime), and also many major changes can be traced to specific decisions made (and enforced).

    I have mixed feelings about Zizek, but he has one great quote: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world, than to imagine the end of capitalism”.

    Occasionally I feel as if I could make some sort of minimal difference in my career, but then I am quickly reminded that if even incredibly accomplished (both academically and politically) people (e.g. the likes of J. Kenneth Galbraith, Herman Daly, Chomsky even, and other such voices), some with substantial resources and even audiences, still have virtually zero impact, my better coping strategies may be simply endurance and shoe shopping. So that’s it for now 🙁 .

  7. re: “golden billion”. I agree, but there is still an actual $$$ differential between our poor and the third world poor. It is real enough to suffice as justification for wars or policies to “preserve our standard of living”…

    Obviously, if we expand the definition of well being, many so called backward regions could easily come on top relative to our poorest in terms of quality of life: people in many villages in my old country struggle financially, but I am inclined to believe that their life is actually better than the one of the average US low-wage worker.ghetto dweller –> they live in solid houses in the mountains, can walk to everywhere they need to be (or take the bus to town), grow their own food, have more or less functional community life, do not depend too much on energy intensive transportation and industry, etc. etc.,

  8. “Neither left nor right, but forward” – is that some sort of Green Party slogan? If so, that confirms what I thought all along, that they are the epitome of sellout folkish buncombe artists.
    That refrain was also uttered by Occupy montessori wonderchildren, and MSNBC, and is preposterous in its rejection of the honorable “left” label.
    Marla, there’s nothing wrong with the “nihilist” orientation – it will be all that is left when dust settles. You can still shop, indulge your pleasures, tend to your life and intelelctual pursuits- just without that once-obligatory belief in the fiction of Hope’s large-scale triumph.

  9. Regarding what to do in these trying and frustrating times, I think it?s most important to simply ground oneself within a certain set of principles and to try and live by them. In this sense I have far more in common with a person rooted strongly in religious faith than I do with a garden-variety liberal who comes to an ethical accommodation with drone murders because of progress made towards the acceptance of gay marriage. I believe, in the final instance, that a whole host of glaring moral and systemic contradictions will soon undermine the US political superstructure as it currently exists. It is impossible to say what sort of alternative political community will be built upon the ruins, but as things stand now I?m less concerned about the mobilization of sheer numbers and power than I am about locating those precious few meaningful places of interaction that provide useful knowledge and help to fend off feelings of despair and isolation. This blog is one of those places.

Comments are closed.