Marketing and the Thoughtless Society

If I were asked to choose the word that best describes the quality of daily life in corporate capitalist America, that word would be “thoughtless.” Ordinary people here aren’t often really consciously hostile to one another — just as they aren’t often conscious of real political and historical facts. Instead, they are simply heedless of anybody and anything that doesn’t reside or resonate within their bubbleworlds of home, car, workplace, and cell phone PIM.

The lion’s share of the blame for this rests not with ordinary people, but with corporate capitalism. This socio-economic order performs its function of further enriching the already rich by the constant growth of marketing and commodification. As this process unfolds, corporate media and messages, all of which are anchored in profit-making, increasingly crowd out non-commercial activities. As a result, the stuff of salesmanship — flattery, encouragement of navel-gazing and the acquisitive attitude, fear of a “mean world” beyond the supposed safety of packaged entertainments — increasingly erodes the social-psychological basis for thoughtfulness.

Sometimes, this crowding out is literally physical. Take the ongoing decline of automotive turn-signaling. This safety device (within our insanely unsafe corporate capitalist/autos-first transportation regime) is losing ground not just to continuing marketing-induced cognitive and ethical impairment, but to the cellular telephone itself, which, despite its peddlers’ denials, is now part and parcel of driving for growing numbers of ordinary Americans. The task of holding a steering wheel and a cellular phone simply leaves no hand free to flick the turn blinker.

Raymond Williams called this whole crucial process of decline “mobile privatization,” and knew it stemmed from the normal operation of modern capitalism. Alas, thoughtlessness is not just a core symptom of mobile privatization, but it serves as a very effective vaccine against criticism of it and resistance to it. It takes thoughtfulness to care about thoughtlessness!

Funny, isn’t it? In this supposedly “religious” society, institutional normalcy is killing the very basis of all but the pettiest, most selfish, least ethically relevant kinds of caring.

The Reach of Political Marketing

The marketing attitude — surreptitiously probe for and exploit their weakness, and screw their genuine needs and desires — saturates the fabric of our politics. One of the vectors of a major advance in this market-totalitarian trend was/is Mr. Slick Willie Klinton, a man with a corporate pusher’s hole-for-a-soul.

As President, the Man From Smoke hugged and smiled and talked soft in all the right places, all in order to achieve the right’s dream agenda: kill single-payer health insurance, further crush the welfare state, and undermine the independent counsel laws (that didn’t have any later costs, did it?). All this happened only via the constant help of focus group-running devils like James Carville.

A good book review on this disgusting fraudmeister.

Hall of Shame: Axe Body Spray

Capitalism only invented modern marketing in the 1910s, and only began to make it king of the management arts after World War II. In earlier days, the products it sold were mostly common-sense responses to rather obvious natural needs. As corporate capitalism has marched forward from the “marketing revolution” of the 1950s, however, natural needs have receded and laboratory concoctions increasingly rooted in marketing psy-ops have become the new norm.

Exhibit A: “Axe Body Spray,” a perfume sold by the Unilever Corporation and targeted at teen and young adult males. This crap is a naked attempt to fund the bottom line by commodifying young-male insecurities and fantasies about sex. It is as pointless and pathetic a product as ever existed, and one look at the ridiculously large and ridiculously packaged “product line” says all you need to know about the wasted ecological and monetary resources involved:

The Axe Fell Here

For a first-rate commentary on how this appalling junk gets sold and affects youth culture, look at today’s post from The Hater.

Politics and Political Marketing

Yesterday, the dreadful war criminal Nancy Pelosi visited Portland, Oregon, my hometown. While here, she repeated her Dreadfulcratic Party’s official campaign theme, which is that the blatantly immoral and illegal Iraq War, which she helps fund, is primarily the fault of Iraqis, and then secondarily … Read more

Sexism in Corporate Marketing

The same institutional logic that builds intentional racism into big business marketing also builds in intentional sexism. See “Racism in Corporate Marketing” posted below.

The only difference is in the roles portrayed. African-Americans almost always appear in advertising and sponsored shows as athletes, musicians, buffoons, and/or sidekicks. Women appear as mothers, wives, servants, and/or carbon-based blow-up-doll life forms.

The effects on the culture are the same: Subtle and light, yet widely dominant suppression of the chances for further progress in deflating sexist ideology.

I think there are more loopholes and exceptions to sexism than to racism within the marketing juggernaut. Nonetheless, I am convinced that further vanquishment of our legacy of racism and sexism (and also of other bio-fictitious fibs like nationalism) will not occur until we also begin to assail big business marketing and the overclass its serves.

Racism in Corporate Marketing

In the last years before his historically catastrophic assassination, Martin Luther King used to lament to his closest comrades that he was “afraid we’re integrating ourselves into a burning house.” How apt that fear turned out to be is still under-appreciated. Among the burning rooms that has yet to be discussed is this one: corporate marketing. … Read more