A Worthy Read

richtel-book-imageTCTers may recall the actual journalism of Matt Richtel. Turns out, he has now shaped his work on the politics of distracted driving into a pretty fascinating book, A Deadly Wandering.

It reveals not only the forces promoting the form of mass murder known as “the connected car,” but reviews some pretty important research into the interface between technology and brain science. Both these topics speak volumes about the ruinous direction of human culture under corporate capitalism.

To that point, Richtel quotes David Strayer, the ex-GTE engineer turned safety crusader. While still employed by GTE (now Verizon), Strayer discovered proof that cell phone usage by automobile drivers was wildly and obviously dangerous. The reply of his bosses was, Strayer recalls, this:

Why would we want to know this? That will not help us sell anything.

marx This is not only Fred Taylor-level system voicing, but also a pretty direct confirmation of Karl Marx’s analysis of Mr. Moneybags’ core worldview and ethical status:

Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence, Capital is heedless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.


This overclass is so dominant, so safe from criticism, they increasingly just directly tell you what to do, despite your own obvious conflicting interests:

Without delving into cell phones’ ruinous effects on the cognitive and behavioral dimensions of the social fabric, contrast that spot with the work of Chris Jordan.


Vance Packard* is spinning in his grave.

*Note also the typically insipid book description from Amazon:

The Waste Makers was the first book to probe the increasing commercialization of American life—the development of consumption for consumption’s sake.

“Consumption for consumption’s sake”? Um, no. Consumption for profit’s sake. It continues to amaze TCT how thoroughly the great sacred “consumption” doctrines remain safe from the slightest mental effort.

And how sad is it that the “progressive” publisher assigned the modern introduction to Packard’s classic to somebody unable or unwilling to mention the powers-that-be, let alone explain the basics of capitalism, i.e. the new Don Quixote [or is it catspaw?] known as Bill McKibben?

Beyond Big Brother

cell_addicts Microsoft is about to launch the Nokia Lumia 900 “smart phone.” Here at TCT, we know exactly what “smart” media devices are smart about: marketing. Not only do “smart” devices increase the already astounding amount of off-the-job time people in the United States spend staring at sponsored content and ads, but they rake in huge amounts of Orwellian-quality data about their users’ habits and preferences.

Ponder, then, the sheer cajones of how Microsoft is promoting this new Nokia phone: As a “Free-Time Machine”!  (Note, too, the inclusion of one of the Kardashians, the veritable poster children for time squandered on sponsored media.)

The thing, of course, is a patent stab at expanding the already near-complete corporate colonization of free time, an attempt to reduce even further the degree of independence in what its purchasers do when not asleep or at their jobs (if they have one).

It is more evidence of the old TCT claim that the things our overclass gets away with would make Hitler and Stalin purple with envy.

Another Reason to Tax the Rich, and Hard

Adrian_Grenier_Vertu There is, of course, no such thing as a $6,200 cell phone. Except, of course, that there is. It’s called the Vertu Constellation. It’s made by Nokia, and has apparently sold more than 300,000 copies.

Mental illness is obviously as epidemic as ever within the overclass.

It’s also something of an IQ test, this Vertu geegaw. See if you can spot the pseudo-intellectualisms, flatteries, and effete product differentiations in this promo blurb:

Constellation is the first handset with a full touch screen from Vertu. Designed with simple elegance at its core, each Constellation is handmade using state-of the art technologies and manufacturing techniques including 8 megapixel camera with ruby surround, hard worked leather and our unique high fidelity sounds system. With one delicate touch you can navigate effortlessly and intuitive [sic] to explore the exclusive services available and a range of carefully curated apps providing bespoke services and information at your fingertips.

Lulz and barfz.

The Fruits of Private Taxation

boondoggle Structurally and historically, big business marketing is a substitute for unrestrained, Adam-Smithian price competition, which capitalists have always hated and moved to suppress. By co-respectively avoiding price war and competing instead via marketing, big businesses essentially gain a power their own dogma denies they seek or have: the power to levy private taxes.

And big business marketing is precisely this: an activity funded by a tax levied by corporate shareholders upon those who comprise their targets, the sea of prospective buyers. The funds expended on big business marketing come from the marked-up prices of purchased corporate products. As I explained in The Consumer Trap book, in the aggregate, big business marketing is an activity that rivals total public government spending in scale.

The wastefulness of the spending this private tax embodies dwarfs most government programs.

Take the case of cellular telephone marketing in the USA, a topic we here at TCT have discussed before. Here you have an industry that is not only a natural monopoly (and therefore inherently easily run by the public), but one in which the private corporations who control it provide entirely unremarkable service at the world’s highest prices.

I’ve long been fascinated by the fact that, not only does saturation-level advertising accompany and largely cause this pointless (except to shareholders, of course) economic disaster, but the advertising in question, in the guise of “humor,” almost always depicts reasons not to use or “upgrade” cellular telephones!

Consider this particular ad, currently in heavy rotation on U.S. television, from AT&T:

Not only does this scene depict unattractive and shallow people using cell phones for a patently moronic and pointless activity within a setting — a moving automobile — that makes the depicted activity deadly, but what is the proffered benefit being suggested by the ad? To be five seconds ahead of your friends in receiving trivia. And the presentation? A threat: “Don’t be left behind!”

Our grandchildren will look back in horror that such were the priorities of our society and the nature of our “rethinking the possible” in the early 21st century. Should we somehow manage to dethrone our massively decrepit and shameless corporate overclass and pass future generations a world still capable to looking back, our “entrepreneurial” masters will be compared to Nero and Caligula.