Rockefeller Activism

So there is now a group called the Buy Nothing Project. On its Mission & Principles page, it asserts that “We value honesty and integrity in all our interactions.”

Now, with this in mind, we might ask this group, which was co-founded by none other than Rebecca Rockefeller of, yes, THOSE Rockefellers, how exactly a denizen of the modern world is supposedly going to buy nothing. One might also ask to take a peek around Ms. Rockefeller’s own lifespaces, to see exactly what purchased goods and services said places might include. Surely, the answer is not “zero.”

But we digress.

The real meat of the problem resides in the claim underlying this deluded effort to sell navel-gazing gestures as meaningful politics:

That is a screenshot from BNP’s manifesto.

The theory here is that it is not marketing and corporate capitalism, but human nature that is our main problem when it comes to material waste.

“Well before we are susceptible to marketing,” BNP says, we are already greedy for what it delivers to us. This, and not the dictates of our dominant economic institutions, is what causes “our homes [to be] literally overrun with stuff.”

While it’s (perhaps) merely cute to describe exurban house-clutter as the main manifestation of socio-economic waste, this kind of re-packaged elitist refusal to think is really quite destructive to the cause of progressive human survival. How many well-meaning people will this group lure into its rabbithole? The answer, again, is not “zero.”

For the umpteenth time, TCT asks: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

…How It’s Going

Capitalists, as Adam Smith noted but didn’t think through, hate free markets. To restrain them and get more of what they want, the business class of the late 1800s convinced legislatures to deregulate corporations, which until then had been retrained from buying one another and undertaking activities not enumerated in their charters.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, capitalists finally recovered enough clout to fight back against what they’d lost in the publicly-administered full-employment economy of World War II. The coming-out party for this restorationist project was called, in the USA, the Reagan Revolution.

How’s that effort going?

Take a look at this graphic from of Bloomberg Businessweek:

Bloomberg Businessweek, 3 Oct 2021

The Voice of the System

Power corrupts. Power concedes nothing. Power tells itself just-so stories.

Nick Clegg photo

On the latter front, consider the corporate memo just published by The New York Times. Written by Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of public policy and global affairs, this instructional missive was apparently just issued to all Facebook employees in anticipation of still more revelations about what it’s like to make profits by knowingly exploiting and damaging the general public.

Sir Nick begins with realism:

You will have seen the series of articles about us published in the Wall Street Journal in recent days, and the public interest it has provoked. This Sunday night, the ex-employee who leaked internal company material to the Journal will appear in a segment on 60 Minutes on CBS. We understand the piece is likely to assert that we contribute to polarization in the United States.

Memo reprinted in The New York Times, 3 Oct 2021

Note that the topic at hand is whether Facebook contributes to socio-political polarization.

Here, however, is Sir Clegg’s statement of the official Facebook position on this charge:

But the idea that Facebook is the chief cause of polarization isn’t supported by the facts.

Ibid.

This is a major example of what sociologist Linsey McGoey calls “strategic ignorance,” or “unknowing.” Every 9th grader can recognize the crude shift Clegg attempts. The plain accusation is that his organization is a significant source of a problem. Yet, by converting “a” into “chief,” Clegg moves the goalposts to a different field.

Not subtle. Not skillful. Not even clever. Yet this is part of what top genius execs, after intense rounds of emergency “team” meetings, get paid to do for our epoch’s dominant organizations.

As McGoey points out, such Orwellian chutzpah is no anomaly. It is, in fact, Business as Usual.

And, as you can see in this very memo, it’s not just the confabulation that’s newsworthy. These supposedly far-seeing masters of technical precision are also very quick to believe their own sophomoric petulance. Indeed, they tend to wax sanctimonious about it:

I know some of you – especially those of you in the US – are going to get questions from friends and family about these things so I wanted to take a moment as we head into the weekend to provide what I hope is some useful context on our work in these crucial areas.

Nick Clegg to Facebook employees

Friends, family, weekend, “our work.” Such valiance!

A Book of Emptiness, Indeed

“Consumer” talk started with capitalists, for obvious reasons. Democratic voices, alas, have never caught on to the important prejudice inherent in such a thing.

To this very day.

Consider this item from today’s New York Times Book Review:

Lest you doubt that the work reviewed, Ruth Ozeki’s new novel, the unintentionally comically titled The Book of Form and Emptiness, is really as bad as this headline suggests it might be, here’s what a Google Books (Amazon having done away with this crucial feature in its drive to herd people into its atrocious Kindle DRM prison) content search reveals:

Excerpts from The Book of Form and Emptiness

So, this is a book about how “the American consumer,” high on “the religious ideology of consumer capitalism,” is reproducing a “crazy” world by clinging to “our fucked-up consumer culture.” Ozeki must imagine that, by placing it at the bottom of a trippy, personalized, magical-realist tale, she is somehow making such stale, unreflective, apolitical overgeneralization fresh, sharp, and liberating.

But, here at TCT, we have to ask, again: With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Ruth Ozeki seems like a lovely person and is certainly a very fine writer. But, no matter how you package it, more standard-issue “consumer” claptrap simply won’t do. There is no such thing as “consumer capitalism,” “consumer cuture,” “consumerism,” — or, for that matter, “consumers.”

Nobody who misses such elementary facts is going to do anything but sow even more confusion in our reeling, careening, truth-skirting global society.

We have met the enemy, and it is NOT us.

Clegg’s Excuse

The Wall Street journal has been running stories on how Facebook ignores its own research findings about the many harms of its inherently dangerous products.

Sir Nick Clegg, former British Vice-PM and currently Facebook’s VP for Global Affairs and Communications, has just issued the official Facebook retort. Here it is:

Sir Nick isn’t stupid. So you have to wonder how he sleeps at night.

It’s also fascinating how effects that are really quite simple, if admittedly embarrassing, become “complex issues” in such minds. It sounds like Sir Nick genuinely believes this gigantically convenient interpretive shift.

In any event, this is a prime example of a big business using its own research as a vehicle to deny, rather than respect, elementary truths — even when these truths encompass matters of life and death for very large numbers of people.

This tactic is certainly not an anomaly in the corporate world.