This is a pretty interesting mini-lecture by Nicholas Carr on media design and its impact. Along the way, you get to see how ads are starting to be sprung on us in new ways:
Sweaty hands: Where would anybody sane rank this on the list of humanity’s current problems? What does the fact that new, heavily promoted package goods to combat sweaty hands are now much more on the agenda than, say, serious ecological reforms imply about corporate capitalism and its highly engineered socio-cultural order?
The new product that prompts this question is Carpe Hand Anti-Perspirant, which, if one is gullible enough to believe the public story of the stuff’s inventors, was created because people urgently needed it:
For years, hyperhidrosis treatment required multiple visits to a doctor or dermatologist. Individuals often had little choice but to dedicate ample amounts of time and money to hyperhidrosis treatment at a medical facility.
Ever the heroes, our valiant entrepreneurs — TRIGGER WARNING: the story involves graphic tales of “a lot of people were wiping their palms on their clothes” — knew of this crisis and pursued a solution:
The research that led to this wondrous breakthrough? Turns out, it is organized by an MBA, and takes surveys of its own conference attendees to document the disease to which it claims to be responding.
As Preacher Daniel told the folks in Matewan, draw your own conclusions.
Here, for example, is the meat of an email I just received from Truthout:
“We live in an age where lies can be used to justify pretty much anything: revoke a press pass, deny thousands of people asylum, change laws affecting people’s basic rights. This is somewhat ironic, considering that we live in an age of technology more sophisticated than ever before.”
The proposition here is that, with Trump’s election, we have entered an “age of lies,” with the features listed above.
This is multiply precious.
First of all, the triumph of Trump has been foreseeable, if not predictable, since at least 1987, when The Art of the Deal consolidated this megalomaniacal rentier cretin’s Reaganite fame. Certainly, the thesis that government should be run like a business has always been at the heart of the ongoing Great Restoration/Reagan Revolution.
Et voila, this knownothing TV terminator.
Meanwhile, what kind of age do Truthout‘s people think we lived in before the wonderful Electoral College seated this mentally ill, proudly ignorant election-loser?
Here at TCT, we have always been impressed with the power of this observation by the late Robert L. 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?”
Finally, how cute is it that Truthout supposes that modern technology somehow supports, rather than clashes with, truth-telling? Has the climate for realism and democracy ever suffered a more fateful blow than the one struck by the continuing ascendancy of electronic audio-video machines? That a lefty operation with “truth” in its name can possibly miss the deep importance of the old tech of print literacy and direct human conversation is, I fear, a true sign of the times — times which did not begin in November of 2016.
Ralph Nader has a new interview with Advertising Age. [It may be pay-walled, so TCT refrains from linking; you can find it.]
In the interview, Mr. Nader muses on “advertising inefficacy.” Commenting on the timeless fact that marketing remains something far less efficient than computer programming and that marketers are never sure which parts of their efforts are the ones that produce behavioral changes, Nader is apparently trying the tack of taking all this as proof that advertising is entirely ineffective, a mere vehicle for “misbehavior” by those who plan and sell it.
Nader’s underlying theory seems to be that, if he can only implant the news that advertising is a pointless waste, then TPTB will move against its ever-increasing importance in our lives. Here is Nader’s explanation of his motive:
“The more attention paid to advertising inefficacy, the more the FTC is going to wake up, and the more they wake up, the more Congress may wake up.”
Not only is this stunningly naive in political terms, but it simply ignores the serious evidence on the way marketing and advertising produce their intended results.
If we really want to address the galloping commercialization and commodification of our world, we can’t indulge cavalier opportunism, no matter how venerable the source. Delusion will get us nowhere. We need to describe reality if we want to exert some reasonable control over it. We are up against deep — and deeply logical — institutions. They will not yield to frippery.
One major dimension of the mental distortion that tends to plague those who make it to the top in our radically unequal world is, ironically, innumeracy.
Consider the prevalence of the very strong tendency of tax resentment to increase as zeroes get added to incomes and wealth stocks. People who never would bat an eye at having taxes withheld from $50,000 incomes become irate crusaders when the base sum becomes $5,000,000 or $5,000,000,000.
Meanwhile, consider the patent stupidity of the latest pose being struck by the supposed genius, Jeff Bezos. $2 billion dollars for a “network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities”? Jeff, honey: How many top-shelf schools do you imagine can be built and staffed for $2 billion? There are 8 million households living below the official poverty line, in many hundreds of communities. I hate to tell you, but you are therefore off on this one by at least one order of magnitude — and that’s presuming you’d be giving this $2 billion every year (schools, you see, need to keep going once they open), which you are not.
But, of course, this kind of wild innumeracy is part and parcel of the capitalist creed. We need, they say, to let our creative entrepreneurial class have an unspeakable amount of wealth, so that they will turn around and use it to help the rest of us. Simply putting limits on them and doing what needs doing ourselves wouldn’t work, they say, despite the Nordic countries’ existence and apparent thriving.
Stupid is as stupid does. (Not, of course, that the corporate media will ever mention it in their predictable paeans to private power.)
2. If you watch regular TV these days, you see that “cause marketing” is rampant. Corporations now use marketing to portray themselves as charities.
3. It is a perfect example of how trivial and broken our society is.
4. It is about selling over-priced shoes and clothes.
5. It is about whether it is right for people to strike gestural poses about vague attitudes toward racial injustice and inequality, with the clearest suggestion being the thoroughly silly idea that police reform is both possible and would somehow make everything much better in that area.
6. Live sports is as hugely important as it is in modern society because it is, by its very nature, the most reliable and durable platform for attracting eyeballs and eardrums to corporate advertising campaigns.
7. Watching sports is a deeply childish activity, particularly in a world that is probably destroying the ecological basis for further civilizational progress.
8. All our politics are now like this. If it isn’t a tempest-in-a-teapot, it gets no mention in corporate media-and-politics.