Can You Think of Anybody Else?

“They can’t treat our pledges like that.”

Tonight on “60 Minutes,” they are running a piece featuring rightist complaints about TikTok.

Here’s the complaint:

Klon Kitchen: Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you saw a news report that China had distributed 100 million sensors around the United States, and that any time an American walked past one of these sensor, this sensor automatically collected off of your phone your name, your home address, your personal network, who you’re friends with, your online viewing habits and a whole host of other pieces of information. Well, that’s precisely what TikTok is. It has 100 million U.S. users, it collects all of that information.

And more, like many U.S. social media companies, TikTok asks users for access to their cameras, microphones, photos, videos, and contacts. More obscure data, like “keystroke patterns,” are collected from everyone using the app.

Bill Whitaker: Keystrokes? What does that tell them?

Kara Frederick: The patterns and the rhythms of the way that you strike the keyboard, it can basically say, “This device belongs to this user.” And you can do a lot with that if you are a foreign government. It’s very, very invasive.

Gee, can we think of any other entities that do all that? If you change “China” to “big businesses,” “TikTok” to “corporate marketing,” and “foreign government” to “corporate planner,” nothing else in this complaint changes.

Not, of course, that CBS mentions this screamingly obvious fact.

The other unasked question is who are TikTok’s customers? The answer, again, is the same as it would be for the Columbia Broadcasting Service: big business marketers looking for access to eyeballs and eardrums.

As for China, the obvious question is what a Communist Party of the sort being conjured by clucking American conservatives would ever do with a warehouse full of data about American teenagers. If you can think of any plausible military or ideological use, let me know, because I can’t.

The truth there is what sociologist John Lie says it is: “the Chinese miracle has progressed along the same track as other miracle economies in post-World War II Northeast Asia.” As a result, its elite wants TikTok’s data flows not for politics but for the self-same reason our overclass (or that in Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan) does. It wants to keep selling people doodads, and desperately needs to figure out how to do that.

Prevagen is Fraud-in-a-Bottle

Prevagen, modern-day snake oil sold by Quincy Bioscience, was sued for being the fraud that it is, but remains as heavily marketed as ever.

Quincy sells Prevagen by saying it is the “#1 Pharmacist Recommended Brand,” based on a survey of pharmacists that is as crooked as Prevagen itself.

Here, meanwhile, is some of what the American Pharmacists Association says about Prevagen:

A calcium binding protein originally derived from jellyfish, apoaequorin (Prevagen—Quincy Bioscience) is widely advertised for memory enhancement. Although several animal studies on its safety have been published, human data on its efficacy are limited to published abstracts or studies posted on the company’s website.3 Of note, as a protein, apoaequorin is unlikely to be absorbed to a significant degree; instead it degrades into amino acids.


What to tell patients


Memory problems are a concern for many older adults. Pharmacists should educate patients that normal cognitive aging occurs and is not a disease. Regular physical exercise, a healthy diet, social engagement and lifelong learning, as well as the avoidance of inappropriate medications, are essential and likely possess additional health benefits. 


Although supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids have been promoted for improving memory, trial results have been mixed. No benefit was shown in a major rigorous study, even with omega-3 fatty acids.7 Human data on apoaequorin are limited to small, company-sponsored trials that do not meet expected scientific standards.


The chancers at Quincy Bioscience ought to be jailed and deprived, down to the last penny, of all monies they’ve stolen over the years.

Meanwhile, such is still the stuff of mass media sponsorship in the United States.

Robert Heilbroner lies, as ever, a-spinning in his grave.

Trump as Excuse

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Jennifer Senior’s latest is titled “The President Has Made Selfishness Our National Credo.”

Compare that claim with the one stated by the late economist Robert 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?”

Ann Druyan Gets Her Hicksie

Ann Druyan, widow and proprietor of the estate of Carl Sagan, is the newest recipient of the much-uncoveted Golden Hicksie Award, which TCT distributes to dishonor especially egregious sell-outs.

Sagan, of course, remains one of the most famous and forceful expositors of scientific worry over our social order’s continuing destruction of its own ecological basis.

Which makes it especially galling that his life-partner and executor is now licensing his image and words to sell Jeeps.

Druyan seems to have been wooed into this disgusting pratfall by the perhaps debonnair and certainly oh-so-French chief of marketing at Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, le monsieur Olivier Francois.

Here is how Druyan described her Hicksie-worthy blunder to Automotive Age:

“He said, Annie, we built you a car. And I was so flattered and delighted,” says Druyan, a longtime writer and producer and founder and CEO of Cosmos Studios, a maker of science-based entertainment.

The “car for her” in question is, of course, an available “electric” option on your new Jeep!

This unexamined, brazenly unscientific (yet heavily sponsored) presumption — that “electric” automobiles are somehow meaningfully better for Earth than small gasoline cars — is about to become a platform plank in a certain kind of deeply dangerous liberal practicality. It is, among other things, now an official selling point for California’s power elite.

Meanwhile, ponder the manifold uber-Orwellian dimensions of the marketing campaign Druyan has allowed FCA to promulgate:

“To explore and cherish the only home we’ve ever known.” That, friends, is one of the taglines.

We could conduct a week-long workshop on the multiple perversities of just this single sentence.

So to Ann Druyan, TCT says it: For shame! You have managed to make turds fall out of Carl Sagan’s mouth.

The Source of Trump’s Fortune

apprentice logo image

Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, and very widespread.

Its cardinal symptom is perceiving this highly predictable product of market totalitarianism (itself a highly predictable product of corporate capitalist normalcy) as an anomaly, rather than an outcome.

TDS has two main strains.

One is the absurd, Clinton/Democratic Party-promoted idea that Trump, who is both patently incapable of holding complex thoughts and also the very definiton of unreliability, is somehow a Russian agent.

The other is what I call the “Doorstep-of-Fascism” hypothesis. This variant of TDS paints Trump as somehow about to unleash state totalitarianism in this increasingly progressive, structurally ungovernable, and thoroughly couch-potatoed society.

The New York Times‘ reporting this week on Trump’s long-hidden tax returns, however, shows the real truth about the origins of this mega-cretin:

The Times calculates that between 2004 and 2018, Mr. Trump made a combined $427.4 million from selling his image — an image of unapologetic wealth through shrewd business management. The marketing of this image has been a huge success, even if the underlying management of many of the operating Trump companies has not been.

Other firms, especially in real estate, have paid for the right to use the Trump name. The brand made possible “The Apprentice” — and the show then took the image to another level.

NYT, September 27, 2020, emphasis added

Trump inherited his daddy’s ill-gotten fortune, and used his privilege to sell himself, at a lucky early moment, as Reaganism’s Ideal Man. Commercial television, which exists to promote the sale of corporate products, then eventually hired Trump to continue peddling this sick fantasy — and it worked, all around, as the Times story reveals.

So, the obvious main fact is this: The bulk of Donald Trump’s fortune — half a billion dollars — came from the entirely normal and logical workings of mainstream American corporate media, meaning the normal and logical workings of “our economy.” Trump, in other words, is as American as Ronald McDonald, Nancy Pelosi, and the CBS Evening News.

Liberal and radical physicians, heal thyselves.

New Media

addiction spoof on Facebook logo

“Facebook might have won already, which would mean the end of democracy in this century,” [Jaron] Lanier said. “It’s possible that we can’t quite get out of this system of paranoia and tribalism for profit—it’s just too powerful and it’ll tear everything apart, leaving us with a world of oligarchs and autocrats who aren’t able to deal with real problems like pandemics and climate change and whatnot and that we fall apart, you know, we lose it. That is a real possibility for this century.”

A major hypothesis.

Nota bene: New media are new, but also not new. Both the incessant expansion of data-harvesting and the shift away from print-dominated media are major marketing (read: corporate capitalist) imperatives.