As reported by none other than Michael Wolff, Mark Zuckerberg long ago admitted that, when all the cover stories are dropped, Facebook is a corporate marketing tool.
“Our business is advertising,” said Mark Zuckerberg who, although he was the penultimate speaker at the eG8 conference in a stultifying hot hall, managed to fill the room.
“This trend of people being empowered to share things that they want will be the trend for the next five or ten years. . . .” Zuckerberg probably means to share what they want to share. But it may just mean to share desires in general—impulses, hankerings, things. “If you think about advertising, what’s going to be more effective than any advertising you show is something your friend says they like,” says Zuckerberg.
As TCT has always contended, totalitarian spying is part and parcel of corporate capitalism, which literally requires its constant expansion and refinement.
Not that this kind of boilerplate-but-unmentionable social fact ever quite sinks in. Even the reporter of the above survey of what Facebook does on behalf of its other corporate clients concludes that we “did it ourselves.”
Karl Marx saw exploitation as the core behavioral process in any class society. Overclasses always rule (and indulge themselves) by means of regimes for taking advantage of those who lack alternatives to being taken advantage of.
For rather obvious reasons, this remains a big and vastly under-researched topic. How exactly do rulers deploy threats and tricks to keep paying themselves from the sacrifices of others?
In the corporate capitalist epoch, one thing they do is big business marketing, which, as TCT readers know, is a form of class-struggle-from-above.
I mention all this because The New York Times today is running a letter from Lawrence D. Fink, CEO of BlackRock, to his firm’s shareholders. In the letter, Fink acknowledges that one of the foundational features of modern corporations is their ability to operate without direct accountability to the public that grants their charters:
Society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private,serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.
Behind closed doors, this is how CEOs understand their basic situation, though, as soon as the public inquires directly into this confidential fact, the CEOs of course flip over into insisting that even the largest corporations are merely enlarged mom-and-pop shops and thus nobody’s business but their shareholders’.
But, off the record, they know: Under present arrangements, one of the exploited parties is definitely the public in general.
Corporate capitalism is totalitarian. Left unchecked, it leads to a society where, outside the shrinking, increasingly commercialized sphere of family and friends, everything is a trick, and tricking is the standard form of social relations. It is a recipe for disaster, as current events show.
‘Tis once again the season of peak selling, so a roving TCTer’s thoughts naturally turn to the topic of how, even as their socio-economic order finishes devouring the basis for the further maturation of human society, corporate capitalists continue to provide solutions to non-problems.
Now, so far, the system’s critics have been rather less than careful with the topic of product provision and use, having committed to treating it as “consumption” and then swinging various crude hammers pointlessly around the room. Herbert Marcuse, foreshadowing if not script-writing for Ronald Reagan, based his work on the presumption that average black people in the Jim Crow United States had Cadillacs. Such things not only flew with the left but became classics of supposedly critical theory.
Mainstream critics of leftist cultural critics are, sadly, largely correct when they say the left has tended to be way too cavalier about the existence of great capitalist products. This is funny (in both senses) in part because Marx and Engels famously praised some features of capitalism. Yet few subsequent thinkers in the Marxian tradition have thought with precision about the indisputable and extremely important fact that a great many of the products business society has managed to work out and make affordable are things any sane democracy would want to retain in any decent, sustainable future.
The fact that the system also is quite good at turning broad public scientific breakthroughs (for which it then takes undeserved credit, of course) into actual gadgets is nothing to sneeze at, either, if we want to make such a future.
But, having said all this, it remains true that corporate capitalism is, by its core design, drowning us in silly-ass, often hi-tech, crapola.
Once TCT‘s editor finishes his ongoing book about the ultimate platform for this systemic project, our TCT website will get an overdue structural upgrade and thereby return to seeking user interactivity. One thing we’ll work on then is gathering nominees not only for the annual Golden Hicksie, but also a reader-fueled competition for most offensive new commodity of whatever years we have left.
Perhaps, inspired by this here new product, which I encountered yesterday, we will call that new award the Consumer Trap Turkey of the Year:
That, friends, is the Waring electric turkey fryer. It retails for more than $600. One would love to know how many times each one sold will ever be used. Surely, the ever-so-perfectly-named Conair Corporation knows. It is the entity that puts this beautifully stupid thing on the market.
Drumpf’s brain-du-jour (and, as ever, it ain’t much of a brain), Stephen Miller, said, in Drumpf’s war-criminal UN speech, that “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”
Let’s be honest, though, shall we?
Even if this familiar and petulant howler were actually true, maybe it would be because “our way of life” is largely an amalgam of outcomes engineered by $2,000,000,000,000 worth of corporate marketing operations. In America, in other words, our way of life is imposed upon us by our one percenters.
Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.
Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.
For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:
Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.