Why NPR Sucks

Alexander Cockburn used to argue that, under corporate capitalism, one function of the major mass media is clever misreporting of important stories.

With this powerful hypothesis in mind, take a listen to this little ditty from today’s version of NPR’s Morning Edition:

The story is about how Bloomberg News instructed its own award-winning reporters to stop probing the wealth and power of China’s ruling class [story behind paywall, of course], and went so far in the effort as to try coercing its journalists’ life partners into signing NDAs.

So, important story, for sure. But what, pray tell, is it about?

Surely, the story is about the severe limitations placed on journalism by private, for-profit media ownership — right, National Public Radio?

Nope. Not even close.

What, instead, does NPR — the supposedly alternative content “made possible” by its constantly-mentioned private sponsors — say their own story is about?

Mike Bloomberg might be a weasel.

What else at Bloomberg News is being hidden if such contracts exist that require such secrecy?

Innovation and Capitalist Medicine

John Power reports on yet another appalling aspect of the world’s most expensive medical scheme:

Balking at the cost of in-house research, major drug companies have slashed R&D budgets in recent years to focus on the late-stage development and manufacturing of treatments pioneered externally – often by publicly funded entities such as government institutes and universities.

All 210 new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration between 2010 and 2016 were developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health, which distributes about 80 per cent of its US$40 billion annual spend on medical research to more than 2,500 universities and research institutes worldwide.

“Big Pharma generally do not have research divisions anymore,­ they gave those away when they found their research was three times as expensive per drug developed than ones sourced from academia,” said Ian Frazer, a professor at the University of Queensland who co-invented the human papillomavirus vaccine. “Industry only gets involved in manufacturing and marketing a likely successful product.”

Shameless

Ah, Procter & Gamble corporation, you know no limits. Truly and completely shameless.

Some actual human beings worked on this campaign to literally turn forests into corporate dividends by researching — can you imagine doing this?!?! — and promoting this uber-self-parody for an entire late-imperial overclass. These people will do absolutely anything for another dollar.

Spike Lee Earns a Hicksie

Here at TCT, we occasionally bestow our widely un-coveted Golden Hicksie Award on highly deserving individuals and groups.

The GHA commemorates the late comedian Bill Hicks, who once said this:

“Here’s the deal folks: you do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever. End of story, OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head, everything you say is suspect, and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”

Bill Hicks, 1961-1994

The newest GHA recipient is the one-and-only Spike Lee, who is apparently now making mega-commercials for no less a sociopathic, ecocidal, petty-bourgeois thing than the Cadillac Escalade.

Automotive News reports:

Spike Lee is slated to introduce the redesigned Cadillac Escalade during Oscars week in Hollywood next month with the premiere of his latest short film centered on the fifth generation of the Cadillac flagship.

The Oscar-winning actor, producer and director’s film — called “Anthem” — highlights the innovation of the 2021 Escalade with a filming technique that heightens the sense of motion for viewers, according to a Cadillac statement. The film will be shown at the Escalade reveal Feb. 4.

Due to its special achievements in the area of assisting TPTB with courting carmageddon, Mr. Lee’s GHA is being co-awarded by TCT and our sister site, Death by Car.

Mr. Lee has this astounding bit to say about his shameless, needless greed:

“I’m honored to be part of the next generation of the Escalade, which embodies style, luxury and prestige conveyed without pretension.”

Notwithstanding this claim, here is the main selling point for this monster, according to your friend and mine, the General Motors corporation:

Among the features the sweeping film highlights is the new Escalade’s industry-first curved OLED screen technology, which offers bold imagery, perfect blacks and the largest color range of any automotive display in production today.

For those keeping track, that’s a brag about a new-and-improved TV in the car. You know, “innovation.”

Lee, of course, has long sold his skills and reputation to corporate marketers. This newest project, though, is truly Hicksie-worthy.

He’s gotta have it.

Production is the Issue

Like the book from which it springs, this blog is called “The Consumer Trap.” By this phrase, I mean several things at once. Corporate capitalism is, I contend, a giant historic trap. That is the deepest claim.

But I also mean to protest against the foolish Frankfurt School suggestion that, under our epoch’s over-productive economy, the main strategic locus of politics and society somehow shifted from the boardroom to the bedroom — that we are somehow in an era in which “consumption” (meaning the ways we acquire and use commercial products) is the great question of our age.

This is a rather dull reaction to actual institutions and affairs. Our problem is no less one of macro-choice and investment (aka production) than it ever was. A sea of stuff, non-stop corporate entertainment, and increasingly commercialized off-the-job habits are all trends that emanate from elite dictation, not popular preference. But that is news to Herb Marcuse, who argued the opposite (without ever actually looking).

All of which brings me to this photograph:

That is the back of last night’s pizza box. It is one example of what’s wrong with talking about “consumption.” The manufacturer of this box is, no doubt, one or another major timber-and-paper conglomerate. That entity is certainly all too aware that greasy food containers DO NOT recycle. Yet, as we see here, that knowledge doesn’t lead to retraction of this dishonest little message. Why miss a chance to suppress and combat your customers’ actual concerns?

Corporate product producers are always biased in favor of lying and tricking and cheating to achieve their aims. Until we get back to studying how and why this happens, we will continue to chase our own tails in circles.

Commodifier of the Year

Procter & Gamble, the world’s 53rd largest publicly-traded business corporation, has been named Advertising Age‘s Marketer of the Year for 2019.

According to Ad Age, P & G has re-dedicated itself to out-marketing its competitors. As a result of its search for “work that has more impact,” “P&G has,” Ad Age reports, “gained share in most businesses this year, posting 7 percent organic sales growth the past two quarters.” This “rarity for any big company” has pushed P & G’s “stock price up more than 30 percent this year and 65 percent from recent lows in May 2018.”

Okay, but what is the material basis for such stellar work on behalf of shareholders?

Things like this:

That is new Downy Unstopables, which is apparently perfume you add to your laundry.

The logic of such a breakthrough is reported, with TCT’s emphasis added, by Ad Age as follows:

Such ads, which aim to encourage consumers to use products more often and successfully, are part of an effort…to focus less on taking share from rivals and more on growing or creating categories. 

One example is Downy Unstopables scent beads, a business with more than $750 million in global sales that’s moving the brand from fabric softening to adding lasting fragrance to clothes.

No word, of course, on what happens to all those new plastic bottles.