Al Gore has just won the Nobel Peace Prize for making the movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” So far, talk of the consequences, however interesting and important, has entirely missed the deepest meaning of the award: By endorsing Gore’s insidiously wrong-headed film, the Nobel committee has seriously worsened the already terrible ideological climate shielding the reign of the private automobile from the serious democratic scrutiny it requires.
It would take an intentional effort to invent a mode of getting around town that is more wasteful and expensive than the personal auto. Corporate capitalism, of course, is quite literally addicted to cars’ ongoing reign over life in the United States, for the self-same reason: their lusciously profitable wastefulness, fragility, expense, and marketability. This undiscussed institutional addiction promises genuine (and not happy) history-ending consequences, barring radical democratic rebellion in the next decade or two by still somnolent ordinary Americans — rebellion that will have to far, far transcend this kind of self-congratulating ostrich behavior:
Presently, I am completing a book on this core crisis within our culture, which is the reality I call “the consumer trap” and James Howard Kunstler calls “the long emergency.” (Note: These are one and the same disasters.) My book is forthcoming in about a year from Monthly Review Press, and will be titled Automobiles Ueber Alles: Capitalism and Transportation in the United States. Stay tuned here for more tidbits from that effort.
The marketing attitude — surreptitiously probe for and exploit their weakness, and screw their genuine needs and desires — saturates the fabric of our politics. One of the vectors of a major advance in this market-totalitarian trend was/is Mr. Slick Willie Klinton, a man with a corporate pusher’s hole-for-a-soul.
As President, the Man From Smoke hugged and smiled and talked soft in all the right places, all in order to achieve the right’s dream agenda: kill single-payer health insurance, further crush the welfare state, and undermine the independent counsel laws (that didn’t have any later costs, did it?). All this happened only via the constant help of focus group-running devils like James Carville.
Capitalism only invented modern marketing in the 1910s, and only began to make it king of the management arts after World War II. In earlier days, the products it sold were mostly common-sense responses to rather obvious natural needs. As corporate capitalism has marched forward from the “marketing revolution” of the 1950s, however, natural needs have receded and laboratory concoctions increasingly rooted in marketing psy-ops have become the new norm.
Exhibit A: “Axe Body Spray,” a perfume sold by the Unilever Corporation and targeted at teen and young adult males. This crap is a naked attempt to fund the bottom line by commodifying young-male insecurities and fantasies about sex. It is as pointless and pathetic a product as ever existed, and one look at the ridiculously large and ridiculously packaged “product line” says all you need to know about the wasted ecological and monetary resources involved:
For a first-rate commentary on how this appalling junk gets sold and affects youth culture, look at today’s post from The Hater.
In quainter days, there used to be debate over how to police corporate advertising. How should we protect ourselves from the more obvious lies while also preserving freedom of speech, to which even assholes are entitled?
This concern is, like so many other remnants of the concessions our overclass once had to make, no more. These days, the biggest corporations blatantly lie in their mega-million-dollar marketing campaigns, and nobody so much as sniffs.
Case-in-point: The “More Bars in More Places” campaign now being run by AT&T (…formerly Cingular, formerly AT&T Wireless, formerly AT&T).