Economic Blacklisting: Why it’s 570 Channels and Still Nothin’ On

Springsteen’s song in 1992 was “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).”

Now, it’s 570, of course.

Why?

Why the plethora of themed channels, but the continuing wall-to-wall reliance on pablum, snoozefests, and re-runs? Why is “Spongebob Squarepants” smarter, better-written, wiser, and more relevant-to-real-life than every single new program for grown-ups?

Independent film-maker Lloyd Kaufman explains:

I was recently elected to be chairman of the Independent Film And Television Alliance, and I ran on the platform of lobbying in Washington to educate the lawmakers and FCC that independent art is under assault in this country—and under a pepper, too, but that’s beside the point. Comcast won’t talk to Troma. We’ve been in business for 30 years and have 800 movies, and they won’t talk to us. If we give one of our movies to some middleman at Time Warner or whatever, then they’ll talk to them, so there’s another layer of revenue that we lose.

The limited access to the marketplace is economic blacklisting. If you’re an independent, you don’t get on TV. And in the rare instances that you do get on, you get a fraction of what that very same movie would get if it came in through Fox or Viacom.

Like every other major dimension of market totalitarianism, this one remains unacknowledged in both the mainstream media and the public utterances of the power elite.

Pandora’s Hidden Box

Friends of mine recently gushed about their adoration of www.pandora.com, a new internet radio station that intelligently adapts what it plays based on what you tell it you like.

Based on their swooning endorsement and on the greatness of the idea of intelligently adapting internet radio, I went to the Pandora site to try it out.

Upon arrival, you get the very distinct impression that you are at a site run by computer geeks who simply love you and love music. Both the site’s tone and the nerdy, non-commercial-sounding name of its parent organization — the Music Genome Project — make Pandora seem for all the world like it’s an open-source, not-for profit labor of such love. (This strategic mis-impression is crucially replicated on Wikipedia, by the way.)

But guess what? This bubble quickly pops, if you know your stuff: In reality, Pandora is quite the opposite of what it presents itself to be. In reality, it is nothing more than a gigantic marketing Trojan Horse that uses the above impression plus an utterly shameless lie to insert itself onto your computer, and thereby into your life and your marketing profile.

Here’s the Big Lie:

“At Pandora, we have a single mission: To play music you’ll love – and nothing else.”

Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! This is simply utterly, utterly knowingly and calculatingly false. Wrong. As big a lie as there is anywhere.

Pandora’s actual purpose — the one that’s certainly both the real core of the business plan and the topic of every board meeting — is to be found, with a bit of digging and a knowledge of what big business marketing is and how it works, buried in the pandora.com fine print:

In other words, truth be told, what pandora.com REALLY is is three things:

1. A website that trades you song recommendations in exchange for your name, address, and email address (and, hence, the ability, via other marketing databases, to know all about you and your demographic characteristics) and a huge amount of unique, detailed, and extremely commercially valuable data about the inter-relationship of tastes and personal traits among people who share your particular demography and social statuses.

2. A website that attempts to deny that it has any “backside” interest in the rich marketing data it gathers about your “demographic” with your active but (unless you read and contemplate the true — and unexplained-by-Pandora — meaning of the “privacy statement” where they admit the truth) uninformed cooperation.

3. A business that undoubtedly makes heaps of cash selling its oh-so-cleverly “harvested” and essentially stolen demographic and psychographic data to other corporations, which are themselves seeking to hone their own marketing campaigns by better “targeting” you for future manipulations and frauds.

[Note: The assurances about “individually identifiable information” arereally beside the point.  Corporate capitalists are interested in teaching themselves to better manipulate groups like yours, not in stealing your identity.]

Behind its closed doors, Pandora, in other words, does indeed have a single mission and nothing else — to dishonestly exploit your passion for music and your use of the internet for its own investors’ personal gain.

If the FTC hadn’t been kept in a coma for the last 30 years, the blatant gulf between Pandora’s “about”-page “single mission — and nothing else” promise and its actual design and operation would be quickly and harshly punished. At a minimum, Pandora’s investors would have to tell you what kind of box you are about to open…

Meanwhile, I urge everybody to avoid this scam. If you have a Pandora account, close it and send them a message of protest. Until somebody with principles offers a not-for-profit version of this thing, keep finding your own new songs. Above all, don’t give our overclass a free gift of more ammunition for running its decrepit dictatorship over what products we make and use. The Earth is, as they say, “in the balance.”

Onward Corporate Soldiers…

new frontiers in eyeball capturing

The next egg is hatching: O.V.A., Out-of-home Video Advertising, is growing faster than the overall economy, and is now the second most rapidly expanding branch of ad spending, after the internet.  By 2010, despite “a sharp downturn in global advertising spending and a decline in traditional out-of-home advertising in 2009, digital out-of-home media is among the fastest growing media in the world and will continue on an upward track in 2010, according to a new global forecast from PQ Media.” [Remember when there used to be a quaint debate about whether commerce or science and democracy would dominate the “information superhighway?”]

As Advertising Age reports, this redoubled corporate drive to extend television (i.e., the #1 marketing “platform”) beyond the four walls of the nation’s thoroughly TV-saturated McMansions and McShacks “includes everything from elevators to urinals.”

The problem for marketers, you see, is that, although corporate capitalist priorities are in virtually complete control of all aspects of life in the United States, that is never good enough for the individual firms that comprise the system. In the abstract, it is a capitalist’s dream-come-true that watching commercial TV is the unrivaled #1 leisure-time activity in the society, and that almost every human need from thirst-quenching to everyday mobility is now slaked via maximum-profit-yielding commodities. But, in the specific realm of competitive profit-making, that’s mere trivia. How do we surpass last quarter’s return-on-investment? That, that, is the question.

working the body while getting worked in the brain...The only possible corporate capitalist answer is, of course, more and better marketing, a.k.a. profitable manipulation of “consumer behavior.”

Hence, the emerging explosion of O.V.A. Despite the huge amount of time ordinary Americans devote to regular in-home TV, that field is now so littered with rival ad campaigns, its overclass sponsors grow restless. They want and demand more. Hence, the business press reports on the move into O.V.A., where they seek to revive the glory days of early marketing:

Prime time’s original significance was in the opportunity to consistently hold a consumer’s undivided attention—after all, advertising messages are more effective when you have a captive audience. (Source: Media Week press release)

“Reaching a Truly Captive Audience” is the title of this effusive little report. You see, in the boardrooms that plan and implement our “free market economy,” the captivity of “the consumer” is understood to be a VERY good thing indeed.

Meanwhile, we Amerikins remain the underlings of a ruling class whose own dominance makes them behave like the hell-spawn of the villains of Orwell and Huxley. As they corporate rich continue to run the show, we follow the asymptote up the wall of complete market totalitarianism.

Politics and Political Marketing

Yesterday, the dreadful war criminal Nancy Pelosi visited Portland, Oregon, my hometown. While here, she repeated her Dreadfulcratic Party’s official campaign theme, which is that the blatantly immoral and illegal Iraq War, which she helps fund, is primarily the fault of Iraqis, and then secondarily

Read morePolitics and Political Marketing

Sexism in Corporate Marketing

The same institutional logic that builds intentional racism into big business marketing also builds in intentional sexism. See “Racism in Corporate Marketing” posted below.

The only difference is in the roles portrayed. African-Americans almost always appear in advertising and sponsored shows as athletes, musicians, buffoons, and/or sidekicks. Women appear as mothers, wives, servants, and/or carbon-based blow-up-doll life forms.

The effects on the culture are the same: Subtle and light, yet widely dominant suppression of the chances for further progress in deflating sexist ideology.

I think there are more loopholes and exceptions to sexism than to racism within the marketing juggernaut. Nonetheless, I am convinced that further vanquishment of our legacy of racism and sexism (and also of other bio-fictitious fibs like nationalism) will not occur until we also begin to assail big business marketing and the overclass its serves.