Oh, Shoshana

Shoshana Zuboff contends that surveillance capitalism is “a rogue mutation of capitalism.”

In order to make this argument, Zuboff defines Georgia Tech’s Aware Home Research Initiative as the product of a bygone era when researchers pursued things like this “exclusively” for “the people that live in the house.”

This is, at best, malarkey.

The Aware Home Research Initiative was founded with a grant from the Georgia Research Alliance. Here is a list of the leading sponsors of that organization.

If you believe that Georgia Tech’s Aware Home laboratory is, was, or ever will be anything but a marketing research platform, you are — again, at best — wildly misinformed.

The corporate capitalist thirst for automated surveillance on prospective product purchasers was large and voracious way before 1998, the year in which Georgia Tech’s entrepreneurs-as-professors launched Aware Home.

Zuboff once suggested that the automation of the corporate workplace might lead to the reskilling of work and the diminution of managerial power. Now, she wants us to see market totalitarianism as a mere anomaly that we might easily regulate away.

Veritas?

The Trump Effect

stork carrying baby One important impact of the scum-floating-to-the-top phenomenon that is the Trump Presidency is its addlepation of the political left.

Here, for example, is the meat of an email I just received from Truthout:

“We live in an age where lies can be used to justify pretty much anything: revoke a press pass, deny thousands of people asylum, change laws affecting people’s basic rights. This is somewhat ironic, considering that we live in an age of technology more sophisticated than ever before.”

The proposition here is that, with Trump’s election, we have entered an “age of lies,” with the features listed above.

This is multiply precious.

First of all, the triumph of Trump has been foreseeable, if not predictable, since at least 1987, when The Art of the Deal consolidated this megalomaniacal rentier cretin’s Reaganite fame. Certainly, the thesis that government should be run like a business has always been at the heart of the ongoing Great Restoration/Reagan Revolution.

Et voila, this knownothing TV terminator.

Meanwhile, what kind of age do Truthout‘s people think we lived in before the wonderful Electoral College seated this mentally ill, proudly ignorant election-loser?

Here at TCT, we have always been impressed with the power of this observation by the late Robert L. 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?”

Heilbroner said that in 1976.

Finally, how cute is it that Truthout supposes that modern technology somehow supports, rather than clashes with, truth-telling? Has the climate for realism and democracy ever suffered a more fateful blow than the one struck by the continuing ascendancy of electronic audio-video machines? That a lefty operation with “truth” in its name can possibly miss the deep importance of the old tech of print literacy and direct human conversation is, I fear, a true sign of the times — times which did not begin in November of 2016.

Long Slow March

snake Apart from providing invaluable, presumably at least partly unintended assistance to the overclass by helping legitimize the catastrophic “vocabulary of consumption” as the prevailing way of describing issues of product design and product use, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has a long history of getting weaker and worse at pursuing its own mission. The accommodationist process is approaching its logical end. Having long ago chosen to refrain from investigating and reporting on issues of political economy and product policy, Consumer Reports now faces competition from other mere product review enterprises. In reply, what is Consumers Union doing? Why, capitulating further, of course. It has just now created the first-ever marketing campaign on behalf of the “Consumer Reports” brand name.

Big Brother was a rookie.

Tea-Potting the Tempest

teacup photo From the TCT perspective, it is amusing and more than a little discouraging to watch the present freak-out about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The cardinal, institutional fact is that data-scraping on behalf of behavioral managers underlies almost the entirety of our mass media, which we have not only allowed our corporate masters to monopolize, but to so thoroughly extend into our our lives that sponsored attention-and-information grabs now dominate almost all our waking hours. The notion that this process and its hateful results can be confined to Trump is every bit as addlepated and unhinged as Trump himself.

The society’s inability to name and track its own essential problems is one of the major consequences of the market totalitarianism that results from the normal operation of “our” big business economy. Trump’s use of Facebook and harvested data is but a pebble on the tip of this iceberg.

Russian Propaganda!

princess and the pea drawing So, the society’s liberals are feigning outrage that the Russians apparently spent a few million dollars generating a handful of pathetic, tone-deaf gestures “designed” to influence or disrupt “our democracy” (you know, the process we have whereby the loser of the popular election gets to take the office). The supposed outrage is about as deep and convincing as is the Democratic Party’s various other poses in areas of social justice, which is to say not in the least.

It is an open and obvious question: What possible impact could such a picayune thing have had, given the scale of the larger marketing operations that pass for presidential campaigns, to say nothing of the wider $2+ trillion sea of big business marketing that so thoroughly suffuses and dominates the society?

And, while we’re on this topic, take a look at this report on the troll factory from the WaPo. The WaPo wants you to think Orwell, but doesn’t it sound rather more similar to an ordinary workday in an advertising agency?

Once again, paging Dr. 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?