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?

Where’s the Working Class, Bernie?

sweet_talkBernie Sanders’ disruption of Killary’s marketing effort is a pleasing thing. But, damn, the guy has such huge flaws. Not least of these is his failure to talk straight about the realities of social class.

Here’s what he says today to a NYT reporter:

“Ordinary people are profoundly disgusted with the state of the economy and the fact that the middle class is being destroyed.”

What is “being destroyed” for somebody in the middle class? Being sent back to the working class, right? And as that happens, what has been happening to that always-latter class?

One might expect a socialist who cannot (and should not want to) win the U.S. Presidency, who is there to change the terms of discussion and embolden the neglected masses, to point out that, as the credential holders slide, the working class is as much the majority as ever, and has been getting absolutely — and intentionally — raped since Day One of the ongoing Reagan Restoration.

Against “Neoliberalism”

orrery Where and when did what passes for the left swallow “neoliberalism” as the preferred word for “capitalism”?

This linguistic transition is a major case of C. Wright Mills’ liberal practicality, a.k.a. dunder-headed chickening-out by would-be lefties.

It is also a major vector of conceptual error and misdirection.

Not the least of such errors is the presumption that the word “neoliberalism” is “very common, recognizable.”

Balderdash. The word is certainly rampant in the sphere of what remains of the left, but we all know, or at least ought to know, how isolated and ignored we are. In the wider world, to use the term “neoliberalism” is to speak a foreign tongue, as well as to suggest that one’s ideas and claims are so confusing as to need their own special introductions.

Everybody drawing breath knows what capitalism is. “Neoliberalism,” meanwhile, always requires at least a long, convoluted paragraph of explanation as a preface to its further usage.

So, one has to ask: Are we trying to stay moribund?

And while we’re at it, pray tell: When was it that capitalists ever favored or pursued anything but the package of things that supposedly define “neoliberalism”? There remains the powerful, long-running liberal myth of the post-WWII Golden Age of caipitalist acceptance of equality and welfare state programs. That, however, is simply false history. At the level of overclass motives and policy prescriptions, there was then and is now nothing “neo” going in the boardrooms and the private jets.

The Reagan Restoration was — and remains — a real thing (even though it started under Carter), but redoubling is not invention, and laissez faire/free trade (the liberalism of the concept, as distinct from the newer, wider modern meaning as a tag for those who think capitalism isn’t perfect and needs some public correction) has never been the only, or even the main, practical essence of capitalism. The state, despite the ideology and the fake history, has always been right in there, and massively so.

This whole “neoliberalism” thing is, to lift a phrase from E.P. Thompson, an orrery of errors. The sooner we drop it in favor of simplicity, clarity, and directness, the better. Kind of like “consumer.”

Liberal Practicality as Science

pimp Just encountered a new example of our old friend, liberal practicality. This time, it’s not craven Democratic Partiers, but high-minded scientists:

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.

How, then, does UCS justify its pimping of overclass attempts to extend the Age of the Automobile, to say nothing of its perhaps even more craven and anti-scientific shilling for “biofuels”?

Well, the answer comes right there in the same “About Us” blurb that begins with the above claims to rigor, objectivity, and seriousness:

Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

“Effective” and “practical,” of course, both mean the same thing: politically safe within existing arrangements. Or, even more plainly, hopelessly insufficient.

The results? Take a look at this chart, which shows UCS’ view of the advantages of so-called “electric vehicles” in the three power-generation regions of the United States. Not only might you find it pretty newsworthy to see that UCS’ label for the dirtiest energy-production regions of the country are the “Good” area, but check out the baseline for this bogus EV pitch — a regular car that gets 27 MPG!

What would happen to the UCS numbers if one were to use the MPG rating of the best existing gas cars?

That number is 37, which is 37 percent higher than 27. It doesn’t take much scientific rigor to figure out that a rather base trick is afoot here.

The only possible scientific attitude to automobiles is that they were and are a capitalist pipedream and also a dire threat to the future of human civilization. The only possible genuinely practical policy recommendation is for radical reconstruction of towns and cities to facilitate non-automotive locomotion. To the extent continued car-use must be a transitional part of that larger plan, the only conceivably rational and honest recommendation is to advise people to always buy the best available regular-gas car, and to push for imposition of radically higher MPG rules and heavy taxes on gas guzzlers, which should be defined as all automobiles not within a few MPG of the best available models.

Shame on you, UCS!