Pierre Tristam is my favorite newspaper journalist. He has a great piece on his blog. It explains how expensive life has become in our ultra-commodified, automobiles-ueber-alles, corporate capitalist society. [Note: Tristam’s numbers do not include the costs of paying credit card bills and other modes of servicing past cost-of-living deficits.]
Big business marketing was a trillion-dollar-a-year juggernaut by the early 1990s. It is almost certainly now a TWO-trillion-dollar-a-year juggernaut.
Big business marketing provides almost all the money for commercial television, which remains far and away the #1 shaper of people’s “free time,” mental databanks, and worldviews in the United States.
Contrary to academic jibber-jab about the complexity of “reading” advertisements, ,as a communications-maker, big business marketing operates almost exclusively via these 4 classic coercive behavior alteration tactics:
1. Lies (of both commission and omission)
4. Brain-Conditioning (think Pavlov and his use of repetition and titillation to reform mental agendas)
Marketing is now so dominant, these tactics have come to govern not just the ads and promotions, but the actual TV shows, as well. These days, very few prime-time TV shows are NOT 100% intentional button-pushers, with underlying dramatic designs taken wholly from corporate marketers’ radically shriveled and demeaning approach to audiences.
If I were asked to choose the word that best describes the quality of daily life in corporate capitalist America, that word would be “thoughtless.” Ordinary people here aren’t often really consciously hostile to one another — just as they aren’t often conscious of real political and historical facts. Instead, they are simply heedless of anybody and anything that doesn’t reside or resonate within their bubbleworlds of home, car, workplace, and cell phone PIM.
The lion’s share of the blame for this rests not with ordinary people, but with corporate capitalism. This socio-economic order performs its function of further enriching the already rich by the constant growth of marketing and commodification. As this process unfolds, corporate media and messages, all of which are anchored in profit-making, increasingly crowd out non-commercial activities. As a result, the stuff of salesmanship — flattery, encouragement of navel-gazing and the acquisitive attitude, fear of a “mean world” beyond the supposed safety of packaged entertainments — increasingly erodes the social-psychological basis for thoughtfulness.
Sometimes, this crowding out is literally physical. Take the ongoing decline of automotive turn-signaling. This safety device (within our insanely unsafe corporate capitalist/autos-first transportation regime) is losing ground not just to continuing marketing-induced cognitive and ethical impairment, but to the cellular telephone itself, which, despite its peddlers’ denials, is now part and parcel of driving for growing numbers of ordinary Americans. The task of holding a steering wheel and a cellular phone simply leaves no hand free to flick the turn blinker.
Raymond Williams called this whole crucial process of decline “mobile privatization,” and knew it stemmed from the normal operation of modern capitalism. Alas, thoughtlessness is not just a core symptom of mobile privatization, but it serves as a very effective vaccine against criticism of it and resistance to it. It takes thoughtfulness to care about thoughtlessness!
Funny, isn’t it? In this supposedly “religious” society, institutional normalcy is killing the very basis of all but the pettiest, most selfish, least ethically relevant kinds of caring.
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.
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.
In the last years before his historically catastrophic assassination, Martin Luther King used to lament to his closest comrades that he was “afraid we’re integrating ourselves into a burning house.” How apt that fear turned out to be is still under-appreciated. Among the burning rooms that has yet to be discussed is this one: corporate marketing.