New CT Feature: Visual Evidence of Corporate Capitalism’s Extreme Decrepitude

One good thing the internet can do is show pictures, which really are often worth 1,000 words.

Hence, I’m hereby launching another new occasional Consumer Trap feature — the Visual Evidence of Extreme Decrepitude, or VEEDs.

Our overclass of major corporate shareholders entered into its terminal decrepitude in the 1970s, when its military and ecological/energy requirements first decisively revealed their true nature and non-sustainability, and when their system for endlessly further enriching themselves also revealed its inability to tolerate any meaningful reforms.

Ever since the “Reagan Revolution” officially enshrined their “new” policy of responding to all challenges by redoubling the same old efforts and keeping the ostrich’s head firmly down in the sand — i.e., the policy we’ve lived under ever since, regardless of the (R) or (D) asterisk attached to the various admittedly and committedly bipartisan “leaders” that have followed — their system has been busily squandering its own seed-corn. This, of course, happens to be the seed-corn of the whole human race, as well. Under present arrangements, it still just happens to belong to the commanding “entrepreneurs” among us.

So, without further ado, permit me to unveil the first in a running series of visuals showing why radical socio-economic reform and wealth redistribution are in very pressing order:

What is this? A new kind of movie theater?

No. It is a picture of the personal “media room” of one Jeremy Kipnis, son of a famous “classical” (i.e., old European) music conductor. Its cost to build? $6,000,000 US.

The “enterprising” Mr. Kipnis, you see, is hoping to use his inherited wealth to go around and provide other obscenely over-privileged persons with the pleasures of this “Kipnis Studio Standard.” As one slavering “audiophile” blogger reports:

Kipnis sees the KSS as a laboratory, an ongoing experiment to advance the state of the art. And it’s not just for himself; he’s dead serious about selling the KSS to movie-industry professionals and wealthy home theater aficionados. He sees his huge screen as an intrinsic part of the experience. “It’s an unprecedented level of immersion that I’m looking for.”

In the year 2008, this is the stuff of elite living. Watching the self-same cartoon-movies as the masses, but in media rooms of such unimaginable ornateness and gilded over-construction that they make a Versailles parlor look like a cabin in the woods.

Peak oil, mass poverty, ecological and military crisis, domestic and international bubbles-first economic mal-development?

“What’s that, friend? I can’t hear you. I’m watching the new Pixar cartoon in my KSS room!”

A Remarkable Quotation

Other than its deep connections to the stunning triumph of television and its inherently infantilizing content over the American mindscape, the plague of fundamentalist Christianity isn’t really directly connected to big business marketing.

Nevertheless, I have to do my part to preserve this one:

In reporting on the surge of the Presidential campaign of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (are we stuck in a Sinclair Lewis novel or what?), The New York Times interviewed Huckabee supporter Christine Hurley, an Iowa mother of ten (yes, ten!) home-“schooled” children. Hurley provided this succinct statement of the “pillars” of her “faith” and life:

We are about the pillar issues of our faith — family, marriage and abortion. Home schooling is just part of it. (www.nytimes.com, December 17, 2007)

Such are the depths of the implanted unreason to which the tele-vange-Christian third of our population has sunk, under the downward centrifugal forces generated by our super-decrepit ruling class’s Orwellian-Huxleyan style of governance. Somebody to whom a book about an itinerant single man who never formed a nuclear family and whose cardinal task was encouraging resistance of the Roman Empire and its money-grubbing local allies is supposed to be the one and only lodestar in life literally can’t think about anything outside the walls of her own over-crowded abode.

This ongoing shriveling of both ordinary people’s humanity and the good parts of American culture is simply heartbreaking. This Xmas, it’s way beyond time for some tables to get tipped over in the temples of power and convention.

Beyond Poseur Politics: An Open Letter to Adbusters

logo Adbusters is impressive in many ways. It has made some waves, and its founder and CEO Kalle Lasn has some smart things to say, such as calling advertising “brain damage” and “one of the most powerful cultural forces in the world.”

Many of Adbusters’ “spoof ads” have also been indisputably brilliant.

And, as reported in this week’s Advertising Age magazine, Adbusters has also pulled some clever pranks that underscore the purpose and workings of the commercial media. Whenever Adbusters tries to buy airtime on corporate TV for its “anti-consumption” ads, for example, it draws and then publicizes telling (if entirely predictable) replies such as this:

“Suck it up, it’s the real world,” an ABC executive is recorded angrily and loudly rejecting the pig spot a few years ago. “There’s no law that says we have to sell you time.” (Advertising Age, November 27, 2007)

100,000Finally, subscriptions to Adbusters have also now surpassed 100,000, a very substantial feat for a non-capitalist publishing effort.

Analysis

Does all this mean that Adbusters is making progress toward its stated goal, which is “to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century”?

Alas, it definitely does not, and here are the major reasons why not:

Read more

The “Consumer” Insult & Its Costs

The word “consumer” is a rank capitalist bias. First used in the realm of early bourgeois economics, it debuted as a proffered substitute for the neutral term “product user” in a telling place — the 1898 Sears & Roebuck catalog (see Oxford English Dictionary).

Since 1898, “consumer” has spread like wildfire through our mental world. The effects have been insidiously devastating to rationality.

A typical illustration appears today on the independent socialist website MR Zine, in the form of a poem:

The New Monastics
by Dennis Brutus

Tall black-shadowed cypresses
slender beside arcaded cloisters:
thus were monastic enterprises:
now with our new doctrines
secular-consumerist we bend
with similar devoutness in service
to our modern pantheon —
Bretton Woods, its cohort deities
— World Bank, IMF, WTO —
diligently we recite
We have loved, o lord, the beauty of your house
and the place where your glory dwells”
“Amen” we chorus in unison
as ordered by our Heads of State
obediently we traipse to our slaughterhouse
directed by our Judas-goats
Mbeki’s herds tricked out in shabby rags
discarded by imperialist gauleiters
who devised our Neepad subjugation

ActionAid Economic Justice course,
Kenyan School of Monetary Studies
Nairobi, November 26, 2007


This poem by Dennis Brutus was posted to Debate, a discussion list of the independent left in Southern Africa, today.

I replied at MR Zine as follows:

Here you see the logical effect of the word “consumer.” It turns the problem into “we,” to the complete delight of the overclass, who disappear in its generalizing, mis-directing wake. Every time somebody chalks corporate capitalism up to “consumerism” or “consumer culture” or “consumer society,” a Robber Baron laughs his/her ass off… “Consumer” is an insult, a capitalist bias run rampant and roughshod over our discourses. It blinds us. The correct term, if and when you need to denote the targets of corporate marketing as such, is “product user.”

If humanity survives the twenty-first century, the triumph of the word “consumer” in the twentieth century will be seen for what it was and is — a consequence and key indicator of market totalitarianism.

The Last Black Friday?

retail run

People camping out to save $100 on made-in-China plasma TVs, the better to watch “Survivor XVII: Mesopotamia.” In one of the finer unwittingly double-edged metaphors established by our corporate capitalist press, this “traditional” display of loss-leader marketing from above and petty neurosis below has come to be called “Black Friday.”

One wonders though: Will such provoked insanity still be possible by The Holidays® 2008? Considering the state of the nation, with its winners-took-all pseudo-economy, its howlingly venal “bi-partisan” “leadership” stratum, and its subsequent denial of the whole damned Peak Oil world, Black Friday 2007 makes me wonder how 1929 must have looked from the vistas of Xmas© 1928.

Meanwhile, ordinary Americans may want to save their sleeping bags for some rather different, if somehow familiar, reasons to hit the pavement. The times, they are a-changing…

bank runfood run

fuel run

Pierre Tristam on the Economics of U.S. Survival

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.]