Newsflash: Of Horses and Carts, and the Ordering Thereof in Our Post-Peak Oil Epoch

As James Howard Kunstler reports — and The New York Times and other major news marketers do not — General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner yesterday gingerly admitted that:

The demand for energy around the world is growing faster than supply.

Peak Oil, in other words, is now beginning to be publicly — albeit only in semi-insider fora such as the Detroit Motor Show — acknowledged as an existing reality by the highest planners in the auto-industrial complex.

Undoubtedly, this is part of a larger plan to begin incorporating the belated admission into corporate marketing and PR campaigns.

Given the genuinely radical and dangerous implications of Peak Oil for said industrial complex and the overall corporate capitalist system, you can bet your bottom dollar that extremely great care and generous funding are going to be devoted to this emerging spin game. Mishandling it (or waiting much longer to launch it) could lead to — horror of all horrors! — public comprehension of the elementary facts and the attending suicidal stupidity of trying to perpetuate the inherently wasteful and dangerous practice of using private cars as the main mode of daily personal transport. The bosses simply must get their story down and out before Joe and Jane Sixpack start to realize that the price of gas is not rising because of OPEC or even Exxon-Mobil, but because of the long-denied limits of Mother Earth.

Henceforth, all corporate (and, hence, also all corporate-political/Republican-Democratic/”bipartisan”) efforts will be devoted to stymieing, short-circuiting, and continually massaging such public awareness.

This is why I find the following additional recent comment by another high GM officer (I told you this is a planned managerial transition here) to be even more newsworthy than Mr. Wagoner’s (perfect name, no?) commencement of overclass admission of Peak Oil:

Senior GM executive and engineer Denny Mooney said: “We need a range of alternatives and ethanol is a step that will get us to the electric car.

Once we get to the electric car, we can then make truly big gains with the environment by improving how the electricity is generated,’ Mr Mooney, who returned to Detroit last year, said.

Now, this tells you precisely what you need to know:Once we get to the electric car” — then and only then — we can turn to talking about our basic energy situation.

In other words, the very urgently needed democratic discussion of the Earth’s finite energy supply will be permitted only after the reign of the automobile is reconfigured so as to make it a non-debatable, already-on-the-ground premise for such discussion. Spending on cars a gigantic share of whatever (certainly smaller and probably progressively declining) energy supplies we can muster from here on out, you see, will simply be dictated to us by our glorious “free market” “entrepreneurs.” Rest assured: Open choices on this ordering of priorities as between profits and the possibility of continuing to build decent, sustainable human societies can be neither permitted nor even hinted at. And, if the overclass gets its way, they will not.

None of this, of course, means that investors’ dictated arrangement will be practicable or sustainable. On the contrary, hindsight now suggests very strongly that the construction of automobiles-über-alles in America has always been a the prelude to a disaster.  From the vantage point of thermodyamics (a.k.a. the laws of physics), the hope for its permanent existence now reveals itself, despite the huge importance of this delusion to the powers-that-be, to have been a blatant pipe-dream.  As such, the longer we permit its thoroughly addicted primary beneficiaries to continue to impose it upon us, the smaller will grow our chances of snatching victory from the jaws of onrushing socio-ecological catastrophe.

And this insane insistence on cars-first is not just a conspiracy. It is built into corporate capitalism itself. The horseless carriage is the only horse our investing class can permit us to choose, barring their massively unlikely voluntary renunciation of the powers and privileges to which they are accustomed. In order to sustain the economic arrangements from which they draw their cash flows, the immense, but exquisitely profitable waste comes with the reign of cars is quite literally necessary. No other mode of transport could hope to replace its money-making magic, and the removal of the reign would cause intractable national and global Great Depressions. Hence, to the Richistanis who run the nation and the world, genuine economy, decency, and human survival can never be more that the cart behind their horseless carriage. That horseless contraption, itself a cart behind the rule of Money, is beyond stubborn.  Whether we ever start publicly seeing this or not, it is galloping us all straight over the abyss.

Schudson Shouldn’t (Have His Job)

First, he writes a book arguing that corporate advertising (and, by extension, marketing — though he displays no deep knowledge of the latter) have no effect on public behavior and are, corporate shareholders notwithstanding, merely exercises in managerial vanity.

Now, he writes a book review that:

1. blames the general public not just for the Iraq War, but for the profoundly sick Orwellian corporate capitalist pseudo-journalism that stoked it. He “favors” this explanation for all that:

“the strong inclination of citizens to mold perception of facts (did we find WMDs in Iraq? did Osama bin Laden conspire with Saddam on the 9/11 attacks?) to their political preference”;

and

2. blames the extremely sorry and still-worsening state of official (Democratic Party) liberalism on political polarity, rather than political cravenness. The lack of an alternative on any major issue is due, he says, to:

“the polarization of party politics so that a conservative evangelical base is all but unwavering in support of a conservative born-again President while independents and moderates are confused and divided.”

This guy, a tenured full professor, is living proof of how the system is set up to implant the most amazing kinds of counter-factual Jabberwocky in the key spots where realism is most dangerous to power. Ugh.

BBM Asshole: Chuck Brymer

chuckie on the loose Introducing BBM Asshole #2: Chuck Brymer, President and CEO of multinational advertising agency DDB Worldwide.

Chuckie won his new mega-overpaid job atop DDB by promoting “swarm theory,” a new concept by which big business marketers are trying to get “consumers” to glom onto their products like “flocks of birds and schools of fish.” (To marketing planners, “consumers” are always some kind of animal — frogs, mice, dogs, monkeys, fish, birds.)

Planning ways to add new layers of behavioral control to the already stunningly expensive and ubiquitous BBM juggernaut is, of course, a logical part of corporate capitalism. As I explain in The Consumer Trap, big business normalcy generates a constantly growing marketing race between its constituent firms/unaccountable private tyrannies.

Brymer’s “swarm” marketing strategy, for which he is now being promoted and rewarded, is to go beyond merely configuring “consumer” environments to profitably reshape “consumer behavior.” Now, Brymer is teaching the overclass how to use things like Facebook, Myspace, and the booming field of “word-of-mouth marketing” to make people themselves into marketing vectors. In other words, the concept is to get the lab mice to apply the chosen stimuli amongst themselves, rather than merely relying on the indirect method of controlling mazes and levers and chemical implants.

Brymer explains this neo-Orwellian move to Advertising Age:

“I increasingly see people as media.”

BBM Asshole.

BBM Asshole: Roger Black

Tonight, I launch a new CT feature: the BBM [Big Business Marketing] Asshole List. When I come across words or actions from a corporate marketing practitioner that tips the hand of the system with particular clarity and power, the asshole in question will appear here to collect their glory. (Nominees from readers very welcome!)

The very first BBM Asshole enshrinement goes to ad designer Roger Black. the blackmeister

The esteemed Mr. Black enunciates the mind of corporate capital regarding something the public utterly hates and would sharply reverse, if it had any access to the decisions driving it: the increasing advertising clutter that emanates from big business normalcy.

“It’s like noise on the streets of Manhattan,” Black tells Advertising Age about the problem of “consumers” becoming desensitized by ever-exploding ad clutter.

“You [here, Black means citizens, not corporate shills such as himself] just get used to it, in which case you [and here he means corporate shills such as himself] just have to make it noisier.”

BBM Asshole.