“Consumption” Politics is Annoying and Wrong

quixote TCT exists to publicize the true methods and consequences of big business marketing, which is corporate capitalism’s use of scientific management to control off-the-job behavior. Despite the importance of knowing how the overclass dictates the conditions and evolution of personal life, it does not follow that the proper answer to such dictatorship is an effort to politicize product-use in itself. In fact, such efforts always quickly reduce themselves to naive and paternalistic harangues for individuals to somehow use their “consumer” choices to alter the socio-economic system. “Shop your way to a decent society!” “Join/start a co-op!”

I mention all this because the profoundly annoying figure Annie Leonard is redoubling her deeply silly efforts.

TCT could expound on the fit between Ms. Leonard’s flimsy analyses and the cartoon format of their presentation, but will for now confine itself to remarking on this core Leonardian thesis:

You see, when it comes to our economy, most Americans also believe that more is always better.

Rubbish. Pure and complete rubbish. When has anybody anywhere ever asked a representative sample of Americans “Do you believe that more is always better?” The plain and simple answer is that nobody ever has. And, if they ever did, the question would undoubtedly draw a massive “No” answer, because very few people, even in this hugely indoctrinated nation-state, are banal enough to think quality doesn’t matter. Quite the contrary: Everybody but capitalists knows this very, very well.

And yet here we have Annie Leonard school-marming us on this totally fake (and insulting) point. To what end? Liberal university students eager to acquire an easy way of being “political,” perhaps? Certainly not Joe or Jane Sixpack, who would be rightly insulted by such pointless pandering, if they were ever to see it.

Our real problem is that popular desires for better, saner ways of living are simply ignored in our market totalitarian society. And, as Barry Commoner argued, “the only rational answer [to so-called “consumer” issues] is to change the way in which we do transportation, energy production, agriculture and a good deal of manufacturing. The problem originates in human activity in the form of the production of goods.” Politics, in other words, is about demanding and gaining control over macro-choices, not special-pleading over micro ones.

Public Intelligence

wisdom-signOne theme here at TCT has always been defense of the public against the idea that it is too stupid not to be blamed for the crappy and dangerous nature of corporate capitalist society. While many lefties and apparently most greens accept the “consumer culture” thesis, in which we are supposedly all equally to blame, TCT has always sided with its hero Noam Chomsky, who goes out of his way to keep careful track of the many important ways in which, even in the massively indoctrinated United States, the public is way to the left of its supposed representatives.

The latest piece of such evidence is particularly gratifying, given our main theme here. As reported by Rupal Parekh at Advertising Age:

Think politicians are slimy? Well, according to a new study, what they do for a living is considered more desirable and valuable than what marketing and ad execs do.

The study, conducted earlier this month, was commissioned by Adobe and fielded by research firm Edelman Berland. It included 1,000 participants in the U.S., China and Japan; three quarters of them were consumers 18 years and older and the remaining quarter was made up of a mix of marketing professionals.

Overwhelmingly, the survey respondents agreed that marketing is essential to business — and they agreed that it works. When asked to consider the value of marketing, more than 90% of consumers and marketing professionals responded that it’s a field that’s “strategic to business” and 90% said that marketing is “paramount” to driving sales.

But when asked if marketing benefits society, only 13% of consumers agreed. And compared to other professions, the results were grim. Teachers — despite how little they are often compensated — were valued at the top of the list, followed by scientists and engineers. That’s somewhat to be expected. But what was more surprising was that advertising and marketing ranked below nearly every other profession, including bankers (32%), lawyers (34%) and even politicians (18%).

There was only one profession that ranked lower in the survey, and even that one is just a part of the marketing ecosystem: PR professionals. Only 11% said PR is a valuable job.

According to the study, the majority of consumers –53%– stated that most marketing is “a bunch of B.S.”

The survey even shows marketers themselves aren’t all true believers:

Meanwhile, the results weren’t much better among marketers; only 35% of people who were marketers themselves deemed it a valuable profession in responding to the survey.

Imagine if we had the ability to debate and act upon such views in the political realm…

In the mean time, ponder the rather important fact that the linchpin occupation in corporate capitalism, the one that most distinguishes and facilitates the system, is also the most hated one.

Score One for the Aussies

If you’ve recovered from the ecstasy or agony of your nation-state winning or not winning “medals” (what a grown-up culture we have!) for beach volleyball, mountain biking, rhythmic gymnastics, or 10-meter air rifle shooting, here is some other news of national achievement you might find refreshing. In Australia, the Supreme Court has upheld a new law that strips tobacco corporations of the right to sell their products in containers they fully control. Hence, instead of the being able to use their packages as the last step in their larger marketing effort, cigarette pushers now must put their product in boxes designed by the public:

Australian cigarette box image

The response by corporate forces is also quite funny. Lacking any straightforward point to make, they are sounding alarms about the new law’s encouragement of black market cigarette-selling.

It’ll be interesting to see if this change makes a dent in Australian nicotine addiction rates.

Cookie Smash!

shot cookie Viva the European Union’s Cookie Directive! This thoroughly fantastic law takes effect in Europe starting this Saturday. All U.S. activists should start demanding that it be copied here in the USA!

Meanwhile, the marketers are quite beside themselves over it, naturally. Over at Advertising Age, one Shaina Boone, VP of Marketing Science at Canadian ad agency chain Critical Mass, foresees doom ahead — and for the commoners! Boone’s view:

What’s at stake when all cookies in Europe must be opt-in? Poor brand experiences online, even-more-terrible customer experiences, hobbled e-commerce, and the ruin of digital advertising and marketing as we know it.

The law, as it stands, does not consider its impact on the industry. Forcing these requirements on marketers will lead to huge erosion in the quality of web experiences for consumers — the very constituents it hopes to protect.

When customers opt out of sharing their data, they take away our ability to improve products and services. This law will result in websites becoming, well, dumb again.

The chutzpah, delusion, and sheer demagogy of this diagnosis are obviously epic in scale. The basic claims being made — that what’s best for capitalists is best for media and product users, that wall-to-wall commercialism leads to better media experiences, that marketing is about improving products — are as flimsy as they are typical. TCT almost feels sorry for Ms. Boone. True believerdom is no way to go through life, Shaina.

Meanwhile, huzzah and good health to the new cookie-smash law! Occupy, are you watching?

A Very, Very Small Victory

quixote Today, a law that prevents toys from being included in children’s meals that exceed 600 calories and lack fruit or vegetables goes into effect in the City and County of San Francisco. Pushed by liberal lobbying groups like the oxymoronically-named Corporate Responsibility International, the idea behind such ordinances is that regulating happy meal giveaways is somehow a “step forward” in the effort to end childhood obesity and type II diabetes.

The entirely predictable response by fast food marketers? Per Advertising Age:

McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, will stop giving out Hello Kitty figurines or any other toys with its Happy Meals in San Francisco starting tomorrow because of a new city ordinance.

“A law was passed recently that means we cannot give away a free toy with our Happy Meals” at the 19 McDonald’s stores in San Francisco, [McDonald’s] spokeswoman Danya Proud said in an e-mailed statement today. Parents can buy a toy for 10 cents along with a Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal, she said.

Wow! The revolution is upon us now, isn’t it?

But, seriously, what a mess. In the name of the patently silly idea that free toys are a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, activists have succeeded in enacting what will amount to a ten cent tax on poor people. Meanwhile, those same poor people will absolutely continue to buy happy meals, for the same old reasons, which are far larger and deeper than the mere unawareness attributed to them by the gesturing activists lobbying for addlepated regulations.

Personally, I’d wager the dime charge might actually do the very opposite of what the toy-banners thought they were accomplishing. By raising the topic of whether or not to get a toy and by associating it with a price, mightn’t the new arrangement make the toy forbidden (but not really) fruit, and hence an even better vehicle for inculcating brand loyalty?

In the process, the contortions needed to pretend that the SF happy meal law is anything but a pointless pose forces otherwise excellent people to become liars:

[McDonald’s move to offer toys for a dime is] “Proof positive, and completely admitted by McDonalds, that no customer will buy a Happy Meal unless it comes with a toy,” Dr. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, told CBS News in an email.

Dr. Nestle, people aren’t stupid. If the toys were absent, a great many people would most certainly still buy happy meals. So, why insist the contrary? Are you trying to discredit the idea of creating a better society?

The prevalence of fast food is a symptom, not the disease.

Logo of the Week

So, this is Advertising Week in New York City.  It’s an orgy of self-congratulation, plus a rather obvious PR effort to remind the city of the importance of the brainwashing-for-profit industry.  One of their goals this year is also “serving as the primary catalyst to create New York City’s first public high school dedicated to advertising and media . . . the High School for Innovation, Advertising & Media in Canarsie, Brooklyn.”  What will they name this new academy?  Big Brother High?  Will their basketball team be the Fighting Focus Groupers?

In any event, you have to give Advertising Week’s organizers credit for one thing:  They have the most apt and honest logo you’re likely to see for a while:

adweek_logo