Not Sexism

rat pressing lever Big business marketers like to pretend they have social consciences, despite the world-historic immorality of their trade. One way they strike the pose is to prattle on about racial and gender diversity within their professional ranks.

Along the way, they often throw in suggestions that such concerns somehow validate what they do to those of us on the receiving end of their labors.

Consider this plaint from Scott Karambis, “VP of marketing and brand strategy at SapientNitro, a creative, brand and technology agency,” who adds this aside as he reports on his professional diversity travails in today’s edition of Ad Age:

“Women control roughly 85% of consumer purchases, yet 91% of women say advertisers don’t understand them.”

Mr. Karambis thinks this has to do with marketers’ sexism toward their target audiences. While sexism and racism in advertising are utterly foundational and remain core selling strategies, in this case, that 91% reaction is about something the Karambises of the world simply can’t admit to themselves.

Think about it: What percentage of men say advertisers don’t understand them? Despite mens’ comparative intellectual and attitudinal deficits, it’s undoubtedly very high, too.

And that is because advertising is manipulation, not a form of empathy or a genuine service. By definition, effective marketing is always a form of non-understanding, for the simple reason that corporate marketing exists to push people to do things that are not in their genuine interest.

Everybody but the diligent, self-admiring wheel-turners knows this.

Most Racist Ad I’ve Ever Seen

I am somebody who argues, based on first-hand evidence described here and here, that racist stereotypes continue to play a very important part in the planning and execution of corporate television ads and other forms of sales communications.

And I am not one of those who thinks fascism is remotely likely in the United States. Fascism as an actual social and political movement requires lots of outdoors activity and apoplectic political behavior. As such, it is simply not compatible with market totalitarianism, one core requirement of which is that the vast majority be kept in the softened, amused, apolitical, lightly entranced and addicted audience-state that is most conducive to successful commercial media/advertising/sales/”politics” operations. I also believe that, despite the existence of a quarter or so of the population who do seem to hold proto-fascist views, ordinary Americans are way to the left of not just Nazism but their own “leaders,” and will not stand by and permit fascists to take over, even if the overclass were to permit it.

Nevertheless, this, which I happened to catch last night while cooking dinner and momentarily tuned (to avoid the political ads on my usual channel at dinner hour) to a bad-ass crime show that was running a soft-pedaling “expose” of a Nazi prison gang, just might be the single most racist thing I’ve seen on American television in my lifetime:

Crass and childish and uninformed and just damned dangerous. Truly, a fascist, Hitlerian ad.

Last Hired, First Depressed

grind On what passes for the political left, analysis of corporate capitalism’s radical commercialization of off-the-job life has been atrocious.  Among the disservices performed by allegedly radical thinkers has been their thoughtless habit of adopting the business elite’s “consumer” vocabulary as a legitimate conceptual framework.  From the unjustly famous to the realm of everyday flippancy, examples of this disastrous, careless parrot-job abound.

If you wonder how much violence gets done to reality by not only swallowing the notion that “consumer” is a fair-minded label for product-users, but by the accompanying habit of treating the steeply stratified and deeply divided world of actual off-the-job humans as a pool of undifferentiated “consumers,” take a look at this recent report by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad.

Etrade: Selling Stocks With Racism

racismWhile stuck watching the profoundly moronic and outdated Belmont Stakes in my apartment’s exercise room last weekend, I encountered E-Trade’s notorious “black baby” commercials.  I almost fell off my treadmill.

Watch this appalling shit here and here.

As the white baby controls all aspects of the situation and voices all the reasoned thoughts, the black baby sings, trips out, echoes white logic, and makes a sexual come-on.  Can you imagine these ads getting made and aired if the skin colors were reversed?  No chance in hell.

I guarantee you that all of this was carefully planned by E-Trade’s marketing team.  As I documented in my book, The Consumer Trap, big business marketers are extremely sensitive to racial stereotypes, and are driven by the logic of their enterprise to exploit and perpetuate, not challenge, them.

The other important aspect of this blatant neo-racism is that it is targeted at elite audiences, who absolutely eat it up, not least because they think it’s a great thing for they themselves to be willing even to look at and possibly, maybe interact with a black person (both acts they have only recently begun to contemplate).

The truth, of course, is that contrary to long-running claims that Joe Sixpack is the source of all benightedness, our lovely overclass has always held by far the worst and least accurate view of human beings and human affairs.

Why (Most) Movies Suck

The market totalitarians who call themselves “conservatives” are messing their drawers over the very idea of adding $50 million to the laughably puny $145-million annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Conservatives,” you see, say they think the NEA is a boondoggle.

Contrast this sense of where boondoggles come from with the excellent recent reportage of New Yorker critic Tad Friend on the workings of the corporate capitalist movie studios — where $50 million, by the way, is less than half of what gets spent there on a single movie, a.k.a. “property,” according to Friend.

As Friend reports:

“Studios now are pimples on the ass of giant conglomerates,” one studio’s president of production says. “So at green-light meetings it’s a bunch of marketing and sales guys giving you educated guesses about what a property might gross.

This, of course, means that:

Marketing considerations shape not only the kind of films studios make but who’s in them—gone are lavish adult dramas with no stars, like the 1982 “Gandhi.”

Even within this situation, which is well-known to industry insiders, if not the general public, there is no doubt what corporate capitalist movies are:

Marketers and filmmakers are often quietly at war. “The most common comment you hear from filmmakers after we’ve done our work is ‘This is not my movie,’ ” Terry Press, a consultant who used to run marketing at Dreamworks SKG, says. “I’d always say, ‘You’re right—this is the movie America wants to see.’ ”

Friend finds the resulting imperatives “unexpected,” but nonetheless does a great job listing them.

Read moreWhy (Most) Movies Suck

Sexism in Corporate Marketing

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.