Production for Use & The “Consumer” Vocabulary

Just received some news from a colleague at Washington State University about his research on the history of corporate capitalism’s reductionist “consumer” vocabulary.

Timberline Lodge, WPA-built As part of the exchange, I put this down about the NERA’s almost-forgotten “production-for-use” program:

During the mid-New Deal years, there was a very short launch of “production for use” programs, in which the government hired unemployed workers to manufacture basic goods, such as women’s dresses. This was by far the most heavily business-attacked of all New Deal programs, and was quickly shut down by the FDR authorities. There’s a short book on it by Nancy E. Rose, called Put to Work. There might be some interesting history of the “consumption” terminology in that lost facet of reality. Even if not, the fact that they called it “production for use” tells you about the connections between economic power and basic economic categories. When industry is public, you get “users.” When it’s private, the users get shrunken down to “consumers.”

[Photo: Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon, built not-for-profit in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration]

The Selling of the Candibots: Bad as You Thought

“We’re surprised it’s been so early,” said Greg D’Alba, chief operating officer for advertising sales at CNN. “And this will probably open the door.”

The early-arriving “it” to which Mr. D’Alba refers, of course, is multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns from the candibots seeking the U.S. Presidency. The pace of such spending has already topped $2 million a week from both the Klinton and Obama spin-a-thons.

What this means is that this whole charade we continue to swallow as a legitimate electoral process is indeed getting even more rotten — at a pace that surprises even seasoned commercial television insiders. Meanwhile, the list of un-addressed dire domestic and international problems also rapidly lengthens. The “political” marketing money gets ever bigger and pours into the idiot box ever earlier. As it does, the “debate” gets ever less substantial and genuine. Lather, rinse, repeat — until the country and/or the Earth implodes and/or explodes.

And, once again, recall that advertising is but the tip the marketing iceberg. Even as they use the inherently anti-rational and anti-democratic medium of television to push your buttons with quasi-promises of eensy-weensy tax shifts and new laws to force the poor and the insecure to buy third-rate private health “insurance,” the “major” candibots are also certainly spending ever-increasing sums on focus groups and other types of marketing research. As in the larger enterprise of big business marketing, their purpose is not to discover people’s deepest needs, but merely to find and exploit weaknesses. The candibots’ end goal is to fill their gaping ego-voids by winning the struggle to use political marketing to sell us a new brand of babysitting the status quo.

This is one area where the best choice right now is to surrender yourself to that other, more genuine kind of “E.D.” — Electile Dysfunction. Prescription: If you find yourself taking these vote-stealing hucksters seriously for more than a quarter-hour, seek immediate help.

High-Tech Snake Oil?

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll have noticed the breaking scandal over anti-cholesterol medicines. One, Vytorin, turns out to be at least half fake. The other, Lipitor, has VERY deceptively employed “Dr.” Robert Jarvik, the Harvard Med School student who never completed his training, and is not a physician and cannot prescribe medicines, but invented the artificial heart.

Turns out “Dr.” Jarvik — who looks every inch like a marathon-running vegan — probably didn’t start taking the Lipitor he says in his ads that he’s been personally using thankfully “as a doctor, and a dad” until after he started shilling for the Pfizer corporation, Lipitor’s peddler.

This, of course, raises the obvious follow-up question about whether Jarvik has actually ingested the pills or merely flushed them down his heated, gold-plated crapper.

But whatever the details of these two huge, well-researched medi-frauds may prove be, the most important points are certain to go unmentioned. Among these are:

1) The human meaning of the fact that there was $4.8 billion spent on U.S. drug advertising last year. That sum is greater than the GDPs of each of the Earth’s 45 poorest countries. And $4.8 billion is only the ADVERTISING number, meaning it’s only the tip of the iceberg. As is known by those who take the trouble to comprehend what corporate marketing is and how it works, advertising is merely the endpoint of the marketing process. Before it comes targeting, marketing research, and “product management.” Those processes are much more expensive than even advertising, which, per minute, is by far the most lavishly-funded form of video and pictorial drama, Hollywood blockbusters included.

2) The amount of fraud and waste in the capitalist medical-industrial complex. This cholesterol fracas suggests the share of naked snake-oiling going on is far bigger than even most single-payer advocates have suggested. How affordable could we make single-payer if we also ended these criminal schemes?

3) The profound irrationality of the corporate capitalist health destruction/care process. The amounts big business investors spend on drug marketing are beyond dwarfed by the megabucks they allocate to selling fast food, junk food, television-watching, and automobile-owning/driving. It’s the perfect racket: With one hand, you create the epidemic dangers; with the other, you profitably throw (often fake) pills at the symptoms. It is what Joseph Schumpeter famously called “creative destruction” — but the entity involved in the process is none other than the supposedly (and actually) sacred human life/body. Can you say “blasphemy”?

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.

Big Brother’s Shopping Cart

For those interested in the institutional workings of market totalitarianism, I very strongly recommend watching this 6 minute, 27 second video on the coming of the Media Cart.

This warm, comfortable little market-totalitarian insider’s video really speaks for itself, if you happen to understand the nature and logic of big business marketing. The only aspect you might miss without my comment is the fleeting but important mention of this extra “added value” to the capitalist: still-further reduction of in-store “labor costs” — i.e., jobs in the already scandalously understaffed retail sector.

This Media Cart monstrosity, you see, is not not just another new emplacement of an Orwellian telescreen for spying on those tellingly called “consumers,” but also a new way to further automate the work of the store clerk. Now, capitalists can run their mega-marts with 6 instead of 10 near-minimum-wagers.

Tata Indeed!

Probably because it suggests the automobile has a future, the capitalist press is abuzz with news of the launch of Tata Motors’ forthcoming $2,500 automobile.

If it catches on at all, it will be a sheer disaster for India, as well as humanity. Rather like building a bank of lovely new synagogues in Munchen 1928.

It’s also interesting to note what nobody mentions in such drooling and outdated paeans to capitalism: the per-capita income and poverty statistics of India. Selling a $2,500 car in India is the rough equivalent of selling a $35,000 one here. And the polarity between classes is even worse in India than it is in the good ole, massively unequal USofA. Maybe this horrible fact will actually save India from this dire threat to its future welfare.

Meanwhile, the whole thing has also produced a fine example of the Orwellian logic of our decrepit economic system: The Nano, an American insurance “automotive safety” (oxymoron alert!) expert opines, will be a very good thing for ordinary Indians. Why? Because it will protect them from — wait for it — CARS!

In most American cars, safety features alone cost more than $2,500, said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va. But, he added, “if what we’re talking about in India is people having the option of getting off the streets, from motorcycles and bicycles where they are at risk from bigger vehicles, this may actually be an improvement of the safety environment.” (New York Times, January 8, 2008)

This need for defense against a horribly dangerous product will be quite familiar to residents of the SUV-choked United States. No mafia don ever had a better “protection” racket going…