Victoria’s Demise

Despite the unrelenting flood of elite-sponsored nationalism, militarism, and commercialism, many areas of on-the-ground American culture have been improving rapidly. Sexism, despite setbacks like the Madonnian faux feminism that took hold in the 1980s and continues to work its evil ways, is one of the great social sins we the people have been chipping away at, despite our confounding institutional order.

TCT mentions this because there is important news on this happy front: Victoria’s Secret, the corporate lingerie pusher that has always sold its wares via dangerous sexist “aspirational” images, seems to be dying. In the climate that now seems to be solidifying, VS can apparently no longer run its hateful “fashion shows.”

According to Advertising Age:

It’s official now: There will not be a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year. At a time when many other lingerie brands (like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty) are celebrating real women’s bodies, some consumers found Victoria’s Secret’s display of thin models strutting in lingerie and stilettos to be backwards and off-putting.

TCT looks forward to the day when we no longer let people call us “consumers,” a label that only a capitalist should ever embrace. But, meanwhile, it remains important to count our wins, along with our struggles and losses.

The Engine of Idiocracy

tv idiocy

Here is an unsurprising headline:

Netflix is making a fourth ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ movie

Despite its superior emotional power – i.e., the main reason for its current ascendancy – video, as a medium, is quite narrow, as it lacks the capacity to bear much nuance and variation, compared with print and live interaction.

Add to this generic defect the fact that corporate capitalism imposes strict filters on media content, not the least of which is the crowding-out effect produced by its relentless multi-trillion-dollar flood of very pointed marketing-based sponsorship.

The overall result is a media ecology with an outflow every bit as shrunken and predictable as was that of the terrible old Socialist 1.x regimes.

It is pathetic, if not tragic — and also, of course, entirely undiscussed.

Deep or Shallow?

The Post Carbon Institute fancies itself a bearer of the last word on eco-social thought and organizing. Under its banner, it charges money for online courses that promise to “[d]eepen your understanding of the interactions between human and Earth systems” and to thereby teach you what it is that is to be done.

Alas, here is how the course frames the human core of the problem we face:

Society’s goals and mindsets could be thought of as the stories we tell ourselves.

Consumerism is a modern version of our biological drives for status-seeking and novelty-seeking, and makes use of how our brain chemistry develops addictions.

Stories? Stories we tell ourselves? Because of our biological drives?

In reality, “consumerism” is probably not a thing at all, certainly not a well-defined or seriously documented thing, and is also definitely not reducible to individual addiction.

Meanwhile, where are the institutions in all this? “Stories we tell ourselves?” Really?

The Age of the Floss Dispenser

In an essay titled “The Tyranny of Small Decisions,” none other than Alfred E. Kahn once noted that

[m]onopoly elements may cause the buyer to be presented with excessively narrow choices that do not correctly reflect that actual costs of the competing alternatives; and the result may be an uneconomic spiral of product quality changes over time [and] so-called ‘product inflation.’

In order to keep the money flowing, in other words, big business interests “may” use their clout to ignore and suppress achingly obvious macro-choices, while pushing increasingly trivial micro-choices.

Behold, then, this:

That, friends, is one of our glorious economic system’s newest offerings. It is a $20 dental floss dispenser.

Nuff said.

Zuckerberg is Irrelevant

naive graphic

AOC is fantastic. She says “our greatest hope is a multiracial, working class movement in the United States of America.” Righteous.

But AOC is apparently also now questioning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about whether his property will allow lies in its political ads.

This is both a bit much, and far too little.

With the partial exception of local newspaper want ads, all advertising is a form of lying. In the hands of major corporations, the dishonesty is a lavishly researched, intricately implemented endeavor. And Facebook, uncontroversially, is in the business of advertising. Nothing more, nothing less.

Facebook, in other words, exists to facilitate lying. Literally.

AOC almost certainly knows all this.

The question, then, is why she isn’t talking about the only imaginably effective response to the Facebook problem: unleashing the United States Postal Service.

Playing naive isn’t going to get us where we need to go. We must discover and speak the truth about power, and act accordingly.

Life Under Market Totalitarianism

cartoon of consumer trap

Corporate capitalism is totalitarian. By its very nature, it drives its constituent organizations and primary beneficiaries to pursue activities that, without being centrally planned, lead, in the aggregate, to increasing, increasingly effective rentier-class dictation of both the flow and the details of all three spheres of modern life (paid labor, personal life, and politics).

This was one of the main points made in The Consumer Trap book, published way back in 2003.

Both that book and the point about market totalitarianism have gone over like a lead balloon, of course.

Sociology, the incubator and natural home to such ideas, remains generally dominated by pseudo-empiricism and specifically — on the subject of power and personal life — intoxicated with its “consumption studies” snipe hunt.

Marxian thought, meanwhile, barely exists any more, and, to the extent it does, remains as prone as ever to favoring arcane and/or insane mastications of “what Marx said” over investigation of new ideas and perspectives, no matter how huge and overdue and unfathomed in 1867.

In any event, the fact remains that corporate capitalism yields market totalitarianism, and this process could and should be carefully explored and explained, with an eye to transcending it.

Toward this end, TCT would like to mention this short essay in The Atlantic. Its author, Judith Shulevitz, is onto something. In its own rambling, shambling, yet exactingly micro-planned way, our prevailing social order is doing to the fabric of social life what state totalitarians did in different, cruder ways:

It’s a cliché among political philosophers that if you want to create the conditions for tyranny, you sever the bonds of intimate relationships and local community. “Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals,” Hannah Arendt famously wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism. She focused on the role of terror in breaking down social and family ties in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin. But we don’t need a secret police to turn us into atomized, isolated souls. All it takes is for us to stand by while unbridled capitalism rips apart the temporal preserves that used to let us cultivate the seeds of civil society and nurture the sadly fragile shoots of affection, affinity, and solidarity.