Having never thought our way through mainstream/Social Darwinist dogma and pseudo-radical cant, we lefties have generally conceded the topic of culture — groups’ learned perceptual and behavioral habits — to the right. As a result, we tend to remain silent about paint-peeling things like this:
Each year, the Super Bowl football game features the latest and greatest television advertising tactics. Ordinary TV ads being far more expensively and lavishly made, in dollars-and-details per second terms, than even the biggest Hollywood movies, these ultra-hyped ads are always a serious reflection of the state of the marketing art. As such, they get worse — dumber, sicker, more smarmy and culturally childish — every year.
This year’s crop was so godawful, TCT hereby splits its uncoveted Golden Stool Award between three spots, each of which is so mind-bendingly horrible, distinction fails.
First, the directly, proudly fascist:
Paul Harvey was an undisguised fascist, a pal of J. Edgar Hoover, a flatterer and indulger of all that is backwards in white-American culture. His speech used here was racist tripe and one of the most ham-handed and undeserved pieces of audience buttering I’ve ever encountered. Need we compare the percentage of the population that is now farmers to the percentage of the population who merely allow such ridiculous drivel to keep them wasting money driving pick-up trucks? That gap is huge, thanks to this long-running overclass “cowboy” trick.
Next, another remarkable piece:
The two proposals of the ad are “buy this car for your kids,” and “use the in-car computer to control what they say.” Meanwhile, car crashes remain what they have long been — the number one cause of death (including all natural causes) for children aged 1-21. So, yes, get them a car — and be sure to ask for that redundant in-dash cell phone/entertainment computer, which further increases the threat to their lives.
Finally, this one from our old green-washing friend, Alex Bogusky:
Is it magic, this machine that claims to eliminate, rather than merely rearrange, the waste? Um, not so much:
In a natural testament to the power of the marketing-driven national hologram, those are the actual, spontaneous words of a directly involved citizen of the United States in 2012, about this latest mass gunning.
“It doesn’t seem surprising” is a lot more like it, of course.
And let us not fail to praise our great, glorious leader, he who responded to the “Batman” killing spree all those 5 months ago by having his press secretary say “The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law.”
As he travels Israel rehearsing and endorsing war crimes, Mitt “the Barber” Romney apparently dropped this schtick on the host religious-staters:
I was thinking [sure he was!] this morning as I prepared to come into this room of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries. And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita for instance in Israel which is about 21,000 dollars and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita, you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.
In his remarks at the fundraiser, Romney also reflected on books he’s read by Jared Diamond, David Landes and his adviser Dan Senor to help him better understand Israel. The Landes book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, helped him understand decline in great civilizations, he said.
If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: culture makes all the difference, Romney said.
So, Romney claims that culture makes all the difference in determining wealth and poverty. And on his reading list of proof for that hoary old claim is Jared Diamond, who won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for showing that culture makes none of the difference!
Here’s what I said, with a few additions and amendments:
Hi, Nick, and welcome to TCT. You ask excellent questions.
The immediate purpose of this blog is to show people how corporate planners (on behalf of the overclass of wealthy shareholders who remain the primary beneficiaries of big business) manipulate “free time” experiences and choices, and to demonstrate that corporate capitalism requires this manipulation, on an always-expanding basis.
The secondary purpose of this blog is to get people to think about how radically unsustainable this arrangement is, and to encourage movement toward a decent alternative. The work you are doing sounds vital. My only complaint about local solutions is that many of their architects tend to forget about the larger levels of reality. But that is certainly not a necessary part of making new local arrangements. And any adequate macro-level changes are certainly going to require radical reconstruction of our towns.
As for my objection to the way people talk about culture, those are of two kinds.
First, a great many supposedly radical thinkers begin from a sophomoric and unscientific definition of the word. Culture, properly defined, if the set of learned habits and behaviors prevailing among a population. As such, it is a very large-bore concept, close in scope to “society.” Meanwhile, many “cultural” theorists use it as a stand-in for one part of life only — free time, or personal life. Often, they shrink it even further to mean merely entertainment. In making that move, they build their attempts at explanation of reality on quicksand.
My more specific complaint about culture is that it is so often twinned with the bias-word “consumer,” to make the doubly stupid concept “consumer culture.” Social science (and the humanity and democracy it exists to serve) demands that its practitioners take care to make their concepts and data as free from bias and as descriptively valid and neutral as possible. To accept the word “consumer” as a valid equivalent for product-using human beings is to forgo the possibility of powerfully and accurately describing people’s product-related activities.
“Consumer” is a capitalist’s narrow view; nothing more, nothing less. It is a rank and destructive bias, poison to objective description of reality and its determinant institutions and processes. It is an ongoing tragedy that social science has swallowed it, without so much as a hiccup.
We live in a capitalist society and a capitalist culture. To choose to call it a consumer society and a consumer culture is to deny the cardinal facts and to confuse and insult the potential audience.
Jettisoning the word “consumer” is a first necessary step toward getting serious about describing humanity’s extremely dire crisis of economic waste and injustice.
The second step is to stop yammering hot air about culture, and to start examining and explaining the details of existing institutions and processes.
Alas, these both remain micro-ghetto endeavors, for a host of reasons.