Farce Day

What if the Montgomery Improvement Association had responded to the segregation of the city’s buses by calling for an annual Transportation Day, instead of a steady campaign of direct action and movement organizing?  What if SNCC had held a rally once a year, rather than launching expanding waves of lunch-counter sit-ins?  What if, instead of marching, fighting, and continually and radically educating itself and the wider society, the Civil Rights Movement had launched Black Seal, a new “foundation” to certify select corporate products as minimally racist?  The United States would still have Jim Crow apartheid laws.

Nonetheless, today we are supposed to “celebrate” Earth Day, and forget the fact that it is social movements, and only social movements, that have ever mattered in the effort to use politics to make large breakthroughs toward a better world.

denis hayesDenis Hayes, the Earth Day founder who recommends car tires via “foundations” dedicated to the proposition that “the power of the marketplace” has any chance of being anything but a net ecological disaster, today tells The New York Times he thinks it is “tragic” rather than logical that corporations have turned Earth Day into what that august paper terms “a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services.”  What did you expect, Denis, when you suggested that an annual “day” was somehow a serious attack on our overclass’s institutional dedication to planetary ecocide?  Gestures are not social movements, no matter how hard one tries to gesture.

pepsi dream machineMeanwhile, at today’s Earth Day rally in New York City, those keeping track will get another chance to see that corporate capitalists are routinely pulling of feats of propaganda that would make Big Brother poop their pants in fits of jealousy.  PepsiCo, the conglomerate whose core business is peddling various forms of unhealthy sugar water cased in plastic, is going to unveil its Dream Machine recycling kiosks.  For each bottle shoved into one of these stations, PepsiCo promises to make “a per-bottle donation to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, a business training program for disabled veterans.” The amount of that donation to such an amazing cause?  Unspecified, of course.  But, rest assured, it will be “an amount.”  1/1000th of one cent?  That’s an amount, isn’t it?  And what vet, fresh back from killing poor people for no reason, doesn’t want to go get harangued about “entrepreneurship” by PepsiCo?  That’s just as good as the old G.I. Bill of the 1940s, right?

But all this isn’t the half of it.  PepsiCo, the massive plastic and sugar-water pusher, is, all the while and right into the future, a long-standing major opponent of bottle bills, widely and uncontroversially known as far and away the most effective and efficient incentive to beverage container recycling.  On behalf of its shareholders and corporate retailer customers, PepsiCo finds bottle bills to be “unwieldy for store customers and suppliers, and inconvenient for consumers.” In other words, bad for profits.  Ergo, Pepsi and it corporate capitalist allies work the nation and world to make sure that bottle bills don’t spread from the handful of places where they already exist.

Welcome to Earth Day!

Greenwashing: The 95-5 Rule

Critics of big business marketing have long talked as if deception and abuse are the exceptions rather than the rule in the discipline of corporate sales-engineering. The truth, of course, is precisely the opposite, if you bother to study the corporate marketing process as a whole.

One interesting and important case of this unwitting excuse-making by critics is the continuing discussion of “greenwashing.” Most who discuss this problem continue to treat it as if it is somehow merely a cancer on the body of big business salesmanship. In reality, as any half-hour glance at television in the USA shows, “green” marketing claims are now the norm.

That’s simply logical. Marketers are constantly looking for new manipulation tactics, and race one another to invent and expand them.

What is the general quality of all the now-normal “green” marketing? For that, listen to a true exception — a publicly honest marketing practitioner. Quoted in this week’s Advertising Age is Steven Addis, CEO of branding consultantcy Addis Creson:

This month I’ve definitely seen a lot of companies that I never would have associated with green popping up. Companies are saying, ‘We need something to green ourselves up, so let’s sponsor Earth Day.’ It’s really now in this hype curve.

Addis says he has developed a general rule-of-thumb about the nature of the greenwashing problem. It’s worth quoting:

I call it the 95-5 rule. Five percent of somebody’s business is green, but 95% of their PR is green.


And another (click on “carbon neutral” button).