Advertising Against Reality

burgerki-whopper

Some smart Germans have launched this website, which heartily deserves imitation here in the epicenter of market totalitarianism and cartooned reality.  [Auf Deutsch hier.]

Anybody got any starter photos?  We could do some of this right here at TCT…

The “New” GM: Now Selling a Product You Can’t Buy

230volt The level of desperation in the automobile-industrial complex is now so extreme, they are touting products that are not real. Can you buy a Chevy Volt? No. Will you ever be able to? Perhaps. Will these hype vehicles ever be affordable, reliable, and practical? Doubtful. Are they an intelligent use of the Earth’s remaining non-renewable resources? No way.

None of this will enter into public discussion, of course. This is market totalitarianism, and cars are mandatory. No questions asked or allowed.

Pubic Hair & Market Totalitarianism

pubes If you’ve been fortunate enough to see — one way or another — much private anatomy in recent years, you’ll be aware that we live in an age of de rigueur pubic (that’s p-u-b-i-c, not p-u-b-L-i-c) shaving. Supposedly edgy and hip rather than creepy and infantilizing, this practice is truly rampant, from what I’ve (ahem) seen.

How hip and independent is it, really, though, to shave your junk?

Not so much. Not so much at all.

Take a look at this viral marketing video from the Gillette Corporation.

Note the instructions to “make sure” to use shaving cream not soap, the very latest 5-blade razor (one wonders where this bit of the marketing race will end — 57 blades?), and, of course “moisturizer” (the substance formerly known as “lotion”). All these just happen to be products made by Gillette, so what might a rational soul make of its chummy, flattering, “hip” shaving “advice”?

The real story, of course, is that the existence of body hair has now become a great marketing vehicle for the shareholding class, complete with the standard tools of big business marketing: false promises (larger penises and more “fun” will result for those who do as they’re programmed to do by Gillette and the “viral” “culture” it is sponsoring) and threats (if you don’t use the newest Gillette Fusion razor, you might shave off your vitals).

As in so many areas, all this speaks to our howling need to make the 2010s into a new and improved 1960s.

Along the way, why not lose the shave-bot programming and the sponsored pseudo-hipsterism? Why not lose the chains of corporate babydom and cull the living, hairy, grown-up flower?

Once Again: Facebook is Evil

thumb_32friendsworthI mean this.  If you want to make free contributions to market totalitarianism’s Big Brother, keep your Facebook account.

Here’s the real purpose of that account, as reported by Business Week for June 1, 2009:

Advertisers are…interested in understanding individuals. Decoding friendship, many believe, could be the key to getting consumers’ attention. Historically, this wasn’t so hard. Information was in short supply, and by comparison, time was cheap. Not long ago millions waited through entire newscasts just to learn who won a game or what tomorrow’s weather would be. This was ideal for advertisers: They had a captive audience.

For all its popularity, Facebook has yet to prove itself as an advertising platform. Visitors, it seems, focus on their friends and pay scant attention to ads. Few click on them, and advertisers pay pennies for page views. Consequently, Facebook, with its estimated revenue of $300 million this year, brings in scarcely a dime a month per member.

Now we’re swimming in information. We can call up nearly every bit of news, music, and entertainment we want on demand. In fact, there’s so much of it that we need filters to block the boring or irrelevant stuff and help us find the bits we need or desire. This has created what many call the “Attention Economy.” Says Bernardo A. Huberman, director of the Information Dynamics Laboratory at Hewlett-Packard: “The value of most information has collapsed to zero. The only scarce resource is attention.” So how do we figure out where to direct it?

The easiest way is to get tips from friends. They’re our trusted sources. At least a few of them know us better than any algorithm ever could. Little surprise, then, that the companies most eager to command our attention are studying which friends we listen to. Online friendship is a hot focus for Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. They joust to hire leading sociologists, anthropologists, and microeconomists from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley. Microsoft just established a research division focused on social sciences in Cambridge, Mass.

Statistically, friends tend to behave alike. A couple of years ago researchers at Yahoo found that if someone clicked on an online ad, the people on his or her instant chat buddy list, when served the same ad, were three to four times more likely than average to click on it. It makes sense. Friends share interests.

But it raised lots of questions. Which types of friends have the most meaningful correlations with each other? People have always confided in a small circle of intimates, often only two or three. They’ve also had wider circles of experts for specific advice, whether on cars or cooking. Then there’s a broader circle of acquaintances whose opinions count far less but who can still generate buzz about a new restaurant or senatorial candidate. By studying patterns of interactions on networks—often scrutinizing us only as anonymous bits of data—researchers are working to predict which friends we trust and which we pay attention to in each area of our lives.

In an office above Palo Alto’s University Avenue, a lean 32-year-old PhD from MIT’s Media Lab pores over the data connecting millions of dots. Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, has perhaps the greatest lab in history for studying [how to exploit] friendship. He can study social media communications including wall posts, shared photos, pokes, and friend requests among 200 million people.

The hope is that if Marlow and his team manage to track the paths of influence among its communities, the company [Facebook] might be able to offer more effective and lucrative advertisements and promotions.

An early step is to separate each user’s friends into clusters. Marlow pulls out a chart illustrating the social network of one of his colleagues, Alex Smith. It shows different groups of dots and their connecting links. One big and busy group represents fellow workers at Facebook. Others are high school friends, family, in-laws, frat brothers. Understanding these types of relationships could provide valuable context.

Marlow’s team recently carried out a study to determine how close we are to our friends online. They looked at how often people clicked on their friends’ news or photos, how often they communicated, and if the communications traveled in both directions. Studying this data, they determined that an average Facebook user with 500 friends actively follows the news on only 40 of them, communicates with 20, and keeps in close touch with about 10. Those with smaller networks follow even fewer. What can this teach advertisers? People don’t pay much attention to most of their online friends. By focusing campaigns on people who interact with each other, they’ll likely get better results.

Remember when capitalism’s apologists used to dismiss the very idea of socialism because of its alleged inherent reliance on social engineering?

The Unfolding of the Obama Fraud

obamapreach

Adolph Reed, Jr. has never been fooled by Barack Obama:

He’s a vacuous opportunist. I’ve never been an Obama supporter. I’ve known him since the very beginning of his political career, which was his campaign for the seat in my state senate district in Chicago. He struck me then as a vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him. I argued at the time that his fundamental political center of gravity, beneath an empty rhetoric of hope and change and new directions, is neoliberal.

This has been confirmed ever since Obama chose his cabinet, and the reality just keeps getting repeated by Obama himself. The neoliberalism (not my favorite word — I prefer plain old “capitalist,” or even “market totalitarian,” both of which are less confusing and more penetrating) is an article of faith with this empty vessel/mainstream Democrat.

First, there was the recent “We believe in capitalism; we believe in people getting rich” Profession of the Faith.

Now, it’s quite literally church-time.

And the head preacher’s core message is the same old tired, outdated, utterly disproven one that capitalists and their minions always preach: capitalists need more money.

This claim has been around for ages. In Das Kapital, Marx ripped into its expression as the early 19th-century businessman’s dogma known as Say’s Law.  A century later, when the dim war criminal Ronald Reagan took office and began fronting for corporate capitalism’s Great Restoration, “Say’s Law” was repackaged as “supply-side economics.” Ever since then, as Big Money has enjoyed unbroken market-totalitarian conditions, all “serious” politicians have had to pass this litmus test. Even if they don’t openly preach “supply-side economics,” each aspiring “major” leader must adhere to capital’s insistence that the one and only possible cause of economic problems within capitalism is insufficient money at the top, in the hands of the overclass.

Think Obama sees through this sociopathic mantra? Think again. Here is what he is now preaching to us from in front of stained-glass windows:

And since the problems we face are all working off each other to feed a vicious economic downturn, we’ve had no choice but to attack all fronts of our economic crisis at once. The first step was to fight a severe shortage of demand in the economy. The Federal Reserve did this by dramatically lowering interest rates last year in order to boost investment.

How do you combat a severe shortage of demand — i.e., the lack of buying power among the masses of ordinary product-purchasers? That’s right: You make sure the investing class has more money! Then they’ll…

And there’s the rub. The obvious problem is that the rich are too rich for their own good. Capital, as it usually does, got what it asked for, and now it is too powerful. The overclass has, once again (think 1873-1893 and 1929-1940), won its own poker game.

As a result, there are really only two possible ways out of this New Depression: 1) the temporary fix of a new round of credit-cards for the commoners, or 2)  major economic reforms plus a big new dose class-struggle-from-below.

Alas, Obama, for all his supposed smarts and “community” compassion, is unable and/or unwilling to understand this, being the social-climbing mainstream Great Restoration/market-totalitarian politician that he is.  He simply ain’t gonna do it, folks, no matter how much pain he has to pretend to feel.  Like all good New Democrats, he will choose ignominious defeat over opening the slightest crack toward questioning the system.  Just listen to him.

Despite the continuing complacency of his entranced supporters, Obama is proving, as Reed has long argued, that he’s 100 percent hopeless in this core area of our collective conundrum. He is indeed a vacuous neoliberal opportunist.

I have the strong feeling that 2010 is going to look a lot like 1994. And God only knows what we’ll get in 2012, if people don’t rise up and fight this corporate bullshit…

Cultural Consequences

snake

Since they lost the ability to appeal to racism, rightists have appealed to culture to explain why blatant unfairness isn’t really unfair.

Now, to be sure, the concept of culture they use is hardly different than the old racial saws: When you press a reactionary for his/her definition of “culture,” it turns out to be “the way people are,” i.e., the allegedly native, pre-social qualities of specific groups.

This, though, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cultural dimension to human affairs. People do absorb sticky habits from extended collective experiences, and those habits can and do turn around and affect what people do next.

Thursday, the Pew Charitable Trust released a study that provides a paint-peeling proof of the real power of accumulated experience. In “Findings from a National Survey & Focus Groups on Economic Mobility,” Pew reported that, despite the times, ordinary people in the United States continue to mis-frame and mis-understand their chances for “economic mobility”:

Nearly eight in ten (79 percent) believe it is still possible for people to get ahead in the current economy. This remains true even among lower-income, less-educated and unemployed Americans. Such consensus is striking given that a near-unanimous 94 percent of Americans describe the current economic condition of the country negatively.

Americans remain optimistic about the future—a 72 percent majority believes their economic circumstances will be better in the next ten years. This optimism crosses party lines and demographic groups. African Americans are the most optimistic (85 percent) compared to whites and Hispanics (71 percent and 77 percent, respectively).

Seventy-four percent of Americans believe they have at least some control over their own economic situation, while only 43 percent think that other people are in control. By a 71 to 21 percent margin, Americans believe that personal attributes, like hard work and drive, are more important to economic mobility than external conditions, like the economy and economic circumstances growing up.

Personal attributes such as poor life choices and too much debt were the top explanations given for downward mobility.

Although previous research by the Economic Mobility Project has found considerable differences in economic mobility by race and gender, respondents ascribed relatively little importance to their impact on mobility (15 percent and 16 percent, respectively). Further, the Economic Mobility Project’s research found that there is a strong relationship between parents’ income and children’s adult income. However, coming from a wealthy family was among the least important factors that respondents cited (28 percent).

By a 71 to 21 percent margin, Americans believe it is more important to give people a fair chance to succeed than it is to reduce inequality in this country. Each demographic subgroup, including those at the lowest end of the economic spectrum, concurs with the majority on this issue.

It’s no surprise, of course, that this familiar ideological package still holds sway. After all, this is the core topic — the dynamics of class inside the domestic “homeland” — on which the commoners simply must remain addled, in this, the flagship nation of market totalitarianism, the most heavily indoctrinated, commercialism-and-TV-penetrated society in human history.

How many times, even in recent months, have you heard the basic facts about class?

The real sources of wealth?

The deep imperatives and limits of corporate capitalism?

Now compare those zeroes to the number of times you’ve experienced the “anything is possible in America” diversion?

It’s still no contest out there, folks…