They can be silent shills, of course. Check out the bottles of Coca-Cola product strategically placed next to Bob Costa's interview subjects.
So, what's more off-putting -- malfunctioning toilets and brown water in Putin's Russia, or figure skater Ashley Wagner being forced to gush her gratitude to her Procter & Gamble Mom (TM) for washing her golden tresses with Pantene Shampoo and making sure she brushed with Crest after every meal?
The stench of neoliberal propaganda seems particularly acute in this year's Olympics, which are brought to United States viewers by one of the six conglomerates comprising the American Media-Political complex. The sports message and the political message seem to mesh perfectly. Personal responsibility, hard work, pushy self-sacrificing Tiger Mothers bringing up kids to be patriotic brand consumers and workhorses are sold as the keys to an Olympic Medal. The slopes may be slippery, but trickle-down Corporate Benevolence -- not the taxing of the rich to enable direct government funding of athletic programs -- will reward the select few who possess that all-important Grit and Resilience (TM). President Obama couldn't have asked for better televised neoliberal runner-greasing, as corporatized athleticism partners with presidential prowess to advance the trans-global market-based solutions agenda. Just last week, Obama himself was able to reach the heights of Income Inequality performance art before executing an Opportunistic Double Flip followed by the usual crowd-pleasing spin.
And speaking of pivots, let's get back to P&G. Ashley and her Mom (TM) are just one family among the more than two dozen kinship units entrapped by something called The Procter and Gamble Global Family Home in Sochi. It's a one-stop Nirvana Shop offering everything from toilet paper that clogs up Putin's toilets, to free dentistry, to batteries for snapping Selfies while bobsledding, thus necessitating all that cosmetic dentistry. From the press release:
The P&G Family Home is the heart of the company’s Thank You Mom program for Sochi 2014, in which P&G brands honor the role moms play in helping their kids achieve their dreams. Tide® athlete, Nick Goepper (USA), Pampers® athlete, Oksana Domnina (Russia) and Rosi Mittermaier, double Olympic gold medalist and mother of Gillette athlete, Felix Neureuther (Germany), attended the opening of the Family Home. Here, Opening Ceremony tickets were presented to moms of athletes partnering with P&G brands in countries around the world.
“Our brands are in the business of serving all moms on their journey through life with their kids,” said Phil Duncan, P&G Global Design Officer, who helped welcome moms and families of Olympians at the opening of the Family Home. “So when a P&G brand sponsors an athlete, we celebrate the mom who helped get them here.”
P&G brands are providing moms and families of Olympians in Sochi with more than 1,200 hours of everyday services that make an extraordinary difference when families are far from home.
For instance, P&G’s beauty brands are offering the opportunity for pampering in the P&G Salon through:
· Hair washing and styling services at the Pantene Studio
· Treating moms to makeovers and polished manicure services at the COVERGIRL® Studio
· Providing skin care recommendations for moisturizing body and hands at the Olay Studio
· Hair coloring, cutting and styling treatments at the Wella® Studio
P&G male grooming brands are serving men in the Salon with:
· Hot towel shaves and face massages at the Gillette Studio
· Relaxing hair washes and styling services at the Head & Shoulders® Studio
· Male grooming treatments, including the Perfect Trim by Braun®
Additional P&G brands supporting moms and families of Olympians in Sochi include:
· Bounty, Charmin® and Puffs® are providing homecare products in the Family Home
· Pampers is offering a changing station to help families with small children
· Duracell® Powermats are enabling guests to charge their mobile devices while relaxing and watching the Games
· Ariel® will be used to clean 30,000 linens per day, as well as serve moms of sponsored athletes with daily laundry services throughout the duration of the Games
· Fairy® will be used to clean dishes in Olympic Village
· Crest®/Oral-B®/blend-a-med® have teamed up with SOCOG in its provision of the Sochi 2014 dental clinic. The facility provides dental screenings, routine dental work, emergency care and oral care products for athletes and coaches in Sochi.
U.S. Olympic athlete, Nick Goepper, was among the first to experience the services provided at the P&G Family Home. “I’m proud to be part of the P&G family of athletes. Not just because my mom and I use P&G brands like Tide, but also because of how they have supported my mom and me throughout my journey to the Olympic Games.. Knowing my mom will be taken care of here at the P&G Family Home gives me a little extra peace of mind so I can concentrate on what I came here to do.”
“The Family Home really feels like a home and I’m looking forward to connecting with other families of Olympians from around the world,” said Rosi Mittermaier, Double Olympic Gold Medalist. “It is a wonderful thing that Gillette and the other P&G brands are doing for families.”
The subliminal message that Nick Goepper is being exploited to impart is that since the corporate overlords are supporting him and his mother, they don't have to rely on such social democratic niceties as food stamps and unemployment insurance.“Serving moms and families is just what P&G brands do,” said Lada Kudrova, P&G Marketing Director, who also took part in the opening of the Family Home. “That’s why the P&G Family Home is our single activation at the Games. On the eve of Opening Ceremony, we’re honored to serve moms and families of Olympians in Sochi tonight and throughout the Games.”
And in keeping with the subliminal neoliberal message of "no pain, no gain," there's a particularly loathsome P&G TV commercial currently airing during the Olympics. Called "Pick Them Back Up," it's a sadistic new variation on the enduring theme of the Helicopter Mom. It starts out harmlessly enough, in the multilingual, inclusive, cozy style that makes corporate greed palatable to people keeping track of such things. Babies learning to walk adorably fall down on their well-Pampered (TM) butts as their doting parents murmur encouragement. But then, it starts to get dicey as their little bodies develop and they get into sports.
As the orchestral soundtrack intensifies, so do the injuries. Toddlers are shown falling flat on their faces on the ice before advancing to crashing and burning on the slopes and the hockey rinks. The children in the film don't appear to be having fun. Their facial expressions run the gamut from dazed, to confused, to vacant, to tortured, to tear-streaked. But Corporate Mom is always there, washing their blistered and bloodied feet, (with P&G products) putting ice packs on their hematomas, and kissing their possible concussions all better. No emergency room visits exist in their world. It makes you wonder who's really calling the shots. Oh, I forgot. Silly me.... it's The Market, stupid!
And finally, after a resounding crescendo of patriotic pain that would make Leni Riefenstahl envious, the commercial ends with the same tinkly innocuous nursery music it started with. Hard work and branding pays off. The Will Triumphs, as the camera pans from the robust athletic spawn to Mom (TM) crying and beaming in the stands, grateful that laundry detergent brought her family to the Glorious Gold.
For more on the Capitalist Olympics, also see the latest episode of Democracy Now!