Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marketing Death to a Sick America

Wherever there is pain and oppression, the lords of predatory capitalism will always find a way to profit from it. 

Are you a poor black kid who can't retrieve your wayward football from the unkempt yard containing Cujo's rabid litter-mate? In your kind of neighborhood, you obviously don't seek help from a responsible adult. You definitely don't want to call the cops. So you just close your eyes and fantasize that you're the super-hero designer of Northrup Grumman's stealth bomber. Your lost football will then magically float back to you just like an unmanned Predator drone. Because let's face it: you live in a Perma-War economy now, and the Trump administration is taking money away from poverty programs and giving it to the Pentagon. But please don't despair, all you poor and hungry children of America, because the Military-Industrial Complex is here to help. What a "turbulent world" needs is not more education and medical care and social programs. It needs more spying and destruction and maiming and killing. And so it's only natural that Northrup Grumman would take Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech and made it their very own.

Are you a working class refugee hopelessly hooked on opioids? Astra Zeneca is here to help - not by building rehab facilities, of course, but by pushing an anti-constipation drug designed specifically for junkies like you. Of course, the actor who plays the junkie on TV doesn't look like an actual junkie. In fact he is very hot. He is not only hale and hearty, he wears a hard hat and appears to be the boss on a major construction site. So the subliminal message here is that it's not the Oxy or the heroin that's holding you back. Those drugs are good for you, build up your muscles better than steroids. Your main problem, dude, is your embarrassing inability to have a bowel movement. So get "unplugged" and dream the dream of a full-time job.  Maybe you can even hallucinate piloting a stealth bomber while you're sitting on the toilet. Oh, and always indulge your addiction responsibly.

Are you a black or brown person who fears that you will one day get shot during a routine traffic stop or sentenced to solitary confinement for possessing a small amount of dope? No need to block highways or stage sit-down strikes or meet with politicians. Instead, always have an ice cold can of Pepsi at the ready as the weapon of choice to render your oppressor harmless. Or better yet, allow white super-model Kendall Jenner to do the honors for you, with a Bob Marley imitator crooning in the background for some added social justice ambience. And the world will live in perfect harmony forever as people slurp their sugary drinks and develop diabetes... which might sadly go untreated because there is no universal health care in America. Maybe Astra Zeneca can help. Or maybe you can join the military and bomb other oppressed people in turbulent countries far, far away from America the Beautiful.

Why bother with the messiness of Black Lives Matter, when #ResistanceInc is the cool way to go? We mustn't let the class war rear its ugly head. It might disturb the oligarchs, who only want to help through the magic of marketing more death to desperate people barely holding on in the end stage of Capitalism. 

The first rule of free market neoliberalism is to create a crisis. The second rule is never let it go to waste.


stranger in a strange land said...

That Pepsi ad was horrifying, watched without any sound. Co-opting 101 - I can only imagine the accompanying auditory schlock. "Show them doing ethnic stuff, like break-dancing - and carrying Pepsi, I mean Peace, logo signs." Reminiscent of the final episode of Mad Men, co-opting of a radical social movement to sell carbonated sugar water, masked by brand affinity. Sick.

Nonni Muss said...

As always, insightful takes that cannot be found anywhere but here. Thank you.

The Pepsi ad affected me quite viscerally. After the blushing subsided, three questions occurred to me:

1. At what point does deceitfulness become evil?
2. How stupid do these people think we are?
3. How stupid are we that we have allowed our politics to descend to this level of manipulation?

There's really no more denying that we are living in a managed pseudo-democracy. The worst part is that the majority of Americans don't even know it. SMH.

Pearl said...

Jay: I had a comment to you which is at the end of Karen's previous column. It got in just before her new column appeared.

Zee said...

One thing that we can be certain of is that Kendall Jenner will have been paid a pretty penny in advance for her appearance in the Pepsi ad, no matter the fact that the ad was quickly pulled in response to protests from the Left and the Right:

What truly has me laughing my backside off is that, indeed, the ad had EVERYBODY pissed off.

Perhaps this is the start of awareness:

“Nonni Muss” and “stranger in a strange land” ask several questions—and offer some insights on the subject—in their remarks above.

I hope that they will not be offended if I offer some additional comments.

Nonni Muss first asks, “At what point does deceitfulness become evil?”

To that first question I venture this answer:

“Except for the very whitest of ‘white lies,’ intended to harmlessly spare someone’s feelings on some personal and emotional matter, I would argue that conscious deceit is always an evil.”

In response to Nonni Muss’s second and third questions, I would reply that (2) “[Those] people” do indeed think that we are pretty damned stupid, and that (3) We have, indeed, been pretty damned stupid in the past to have allowed ourselves to be manipulated so.

But in fairness to ourselves, we also had long-time faith in a “system” that quietly changed beneath us, like sand shifting underneath our feet in incoming and outgoing waves on an otherwise calm beach. Remember that unsettling feeling?

But we don’t have to remain stupid. The fact that we are aware that we are living in a managed democracy just might be the first step to recovery. (Sounds like an ad for a drug rehab program, doesn’t it?)

In response to stranger in a strange land, I would say: “I never saw ‘Mad Men,’ but I think that I understand the concept of “co-opting.” Kendall Jenner is clearly pretty good at it, and she made a pile of money at it along the way, just like the stars of Mad Men.

TV stars are…well…just that: Actors who get paid to say their lines, whatever they may be. No more, and no less. And we should never think otherwise.

The same is true for those sanctimonious movie stars who lecture us at the Oscars, and elsewhere.

[S]haking [M]y [H]ead, too.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Hi, Pearl. Thanks for the heads up. Earlier in the week I was bowled over by the honesty, eloquence, courage and prophetic gift in MLK's Riverside speech. Today, while I was discussing the plight of journalists with a friend, he suggested I take a look at the Nobel acceptance speech of Albert Camus. In it, with a humble spirit, he stresses the writer's duty to truth and liberty. He was a rare kind of writer journalist, and thankfully we have more of his kind with us today.

Do you remember Denis who used to give us the money quotes from a variety of great souls? I'll copy him for a day by providing a few lines from Camus' brief address to the Academy. We have an endless need to be inspired by great writers and activists; otherwise, surrounded by nothing but ignorance and mediocrity, we might surrender in silence and despair before the marketers of death described in Karen's post.

What is exceptional about the critiques of both King and Camus is their rejection of hate towards those who deserve it. Excerpts from the Camus speech follow:

"By definition [the writer] cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it… .

"Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression… .

"Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression….

"In a world threatened by disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors run the risk of establishing forever the kingdom of death, it knows that it should, in an insane race against the clock, restore among the nations a peace that is not servitude, reconcile anew labour and culture, and remake with all men the Ark of the Covenant. It is not certain that this generation will ever be able to accomplish this immense task, but already it is rising everywhere in the world to the double challenge of truth and liberty and, if necessary, knows how to die for it without hate. Wherever it is found, it deserves to be saluted and encouraged, particularly where it is sacrificing itself. In any event, certain of your complete approval, it is to this generation that I should like to pass on the honour that you have just given me."

Nonni Muss said...

God help me, I made myself watch it again.

I noticed that neither Deplorables nor Poors are included in the splendidly curated multiracial, multiethnic, pansexual horde of millenials. Presumably the Benneton-Kardashians are "marching" to protest the Deplorables (hence the woman in the hijab). And of course nobody wants to see the Poors, an inconvenient reminder of the vanishing middle class.

The Pepsi ad wizards obviously live in the same money bubble as America's Overlords. So while the goal, ostensibly is to sell sugar water, maintenance of the status quo is always a concern. Therefore the takeaway message is, "Stay focused on Resisting Deplorables, because Identity Politics rox! (isn't that how the kids are saying it?). But keep it light, always smile, whatever you do, be nice to the rich and to the Pinkertons, for they are our friends. Oh, and drink sugar water!!!"

Zee's shifting sands metaphor is spot-on and sadly beautiful.