08 November 2008

Make It Your Democracy

"Publicity is the culture of consumer society. It propagates through images that society's belief in itself. [. . .] The purpose of publicity is to make the spectator marginally dissatisfied with his present way of life. Not with the way of life of society, but with his own within it. It suggests that if he buys what it is offering, his life will become better. It offers him an improved alternative to what he is. [. . .] Publicity has another important social function. The fact that this function has not been planned by those who make and use publicity in no way lessens its significance. Publicity turns consumption into a substitute for democracy. The choice of what one eats (or wears or drives) takes the place of significant political choice. Publicity helps to mask and compensate for all that is undemocratic within society. And it also masks what is happening in the rest of the world." ~ John Berger (1972)
If this observation were true when Berger first made it (and, with some reservations, I think it was), things have only gotten much worse in the subsequent decades. A couple years ago - well into their conquest of the continent - Starbucks was giving out this little booklet (22 pages) that explained to neophytes how to personalize their coffee order. The amplification of marginal choices via proliferation of modifiers drives me mad. But I'd missed the fact that it was a concerted campaign. In some sense it is a relief to learn that all the precious folks in front of me in line didn't come up with their oh so personal beverages all on their own.

Apparently this campaign is over here in the states - we've all already gotten personalized. But it is still ongoing in Thailand. If only the Thai government could direct the attention of contending factions to whether or not they want their Grande Cappuccino extra hot, perhaps there'd be less political turmoil [1] [2] in the country.

Here in the U.S., of course, the problem is that the economy is in such tatters that no one can afford their personalized beverages. That may turn out to be a good thing! Maybe they will devote some attention to making sure their own personal president-elect does not give away the farm.

Labels: , ,


Blogger AMEN said...

I like that you have tied in our consumer culture to our current President Elect. It seems that he ran such a wildly succesful campaign, because he made it the most consumable campaign in history. Case-in-point, 7-11 convenient stores actually pringted Obama 08 on their soda cups. Millions of pimply teenagers and over worked construction contractors purchased his name every day.

They were not the only ones though, Corporate America also bought up their fair share of Obama this election cycle, and I am sure that we will see a cashing in of those chips soon enough. With the speed that this election was finished, and the outright slaughter of McCain in the first round of the fight, tells me that we should check who placed bets on whom and who will be raking it in when the bets are collected.

10 November, 2008 12:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starbucks profit declined 97 percent in the quarter. They're going down.

10 November, 2008 21:09  

Post a Comment

<< Home