Former AOL exec Bob Pittman argues in Fortune that the so-called advertising industry should get a bail out . He writes, "There's a reason that America is the largest consumer market in the world: It also happens to be the largest advertising market in the world. Advertising works—and it has been proven again and again for over a century."
Read: "The Emergence of Consumerism," 1-6 in Reader.
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."
"In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."
"Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought."
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught this ad featuring a beautiful young woman dancing in close embrace with a handsome young man and as drew closer:
I am suddenly introduced to a new product. A toothbrush, actually two of them packaged together, each with a dab in the middle of the bristles of Johnny on the spot toothpaste. And this toothpaste was apparently so juicy that using it does not require the adding of water. So much for carrying around in your bag a toothbrush and a cumbersome tube of toothpaste and bottle of water. What with it being so juicy, one doesn't even head off to the bathroom, but brush behind a bush maybe and spit on the ground or something.
Talk about your convenience.
I guess the fear of halitosis runs deep. That's an odd word, halitosis. I don't hear it much any more. We now say, quite openly, "bad breath." But at one time, I think, the word served to suggest something sort of scientific that required a sort of scientific cure, like Listerine. Indeed, the Listerine people made it up by combining words from Greek and Latin. They devised a disease and gave it a scientific name.
For a long time now, women especially have been subjected to advertising suggesting that halitosis is just god awful and may completely ruin one's social life.
One ad shows a man and a women in embrace with the line "Till breath do us part." So bad breath is like death and possible grounds for divorce. Once again the ad is directed a women, suggesting that they especially must be concerned about emitting foul odors.
Below, we find that poor Milly catches the bridle bouquet. She should be next in line to wed but her friends know otherwise and they know why too. Milly has bad breath. But she doesn't know it.
Poor, poor Milly. Damn!
So there you are with a constipation so intense that you suffer loss of appetite, early weakness, nervousness, and mental dullness, but what you are really, really worried about is halitosis.
Read: ""Markets Triumphant, 1980-2000," in reader, 7-30.
“We’re the people with the smile on the box. We’re the re-inventors of normal. We dream of making things that change your life, then disappear into your everyday. Of making the revolutionary routine.
“Our accomplishments are things you barely think about, but can’t imagine not having. Connecting your mouse to your front door was our moon landing. Creating Kindle — our four-minute mile. Customer reviews – our light bulb. And when we build you something new, you can expect everything to change a little more.
“Look around. What once seemed wildly impractical is now completely normal. And ‘normal’ just begs to be messed with.”
One of the most seminal effects of equating happiness with shopping for commodities which are hoped to generate happiness is to stave off the chance that the pursuit of happiness will ever grind to a halt. The pursuit of happiness will never end — its end would be equal to the end of happiness as such. The secure state of happiness not being attainable, it is only the chase of that stubbornly elusive target that can keep the runners (however moderately) happy. On that track leading to happiness, there is no finishing line. The ostensible means turn into ends: the sole available consolation for the elusiveness of the dreamed-of and coveted ‘state of happiness’ is to stay on course; as long as one stays in the race, neither falling from exhaustion nor being shown a red card, the hope of eventual victory is kept alive.
By subtly shifting the dream of happiness from the vision of a full and fully gratifying life to the search for means believed to be needed for such a life to be reached, markets see to it that the pursuit can never end. The targets Of the search replace each other with mind-boggling speed. It is fully understood by the pursuers (and, of course, by their zealous coaches and guides) that if the pursuit is to achieve its declared purpose, the pursued targets have to quickly fall out of use, lose their lustre, attraction and power of seduction, be abandoned and replaced — and many times over
— by other, ‘new and improved’ targets, doomed to suffer a similar lot. Imperceptibly, the vision of happiness shifts from an anticipated after-purchase bliss to the act of shopping that precedes it-- an act overflowing with joyous anticipation; joyous for a hope as yet pristine, untarnished and undashed.
Thanks to the diligence and expertise of the advertising copywriters, such life—and-(high)street wisdom tends nowadays to be acquired at a tender age, well before there is a first chance to hear subtle philosophical meditations on the nature of happiness and the ways to a happy life, let alone a chance to study them and reflect on their message. We may learn, for instance, from the first page of the ‘Fashion’ section of a widely read and well-respected magazine, that Liberty, a twelve-year-old schoolgirl, ‘has already discovered how to make her wardrobe work well’.6 Topshop is her ‘favourite store’, and for a good reason: in her own words, ‘even though it’s really expensive, I know that I’ll come out with something fashionable.’ What the frequent visits to Topshop mean for her is first and foremost a comforting feeling of safety: Topshop’s buyers confront the risks of failure on her behalf and take the responsibility for the choice on themselves. Once she buys in that shop, the probability of making a mistake is reduced to nil, or almost. Liberty does not trust her own taste and discretion sufficiently to buy (let alone don in public) just what has caught her eye; but things she bought in that shop she can parade in public with confidence — confident of recognition, approval and, in the end, of the admiration and high status that closely follow it: all those feel-good things which parading clothes and accessories in public is intended to achieve. Says Liberty of the shorts she bought last January: ‘I hated them. I did love them but then I got them home and I thought they were too short. But then I read Vogue and I saw this lady in shorts — and they were my shorts from Topshop! Ever since then I’ve been inseparable from them.’ This is what the label, the logo, and the location can do for their customers: guide them on the confusingly twisted, booby-trapped road to happiness. The happiness of being issued with a publicly recognized and respected certificate confirming (authoritatively!) that one is on the right track, is still in the chase, and is allowed to keep one’s hopes alive.
The snag is: how long will the certificate stay valid? You can bet that the ‘ever since’ of ‘being inseparable’, true as they were in April 2007, won’t last long in Liberty’s long life. The lady wearing short shorts will not appear in Vogue a few issues later. The certificate of public approval will reveal its small print and abominably brief validity span. You can even bet that on her next visit to Topshop Liberty will not find similar shorts — even if she, improbably, were to seek them. But you would be a hundred per cent sure to win if you bet that Liberty’s visits to Topshop would continue. She will go there again and again. Why? First, she has learned to trust the wisdom of whoever in that shop decides what to put on the shelves and trolleys on the day of her visit; she trusts them to sell things complete with a guarantee of public approval and social recognition. Second, she knows already from her brief yet intense experience that what has been put on shelves and trolleys one day won’t be there a few days later, and that to update the fast-ageing knowledge of what ‘is (still) in’ and what ‘is (already) out’ and to find out what is very much ‘on’ today, though it was not at all on display yesterday, one must visit the shop frequently enough to make sure that the wardrobe goes on ‘working well’ without interruption.
Read "Introduction: Consumption, Narcissism, Mass Culture," in reader, 43-52
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.
Rough Draft of Paper 1 Due.
Bring as much as possible of your rough draft of paper 1 to class, hardcopy.
Here a pretty good review of the film from the NY Times.
Philosophic interpretation: Truman as a search for knowledge.
“We all want our existence to be true. Most all of us so crave authenticity that we would not be willing to trade an authentic existence, even suffused with anguish and disappointment, for a contrived existence that is thoroughly artificial but relentlessly pleasurable.”
Psychological: Truman as a story of growing up.
"Our suggestion is that The Truman Show is a movie that fits in the genre known in literature as Bildungsroman. In other words, although Truman is described as having all the conventional attributes that define him as an adult (such as a wife, a home, a car and an office job), his condition at the start of the film is prototypically adolescent. So-called grown-ups seem at times to him, as indeed they do to many young people, as inauthentic as if they were actors playing a part; and without even realizing it (consciously, at least) Truman feels trapped into a familial and social world to which he tries to conform while being unable to entirely identify with it, believing he has no other choice (other than through the fantasy of fleeing to a deserted antipodean island)."
Social: The Truman Show as a Critique of the Media and Consumer Culture
Thus does the movie offer us a metaphor for our own situation. The fake landscape Truman lives in is our own media landscape in which news, politics, advertising and public affairs are increasingly made up of theatrical illusions. Like our media landscape, it is convincing in its realism, with lifelike simulations and story lines, from the high-tech facsimile of a sun that benevolently beams down on Truman to the mock sincerity of the actor he mistakenly believes is his best friend. It is also rewarding and masquerades as something benevolent. And it is seamless -- there are almost no flaws that give away the illusion -- at least until things start to go wrong.
See also quotation from "Mapping the Culture of Control," reader 168-186.
In case you are thinking about the philosophic perspective (truth, knowledge and the pursuit thereof), you might want to take a look at Plato's "Allegory of the Cave."
If you are interested in Truman as a critique of or commentary upon consumer society you might want to check out this article.
According to this author TS raises a number of moral questions. Indeed, he asks doesn't Truman act selfisly when he leaves the show knowing, as he now does, that the lives of many people depend upon it going on.
Review Interpretive Paradigms with Eye Towards the Readings
Start rough draft of paper 3.
Rough Draft of Truman Show Paper Due in class.
Paper 3, on the Truman Show, is due by this day, Friday, December 7 via email attachment. I will accept papers through Monday, December 10 with no questions asked. But if you need more time than that, please email me.