The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Selling Counter-culture; The Revolution Will Be Televised

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 18, 2009 @ 09:24

Make Your Own Counter-Cultural Kid, by Freya Harrison

Forgive me a moment, while I don my Victor Meldrew cap.

If there’s anything about modern society that fascinates me, it is the power of commerce, branding and identity-based values to sell the counter-culture. I was about to make some crass remark about it all starting with the punk movement in the 70s, but who knows it may be older than that…

It is remarkable how susceptible we humans are to uncritical thinking. And I don’t exclude myself from this. There are many of us who believe we are swimming against the flow. That we are independent, and stand out from the crowd.

Witness the glory that is the branding of Apple. Once a failing company, with shit computers no one used, now global empire worth billions of dollars, shifting vast numbers of its cool merchandise. Apple used to be the domain of the geeks alone. Now it is the brand of the decade. Hip, up-to-date, professional, sleek. And best of all, you pay way over the odds for the same product you can get anywhere else just to be part of it!

So far so boring. That is (allegedly) free will, and so what is the problem?

The problem is that many people believe that in buying into this, they are staking a claim for their independence; that suddenly they are no longer buying the crap in the mass market. This is certainly true for Apple’s, “Get a Mac” campaign, which is sneering, pretentious and utterly up its own arse. Hey you, stand out from the crowd and not line Bill Gates pockets any more! Just line ours instead!

To me, it would work if it wasn’t mega corporations pushing it. If it was a tiny little computer shop (hint hint), pushing its own distinctive products, then yeah, a little more convincing. But even so, every business/organisation attempts the same thing with marketing: to try to go straight past the thinking part of your brain and access your emotions, where totally irrational connections and decisions are made.

And so, we now turn to today.

This week there has been a major campaign to stop the X Factor from taking the Christmas Number 1 spot again. The campaign has mostly revolved around several Facebook groups, with many hundreds of thousands of members, pledging to buy what is probably one of the world’s worst songs, Killing In The Name.

Good for them. Except…

Killing In The Name is by a band called Rage Against The Machine. Isn’t it obvious where this is going?

Rage Against The Machine. Signed to Epic Records. Owned by… Sony Music Entertainment.

Guess what else Sony Music Entertainment has an interest in. Would you credit it, it’s only Syco Music, run by none other than Mr Simon “X Factor” Cowell himself.

A counter-culture band, with a name that is so obviously fraudulent, sold by a mega corporation. Meanwhile, a TV show and record label, run by the same people. In a major battle on the airwaves and in the newsprint. Only one winner there.

The cynical side of me starts to wonder: why was Killing In The Name chosen? Could this whole campaign have actually been orchestrated by Sony itself?

And so there you have it. Hundreds of thousands of people thinking they’re doing something to put one over their masters and overlords. A people’s revolution!

Only it isn’t. At best, the fools went to battle using guns made by the very people they’re fighting. At worst, they have all been suckered into one of the biggest PR exercises the country has ever seen.

This triumph of capitalism can be summed up in one sentence: corporations have you whether you’re with them or against them: you either sell out to them, or sell out to them without realising it, and revel in your mass-produced individuality.

Which is worse?

One Response to “Selling Counter-culture; The Revolution Will Be Televised”

  1. Ah, duh, the corporations are the brainchild of the revolutionaries from past decades. Corporations are not evil, but some people are. Yet without for-profit companies, or individuals, there would be no money to buy “revolutionary” crap. And the protesters couldn’t protest by making signs made with OIL based magic markers. There’s a “revolutionary family” nearby that during the Bush years would stand on a corner and protest the war. Their signs (all made with oil based products) condemned the use of oil. Never mind that everything they were wearing, and their cars, and the heat in their cold Michigan homes are all the conveniences of OIL. And if Bush (or anyone else) would listen to them and pull out of the war they’d whine because they’d soon not have warm houses, or clothes to wear, or would they be able to buy sign materials.

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