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Shock Troops of Corporate Empire: Hip-Hop, Fast-Food and Social Media (August 26, 2010)

Charles presents the dark side of social media and argues that along with hip hop and fast-food, it is a mechanism to wreck the best within us and turn us into over-consuming, desensitized airheads and zombies.  He argues that the "global marketing complex" is designed to undermine "our sense of internal security by objectifying the measures of self-worth." Let’s say this is so, but has it ever been different and are hip hop, fast foods and social media really just new tools and devises to accomplish this goal? – Ilene 

Shock Troops of Corporate Empire: Hip-Hop, Fast-Food and Social Media   

Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds 

Disc jockey

The shock troops of Corporate Empire actively undermine traditional culture, health and engagement with the real world, clearing the way for colonization and passive consumption. 

The defenders of hip-hop, fast food and social media are legion. Critics of these Corporate Empire shock troops are labeled (and thus dismissed) as fusty social "conservatives," anti-technology Luddites and "liberal" busy-bodies getting in the way of "consumer’s right to choose" their own music, food and hobbies.

The irony is the most passionate defenders of hip-hop, fast food and social media are unaware that they are actually defending the storm troopers of Corporate Empire.

Yes, there are hip-hop atists with positive messages, and fast-food giants attempting to improve the range of their offerings, and examples of social media enabling political resistance.

But all these arguments, justifications and polemics boil down to the equivalent of all the arguments, justifications and polemics in favor of corporate fascism, colonialism and Empire: the trains run on time, we’re spreading "civilization" to the "primitives," capitalism and technology will free the oppressed classes, etc.

The spirited defense is not coincidence, for hip-hop, fast food and social media are the shock troops of Corporate Empire. While marketed by defenders as either essentially harmless "youth-oriented" avenues of self-expression or the progressive vanguard of individual choice, they are the active agents of Corporate Empire "soft power," undermining traditional cultures, human health and engagement with the real world --the subtle, largely invisible realm of unconscious assumptions and propaganda I term the politics of experience.

Once traditional sources of stability and health have been undermined, dismantled and replaced with a mono-culture of marketing that glorifies self-absorption, conspicuous consumption and personal worth measured by broadcasted "likes" and other visible measures of popularity, then the Corporate Empire can quickly infiltrate and occupy the cultural and financial high ground.

Waking Up to Messiness

Lest you think this absurd or extreme, consider the fact that 92 million Chinese now have type 2 diabetes, and that number could rise to a staggering 500 million within a single generation. I document these statistics in China’s Headwinds.

What caused this explosion of a once-rare "lifestyle" disease? Fast food and the other "convenience" foods hyped by the Corporate Empire, and an inactive lifestyle of absorption in social media and online addictions (gaming, etc.). Ironically, auto and truck traffic in Beijing has now slowed to the same pace of 20 years ago when 95% of the residents rode simple one-speed bicycles-- only now 30+% of the passengers are obese.

As always, I start every critique (the basic Survival+ starting point) by asking: cui bono--to whose benefit?

Have hip-hop (the glorification of a toxic stew of conspicuous consumption, degradation of women, exploitation, drugs and violence), fast food (the grease-slicked pathway to an early death) and social media (choose your online addiction now!) actually benefitted the populations which have wholeheartedly embraced them--for instance, America?

The answer is rather obvious, isn’t it? Who benefits is those profiting from the dominance of these elements of Corporate Empire. Those "consuming" the "products" are debilitated, brainwashed, distracted, and often addicted.

Correspondent Craig M. submitted this telling bit of research: Junk Food-Addicted Rats Chose to Starve Themselves Rather Than Eat Healthy Food.

And don’t rats and humans share about 98% of the same genetic code? Hmm….

Rabid social networkers check Facebook and Twitter from bed, at dinner and during sex.

An addicted, distracted, passive populace of "consumers" bombarded with incessant marketing that subtly undermines well-being and security (are you popular enough, rich enough, etc.) is the ideal setup for the Corporate/State Empire that exemplifies corporate fascism.

Triumph of Mussolini in Italy, 1925. Cartoon showing the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) as Caesar, proclaiming that untill all his enemies were defeated there could be no truly free Italy.

As Benito Mussolini observed, "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

Defenders of hip-hop can spout "positive" lyrics and claim that the "brand" is only a reflection of "what’s real," but this is misleading: the global "brand" of hip-hop is a totally artificial construct, the precise opposite of "what’s real." What’s "real" is the "branding" of a destructive ideology that is immensely profitable to its purveyors; everything else is calculated artifice.

As for "positive" lyrics and artists--sure, they exist, just like "healthy" fast food exists and "positive social change" has a voice in social media; but the global "brand" of hip-hop (the kind that is sold in videogames and on billboards in gritty urban neighborhoods) remains an easily marketable and "packaged" construct of degradation of women (the "Madonna and whore" syndrome, only with the Madonna half left out), conspicuous consumption (bling), exploitation (of women, drugs, etc.) ugliness (the depicted "ghetto" is always blighted, even though most buyers of the music are suburban white kids), rejection of learning and community, and a pervasive atmosphere of violence, gunplay and early death.

Which sounds like what? Iraq, of course, and it is also no coincidence that videogames are being deployed to train the next generation of warriors defending the Empire. Desensitizing people to violence is a key step in brainwashing them and preparing them to do the Empire’s bidding without resistance.

A variety of Web pundits are hyping the notion that social media will be the great enabler of everything wonderful in the world, as people use the new "public utilities" to share knowledge and accomplish positive social changes.

But like all those "positive" lyrics and "healthy" convenience foods, the "positive" aspects of social media are mostly rationalizations and simulacra designed to deflect criticism and leave the global profit machinery untouched.

Are the people interrupting sex to check their Facebook and Twitter accounts really working for "social justice" on a global scale? The mere suggestion is absurd; the goal is to monitor and enhance one’s broadcasted "self": social me-me-me-me-me-media.

I address the underlying reason for this in Survival+: the global marketing complex’s goal is to undermine our sense of internal security by objectifying the measures of self-worth. Not wearing the latest fashion? You’re low value, Baby; I can’t be seen with you any more. Fortunately, there is a ‘solution" to your inadequacy: buy the latest stuff, immediately. Not enough "friends" and "likes"? You’re a loser; better spend even more time on social networking to build up a respectable metric so you don’t have to be ashamed of yourself.

And so on. This is all consciously designed into marketing everywhere.

While I am constantly being "sold" on the wonderfulness of social media, what I see in the real world is destructive addiction and distraction: teens laying around a disheveled house glued to their screens while the dirty dishes pile up in the sink (Mom will do them when she drags herself in from serving Corporate America), trash blowing around the yard and sidewalk out front (Not my job!), "convenience" food containers in the overflowing trash (if I can’t microwave "dinner" in a minute, I’m wasting valuable time), earbuds blasting music, but nobody in the house knows how to play any instrument, or makes music for fun--I will stop there because you can fill in your own similar observations.

There is something painful about watching youth around the world mimic the "brand" of hip-hop--down to the backward baseball cap and American branded clothing--ka-ching go the sales registers--and U.S. teens snapping up pre-torn jeans for $80 a pair--an ironic mockery of the kind of hard physical work that they eschew as only worthy of poor immigrants, and various self-destructive addictions (to online pornography, gaming, social media, etc.) being sold and defended as the "progressive" result of the technologically unstoppable forces of Corporate Empire.

Hip-hop dance troupe

Is this laying waste to the shock troops a touch hypocritical? After all, don’t I display a photo of myself and keep track of my page ranking? Don’t I have a Twitter account and Adsense adverts? I would say the issue boils down to what’s being offered that readers/listeners/consumers can opt out of. Anyone can get an ad-blocker, and this web page is passive. It takes work to read it. Visitors can stop visiting. It’s not like an advert in the shopping cart. As for the photo--some people are curious about what owners of blogs look like (I certainly am), and this seems harmless enough. If you want to judge my potential biases from education and experience, I provide enough basic information that you can make such an assessment. I have a Twitter account so I can experience some social media directly rather than count on other observers for my information. In small doses--a few minutes a day--it is like any other media: potentially distracting, occasionally useful.

Being a careful, skeptical "consumer" is a positive trait, and one I try to encourage. Each of our minds is a territory ripe for invasion, occupation and exploitation; thinking for yourself and maintaining a skeptical vigilance against the ubiquitous forces of Corporate Empire is the only real defense any of us has against addiction, distraction, confusion, insecurity and a deep spiritual and intellectual poverty.  


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  1. BRAVO! BRAVO BRAVO! As an unknown but brilliant friend of mine said-- ( I’m afraid to leave his full name as he works in a non-power job,  and could easily have retribution visited upon him for speaking contacttruth, neologism intended)
    THE GOAL OF CAPITALISM IS TO REDUCE ALL HUMAN INTERACTION TO THE CASH NEXUS.
    Whoa. Think about that for a few years,  with the added viewpoints the author has effectively expressed.