Monday, January 25, 2010

Hate Us. Love Us. So Long We Profit.

Have you seen the chart?
It's a hell of a start,
It could be made into a monster
If we all pull together as a team.

This is a excerpt of lyrics from a Pink Floyd song which criticizes the music industry for operating like a used car lot. Ironically, this very album sold more than 13 million copies, producing more profit than the criticism contained in the lyrics inhibited. After all, people bought an album telling them the people who produce albums are assholes. To hear the message, you have to buy the album. You've already lost. The producers won because they profited, and that's what counts.

These profits keep companies and ventures alive, and once they live, their model is capable of propagating. Natural selection drives capitalism. Producers who behaved like sleazy salesmen succeeded, flourished, and propagated. Inevitably, many producers realized that there was money in rebellion, so it was packaged, brand-named, and sold. It doesn't matter what comes on the disk, as long as people purchase the disk, be they fifteen-year-olds trying to make father mad with the Sex Pistols or sixty-year-olds piling up all the recordings of Vivaldi ever made. If there's a profit, the venture lives on, even if degrading the image of the venture itself fuels its continued existence.

This natural selection extends beyond the music industry. Consider 24-hour news channels:

This was the election coverage in 1988. It's got a fancy pants introduction, but afterward, two people talking with a simple graph of results.

Look at this shit:

They've thrown enough pretty colors and stimuli in my face to induce a seizure. This eye-candy draws in viewers the same way that action films entertain. Explosions and cars and loud noises all make us hear something. They stimulate and hypnotize, and it works. People buy tickets; people watch 24-hour news networks.

In fact, it's the source of revenue for the news networks that makes this possible. If you watch the network, their ratings increase. When their ratings go up, they can sell their advertising slots for more. To profit, they only have to keep you watching. Even on the worst of news days, they keep spouting crap to make "Search for 12-year-old's Body" and "There's people running for president 12 months from now" seem like edge of the seat action, keeping you glued on the screen, and keeping money pouring into their pockets. To stop you from being bored, they'll throw in a flash of color and sound, and you will remain fixed.

As if the gilded mundane weren't awful enough, every time something happens that's worth hearing about on the news, executives assuredly shit themselves, even if those events involve the loss of thousands of people's lives. I'm sure news network CEOs had dangerously large stiffies when Challenger exploded, airplanes ran into the World Trade Center, and a major earthquake destroyed the nation of Haiti. I can't imagine the fixation on devastation within the management of these companies.

It's terrifying to think that folks that demented could be letting you know what's going on in the world. It's absurd, but capitalism and natural selection allow it to work and to continue. CNN was the first 24-hour news network, and its success bred copies with their own variations, all growing to become more obnoxious than when the whole circus began.

It's got to stop. There's raving lunatics yelling at us through our televisions, delivering a pre-processed world to us, simplified by the ideologies of the network we prefer. They know what words to say and nerves to pinch so that we feel something. If they exploit that dead twelve-year-old's face or convince us that some presidential candidate will destroy the free world thirty seconds after being inaugurated, we feel something and become invested. They say things because they know how to make us feel things, and we feel angry or afraid, or use anger to hide the fear they expose. It provides us with stimulation in our mundane lives which lack danger or meaning.

The stimulation is empty, and we'll soon be back for more. The lunatics will tell us what to think again, and our blood will boil because something apparently threatens our ideological identities and sheltered sensibilities. If you haven't either of those yet, then you can find some rockstar who will offer one to you, one that centers around sticking it to the man, the very man you paid to hear him. It may be hypocritical, but at least he makes you feel something. You'll soon be back for more, and that keeps the whole ironic system alive.