I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite recurring features in The Wall Street Journal is the “Advertising Report” in the Marketplace section. The report usually features an interview with an ad executive, who can always be counted on for an extremely cynical statement about the autonomy and credulity of those subjected to their wares. It’s one of the few places in the Mainstream Media where one sees how the scions of the culture industry really think, and what they really think about you. Usually the viewing/reading public come across as rubes desperate for more bread and circuses and so bedazzled by any kind of technological novelty that they’ll drop any dreams of their own to see how those wizards of Madison Avenue where able to make a dog talk in a commercial. “Customizing television ads to keep viewers on the couch” the deckline calls out today, as if this was a good thing we all approve of.
Also, today, Seth Halberman, a president of an ad agency, said something so astounding and so conducive to the Journal‘s worldview, that it made it into the pullquote beneath his photo. (The “Advertising Report” is one of the rare sections where real photos are used instead of those line drawings that make the shriveled greed-perverted oligarchs and power-mad politicians look so noble and dignified in the other sections.) “I’ve never seen anything interactive that could make you cry,” Halberman remarked, in discussing why the 30-second TV spot will remain a powerful weapon against the consumer. It seems like innocuous enough hype until you think about the ideology behind it: participation in life (even in the bastardized form of “interactivity) is believed by admen to inhibit your emotions. Passive spectatorship, on the other hand, is what is truly moving and fulfilling. You, as a member of the masses, have a duty to yourself to be a passive consumer, because that is how monolpoly capitalism and its quislings like Halberman have decided you will attain your dollop of emotional connection with the world. If you want to cry sweet tears of sympathy with the world, shut up and do as your told and cram down a few more hours of Daytime TV. “When you seize control,” Halberman elaborates, “It changes the way your mind is working.” In other words, your mind begins to work, which in his view prevents people from being able to feel. Thinking means no feeling: the most repressive plank in the ideology that controls us today. And heaven forbid you seize control of anything. You prefer it that everything is controlled for you — no, you do, really; it makes your life so much easier. You didn’t like being bothered by all that thinking anyway. Just get back to crying, thank you very much.