On Black Friday, the Hologram Is Revealed
Shop 'Til You Drop!
Ten years ago, I wrote this piece after being submerged in commercials from consuming too much NFL football. Perhaps I’ve learned my lesson, since I only watched fifteen minutes of football yesterday.
Reposting it gives me a chance to remind readers of Joe Bageant. If you’re not familiar with his work, please check it out. He had a discerning eye for what ails America and an acerbic wit. He died too soon. Anyhow, here’s my old article from Black Friday 2013:
It’s Black Friday: shop ’til you drop! I watch my share of TV (mainly sports), and this week I’ve been subjected to a bumper crop of commercials showing me that my happiness–even my life–depends on buying more and more stuff. People on these commercials experience paroxysms of pleasure when they save a few dollars on sweaters or shoes or electronic gizmos (probably all made in China). Thank goodness I stopped watching morning “news” shows and other infotainment, which simply reinforce the drive to consume like gormless zombies.
Speaking of zombies, my favorite scene from the “Walking Dead” series came in Season 1 when our intrepid heroes are hiding in a department store among the racks of merchandise as hordes of zombies press against the doors, fighting desperately to gain access so they can consume some choice brains. What a telling visual metaphor for brainless consumption!
As usual, Joe Bageant knew the score. If you haven’t read his work, I strongly urge you to read “Deer Hunting with Jesus” or “Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball.” From the latter:
In effect, the economic superstate generates a superhologram that offers only one channel–the shopping channel–and one sanctioned collective national experience in which every aspect is monetized and reduced to a consumer transaction. The economy becomes our life, our religion, and we are transfigured in its observance. In the absence of the sacred, buying becomes a spiritual act conducted by satellites in outer space via bank transfers. All things are purchasable and, indeed, access to anything of value is through purchase–even mood and consciousness, through psychopharmacology, to suppress our anxiety or enhance sexual performance, or cyberspace linkups to porn, palaver, and purchasing opportunities. But, most of all, the hologram generates and guides us.
Through advertising and marketing, the hologram combs the fields of instinct and human desire, arranging our wants and fears in the direction of commodities or institutions. No longer are advertising and marketing merely propaganda, which is all but dead. Digitally mediated brain experience now works far below the crude propaganda zone of influence, deep in the swamps of the limbic brain, reengineering and reshaping the realms of subjective human experience…
Now, as walking advertisements for Nike and the Gap or Jenny Craig, and living by the grace of our Visa cards, we have become the artificial collective product of our corporately “administrated” modern state economy. Which makes us property of the government.
Bageant, from another essay: “The media have colonized our inner lives like a virus. The virus is not going away. The commoditization of our human consciousness is probably the most astounding, most chilling, accomplishment of American culture.”
Amen, Joe. One thing that strikes me from the commercials I’ve seen: the depictions of people as they purchase that commodity they hold so dearly. Their expressions are akin to religious or sexual ecstasy. The message is simple: Here is your god. Here is your loved one. Here is your life. This commodity–buy it–now. Rapture!
And that’s the true blackness of Black Friday.