The Commodification of America
All Hail the Blue Light Special
For those of you advanced (in age) enough to recall The Blue Light Special, it debuted in 1965 as flashing blue sirens in the center of Kmart’s stores that would go off to direct shoppers to a discount item as an announcement was blared on a loudspeaker, “Attention, Kmart shoppers,” a term that became part of the American lexicon.
Well, it is an entirely new day for an old saw. Thanks to Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and now CNN, we have just survived two days of Amazon Prime, the ultimate culmination of the commodification of America. That seamless blending of news and hype and salesmanship made pablum for the low-information masses by our last Leader in Cheap.
As day two of Amazon Prime Days wanes, I neglected to actually count the exact number of articles and headline pieces on CNN that featured the “best”, the “deal you must buy”, the “sure to run out today” instant discount, hucksterish, shouting worthy of the best snake oil salesmen…..the ones from 100+ years ago. The setup is exactly the same; promise them anything. The delivery is new and updated. No more trundling wheel carts and sideshows of the “cured” to gawk at and question. Now, our once-in-a-lifetime bargains are delivered by robots, or human bots, to our doorsteps, sometimes the same day.
Nothing new under the sun
What is new-ish is the mixing of news and commercialism that enhances sales and de-hances actual, factual, news. At least the Blue Light Special was simply a gimmick, a klieg light designed to catch your momentary attention; “Squirrel, Squirrel!”
Now CNN, “The most trusted source in news”, has sold their corporate soul to a for-profit company bigger than anything the world has ever seen. Mr. Bezos, to his credit (?), I’m not entirely sure it was him or the highly powered board of directors of The Washington Post, have in large part kept the Post free from the polluted waters of ad buys from the likes of his other venture, Amazon. I have always trusted the Post, in major part, to give me the unvarnished stories that guide policy and thoughtful discourse out of Washington and onto the world stage. I once felt much the same about CNN; they were the televised equivalent of the New York Times “All the News That’s Fit to Print” or Jack Webb’s, “Just the facts, ma’am”
But now, on the lead page alone, here are the “feature articles”, not just ad headline leaders, fleshed out, supposedly fact-checked and fact studied, articles:
Amazon Lightning Deals
Amazon Best picks
Amazon Deals to Buy ASAP
Amazon Prime Final Hours
If you only but ONE thing on Amazon Prime, this is it
19 Prime deals under $25
Best nonstick on Prime Tuesday
25 high tech Prime deals
Prime Day cloth and fashion
20 Prime items to stock up on while they last
Best tested sound bars on Prime
Prime deals on your patio
Best coffeemaker on Prime
19 things for your kitchen on Prime
This is only a partial list. Modern internet “printing” allows a constantly rotating swirl of shit that is designed, exactly like the Blue Light Special or yore, to catch the eyes of as many news glancers as possible in the moments that they scan the “news” every hour. Always something shiny and new popping into view. A click is worth a thousand eyes…and dollars. Ad revenue well spent. It is a symbiosis of titanic proportions.
Land of the Giants for the 21st Century
Last century we had the titans of the industrial revolution who transformed our culture, our country, and the world. J.P. Morgan, Henry Kaiser, Pierre DuPont, Henry Ford; all sworn enemies in their own lives but all, when America was threatened from without with war and destruction, came together in a stunning show of country and cause, over their own personal fortunes, to forge an alliance that propelled the United States and its allies to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers completely…in record time.
Today it is corporations who are the Titans, maybe led by one titular head (person) like Bezos but really, he’s “retired” and shooting himself into space with the billions he’s stashed away made from the likes of you and me. There are no men of conscience coming to our rescue any longer.
Money is God and Greed is Good
And so, does it worry us that CNN, “The most trusted source in news” has been bought and paid for by the good fortunes of Amazon? The analogy of Amazon and THE Amazon is not lost here. We (humanity) are destroying The Amazon at a pace that will soon, in the not unimaginable future, literally kill us all…., as a globe. And Amazon, the company, is sucking all the money, good will, imagination, and human spirit, out of what is left of us as human beings, all for the sake of their profit margins. They have co-opted our basic news sources in their quest for world domination in a way that Ayn Rand would be proud, and appalled, by. CNN has the shame of its own management and ad exes and well-paid minions to atone for, but they never will; the cycle moves too quickly now, and they are on to the next contrived conveyance……