The Authority of Absurdity: The Role of Consumerism in the American Cultural Revolution

Hypocrisy. It provides no function as a useful rhetorical tool. Whenever progressives use the bible to argue against Christians, this meme is usually the response. And it’s accurate. You don’t even believe any of it, why do I care what you have to say? However, conservative pundits don’t realize they’re doing the same thing when they point out leftist hypocrisy. When non-believers of a religion use their opponent’s religion to argue against them, it’s completely meaningless.

And this happens all the time. The American culture machine itself is a progressive apparatus. It in itself is filled with many self-contradicting tendencies, but none of that matters, because it gets to define the culture, not anyone outside of it. This is why the media can criticize “right wing protestors” in one instance, then emphasize the moral imperative of participating in the riots in another. It knows any sane person can see this is absurd, but the culture machine does a fantastic job at creating and legitimizing the authority behind this absurdity. This is what real power is able to do. It is also what allows products to satisfy consumers on both a material and spiritual level. Transcendental Bernaysianism is the link between old fashioned consumerism and what we now call woke capitalism.

The media itself is a product. A quite powerful product, in fact, which is why it is able to create the most contradictory and absurd statements, yet remain in power. In other words, this is why the media is able to point deer, make horse. And if sheer loyalty to the culture machine doesn’t work, the authority itself does:

“The people on the television told me to condemn the protesting working class and MAGAboomers that want their jobs back. They’re selfishly spreading COVID-19! The people on the television also told me to gather with thousands of rioters and burn down a Wendy’s. That’s hypocritical you say? Well who do you think you are? Wherein lies your authority?”

The media is a rage factory. Professional activism isn’t any new phenomenon, and it grew, naturally, over the 20th century. It existed in the newspapers, then wormed its way into the television, then the internet… that took a little time. The internet used to be perceived as a wonder, now it’s perceived as a hellscape. This shift in perception started with the rise of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. They alone are not responsible for this, as the platforms they created allowed professional activists to reach people they never imagined they would be able to. And what, really, is the point of point of activists?

Outrage. One of my favorite LARPer histrionics is “X group are literally dying in the streets right now.” Media culture feeds us a struggle of life and death. We riot over death, and people are always dying. If I don’t listen to the people on the television or riot or consume the right product I might be next.

The Distributist made a tweet that really whipped some people up. The conversation generally had to do with those on the right that criticize capitalism. Unfortunately, many people didn’t quite understand what he was getting at. Some leftists insisted that it’s impossible to critique capitalism from the right, and this quickly devolved further into an argument over semantics. However, this brings up an interesting question. What do we mean by capitalism? It’s a magical word for leftists and a holy word for libertarians. For leftists, everything bad can be attributed to capitalism, and for libertarians everything good can be attributed to it.

It would seem as though if a dissident on the right says “I don’t like capitalism,” they mean something else. Every criticism of capitalism from the right seems to revolve around decadence, immorality, atomization, meaninglessness, or the way it will exclusively side with leftists. None of these critiques are actually economic. They’re all cultural grievances.

The reason leftists are able to ally themselves with corporations, is because corporations are in the business of pandering to “identity.” To leftists, identity largely exists in a material, external way. “Identity” is understood as the soul in the religion of progressivism. This is why gender, race, and other “identity” movements always focus on the external. Image – media culture is all about image. Who else, besides these progressives, are so concerned with image? Corporations. This is why they see a goldmine with these movements, and can adapt themselves to whatever social cause they or their consumers create. Whatever image consumers demand, that image they will receive. If making Spongebob gay presents an image consumers like, then gay he shall be.

Therefore, it’s not necessarily markets that the right is skeptical of – it’s consumer culture. This is the opposite for leftists – markets suck, but consumer culture is good. But in reality, nothing in the culture war has anything to do with economics. Like all leftist movements, it’s never really about what they say it is. From a Leninist, or in this case, bioleninist perspective, we understand that it’s solely about power. And what is that almighty power in America?

The dollar. At the end of May it was BLM. Then pride month hit – this created a problem. Which lives matter more? Black lives or trans lives? Simple, Black Trans Lives Matter. Incredible. These movements, and the context and order in which they have occurred, seem to be about creating a new kind of consumer. When it’s backed by virtually every corporation, every Public Servant, and every mainstream media outlet, something highly coordinated is clearly going on. The masses are being conditioned for a new type of consumerism, one unique to progressivism. Consider the other two major countries that had cultural revolutions in the 20th century. Media culture and Bernaysian consumerism didn’t exist in Lenin’s Russia or Mao’s China.

Our cultural revolution is different. Loyalty to the regime will be signaled through consumer products. Black lives matter is the workers of the world unite slogan, but instead of starving you’re getting fat off that McDonalds burger. And instead of the golden arch at every stop off I-80, it will be the rainbow arch. The defacement of the Lee statue is tremendous in the anticipated vision of the future. It’s almost beautiful in a surreal, dystopian way.

Right now, the established slogan is black lives matter. Others are saying all lives matter. During cultural revolutions, no lives matter.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Few people consciously realize we’re even having a cultural revolution (or color revolution, as the American Sun has written about, and Argent and Serp discussed in an interesting stream) and that’s kind of a problem. After all, the point of a cultural revolution is to make it crystal clear to the masses that things are going to be very different. “The new normal,” is a good start, but they’re going to need a lot more of those clever little revisionist phrases. It also doesn’t answer who our Stalin will be. Who will be our Honorable Chairman? (Or chairwoman, or non-binary chairperson, or chairdeer, or chairhorse, or…) That’s another problem, there’s a very obvious power struggle going on, but I’m not particularly versed in the way our oligarchs interact and compete for power among themselves. I’m more interested in how the propaganda will be disseminated and received in a consumer culture. Because regardless of who turns out on top, the revolution will be mass marketed. It’s already proven to be quite fashionable.

Semiotic warfare. It is just as important for consumerism as it is for ideological dominance. Bernays quotes a businessman by the name of O. H. Cheney in Propaganda:

Inter-commodity competition is, of course, the most spectacular of all. It is the one which seems most of all to have caught the business imagination of the country. More and more business men are beginning to appreciate what inter-commodity competition means to them. More and more they are calling upon their trade associations to help them— because inter-commodity competition cannot be fought single-handed. Take the great war on the dining-room table, for instance. Three times a day practically every dining room table in the country is the scene of a fierce battle in the new competition. Shall we have prunes for breakfast? No, cry the embattled orange-growers and the massed legions of pineapple canners. Shall we eat sauerkraut? Why not eat green olives? is the answer of the Spaniards. Eat macaroni as a change from potatoes, says one advertiser—and will the potato growers take this challenge lying down?

Rage. The manufacturing of rage is a lucrative business. Arguing with family at the Thanksgiving table is presented to us as a regular and moral necessity within our culture. Is this meant to be done solely through remembering facts we’ve memorized, and then have an intellectual debate? Of course it isn’t. Show up in your MAGA hat, your Bernie beanie, your Math hat, your hammer and sickle shirt, your taxation is theft shirt, your gender pants. Cover your self in as many ideological symbols and slogans as possible. Of course, you have to buy all of these things. Corporations have understood for quite some time that consumers are emotionally willing and capable of maintaining parasocial relationships with them.

I have a story someone once told me. I’ll summarize it from that person’s perspective and keep it short for the sake of anonymity.

“A while back I met up with a buddy and his wife for dinner. They were academics. We got on the subject of Trump and politics. My friend’s wife told me the following story of when she got to meet a politician running against Trump. ‘I was granted clearance and proceeded down the hall. When I got to the room and saw him, I immediately hugged him and wept. He asked me my name, and in that moment I couldn’t respond.’ I asked her why she couldn’t. ‘Because he gave me so much hope. To know he could be our president instead of that thing in the white house.'”

Media culture can make us love or hate anyone on the screen more than anyone we personally know. If the screen can give us an image, and when we come face to face with that image, we have a religious experience, what then?

I can’t breathe. It’s poignant, it’s poetic, it’s powerful, it’s perfect. You can already get the merchandise on Amazon. Let alone how cynical you have to be to sell it, how cynical do you have to be to buy it?

Your I Can’t Breathe shirt arrives in the mail. It’s a great moment. You wake up the next morning and put it on. You go across the hall and get on League of Legends and buy the new Senna skin. That’s another great moment.

George Floyd – his name will ring through all of time. Few men could dream of such glory in death. He is beloved by billions, his entire life culminated in the spectacle we are now experiencing. George Floyd was a Great Man. Or maybe he was never real and this entire thing was manufactured to kick off the cultural revolution. Either way, it doesn’t matter. CNN could announce tomorrow that it was staged, and spin the story as “but these are still important issues, right?” And everyone already on board would go along with it. That would be the absurd thing to do, but it would be the loyal thing to do.

And that’s the point. Consider the recent Trump rally in Tulsa. Every liberal and leftist pundit pivoted instantly from “protests are a righteous, moral imperative” to “this mass gathering is a doomsday superspreader event.” They know it’s absurd. But that’s how loyalty works – to pretend what is absurd, isn’t.

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