ii. the appropriation
all that was once directly
lived has become mere
In the previous section of Remember, we examined the successive evolutions of propaganda and mass population control - and how such methods of manipulation have been modified into what we know today in colloquial terms as 'the Mass Media', which was ultimately implemented by corporations (with the tacit approval and cooperation of international governments) to run a global economy of mass production and consumption.
To better understand how race takes a central place in our collective indoctrination by mass media, we will examine how all manners of things from inanimate objects (such as a car) to abstract ideas (such as "diversity", "color-blindness", and even "race" itself) - can be commodified and put up for sale.
the society of the spectacle (by guy debord) & the
commodification of modern society via consumerism
In his seminal work The Society of the Spectacle, French theorist Guy Debord argues that human existence, after "colonization" by mass consumerism, has come to be defined by "the decline of being into having - and of having into merely appearing."
In other words, citizens participating in hyper-consumerism experience a degradation in their quality of life: a life in which they attempt to create "life experiences" through the purchase of goods or services - goods which have no real or tangible connection to the varied and enriching life experiences they seek.
Hence we no longer live authentic lives as a society - instead we end up experiencing life through passive, observational roles via movies, fashion, 'trends', and other models of mass consumption.
One could also sum it up this way: in a consumerist society we base our happiness, self-esteem, and sense of worth - essentially our entire existence - on the ownership of goods which have no real connection to whatever goals, ideas, or ideals we desire and pursue.
Both men and women are chin-deep in consumerist behavior: a good example would be a man purchasing a bottle of cologne, a pack of cigarettes, or a luxury sports car because those items supposedly represent some element of masculinity, youth or social status.
(Note: $1.5 million dollar yacht and washboard abs not included with purchase.)
(Welcome to "Marlboro Flavor Country" - now you're a real man.)
(Warning: vehicle won't cure baldness, bad fashion sense or erectile dysfunction.)
the commodification of race as a marketing tool
Accusations of advertising and marketing executives on Madison Avenue (in New York City) cynically manipulating the insecurity and vanity of people worldwide for profit aren't new, and the negative effects of this manipulation have been well-documented.
For example, numerous studies link distorted and glorified media images of the urban, 'gangsta' lifestyle with the perpetuation of delinquency and under-achievement in African-American communities.
Advertisers have seized upon white suburban teenagers' fascination with hip hop culture, and have synthesized the implied "blackness" of this subculture into a pre-fabricated and racialized pop cultural 'product', to peddle everything from clothing to records and soft drinks to the masses using a black face as its 'delivery mechanism'.
the intersection of the lifestyle brand and race:
the 'formula for diversity and multiculturalism'
A lifestyle brand is a term used in marketing to describe a brand that aspires to embody the image, values, and aspirations of a group or sub-culture.
(* Typically, the central values that surround a lifestyle brand are luxury,
prestige, and social status.)
By doing so, it aims to sell its products by convincing potential customers that their specific group identity will be enhanced if they purchase the brand's products and publicly associate themselves with the brand.
Most fashion and apparel companies fall into this category of a lifestyle brand.
For example, Ralph Lauren and its sub-brand POLO by Ralph Lauren try to evoke the romanticism of a pseudo-European, 'blue-blood' American upper class in their product line.
[the formula for multiculturalism]
One particularly clever way in which lifestyle brands suggest their value to consumers is by strategically placing a group of ethnically and racially diverse models in their advertisements.
This way, lifestyle brands strategically co-opt a politically-correct image to their advantage by using images which push notions of "diversity" and "interracial harmony" to consumers.
This is done to indirectly appeal to the customer's sense of social justice and morality, while also conveying youth and sex appeal.
Of course, one must also remember that these advertising campaigns have essentially made it 'cool' and 'trendy' to support this "diversity initiative", via the power of suggestion that is inherent in all advertisements.
Predictably, consumers today follow such suggestions in advertising with much enthusiasm.
They are thus subconsciously lead to believe that by patronizing these brands and purchasing their products, they are endorsing (and therefore literally 'embodying') the ideals of racial tolerance and "diversity".
Essentially, these brands are commodifying race itself as a product or tool, to pander to the egos and vanity of people and to sell its goods to the masses.
the components of the formula for multiculturalism
Yet this does not paint the entire picture, because there is a clear pattern in the 'multi-ethnic' advertising campaigns in all forms of Media, from print to television and motion pictures.
Edouard Le Men & Stephane Nguyen Photography
Note how the above and following images feature the following racial and gender 'components', in various combinations and permutations:
the white male
the white female
the black male
the asian female
Next, note how two specific race/gender pairings in particular are shown in the majority of advertising to suggest an element of (interracial) sexual tension:
A. the white female & black male
B. the white male & Asian female
This is no accident or coincidence: in fact, "A" and "B" are a part of a larger, artificially-constructed and also self-reinforcing Formula for Multiculturalism/Diversity.
Note: The black female is very occasionally included by advertisers in this
'formula' for diversity, as is the case in the following examples.
T Magazine (New York Times Supplement), Spring 2009.
Photographer: Robert Wyatt. Source: NYTimes.com
At this point one must stop and note that these idyllic images of an interracial group of friends and lovers legitimize and cement the validity, authenticity, and centrality of the aforementioned groups (white men/women, black men, and Asian women) in the minds of the millions of viewers that are (repeatedly) exposed to such advertisements prescribing a narrow, artificially constructed image of "diversity".
In short: by featuring the the white man, white woman, black man, and Asian woman in a social and sexual context - the images suggest that these (and only these) particular groups are "cool" and therefore "socially acceptable".
Simultaneously, the Asian man is just as readily inferred to be illegitimate and invalid within this idealized framework of "All-American" diversity - essentially unworthy - by their absence in the preceding images.
Finally, it is critical to recognize that the logical path drawn by the viewers of these images is internalized and etched into their subconscious, to later affect their choices and behaviors in real life.
The above media conditioning helps to precipitate much of mainstream America's treatment of Asians, and also the actions of Asian-Americans themselves:
1. White women and women of other races - including many Asian women - subconsciously view Asian men as having "low social (thus sexual) value" since they are completely and categorically left out of the media's discourse on what is "cool" (and thus valid) about diversity and multiculturalism.
2. White men (and now increasingly, black men) start to brazenly view Asian women as their sexual property, in the 'absence' of Asian men. This notion is cemented in their subconscious mind by a steady 'diet' of Asian female/white male or Asian female/black male media images that subliminally suggest their sexual ownership of Asian women.
It is notable that both (a) the media images suggesting white/black male ownership of the Asian female - (b) as well as the actions of white and black men who internalize this message - are an indirect expression of disrespect and contempt for the Asian man.
However, they are able to hide their racist and sexist motivations behind an artificial front of "diversity" and "interracial harmony" - all while reaping the benefits of a racialized form of sexual exploitation.
Corporations - particularly 'lifestyle brands' and fashion apparel manufacturers (which rely on the arbitrary connection between their products and a symbolic 'lifestyle' to maintain its brand popularity and sales) - have made it a point to include ethnically diverse images in their advertising.
Yet these images portraying elements of sexual attraction, tension, or romance between the races lose all of its original meaning (of improving race-relations by 'normalizing' interracial relationships in the minds of the public) - particularly when they are injected into the pop-culture narrative in a formulaic manner.
By systematically excluding specific gender/race combinations in their multi-ethnic advertisings (i.e Asian men, and to a lesser extent black women), they are in fact enforcing a racist doctrine of exclusion.
Furthermore by only featuring Asian women and frequently pairing them up with white men in advertisements, these companies are staining their corporate reputations with colonial undertones of racial and sexual exploitation of Asians and Asian-Americans.
what is more real to us: perception or reality?
And at this stage of total media-saturation, one could indeed argue that perceptions (as formed by the absorption of media images) literally define reality for the majority of the population.
And this is indeed what advertisers and corporations want - in their view the truth must be distorted, so that they can target the fears, insecurities, and vanities of the masses to peddle their goods for massive profit.
Thus through this manipulation perpetrated on a national scale, the original propaganda-like properties of advertising and mass media are fully demonstrated on the modern populace.
The German people's apathy toward Jews had never boiled over into virulent hatred until the Nazis began pounding their sub-conscious with anti-semitic propaganda campaigns starting in 1933.
Similarly, the American public may not actively believe in the fundamental 'inferiority' of the Asian Man - but when they are fed a steady diet of images and subliminal suggestions that defame or entirely exclude the Asian Man, their latent prejudices are silently reinforced over time.
While the unspeakable and deadly horrors the Jew faced in a less democratic age cannot be compared directly to the barriers the Asian-American Man faces today, it must be noted that the mechanics of his public defamation via the Media are exactly the same as their condemnation at the hands of the Nazi state.