Thursday, July 06, 2006

Agents of distrust

Jonathan Rowe has been thinking about the corrosive nature of distrust engendered by corporate economies.

"The intelligence agencies of the former Soviet Bloc were more than means of acquiring information. Equally important, they were agencies of distrust. When people didn’t know who was an informant, their inclination to confide was to that extent diminished. The risk of challenging authority was multiplied many times. When the friend to whom you might entrust an anti-regime manuscript, or even just a thought, might be in the secret employ of that same regime, you would think many times before doing it.

Distrust causes people to retreat into cocoons of self-interest and survival; and self interest ultimately is the friend of the powers that be. The corporate economies of the West have produced their own version of this socially corrosive function...

Buzz Marketing, as it is called in the trade, has become big business. Proctor and Gamble alone has enlisted over 600,000 mothers to surreptitiously push products among their friends and peers. Through an affiliated company called Tremor, it has over 225,000 teenagers who do the same...

Suspicion is viral. Once it starts it doesn’t stop. We are less inclined to join our neighbors in civic causes and the like, because…well, who knows what their motives are, really? And when selling spills out of the traditional channels of commerce, and into our personal relationships, then the capacity to have those diminishes as well.

All that’s left is me. It is the ultimate triumph of the commercial values of the corporate state, because there is no refuge from them. Steve Knox, who heads the buzz marketing affiliates of Proctor and Gamble, put it this way. “Word of mouth is among the very few techniques to infiltrate the no-marketing zones people build around their lives,” he said.

Infiltrate. Didn’t the KGB and STASI use words like that?"

No comments: