Thursday, 22 June 2017

Frantic Times

Round here everything goes eerily quiet in hot weather. During the recent spell we spent a large chunk of our time sitting in the garden, mostly in the shade and often with a beer. Retirement eh? I love it.

Meanwhile the mainstream media seem to be increasingly frantic in what feels more and more like a doomed battle for relevance. Hysteria rules but is anyone listening and more importantly, are their advertisers likely to remain on board? When will their advertisers give up on shouty newspapers nobody under fifty reads anyway?

The impression is partly explained by a series of major news stories from Brexit to Trump to the Grenfell horror, but not entirely. Great changes are abroad which are not encouraging. 

Back in 1952  Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote a science fiction novel called The Space Merchants

In a vastly overpopulated world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge trans-national corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and by far the best-paid profession. Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that the quality of life is improved by all the products placed on the market. Some of the products contain addictive substances designed to make consumers dependent on them. However, the most basic elements of life are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel. Personal transport may be pedal powered, with rickshaw rides being considered a luxury. The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; the colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed.

Pohl and Kornbluth's fictional world is dominated by vast advertising agencies where governments are merely clearing houses for business interests. I read it decades ago when to me it seemed like an ingenious but fanciful attack on rampant capitalism, a product of its time. It doesn't seem like that now.

When we remind ourselves that the old mainstream media are struggling to survive in a world dominated by the colossal reach of social media and vast internet advertising businesses. When we add in global elites with no ties to time or place, when we add the growing power of international bureaucracies and their willingness to direct human behaviour - 

Well then - with a few modifications Pohl and Kornbluth's ghastly fictional future seems somewhat less fictional.


James Higham said...

It did in 1857 too with JPM and the corn crash.

wiggiatlarge said...

So right about how the "news" is now feed to the public, the printed word is sadly for nostalgic reasons dying, when as a youngster I worked on the fringes of the street of shame the Daily Mirror proudly boasted of a circulation of 10 million, the biggest I believe in the world, long gone as has most of the integrity they afforded at that time.

Demetrius said...

TV etc. is now typically so aggressive in presentation that we have given up, apart from the golf. Mercifully, the golfers still use their clubs to play with rather than battering their opponents. Also, there is the immediacy of extreme reactions to events etc.. It is very unsettling. Perhaps it might go back to Cassandra of the old Daily Mirror, a man much given to disclaiming first and thinking later.

A K Haart said...

James - corn crash?

Wiggia - a circulation of 10 million sounds astounding now, but such was the power of newspapers.

Demetrius - there is a sense of desperation hanging over those initial reactions. These days I tend to ignore them and wait for a more considered view although that doesn't always turn up either.