Karl Marx said that a capitalist is someone who will sell you the rope to hang him. Actually, a capitalist today will sell you the government party line instead of rope or any other product.
A growing number of companies no longer tout the features and benefits of their products in advertisements. Instead, they tout their feigned social conscience and environmental awareness, or parrot government propaganda to stay in good stead with politicians and regulators, or repeat canards, platitudes, and pieties believed by society at large, especially by the millennial generation.
Take General Electric. Please take it and sell it China. Oh, sorry, too late. GE has already sold its venerable appliance business to a Chinese company. But GE cares about getting more women into technical and engineering positions in the company, or at least it makes this claim in a commercial that the company is running. Maybe GE is referring to Chinese women.
The commercial makes no mention of the company’s products and could just as well have been aired by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or by a university diversity department.
The commercial subtly reinforces two canards that prevail in the zeitgeist: one, that there are institutional and societal roadblocks to women entering technical and engineering professions; and two, that women are paid less than men for equal work.
Actually, women are faring much better than men in today’s economy. They are graduating from college in higher percentages, have a higher life expectancy on average, die in workplace accidents at about a tenth of the rate for men, and die in wars at about one-hundredth the rate.
Moreover, misleading stories in the uneducated media about the supposed lower pay of women don’t account for the fact that men tend to take more dangerous and thus higher paid jobs, don’t interrupt their careers for child rearing to the degree that women do, and can be found disproportionally in seasonal and cyclical industries, such as construction and natural resources, where the hourly pay may be relatively higher but the annual earnings are lower due to periodic layoffs. Women, on the other hand, are disproportionally represented in more stable industries, such as healthcare, education, and social services.
GE’s commercial didn’t mention that GE is the same company that had accepted a government (aka taxpayer) bailout of its financial subsidiary, GE Capital, which had been its most profitable business for decades until it gorged on bad loans. After taking taxpayer money, GE sold most of GE Capital to Wells Fargo.
Nor did the commercial mention that GE cut nearly 1,000 jobs in Erie, Penn., when it relocated much of its locomotive manufacturing to Texas.
And it didn’t mention that GE has underfunded its pension plan by tens of billions of dollars. At the same time, the company has spent capital on stock buybacks so that its share price could increase, which in turn increased the value of executive stock options and grants.
GE’s propaganda piece ran during the U.S. Open golf championship. It was one of a number of commercials by other businesses and organizations that injected political and social issues into a sporting event, thus disrupting what should have been a relaxing way of escaping from the world’s troubles and the political fights in Washington.
Another commercial of the same genre was run by the United States Golf Association, which claimed that golf was a way for girls to learn valuable life lessons. As with GE’s commercial, it perpetuated the canard that girls aren’t doing as well as boys, when in fact, the opposite is true.
A Stella Artois commercial is even worse. Featuring Matt Damon in the phony proletariat uniform of a faded T-shirt, the commercial says that for every one of its beers that you buy, the company donates to the cause of providing clean water to impoverished women in Africa and elsewhere. The commercial is geared to millennials, who want to be seen as doing good but without knowing how to do good. They don’t see the irony in the commercial because they don’t know history. The irony is this: Stella Artois was founded in Belgium, the very same country that was responsible under King Leopold II for a genocide in the Belgian Congo that resulted in more deaths than the Holocaust. When tourists visit Belgium and admire the beautiful architecture while drinking a Stella Artois al fresco at a hip cafe, they don’t realize that an estimated ten million African natives died in extracting the natural resources that created the wealth to construct the gilded buildings.
It’s also ironic that the early sailing ships of European imperialists, colonists and religious refugees, including the Mayflower, carried beer instead of water in their holds, because the water in their home ports of London and other cities was so putrid. Eventually, water was cleaned up in Europe as political and economic freedom advanced along with advancements in public sanitation—all of which is lacking in countries where water is lacking, but Matt Damon makes no mention of this.
A Microsoft commercial also is odious, for it is appallingly dishonest, like so much of what the tech industry does. The commercial gives the impression that Microsoft is conducting DNA research to cure diseases, but in reality it is simply selling space on the Microsoft cloud to researchers; that is, it is selling space on scores of linked computer servers that devour massive amounts of energy in a big building in North Dakota or some other place where energy is relatively cheap. Of course, the tech industry portrays itself as being environmentally responsible and concerned about global warming.
The likes of Google and Facebook are just as bad. The services they purport to offer are not their real business. Their real business is selling advertising, a business that depends on going through customers’ digital effluent to ascertain their lifestyle, interests and spending habits. It’s akin to a local ad agency going down your street on trash day and rooting through trash cans to get personal information on you and your neighbors. Strangely, we wouldn’t tolerate this from an ad agency but tolerate it from Silicon Valley.
The nation’s intelligentsia have finally come to the realization that Silicon Valley billionaires have become the new Robber Barons, but with a twist: Unlike the old Robber Barons, who mostly stuck to reducing the cost and increasing the availability of steel, oil, transportation, and finance, the new Robber Barons have ventured into the news and entertainment media, where they are increasingly controlling what people read and watch. It would be as if Andrew Carnegie had controlled the content of public libraries instead of his philanthropic funding of libraries.
Silicon Valley billionaires should be called Rubbish Barons instead of Robber Barons, not only because they pick through our rubbish, but also because of the leftist rubbish that they propagate through their media. No wonder surveys show that most millennials are anti-capitalist.
Karl Marx got it half-right. Today’s capitalists aren’t selling you the rope to hang them. They are selling you the anti-capitalist party line to hang them.