Monday, February 2, 2009

Psychotic Symptoms

While I have made it an ongoing point of accusing the World Economic Forum (WEF) of lacking any sense of reality, I am not sure I would go so far as to accuse either the organization or its founder, Klaus Schwab, of clinical psychosis. Nevertheless, those who were wondering when the current economic crisis might begin to induce psychotic symptoms, if not strong grounds for diagnosis of the malady itself, did not have to look much further than yesterday's Super Bowl broadcast. 25 years ago the very core of our consciousness about computers was rocked by the "1984" commercial announcing the coming of the Macintosh; but 2009 is the year in which we are likely to see the dark side of everyone's consciousness coming to the surface. The harbinger of that dark side was the launch of the TV campaign through a Super Bowl commercial (whose YouTube rendering is now available at the Web site).

Having just done an Amazon search for "CareerBuilder" in the book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, by Barbara Ehrenreich, I can affirm that, while the author never mentioned this business explicitly, it would be fair to say that each of her chapters casts a critical light on one or more of their practices. Having already insinuated themselves into the Yahoo! News stream (thus devaluing this particular Yahoo! service, since none of their offerings have anything to do with news), decided to cast a wider net by paying the absurd price of entry for a Super Bowl advertising slot. They then reinforced their investment with a production budget that may well have yielded the most talked-about commercial since that first Macintosh announcement. However, if the underlying Macintosh message was designed to inspire proletarians (otherwise known as "the rest of us") that they could, indeed, lose their chains, the message dashed any Marxist hope for a better day and offered little more than a universal venting through a primal scream. (Anyone who thinks I am using this reading as an excuse for promoting Marxist-style semiotics is invited to watch the YouTube video and test my hypothesis!) The loss of our chains has been replaced by the loss of that part of our minds that regulates behavior legitimized by the norms of our social setting.

In a way this invitation to "scream along" amounts to the "bait" part of Ehrenreich's argument. After you have had your mega-vent, go to; and they will make it all better. That is when you encounter the "switch" (and I make this assertion on the basis of my own experience with their Web site, just as Ehrenreich drew upon personal experiences in writing her book). In a world in which the frustration of the unemployed is only aggravated by the technology-based depersonalization of the whole employment process, the world of the comes precious close to that of the zombie-like audience starting at the Big Brother screen in that classic Macintosh commercial. has homed in on the "brave new world" in which so much of the world's population is now stuck and is the most depressing possible alternative to the athletic young woman with the screen-smashing hammer. The fact that they had enough money in their till to finance their Super Bowl commercial should indicate that the "switch" part of their business model has been pretty successful, at least thus far. I hope Ehrenreich had a chance to see that commercial. She could probably follow up on Bait and Switch with a whole new book about it!

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