Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Dark Growth Industry

Last March I discovered that economic recovery might depend on two major opportunities for growth from The Dark Side. One was rehab and the other was guns and ammunition. Both appealed (if that is the right verb) to those who had reached the limit of coping with the prevailing crisis. The latter assumed a "customer base" ready to take matters into its own hands, while the former banked on a willingness to submit to the expertise of others.

This morning I realized that a growth opportunity was now emerging around hatred at its most venomous, leading me to wonder whether or not it is in some way or another related to the firearms sector. Our culture has a long tradition of being motivated by hatred. In spite of any efforts to reverse the trend, hatred has become a primary ingredient in political advertising. However, on the basis of a BBC NEWS report by Claire Prentice, the promotion of hate-based advertising may be escalating to a new level. Individual states are now mounting advertising campaigns to encourage the "settlement" of new businesses and to "steal" established businesses from their neighboring states. At the same time the latest issue of The New York Review has an extended analysis by Michael Tomasky on the significant role that raw hatred plays in the latest round of Conservative protest movements.

Of course hatred is not a commodity. It is not manufactured like a pair of shoes. However, from a metaphorical point of view, hatred can play a critical role in the "supply chain" of that "consciousness industry" approach that so occupied the research of Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Indeed, its role is so powerful that my first effort to write about that consciousness industry was framed in a context of rage, meaning that the supply chain was providing me with resources along with those I was criticizing! The "hard" industries that profit from these supplies are the ones that manufacture propaganda; and those that tend to profit the most are in the advertising sector. This should not surprise anyone. Successful advertising has long been based on cultivating a discontent that can only be alleviated by purchasing the product being promoted. The only thing that has changed is the scale: The "slight itch" of discontent has grown into maddening (with the attendant connotations of both anger and loss of rationality) hatred. Perhaps the "Reverend" T. S. Eliot got it wrong after all: The world will not end with a whimper but with the explosive bang of unbridled hatred cultivated by its own consciousness industry.

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