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Provocative, informative, loud, almost shrill
on July 15, 2002
I consider myself a die-hard leftist, and I agree with most of the conclusions that the authors of _Commodify Your Dissent_ come to. It reminds me a lot of Noam Chomsky, another leftist who reveals modern consumer culture for what it is.
The problem is that the left is remarkably short on solutions, or even the feeling that solutions are possible. _Commodify Your Dissent_ is a collection of essays whose premise is that the U.S. situation is hopeless:
* as many other authors have said, our main means of dissent - our writing, particularly irony - has been swallowed up by our enemies; it's now hip to be ironic, so advertisers adopt irony about advertising as their pose toward the world. So we can't use irony anymore.
* In the U.S., "identity" now means "what car I own and what clothes I wear." We define ourselves as consumers. Once again, we've moved so far in this direction that it's impossible to imagine a way out.
* The culture of business dominates American discourse. We look up to American business leaders as our new gods, and we assume that The Market will correct everything. Resisting The Market is futile, because it is infinitely more intelligent than any policymaker. Hence, leave the world to the Bill Gateses.
* Music is corporatized junk.
and so on, ad nauseum, for a couple hundred pages. After a while, we - or at least I - get numbed to it. Great, so the world has been utterly cheapened by corporations. Sure, corporations own the political process. And? What do I do about it?
_The Baffler_ has no suggestions, which in the end makes it a shrill mouthpiece of powerlessness. We've grown up on a steady diet of powerlessness. The left would assert that this is because the power structure *wants* us to think we're powerless; it helps them when few of us resist. Now _The Baffler_ - with the totally altruistic goal of helping us out - has told us again that we're powerless, has strengthened the case, and has done nothing to correct this impression.
_Commodify Your Dissent_ ends with one of the most shrill, paranoid, counterproductive essays I've ever read, bringing to a crescendo all the doomsaying that peppered the foregoing pages.
Nothing's wrong with being shrill and unproductive. I just thought it fair to warn people that they're getting more of what they're used to.