Archive | June, 2009

Breaking News = Broken News

OK, Michael Jackson is dead, very sad – but Jesus Christ! Last night virtually every single news program was entirely devoted to hours and hours and hours of what was essentially, given the relative paucity of details, a five-minute story. Endless footage of people milling around outside Jackson’s home with nothing happening, combined with endless footage of the outside of the medical center containing his body, as overvoices intoned endlessly that yes, he is dead, and no, we don’t yet know much about why he died or who found him or whether there were drugs involved or who will get custody of his kids, and yes, he is still dead – all while a big red sign declares, hour after hour, “BREAKING NEWS,” a phrase which has long since lost all meaning.

Why has this story pushed all other news aside? I mean, they’re treating it like it’s 9/11 or something. (I’ll bet Mark Sanford wishes that Jackson had died a few days earlier ….) I couldn’t find a single reference to events in Iran, for example, on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, CNN-HL, PBS, or FOX. And with my home computer currently on the fritz I was stuck with tv. Thank God for BBC News, which finally provided me with some actual news.

Down in the Cruddy Muddy Deep

Libertarianwise, the 1967 movie How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has something for everybody.

I don’t mean that it offers any deep moral or political message; it certainly doesn’t. But on the one hand, its relentless skewering of the corporate ethos will be welcome to mutualists and agorists; as one Amazon reviewer puts it:

Although the business world has changed quite a bit since 1967, SUCCEED is so dead-on with its attack that even modern corporate leaders will be bloodied from the fray. The company is just large enough so that no one knows what is actually going on, leadership cries out for creative solutions then promptly fires anyone who shows a talent for it, and promotion doesn’t hinge so much upon ability as it does upon sucking up, backstabbing, and looking like you know what you’re doing.

And on the other hand, the chief protagonist – an unscrupulous boyish charmer who oozes his way up the corporate ladder through a combination of flattery, dissimulation, and betrayal despite having no actual qualifications for any of the jobs he’s given – is such a perfect avatar of Ayn Rand’s Peter Keating that even the Randians should enjoy it. (Incidentally, Rand’s portrayal of the business world in The Fountainhead seems so much closer to Kevin Carson’s vision than to George Reisman’s that it’s a wonder the orthodox Randians haven’t denounced her as an anticapitalist.)

A few clips:

1. Here’s the head of the mail room explaining the secret to surviving in the corporate culture:

2. Here’s the sycophantic, Keatingesque protagonist trying to schmooze his boss by pretending to share his alma mater and knitting habit:

(Sorry, can’t embed this one.)

3. Here’s the protagonist giving himself a narcissistic pep talk in the executive washroom:

4. And here’s the finale, where the protagonist, reformed from his backstabbing ways, nevertheless manages to put his reformation over as though it were one more con, suggesting that the distinction between sincerity and marketing has become blurred even introspectively:

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