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A time for renewal

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Friday, Aug 5, 2005

Welcome to the new location of the blog I’ve been writing at http://marginal-utility.blogspot.com. You can expect to find what will hopefully be daily comment on various aspects of consumerism. Lately I’ve been letting what The Wall Street Journal reports on set my agenda, but my subscription has run out, so I may be left to my own devices. That is, if the paper ever stops coming to my apartment. Despite having allegedly run out last week, it’s still there on my doorstep when I leave in the morning. Presumably this is because the Journal‘s subscription service expects my renewal form any minute now, and it doesn’t want to inconvenience me with any interruption in service. The nice people at the Journal wouldn’t want me to miss out on any Forex reports or any breaking news in the credit markets or the latest from the courtroom in the never-ending “Executives on Trial” column. Maybe I’m supposed to feel guilty or be so impressed by the paper’s magnaminity, by its faith in me as a reader, that I finally break out my checkbook and do the inevitable. But I’m currently hewing to a run-out-the-clock strategy, daring them, as it were, to stop delivering it.


Not that the entreaties to renew haven’t been entertaining. They’ve come disguised as surveys. They’ve tried to be pleasant in e-mails, and stern in very official-looking letters, and they’ve tried to bribe me by reminding me how I can deduct my subscription as a business expense, providing receipts prepared in advance for my tax records. Their pleas often revolve around how much more powerful I’ll be then the poor saps who don’t read the Journal—it’s all very pragmatic, no sense that anyone would be stupid enough to read it just to remain informed, for the sake of it. Of course, the plan is to make money, to dominate, to weaponize information and use it to smite one’s financial enemies. This is one of the lessons for which I am most grateful to the paper: that information is always leverage, and if you haven’t sensed the profit angle inherent in a piece of data, then you don’t really know it. You don’t even have to read the noxious opinion page to feel like yo uare seeing through the dead eyes of capital itself as you read the B and C sections. It is, as they like to say, “Capitalism’s user’s manual” and indeed, it shows you how to become capital’s instrument, to think with its cold, dead brain, reinforcing the stultifying manner of corporate thinking required to manage a capitalist system; it encourages you to think in the reductive “rational” thought processes presumed by neo-classical economists. The utter lack of sympathy with consumers, who are routinely rhetorically evoked as wily enemies if not fickle children, is palpable and instructive. So maybe I should be insulted that the renewal service tries those same tricks on me to sell me the very paper that tries hard to convince me to view such things from a lofty height, to make me feel immune to them. In the slew of flattering advertising and pandering pleas for your money, (well dissected in the semi-regular Advertising report in section B) it can be easy to forget what corporations really think about you.

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