Editor's Choice

"The exceptionalist fallacy"

Drawing on Rob Walker's Buying In, philosophy professor Mark Kingwell, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, postulates the existence of the "exceptionality fallacy":

Most people believe they themselves are immune from marketing tactics even as they note the sad susceptibility of other people. I tested the EF on myself and it held: I drink Starbucks coffee because it tastes good; you drink Tim Hortons because you have bought into nostalgia and sham nationalism. Now you try.

A corollary to this is the idea that advertisers are shrewdly trying to persuade us that we are smarter than they are and we can fully resist them -- they advertise their own futility as a way to actually enhance their subtle power. (Thomas Frank explores this in The Conquest of Cool.) So it takes ads to persuade us that we are smarter than ads, and everyone else. Then we are in that vulnerable hubristic state when we are most open to being persuaded.

Kingwell notes the futility of trying to stay ahead of marketing in pursuit of authenticity: "You can do the dance of sideways dodges, trying to stay cooler than the cool-hunters, savvier than the savvy-trappers. But however you dodge, you are done, because they're already inside your head." I relate this to the problem of a good's actual functionality serving as the ultimate self-deceiving ruse -- it's what permits the exceptionality fallacy. As Baudrillard argues in several different places, the "use value" of a good is just an alibi; it anchors our ploys for status through goods in a kind of objective-seeming authenticity. To use Kingwell's example, I have to find ways of justifying my love for Starbucks in the product's alleged superiority, so I don't come across as a phony, mindlessly consuming a brand that has come to signify membership to the haute bourgeoisie that I want to belong to. My defense of its quality, even to myself, becomes a ploy in a larger game of trying to seem as though I'm not playing the identity game. Of course, I'm playing the identity game at a more self-deceptive level.

This becomes a spiraling process which makes it harder and harder for us to actually access the use value of something; we have to instead consume the idea of ourselves being the kind of person who would find this sort of good useful. It becomes impossible to taste the coffee qua coffee.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image