A question we at Generation Bubble ask ourselves time and again is: When will Americans emerge into consciousness of their real situation? Each day’s news cycle presents a smorgasbord of recreancy, infamy, fraud, casual brutality and magnified trivia. Wars dribble on without ever petering out, wealth flows out of treasuries and pockets without ever flowing back into the larger economy; yet nary a peep of concerted and sustained protest attends these things.
A beggared present prohibits considerations of a mortgaged future. Today, more tears are being shed over Michael Jackson — whose passing, while in one respect unfortunate, likely spared many boys the trauma of dodgy sleepovers at Neverland Ranch — than will ever be shed over the passing of modernity, which, cannot and will not survive Wall Street’s Wehrmacht.
One moonwalking millionaire dies and a nation reaches for the Kleenex; many fast-talking billionaires survive and a nation reaches for the TV remote.
Class consciousness seems about as relevant a concept as phlogiston these days. What signifies “oligarchy,” when black, brown, white and yellow, male and female, rich and poor fuse into one nation under American Idol? What means “wage slavery” in light of one’s fealty to the Burger King, who decrees one can have it her way?
The slogan made popular during the last election, “Yes, we can!” — What can it mean? If Americans have shown they can do anything, its’ that they can chant “Yes, we can!” nigh unto doomsday, but not much else. They have put paid to Chaucer’s apothegm, “The word is cousin to the deed,” by showing that the deed can be cozened by the word.
Thesis: spectacle forecloses all critique by arrogating the latter’s positionality and content.
Only this can explain the recent goings-on at Live! On Sunset, an LA fashion outlet. Via the blog Loyal K*N*G comes this video of a flash mob that laid siege to the store. Bedecked in signature MC Hammer regalia, dancers stormed the store during business hours to re-enact en masse Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” video.
Loyal K*N*G’s writer marvels at the happening, which was conveniently committed to video and uploaded to YouTube, naively believing it a spontaneous expression of hip, cheeky subversion: “If ever in someone life needed a reason to scream out the ‘WTF’ phrase, this would be that moment,” he (she?) writes:
I mean if you’re just an innocent hipster custumer [sic] at an innocent hipster clothing retail then you didn’t ask for what had occured, which, by the way, was rather hilarious [sic]. Just check out the video for a group of crazy people of all ages (Yes, even a Grandpa got into the fun action) put on their MC Hammer pants and start dancing to the classics.
Questions as to whether an “innocent” hipster exists notwithstanding (to our mind, nothing bespeaks of our culture’s necrosis more than the hipster), the fact that this flash mob converged in a boutique like Live! should strike one as anything but surprising. It’s nothing if not drearily typical. Close scrutiny reveals very little that’s spontaneous about this Hammer mob; the costuming is too uniform, the choreography too perfect, the video too well edited to convince one that this was all the impromptu brainchild of bored, edgy twentysomethings.
No, our Hammer mob obviously represents a guerrilla marketing stunt. We at Generation Bubble consider guerrilla marketing one of the most perfidious developments of contemporary life, because, unlike traditional marketing methods, which confront certain insurmountable constraints (a billboard, for all its blighting of the landscape, remains identifiably a billboard), guerrilla marketing makes Machiavellian use of public space by imposing on it the regimes of spectacle and simulacrum in order to undermines its familiarity. Astute types consequently begin to develop a sort of Truman-Show epistemological paranoia that to guerilla marketers is simply an externality of the marketer’s exchange with the vendor hiring them — if not, in fact, a desired reaction.
Guerrilla marketers malignly invert Situationist practices, which were intended to restore to onlookers a modicum of critical awareness. In guerilla marketers’ hand, however, these practices become the kabuki of spectacle. Guerrilla marketers have banished public space to the desert of the Real. Authentic subversion in the streets, now occulted by its simulation, loses its political efficacy.
And all the while Capital to its opponents proudly exclaims: “Dat’s how we’re livin’, and ya know U can’t touch this!”