The True Power of Branding

While there are many annoying things about the millennial generation, the concept of the individual as a brand is one of the worst. Branding spans time and requires consistency – the very idea of an individual being a brand would mean a lack of personal growth and a complete adoption of rules that never change. A great brand needs something iconic, none of which any of these people are. The modern icon is a red hat.

Iconography is an incredible thing. It’s a language that transcends the limits of the everyday; distance, capacity, reason. Today being Easter is a good example: that cross will always bring to mind a reaction in someone, no matter what they believe.

The iconography of evil is also just as interesting. The swastika is the most prominent example; it’s a visual mark that represents many things but because of the Nazi brand, it now is forever marred in the despicable actions of Hitler’s Germany. Similarly, the Hitler mustache is rarely, if ever, worn by men. This is the effect of the Nazi brand.

Evil in America is represented foremost by the Confederate flag.1 And while I can’t imagine Donald Trump sitting around thinking, “I really need to give the racists in America an as-of-yet-unsoiled icon they don’t have to be ashamed to wear in public,” it’s certainly what he did. In the future the Make America Great Again red cap will have the same public stigma as the Stars and Bars.2

In every feasible way, the MAGA Red Hat is a New Icon. The people who wear it are representative of a train of thought that will, one way or another, decide the future of this country. The dangers of brand association are most apparent in times like this, and why control under a single idea (state or corporate, to be honest) is never a way to live.

      Footnotes
  • Fuck states rights, southern values and hospitality as some excuse of ‘knowing a heritage.’ Every excuse I have ever heard for that flag makes me want to vomit. It’s the logo for racists and white nationalists in America and represents the unhinged evil that occurs when pride and capitalism show no mercy.
  • Hopefully. To be honest if there’s a civil war and the white nationalists get the bloodshed they want, it could end up being in the history books as the symbol of the Second Revolution.

April 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

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Fall The Fearless Girl

Marshall McLuhan called advertising corporate art. While he’s not wrong, I think his early views of advertising were based in an era where the ad remained a promotion of a product. Products in most ads these days are at least second to brand narrative.1 Enter the Fearless Girl, an abhorrent piece of corporate propaganda which has taken the concept of advertising to an entirely new level of cynicism.

Cara Sheffler did a great job pointing out why the work is an insult to feminism, not a promotion of it. Things being equal between the sexes and all, it’s also pretty bad at a societal level.

What the statue represents is submission to the idea the fight against power exists only within the confines the powerful approve of. This idea originated in a board room and was approved in one. ‘Fearless Girl’ has a presumed acceptance of capitalism; that we may stand up to the market so long as we remain in sight of it.

With ‘Fearless Girl’ now set to remain in the Financial District, we’re witnessing what the next generation of billboards will look like: corporate art in the public space, promoting a subtle dialogue of complicity not to any inspired place of imagination, but rather financial allegiance.2

      Footnotes
  • This isn’t surprising, especially as millennials start coming in to money. The way Urban Outfitters went from selling t-shirts to an entire lifestyle, advertising will continue that tradition of the projected idea behind a brand—and how that will improve your life—put the work of a social media influencer in front of it, and reap the benefits.
  • I believe McLuhan is wrong when he calls advertising an art, even a corporate art, at this level. Allegiance to an idea is never the goal of a piece of art; generally that is the opposite of what artists work for. Constructing a narrative in order to control the outcome is not art, even if a few pieces of that process along the way are aesthetically appealing.

March 28, 2017 at 10:05 am

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On The “Open Casket” Controversy

The controversial discussion on art and race going on with Dana Schutz’s painting of Emmitt Till is fascinating and intense and has no good solution. While the painting may fail because of the many valid criticisms Hannah Black offers, a call to censorship in art sets a dangerous precedent.

There’s not a ton I have to say on the subject that is not better expressed here.

March 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm

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“Hey, at least I’m housebroken.”

It astounds me that people can be sold on voting Republican. These representatives claim to loathe government and then somehow everyone is surprised when they’re fucking awful at governing. What did anyone assume they were capable of?

The politics in this country are fucking unreal. Generally reviled far-right legislation is stopped from passing only by a farther-right group that somehow didn’t think that the potential damage to the American people was enough, which abruptly ends the seven-year fight to repeal Obamacare on a random Friday afternoon.

A large swath of conservatives likely feel they have nobody who represents them in government, and they’re not wrong. Both parties are in complete upheaval and it’s hilarious and incredible. Republican voters just realized nobody in charge gives a fuck about them, and the most Democrats can do is push Chelsea Clinton to carry on the neoliberal global corporate agenda.

The media will inevitably be insufferable over talking about who wins here (they do) and who loses (everybody else). If Trump deals with the left now as a slight to the right, we’ll see who on the left would make a deal with the devil.

March 24, 2017 at 5:54 pm

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Chaos In The Ether (On The Current Discourse)

Normally I’d enjoy this level of civic participation, but it all seems so displaced.

America is talking about the giant pile of shit that now dominates the Oval Office instead of the goddamn elephant of unchecked capitalism we’ve let use the White House as a dumping ground for 50 years.

It is important to continue a dialogue about not normalizing this administration, but believing in a corporate left (and the media that belongs to it) will only perpetuate the power consolidation by the rich.

March 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm

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Fascism Happens One Memo At A Time

This was the scene on the Hawthorne bridge every night for a solid week after the 2016 election: Hundreds to thousands of protesters would gather downtown, commiserating and looking for some kind of catharsis. Streets were paraded down, arms were locked, chants of hope and resistance flooded the air and a much-needed sense of belonging was felt by many.

The Department of Homeland Security has labeled these protests “Domestic Terrorist Violence.”

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March 3, 2017 at 12:26 pm

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Conventionalization

Jeff was sitting at the opposite end of the couch—this was in Los Angeles, a couple weeks back—and Leah was in the kitchen and we were all talking over the TV debating when to leave to watch John Wick 2. Checking the clock above the television, I said that it was 9:45. Jeff interjected No, that clock is wrong, but as we checked our various devices, they all confirmed the time. They were dumbfounded.

The saying goes that even a broken clock is right twice a day, but this particular clock is never right. It still moves, just at the wrong interval, making the likelihood of actually lining up with the right time of day the type of math I just won’t do anymore.

Make no mistake about it: a broken-ass clock randomly hitting the right time of day once or twice is what last night’s congressional address consisted of. The media is treading dangerously close to the dialogue of normalization by calling Trump taking advantage of dead troops during a national broadcast ‘Presidential.’1
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March 1, 2017 at 11:22 am

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This Title Writes Itself

Democratic Response

February 28, 2017 at 8:56 pm

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Pay Mind To What You Agree On

It’s become almost standard practice to accuse the White House of lying in one form or another—a hell of a problem considering how much the President seems to change his mind. Some of his lies—the bigger, meatier ones—start with the truth. For example, his recent over-statements on his electoral win begins with the truth: he won the electoral college vote. Embellishment can be dismissed as gossip.1 Other lies are just blatantly false from the get-go.2 Like any other shithead salesman, everything is a negotiation. This negotiation just happens to take place over information, and what of it is accurate.

The press will cry about all of this for way too long, but I think the real story—and why Trump was untouchable by the media during the election—has been missed multiple times over. The cascading avalanche of lies is, at this point, better served as a distraction.3 What nobody seems to be talking about are the few times Donald Trump told the truth.

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February 25, 2017 at 11:19 am

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Feed The Sharks

If you aren’t at least somewhat enjoying the White House cutting off certain press outlets from the daily briefings, then you’re just not having enough fun in show business. The journalism industry has spent decades marching itself into irrelevance, consumed by the revenue interests of corporate ownership.1 Now after months of doing the journalistic equivalent of kicking a bucket of shit repeatedly, they’re crying foul about a glorified meeting regarding memos.

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February 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm

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And No Surprises

Arizona, thought to be out of consideration for Worst State, now wants to arrest citizens for planning a peaceful protest.

Without trying to recap the aggregate of generally criminal—at least certainly inhuman—behaviors acted out by the current administration, it’s impossible to still not gawk at the brash arrogance of the hatred that is overflowing into the public discourse. The language alone that is being used sounds like these elected officials are pitching a script for 24.

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Only The Signatures On Hallmark Cards Differ

Since it’s just too fucking early to think about the implications of Mar-A-Lago members posting photos of and details about the guy in charge of the Nuclear Football to Facebook, let’s talk about love. Or what they’re selling it now as, anyway.

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February 14, 2017 at 10:22 pm

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Normal Is The New Black

The rogue waves set off by the Trump administration have been probably the most fascinating part about all this. Particularly, the concept of “normal.”

Immediately after the election, there was plenty of rhetoric regarding the “normalization” of Donald Trump as President. (These op-eds have continued.) More recently, a rather perfect Jezebel post spread about, the entire contents of which are the sentence This is not normal.

And I wonder, what is normal?

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February 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

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The Right And The Weak

During the nightmare that suddenly feels like a daydream—otherwise known as the 2016 campaign season—the potential aftermath featured a myriad of scenarios. Trump supporters said the south would rise again and that it was a time for pitchforks. Those who were terrified of Trump ended up crashing the Canadian immigration website on November 9.

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November 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm

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