AntiFriday: End of Western civilization; more Croc-hating; shameless schemes; etc.

Posted by Rob Walker on August 1, 2008
Posted Under: Anti,Backlashing

The weekly roundup of backlashing, dissent, and critiques.

1. What’s a hipster? For some reason I’ve had several conversations about that in the past year. Here is AdBusters on the topic:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

2. Crocs, subject of a July 15, 2007 Consumed, are still hated — this time, per UnBeige, by Tim Gunn: “it looks like a plastic hoof. How can you take that seriously? I know it’s comfortable; I understand that. But if you want to dress to feel as though you never got out of bed, don’t get out of bed.”

3. AdPulp links to a video in which “activist, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist” Joi Ito questions the self-congratulatory faith of VC-tech culture: “The capitalists aren’t really that helpful, generally.” The upshot is they chase deals and don’t focus on social implications, basically listening to the profit motive only and screening out the rest. AdPulp’s David Burn adds:

I think the same thing can be said for the ad business. Like technologists, we have a lot of power, but we don’t think about the harm we might be doing or the decided lack of a moral compass in our shops and clients’ businesses. That’s a flaw.

A bold observation/assertion. Good starting point for a wider conversation, I would think. Wonder if others in the business will pick up on it.

List continues after the jump. 4. The FTC has been looking at food marketing aimed at children, and issued a report suggesting the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative had made useful progress. However, says NYT: “critics of the self-regulatory approach said they were troubled by the lack of industrywide definitions on what advertising to children entailed and on what ‘better’ food meant.”

“In the Better Business Bureau program, the companies themselves determine what is better food, the companies themselves determine what is children’s advertising. The companies determine all these things; there’s not even a real uniformity in what these decisions are,” said Robert Kesten, the executive director of the Center for Screen-Time Awareness, a Washington-based group that aims to limit media influence.

Commercial Alert adds: “One place to start would be a ban on TV advertising to children under 12. Another would be stop marketing to kids in school, including through vehicles such as Channel One.”

5. Marketplace: “The Los Angeles City Council has passed a year-long ban on new fast food restaurants going into South Los Angeles. It’s one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods and has one of the highest obesity rates.

6. As a native of Houston, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear what they’re backlashing against in the Space City: recycling. “We have an independent streak that rebels against mandates or anything that seems trendy or hyped up,” Mayor Bill White tells the NYT.

Houston recycles just 2.6 percent of its total waste, according to a study this year by Waste News, a trade magazine. By comparison, San Francisco and New York recycle 69 percent and 34 percent of their waste respectively.


I did wonder, when I read this, isn’t there some wildcat go-go Houstonian ready to step into this situation and somehow profit from it?

7. And finally: Mental Floss offers “6 Cases of Shameless False Advertising Schemes.” It includes Airborne, which not long ago paid a $23 million fine to settle a false-advertising suit. I actually wrote about Airborne in Consumed on January 8, 2006. At the time, I basically said this is a placebo-effect situation, but the total lack of “expert” backing was probably part of the attraction:

Technically, Airborne is a dietary supplement (you’re supposed to take it “at the first sign of a cold symptom or before entering crowded environments”), meaning that it does not require Food and Drug Administration testing and approval. As the package disclaimer notes, it is “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” As with many supplements, there is no independent scientific evidence of Airborne’s medicinal value. But many people continue to buy the herbal supplement echinacea, despite many studies (including one in The New England Journal of Medicine) saying it does nothing to ward off or treat colds.

Apart from the power of the placebo effect, this consumer indifference to scientific proof brings up the critical issue of trust and, perhaps more important, distrust. The medical establishments of the 18th and 19th centuries sparred with folk remedies, too; of course, establishment methods of the time included bleeding and phrenology. Some consumers, then as now, clearly distrust official, orthodox methods. And let’s face it, the current reputation of the people who do have expertise in the concoction of remedies is not so great. The astonishing onslaught of consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals in recent years has more recently been followed by an onslaught of safety concerns and lawsuits. Merck, a heroic company just a few years ago, now calls to mind Vioxx lawsuits and trials. Consumer groups paint the pharma giants as shameless profiteers. “We’re losing the battle for consumer trust,” a top Bayer executive confessed to The Wall Street Journal last year.

Etc. Actually I remember at the time my editor was a little annoyed with me because she’d been taking Airborne, and reading the column apparently undercut her faith in the stuff. Anyway, from Mental Floss:

David Schardt, who spearheaded the lawsuit against Airborne says there is no factual evidence to back the company’s claims, equating Airborne to a placebo.

You don’t say. Possibly one difference between the epoch of folk remedies and our own is the replacement of “caveat emptor” with lawsuits?

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Re adbusters: First off, who cares. If a kid wants to be a hipster for a while then let’em. Relax people. We can’t all be in our parents basements hand drawing anti-Bush posters and waiting for the next Buy Nothing holiday. And what is the beef with fixed gear bikes. I thought the do-gooders at adbusters would be happy about people riding bikes. I tried to like adbusters in the 90’s, however, the cynicism was and continues to be soul numbing. Their point of view leads nowhere but down.

Written By Allen Weaver on August 1st, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

1. I’ve long wanted to do a “person on the street” project asking folks to define “hipster” and ask them if they identify as one. While I agree the article is a bit of nothing in some way, it does illumniate the phenomena of “everyone’s a hipster but me.”

2. As for the ugly crocs… this just popped up on NPR:
Crocs Losing Foothold Among Young Consumers

Written By katerw on August 2nd, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

I noticed the hipster article in Adbuster’s too. I aired my take on it here: I excerpted the same paragraph by coincidence and added another layer of anti-ness to whatever conversation might have been going on about it.

Written By Ryan G. Young on August 4th, 2008 @ 2:33 am

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