In Praise of Corporate Monoculture

I see that we are graced by another new head of the CBC. We are assured that Carole Taylor is gorgeous, charming, smart, able and will impress us all. She is from the West, or has been for a few years at least, which indicates for darn sure that those Easterners don't completely ignore us hicks out here, and she is pals with Gordon Campbell which is supposed to give her some right-wing snaps.

What we don't get is a discussion of why her position and the corporation should exist at all. Carole Taylor tells us that her focus will be on rebuilding local news. Well from where I sit, local news is covered in nauseating overkill by commercial stations, so why I should be paying for local news I don't watch is a very very good question indeed, admit.

Taylor also tells us that she is going to return to the CBC's original mandate of producing great classical performances. So I guess that means we will have to pay for high culture whether we like it or not, and certainly whether we watch it or not, which given say, symphony performance ratings, means that, largely, we don't. This is not to count the fact that we already pay, courtesy of the various arts councils, for a great deal of other so-called high culture, theatre, art, classical performance, dance, which we largely don't see, and with the focus of which some (many?) of us do not agree.

Perhaps Taylor might be indicating we are to be spared hideously expensive revisionist versions of our early history, which we pay for, whether we agree with such revisionism or not, and whether we watch it or not.

Which is a relief. Admit. I admit it, because whenever I turned on The Canadians, my blood pressure shot up. Why was I paying for this? Why?

This embracing of official culture does not do us proud. In fact, it is a sneaky bureaucratic plot to keep us thinking that we are second rate and must have smarter, abler, more gorgeous people like Carole Taylor telling us what we should be watching. But we have, as Time magazine never tires of pointing out to us, a vibrant non- subsidized arts community. Which produces product which is paid for by people who actually want to see the show, the play, the film or read the book. Most of them leave for a marketplace that is not hobbled by bureaucracy, but it does not mean they do not exist. This is called popular culture.

Popular culture has come in for an unusual amount of shellacking lately, most stingingly from Kalle Lasn's Adbusters, Canada's glossy contribution to the underground activist movement whose barely educated but noble 25-year-old members tell us what to think.

One enjoys the alarmist tone so very much. I quote: "Cultural toxins have now reached dangerously high levels, helping to explain the high school shootings, the skyrocketing use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs, our growing problems with obesity and psychosomatic illness, rage in public places and the general sense of cynicism and hopelessness that is enveloping our culture."

Fun, no? So invigorating to have toxic despair coursing through your body while you catch up on your reading. So why is this happening? Well according to the foundation-funded children at Lasn's outfit, the American dream itself is toxic. And the fault is all that of evil corporations with their thousands of daily advertisements aimed at each of us, telling us all what to buy, eat, watch on TV and think.

Plus there's the evil sexual messages too, eh? "Advertisers often rely on deeply rooted sexual imagery to fuel anxieties about acceptance, encourage competitive attention seeking and promote the fulfillment of desires through consumption," says the summer issue of Alternatives Journal, a magazine cut from the same cloth as Lasn's.

Yep, we are all stupid sheep, without the ability to turn the TV off.

Let's move to the right. The National Review is always taking pot shots at popular culture, vis-a-vis a review of Washington Times columnist Richard Grenier's book in 1991. "Grenier's principal point in these essays is that mass entertainment in the United States is in the hands of heavily ideological writers, producers, directors, and actors, and while the subliminal (or not so subliminal) message does not always 'take,' sometimes it at least 'softens up the viewer,' which is an achievement in itself, since it makes manners of thinking that might earlier have seemed outlandish, familiar and even tolerable."

What those messages are, according to Grenier, is not that Hollywood is Marxist, but that it is culturally "ideological -- that is, members of the 'soft left,' which is far more woolly than hard ... floating lightheartedly from one notion to the next often without any clear idea that these various political belief systems have clear-cut precepts, sometimes incompatible." The defining element is a "persistent utopianism ... that in the name of some shining social ideal or other, no matter how unworkable, will always be honoured."

Do I in fact need to pay Carole Taylor's impressive salary, because I'm confused. Has my brain been so scrambled by persistent, unstoppable, corporate messages telling me I need a Lexus, or utopian feeling-junkies that I can no longer think for myself?

Hah. This is democracy: If you don't like it, turn it off. And have the grace to consider that those who don't, are seeing something that works for them, that they want, and need. That is good for them.

What that good is, for many, is hope. And hope is monocultural, that is to say, it is popular in nature, and it hoovers up every new idea and emotion and turns it immediately into fodder for which it can charge. Which means people value it enough to pay actually- earned money for it, not money weaseled out of them by RevCan.

Yes, much of the monoculture is stupid. And it is consumerist. And it is infantile. But given these three conditions, it is also completely egalitarian. It is, most importantly, colour blind, and race blind and religion blind. You can get anything you want at the giant monoculture store.

Now I must go watch my Destiny's Child videos.