Monday, October 6, 2008

spinning the everyday and common

From McLaren's Everything Must Change, p. 190

Seen in the light of theocapitalism, MTV and Fox become powerful forms of religious broadcasting, evoking fear and hope, love and hate, obedience and rebellion.

Considering that McLaren is now publically on the side of Obama, one can wonder if the use of Fox in that paragraph is accidental, or meant to evoke Fox News. Why not mention one of the former big three? Not that Fox is all that admirable, but if he wants creators of "fear and hope, love and hate, obedience and rebellion", he couldn't do worse then ABC, NBC, or CBS.

Malls become cathedrals; amusement parks, shrines of holy pilgrimage; celebrities and stars, saints, priests, idols.

Some of this is rather amusing. Maybe not completely without point, but also rather rhetorically overblown, too.

It's rhetoric designed to enforce his point. What needs to be asked, though, and with sobriety, is whether his point is valid, or not.

Are malls the modern cathedrals? No. They are now what the markets were. I lived for a while in a city in Russia that had open-air markets, many small neighborhood ones, but there was a very large central one, too. Big box stores and malls are merely developments of such places.

Is Disneyland a shrine of holy pilgrimage? Well, considering some things they espouse, one may make a case for unholy pilgrimage, but it's a stretch either way. I suppose one could make a case for them being like the older fairs and circuses and traveling shows.

Are celebrities and stars now saints, priests, and idols? It's an interesting comparison, but I'm not sure it completely holds up. In many ways, in the current presidential election, the statements of celebrities have done more harm to the candidate they have supported then good. It is a common thing that celebrities should be lifted up and torn down. We are realizing that even the most supposedly squeaky-clean celebrity may not be the ideal role model we may have once hoped. If they were true idols, would we take such pleasure in learning of their failings and misbehaviors? That is maybe a problem in itself, but it does raise questions about how much they are like 'idols' in the old sense.

TV becomes an altar before which we don't kneel, but rather recline--entranced, enraptured, open-eyed and open-mouthed in speechless wonder, on pews called couches, eating our communion bread of potato chips and ice cream and sipping our holy wine of beer and Pepsi.

What a maroon!!!

Come on, really. Who amongst us really sits 'enraptured' while watching TV? How many of us watch TV in 'speechless wonder'?

Well, ok, some may watch Oprah in that way, I'll grant that, but outside of her...

But his rhetoric fits his point. Doesn't make it right, though.

Multinational corporations become denominations, world religions, and they know no separation of church and state.

And the obligatory shot at globalization.

Want the truth? Want to know why McDonalds has restaurants all over the world?

Here it is--it's because the people who are native to those places buy food at McDonalds restaurants!!

No more, no less. Sure, if you go to a McDonalds in, say, Moscow or Beijing, you'll likely find tourists. Very well, but not enough to keep such a place in business. No, what you'll find is that the Moscow restaurants are filled with Russians, and the Beijing ones are overflowing with Chinese people.

All there because they chose to go there. They could have chose another restaurant, or chose to fix their own food at home, or maybe picked up something at the markets already fixed, but they didn't, they chose McDonalds. And so McDonalds stays, because McDonalds is chosen.

The good or bad of many things may be worth discussing, but to blithely accept McLaren's obviously biased rhetoric is not wise. He is rather obviously trying to stick things to capitalism that are either not problems, or problems with people in general no matter what economic system they are in. Greed isn't a problem with capitalism, but a sin common with all people. Idolatry is far older then the free market system, and while there may be forms of it that we should be wary of, there would be other forms that would crop up no matter how people earn their living.

In short, McLaren is not saying anything overly new or offering new insights. And simply putting the tag 'theocapitalism', an name obviously meant to be provocative, on it does not make his claims accurate.

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