The above sketch from television’s Mr. Show allows us to see how advertising works in today’s late capitalist society. This is important because, in doing so, it shows us how the culture industry (of which advertising is a principal representative) and the traditional capitalist corporation are somewhat at odds with one another. Though this is not to say that, like in the sketch, they can’t get together at the end of the day so as to divvy up the profits from a so-called “good job”.
I will offer an interpretation of this sketch through the following headings: a) Mr. GloboChem; b) Pit-pat vs. Ding-Dong; and c) Grandma Betsy’s transcendent biscuits. These titles are intended to point to what has been placed in the background, so to speak, of each of these highly amusing bits: a) the capitalist corporation’s violent origins; b) the mechanisms of psychological manipulation in modern advertising; and c) the synthesis of all culture under the science of demographics. If these descriptions seem daunting, I assure you that their meanings will become more intelligible as the article goes on.
Above: An iconic scene from John Carpenter’s They Live – starting at 1:30.
This clip from John Carpenter’s film They Live can teach us a great deal about the way that ideology works today.
What we should immediately notice is how there are two levels of messaging at play: the explicit ‘normal’ world and the implicit ‘hidden’ world, which is only exposed when the actor “Rowdy” Roddy Piper puts on the sunglasses. This is what allows him to see the world underneath: all visual media content (billboards, magazines, television, etc.) are reduced to propagandas like “OBEY,” “MARRY AND REPRODUCE,” “CONSUME,” and so on. Along with this, certain people are revealed to be weird aliens while satellite dishes broadcast strange signals from the top of every set of streetlights. Through this “beautifully naïve mise-en-scene,” as Slavoj Zizek describes it, “we learn to see dictatorship IN democracy.”
Now that his legacy is up for grabs, Layton is being spun into some kind of watered-down New Liberal. While in the past he was portrayed as the Leftist Enemy (under the spooky banner of ‘socialism’), now he is being sold as a ‘good guy’ with “always a twinkle in his eyes”. The message here is: forget about who he was, what he did, and his politics, celebrate the mere ‘person’ of Jack once he has been abstracted from all the (real, living) political content that made him who he actually was (i.e. what he fought for, what “he gave his life for”). In other words, we are encouraged to celebrate a fiction of Jack Layton instead of his truth.
Above: Ice Cube’s debut solo album – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
Gangsta rap drew attention to the pressing issue of African American poverty, Kanye West draws attention to himself.
Conceit at the Top of Hip-Hop by Noah Gataveckas
It seems like aeons ago when Ice Cube spoke:
I don’t want to see no dancin’, I’m
Sick of that shit – listen to hit! ‘Cause
Y’all ever look and see another brotha on the
Video, tryin’ to outdance each other? 
Really it was only 1990. Now here we are, 20 years later in an age where acts like T-Pain and the Black Eyed Peas are considered “hip” by most young people and top 40 countdowns around the world. Hip-hop, it seems, has regressed to its pre-1990s identity. Can you recall what this was like? Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Tag Team, Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, etc. Videos of anonymous fools dancing in parking garages, and dopey rappers repeating catchphrases hypnotically, often advertising the very title of the song you were listening to. The genre of ‘dance rap’ was a predominant manifestation of what “hip-hop” or “rap” meant in the common vernacular of 1989 or so. And it looked like this creatively bankrupt trend might prevail unabated to the end of time, until gangstas, circa 1992 and 1993 – thank god for gangstas! – pulled a drive-by and murdered them niggas.