unmarketing : release the pressure

Thursday, June 02, 2005 at 3:46:00 PM

Opening Up

I am not a radical, not by any stretch of the word. I buy my clothes at Target or Goodwill or Kohl's. I admit to owning a leather jacket, even leather shoes. I am not a vegan, I am not ambisexual, I'm not a biker or a performance artist or a sociologist or a drug dealer. I don't have a hybrid car.

In truth, I'm a marketing guy that likes to moonlight as a writer, a photographer, a graphic designer, and even occasional DJ.

I'm one of THEM.

On the other hand, I'm also the father of three little girls, trying to make it through a divorce, and disgusted by the society - if you wnat to stretch and call it that - around me.

Hence, unmarketing.

For thirty years, I have watched American culture spiral further and further downward into the muck. I've seen firsthand the explosion of marketing as it swarms through our nation like a festering cancer. Every day, the barrier between private life, corporate life, and governmental intrusion crumbles a little bit more, eroded by a complex web of ideological diseases.

It has to end before we are consumed.

Two things hit me at once, a double blow to the psyche kung fu chops to the ears. I'm still reeling, still confused, still shaken by it. And unmarketing is my way of coming to terms with it.

My three-year-old likes cartoons, and I'm OK with that. Hell, I like cartoons as well. And I'm a good parent - I've learned how to turn the TV off in favor of a book or building a fort, or drawing or playing soccer in the back yard.

It didn't matter that I did things right.

Two commercial blocks, and for every commercial my three-year-old informed me that she wanted each and every senseless, worthless piece of garbage advertized. Every single stupid toy, every single kid-targeted bit of makeup, every box of sugar-packed, preservative-laden junkfood was greeted by those horrible, horrible words:

"Ohhh, I want that!"

No Ava, you do NOT want that. I've taught you better than that.

Still, every time: "Ohhh, I want that!".

No matter that I've raised my children with even-handed moderation. Ava, at three, knows to ask for a "healthy snack". Ania, the eldest, drinks "white milk" at school instead of the ever-present chocolate milk. I can take all three of them shopping without worrying about having to deal with them screeching for toys or candy. Their favorite place to shop is the bookstore.

They're good kids.

Despite all that, marketing has them in its hold. And we cannot escape it.

Our society must unmarket. Through marketing, companies are undermining our private lives. I cannot condone this. I cannot accept this. It is an intrusion that we cannot disengage from, an invasion of the most insidious kind. Innocent people are suffering from a hostile takeover, and cannot even see it.

That is why I've started unmarketing.

But something else hit me, another blow.

It came from the DiscoveryTimes network, on a program entitled Someone's Watching. And while I viewed the majority of the program with a healthy dose of skepticism (which, I'm afraid, colors most of my habits), one point made me sit up and take notice.

It was ChoicePoint.

It had nothing to do with the scandal currently surrounding ChoicePoint, in which information on 140,000 people were sold to bogus companies, which you can read about here and here.

In fact, it was a passing remark made by a ChoicePoint representative, who said, in effect (because I didn't write it down):

Americans have the right to privacy, but no longer have the right to anonymity.

As a private citizen, this made me blanch. This made me sick. This, in short, pissed me off.

ChoicePoint, like LexisNexis and others, is an information gathering company. They:

For almost a century ChoicePoint has been a trusted source and leading provider of decision-making information that helps reduce fraud and mitigate risk.

ChoicePoint has grown from the nation's premier source of data to the insurance industry into the premier provider of decision-making intelligence to businesses and government. Through the identification, retrieval, storage, analysis and delivery of data, ChoicePoint serves the informational needs of businesses of all sizes, as well as federal, state and local government agencies.

ChoicePoint keeps abreast of the issues and trends in anticipation of what we believe to be a future opportunity of risk assessment information delivery. The Company strives to build and sustain long-term relationships through always understanding its customers' needs, while responding effectively with products and services that reflect changing industry concerns and dynamics. In addition, ChoicePoint strongly promotes the responsible use of information as a fundamental plank of its business model, including strict standards regarding the use and dissemination of personal information.

ChoicePoint assembles dossiers on private citizens, and then sells the information to whomever wants to buy. Other companies purchase the information for "background checks" or "marketing purposes" - to create highly-targeted lists of potential customers.

Been taking antidepressants? How would you feel if drug companies knew which drug you were taking, how often, and where you were getting it? And what if these same drug companies also knew what movies you watched, what books you bought, what organizations you pay dues to, what car you drove - and when you got your last oil change on that car?

But particularly egregrious, most disturbing, most invasive - what if ChoicePoint sold this information to the FBI?

They did.

And this is what that file is like.

And why not sell it to the CIA as well?

Welcome to the real world.

unmarketing is a different kind of weblog. I don't have a particular agenda. This is more an exploration for me, for my readers. It's a forum for discussion, a way to offer alternatives to the world in front of us, the world represented by ChoicePoint. Our society doesn't have to work this way. We can do it differently. We, private citizens, have the option to find a better way. We, private citizens, can engage with our world, make waves, offer choices. We can be active, we can DO SOMETHING.

If we disagree with our government, we can revolt. Indeed, if our government does not represent our aims, it is our DUTY to revolt.

It is time for corporate America to learn the same. We do not need them - they need us. WE are their employees, WE are their customers, WE are their bottom line.

And so I encourage people to wield that strength, the only strength we have. I, an average man in every way, nonetheless exhort you to action. To voice.

Our society, our supposed "culture", is a sham. A joke and a pale imitation of what it could be. In my eyes, America and the American Dream have failed, replaced by rotting McCulture.

And I, an average man, declare open war against that McCulture.

Join me.

I'll need your help. No man is an island - I cannot watch the whole world. So become active, if only in a small way. Send me links to the important stuff. Find a network, build together. Knowledge is the key to informed rebellion. Disobey the people in power. Obey your conscience.

My name is gabe chouinard.
My email is neologikal@gmail.com.

Speak out. I'm listening.

Blogger Jon Husband posted stuff

Looks very promising .. and it sounds like you have had some revelatory experiences. Kids often open up the *truth* of what's going on to us, however indirectly.

And thanks for linking to me .. and in the spirit of unmarketing, I did in fact mean what I said above. While I am probably one of those stereotypical *nice* Canadians, credit offered where credit is due. Your first post is indeed a promising start .. your voice is already clear.  


Blogger gabe posted stuff

Hi Jon, thanks for reading.

Wirearchy is a great site, and I've followed it for some time.

Because there's just nothing wrong with nice Canadians.  


Blogger Jon Husband posted stuff

Thanks again. Just read your most recent post. I have several volumes of work by and about McLuhan next to my bed .. fodder for bedtime reading and thinking.

And oh .. while I almost never *blogwhore*, I wrote a post about a year or so ago titled "The Medium Is The Meaning .. We Consume and Create" that got some good response. Might you be interested in seeing it ?  


Blogger gabe posted stuff

Absolutely, Jon! I'll linkwhore for you.  


Blogger Jon Husband posted stuff

gabe ... sorry to take so long to return to this .. life, ya know ;-)

Here's the *article* I mentioned in the previous comment .. with a bit of a preface before the article starts.

I'll appreciate any feednack you care to offer  


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