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At one time it would have been hard to imagine that “authenticity” could be used to sell almost any product or service. The ingenuity of the American marketing machine is to appropriate and commodify authenticity. As Joshua Glenn has pointed out, a misdirected quest for authenticity is an ugly thing. Then why should individuals strive to be true and authentic? It is a state of being, of living in the moment, or is it a futile gesture to reach a concept crafted by an advertising agency. The passing of Gil Scott-Heron is reflection of this ongoing process of commodification of black culture at this stage of post-capitalism, where in this case, legitimate black outrage and dissent becomes a product.
If whites today can no longer purchase blacks as slaves, they still want to attain the black experience through the black culture industry; even if it means at a very cheezy level , buying the aesthetic which comes with the “Elwood” blackened chicken sandwich and watercress-jicama salad at the House of Blues, or even a bagel. The dynamic seems to be that commodification erases, and blots out the history of black struggle. In the music industry, one of the few black capitalist models; success within this entertainment complex appears to be contingent, as Bell Hooks as pointed out, of conforming to stereotypes. So, promoting a black culture as a commodity ostensibly points to the end of racism, but at the same time reinforces and maintains the racial hierarchy in place of long date. The “master’s voice” as it were.
You have to wonder if Heron’s music actually contributed to expanding on the very issues of which he sought to mitigate their effect. Perhaps Adorno’s critique of popular music within mass culture is pertinent:
Theodor Adorno: “I believe, in fact, that attempts to bring political protest together with ‘popular music’ – that is, with entertainment music – are for the following reason doomed from the start. The entire sphere of popular music, even where it dresses itself up in modernist guise is to such a degree inseparable from…consumption, from the crossed-eyed transfixion with amusement, that…attempts to outfit it with a new function remain entirely superficial. And I have to say that when somebody sets himself up, and for whatever reason (accompanies) maudlin music by singing something or other about Vietnam being unbearable…I find, in fact, this song unbearable, in that by taking the horrendous and making it somehow consumable, it ends up wringing something like consumer qualities out of it.” Read More:http://www.wordarc.com/Hogan/2008/12/19/War_Songs…Huh!_What_Are_They_Good_For%3F
Thomas Frank: For some, Ken Kesey’s parti-colored bus may be a hideous reminder of national unraveling, but for Coca-Cola it seemed a perfect promotional instrument for its “Fruitopia” line, and the company has proceeded to send replicas of the bus around the country to generate interest in the counterculturally themed beverage. Nike shoes are sold to the accompaniment of words delivered by William S. Burroughs and songs by The Beatles, Iggy Pop, and Gil Scott Heron (“the revolution will not be televised”); peace symbols decorate a line of cigarettes manufactured by R. J. Reynolds and the walls and windows of Starbucks coffee shops nationwide; the products of Apple, IBM, and Microsoft are touted as devices of liberation; and advertising across the product category sprectrum calls upon consumers to break rules and find themselves.Read More:http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/259919.html
The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theater and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, brother.
Adorno also developed a model of “authenticity” in which cultural products are passed off as authentic representations:
This mode of fake authenticity is all around us, every day, typically expressed in what Theodor Adorno called, in The Jargon of Authenticity , “the jargon of authenticity”: a nonsense-language that seems to express (in a resonant voice) a need for meaning and liberation, but which only serves to mystify and oppress. Thirty-five years ago, Adorno argued that the jargon of authenticity is closely allied with the manipulations of advertising. Sure enough, as the twentieth century nears its end, the idea that one can rebel against bourgeois life by buying what Thomas Frank, the editor of the Baffler, has described as “soaps that liberate us, soda pops that are emblems of individualism, and counter-hegemonic hamburgers,” is all-triumphant. We can see what the Baffler calls the “commodification of dissent” present in the pre-history of existential authenticity; perhaps by understanding the origins of both authenticity and fake authenticity we can finally get a handle on why (as opposed to how) the commodification of dissent has been so successful. Read More:http://www.hermenaut.com/a5.shtml
Joshua Glenn:”No authentic human life is possible without irony”-Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony (1840)
So, is there any such thing as authenticity? No, there isn’t. To Baudrillard, whenever “authenticity” is evoked, we are already in the world of the fake. Hermenaut suggests the following update: Whenever “authenticity” is evoked, we are actually in the world of fake authenticity. Although Italians do open restaurants, there is no such thing as an authentic Italian restaurant. Although history, nature, race, and class are very real and very much with us, there is no such thing as an authentic past, an authentic outdoors, nor an authentic non-white/middle-class style of life. News flash: Poor urban blacks do exist when they’re not being featured on America’s Funniest Race Riots, but there is no item of clothing, no compact disc, and no affected manner of walking or talking which will allow anyone who is not poor, urban, or black to approximate that. “Authenticity” is a reality-label from the art world, and as such it cannot be fixed to anything living and vital. For that matter, it’s even difficult to describe a piece of art as “authentic” in the sense of “not fake”. Read More:http://www.hermenaut.com/a5.shtml
…When the 22-year-old Kierkegaard wrote, in 1835, “The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live or die,” this was no exercise prescribed by The Artist’s Way. Instead of looking inward, hacking his way romantically through the underbrush of convention and habit to “the source of [his] self,” or however it’s usually put, he was creative; he artistically engaged with a social world he found constraining and immoral . When Nietzsche wrote that the world is composed not of questions with answers, but of “infinite interpretations,” this was not a resigned statement of relativistic nihilism, but a challenge to each of us: to boldly interpret where no one has interpreted before; to create not truth, but truthfulness, where none would otherwise exist; to be, for lack of a better word, an artist….
…Before being an artist, however, the would-be anti-hero (anti-, because whereas a “hero” perfectly embodies society’s prevailing ethos, the person seeking existential authenticity rejects every ethos in favor of his or her own subjective pathos) of this type of authenticity must become an ironist.Read More:http://www.hermenaut.com/a5.shtml
Gil Scott-Heron ( B-Movie) :
The first thin I want to say is “mandate” my ass
Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced
That 26% of the registered voters
No even 26% of the American people
Form a mandate or a landslide…
But, oh yeah, I remember…
I remember what I said about Reagan
Acted like an actor/Hollyweird
Acted like a liberal
Acted like General Franco
When he acted like governor of California
Then he acted like a Republican
Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president
And now he acts like 26% of the registered voters
Is actually a mandate
We’re all actors in this, actually