Adrift for 96 Hours

Wow. Who knew that independent journalist/blogger Josh Wolf would score an appearance on the Stephen Colbert show Tuesday. I watch the Colbert Report about once a week, maybe twice a month, so found out after the original airing. I didn’t have time to sit in front of my laptop and watch the segment, but did manage to catch the re-run Wednesday evening on Comedy Central.

I watched Tuesday’s Daily Show first, killing time while the soup cooked at Laura’s place. We where still tired from the Health and Harmony Festival up in Sonoma County, so I soaked in the left-leaning alpha waves to relax. The repeats unsettled me, not in any way that you’d think a lefty show would unsettle someone.

In the Daily Show episode, a piece ran about Mormon Republican Mitt Romney, bringing up the fact that Mormons don’t drink caffeine. This could be a weakness against the Iranians, they joked. That was a funny bit, showing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatening to unleash nuclear war unless the Mormon President of the USA drank a Mountain Dew. The skit then showed Clinton and Bush drinking Mountain Dews.

The Colbert repeat had a joke that mentioned the iPhone. In the coveted photo box, right next to Stephen Colbert’s head, an image of the iPhone popped up. Colbert even announced that he wanted one.

These two product placements made me question whether or not they where placed there because of money, or simply because it was a good joke. I recently watched Adam Curtis’ BBC documentary “Century of the Self.” In that four-part series, Curtis connects the dots of Freud’s beliefs to those of modern public relations and marketing. Freud’s American nephew, Edward Bernays, used these new concepts to convince women to smoke, movie studios to put products in their films, and making people like us buy things we don’t need. The basic idea is to market to consumers in a way that we fulfill our desires in life by spending money on items that we think will fill up those empty places.

Though major lefty shows, has The Daily Show and The Colbert Report kept the spectacle of desire as part of their business plan? Did marketers use Bernays’ tactics to place those products in the middle of two hot shows with millions of focused consumer groups watching? Hell, Colbert said that he wanted an iPhone.  I’m sure Colber Nation got online after that show and created buzz about the product he basically told them to buy.

Jonathan called me after the shows, and I invited him over to Laura’s for some soup. Tonight was also the premiere of a new Comedy Central show, Lil Bush, and I thought correctly that Jonathan would like to watch it with us. During South Park, another lefty show, every commercial break had a new Lil Bush spot, hyping the 10:30 show. During one break, Lil Bush overtly called out the “18-24 year olds,” encouraging them to watch the commercials.

As we ate soup, South Park told a hilarious story about Hillary Clinton having a nuclear bomb in her snatch. Russian tugs had the timer, which reset to 12:00 when the power went out. They where working for the British, who where bent on detroying the USA, ending the American Revolution for good. Their 1700s ships where no match for US air power. Defeated, Queen Elizabeth II blew her brains out while sitting on the throne. The show was a spoof of the popular “24” series, and the feds discovered the bomb plot via mainstream online sources. At least two dozen major online corporations where mentioned in the funny HQ bits.

Talk about product placement!

Jonathan watches TV less than I do, and he instantly felt the same uneasiness about watching a corporate “radical” lefty show. I think he summed it up quite well: “I’m not sure if these shows make a difference. I think that watching these shows just numbs us to reality, allowing ourselves to laugh at the war in Iraq means that we will probably never do anything about it.”

I agreed, and we began to discuss why there weren’t a majority of college students protesting to end the war. We did the math and added up a year’s worth of The Daily Show and Colbert Report. If you watched just the hour a day, four days a week, all year, you’d waste 96 hours of sitting in front of the TV laughing about the idiocy of the era instead of doing something about it. If today’s children are watching an average of 22 hours a WEEK, then I guess we have our answer about why no one really cares about the war, the Bush scandals, the corporate takeover of government, etc.

Jonathan and I where too tired to think of a revolutionary scenario that would potentially change things, and grimly realized that we’ll probably have this same conversation in ten years, when we’re both pushing 50. The questions will remain the same: when will the youth rise up and demand change? Will we have to keep fighting, with hope that a future generation beyond our lifetime will do so?

Back at the house, after the new shows ran (only one product placement for the hour, another phone on The Daily Show), Pod and I analyzed the Josh Wolf segment from Tuesday.  Just like Jonathan, Pod felt that anything worthy that ran through those shows got lost in the corporate swirl of spectacle. Again I agreed, thinking about all those wasted hours watching lefty parody. What can you do with 96 hours that would help change the world?

I hope to keep the TV viewing down, as well as the online videos. Using that time for conversation, walks, gardening, would do a lot more good than vegging in front of lefty marketing scams. Though funny and appealing, I doubt I’ll keep up with the Lil Bush cartoon. Just can’t stomach the marketing plan.


During the Harmony Festival last weekend, news was abuzz about Live Nation’s partnering with the Harmony Festival. I little digging showed that Live Nation is a publicly-traded spin off of the Clearchannel corporation. With a $2.8 billion budget, and venues across the USA, Live Nation will take the Harmony Festival to new heights. Word has it that Harmony will be a national festival soon, bringing the message of buying local, living sustainably, and partying hard to good music to the country. Again, the question begs, at what cost will the Festival go mainstream? Will the hard-working grassroots organizers get squeezed out by the corporate partners? Was there a better way to go national, and why form an LLC with a huge, un-local corporation? I was told that almost every department of the festival had been reprimanded by the new corporate number crunchers. Are layoffs in the future, to consolidate resources and to achieve best practices? Just wait….