In 2012, one of the death knells of Mitt Romney's failed campaign for the presidency was an endlessly replayed clip of him telling a heckler at a rally, "Corporations are people, my friend."
Mitt Romney- Corporations Are People! www.youtube.com
He was expressing his opposition to raising the corporate tax rate, because that ultimately takes money out of (rich) people's pockets. It's not exactly a stunning take for a Republican politician, but what made the clip so damning was how plainly it exposed Romney's fundamental flaw as a candidate. He didn't seem like a real person. There was nothing authentic in any aspect of his public persona. Whether it was Mormonsim, political ambitions, or hundreds of millions of dollars that drained him of all flavor, the result was the concept of bland corporate professionalism made manifest in a suit and a haircut. He was the Uncanny Valley candidate.
There is a parallel issue that has emerged in recent years on Twitter, and I can't quite handle it. Having learned the lesson of Mitt Romney, every brand on Earth has made it their mission to present themselves on Twitter as people with some actual personality—as your cool, quirky friend. And people genuinely invest in these exchanges. There are endless articles about which Twitter brands are "sassiest" and about Old Spice "beefing" with Taco Bell. Who had the better zinger?!
Whichever side we choose, we are the losers when we invest emotion into these empty vessels, because brands are not on our side. There's no such thing as a sassy or a quirky brand, and there are no "good" brands. Brands are not people. They are imaginary entities, devoid of character and attribute—corporate figures that can be erased and remade on the whim of a focus group. They can't feel or think or love, and they can't die. They are philosophical zombies, except that—like the flesh-eating corpse version of zombies—they are doing their best to kill us all.
One of the most upsetting things about these Twitter brands is that some of the people writing these tweets are legitimately clever. There's a lot of real talent being subsumed by the capitalistic effort to commodify every aspect of our lives and convert all of Earth's vital resources into profit as quickly as inhumanly possible—before impending climactic collapse destroys the global economy and the wealthy retreat to luxury bunkers, protected from the fulfillment of Mad Max's hellish vision.
Did you see what the Immortan Joe account tweeted about water? Sick burn, bro.Fro Design Company
Creative ability that could be used to connect people and make them aware of the pressing issues that concern the entire planet is instead being funneled into efforts that can only numb us. These innocuous jokes build warm feelings toward emblems of the forces we should be rallying against—a hazy comfort that conceals the fact that our society is rapidly destroying the possibility of livable conditions for humanity.
And in our numb state, we see Greta Thunberg's passion and assume it's an act. We question the price tag of the Green New Deal and resist the vision of a transformational shift akin to the war movement in the 40s—which is seen as an unquestioned good, despite the fact that climate change is a far more dangerous threat to humanity than the Nazis could ever have hoped to be.
In our numb state, we see protesters clogging the streets and, instead of joining them—propagating a general strike that spreads throughout our cities until we can begin the real work of dismantling the cancerous systems of greed consuming our planet—we complain that they are making us late to our jobs. The jobs where we serve our unfeeling masters: the corporate zombies that will kill us all.