The Horrifying Corporate Zombies of Branded Twitter

Twitter brands want you to believe they're your friends, but they are all soulless monsters.

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!

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?!

wendy's tweet

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.

moosejaw tweet

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.

immortan joe poster 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.

moon pie hostess snacks tweet

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.

Culture News

Is Carole Baskin Inheriting a Haunted "Indian" Burial Ground with Tiger King Zoo?

Current owner Jeff Lowe claims there are bodies, including "a young American Indian boy," buried on the property

It was recently reported that Carole Baskin had been awarded the property of the Tiger King Zoo—formerly the G.W. Zoo—in Wynnewood, Oklahoma after a judgment found in her favor.

As fans of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King will know, her long-standing legal feud with Joe Exotic (AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage, né Shreibvogel) over his violation of the Big Cat Rescue trademark resulted in a million dollar settlement in her favor. But for the most part Exotic managed to dodge paying Baskin through a series of illegal property transfers that temporarily protected his animal park from seizure.

Now that Exotic is in prison for attempting to have Baskin murdered—along with illegal animal trafficking and several violations of the Endangered Species Act—a judge has finally ruled that the park is hers, and she will be taking over ownership of the 16-acre property later this year. But Jeff Lowe—the park's current owner and the personification of a mid-life crisis—insists that there are no hard feelings, saying, "She deserves this property."

Keep Reading Show less

FILM | 'Wonder Woman', 'Beauty and the Beast' and outrage film marketing

FILM | Several films in the last two years have had their box office boosted by controversial headlines provoking national outrage. Are we, and should we be, enabling this?

"Should we be encouraging outrage culture in film marketing?"

In the era of Lahren, O'Reilly, Maher and Yiannopoulos, outrage is all the rage. Outrage culture pulls in massive internet traffic, and gets people talking loudly on both sides of the issue. But we've seen it more and more in the world of film marketing in recent times. Just this year we have had the debacle of women-only Wonder Woman screenings, and Beauty and the Beast's "gay moment", resulting in bans and calls for boycotts on both. Because of their sudden divisiveness, everyone was talking about these films, and the idea that going to see them was going to help shut down bigotry was a real, tangible thing. Both of them went on to see huge box office revenue. It's hard to say whether the surge in interest caused the subsequent ticket sales, but it certainly didn't hurt. The question is, though: should we be encouraging outrage culture in film marketing?

It's not like outrage marketing is a new thing. The Moon is Blue, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Ecstasy (which was denounced by no less than the Pope), and The Last Temptation of Christ, all traded on their salacious reputations. The key difference between film marketing then and now is, as you've probably guessed, the internet. Social media virality enables ideas to spread like wildfire, even if they start on the micro scale.

We saw this with Mad Max: Fury Road. A relatively small men's rights blog called Return of Kings declared the film dangerously feminist and called for a boycott. Their minor (if stupidly misogynist) outcry was met with the hammer of overwhelming internet righteousness, and the war cry went up to enter the gates of Valhalla via screenings of Fury Road.


Now, I don't know about you, but I love Fury Road. I find it hard to get angry about anything that would make more people see this movie. However, the more I try and look at the situation impartially, the easier it is to worry about the direction outrage marketing is taking us. For three reasons: it increases the divisiveness of ideas and beliefs in the population; it can be used improperly to tank a film; and it allows our beliefs to be tokenistically and cynically used for financial gain.

First off, divisiveness. We already have a polarized society, particularly in America. This past year has shown that more than ever. David Wong at Cracked has written and spoken eloquently on the subject of the city-rural divide in the country, and how transgressive metropolitanism alienates people living outside cities. Outrage marketing can only reinforce that.

"How desperate are they to get the gay agenda across that they feel they have to force feed it to our children?"

In the same way that hearing Beauty and the Beast was banned likely conjured up an image for city-slickers of the typical Neanderthal country-bumpkin, it likely did similar for people living in the more rural parts of America. Hearing the news probably made many think of the worst possible example of a liberal-hipster. They probably thought "How desperate are they to get the gay agenda across that they feel they have to force feed it to our children?" And instead of this "gay moment" opening up a conversation that lead to greater understanding on both sides, it devolved the debate into people shouting at each other on social media, and both sides calling the other out of touch. All this over a "gay moment" that was about as gay as Bruce Willis.

Secondly, outrage marketing can tank a film. Remember A Dog's Purpose? Probably not. It tanked at the US box office. If you do remember it, you remember it as the film that tortured a dog by throwing it in to water to get a realistic drowning scene. Horrific, yes? PETA called for a boycott, Best Friends Animal Society pulled their association, there was mild general outcry.

Except it was a hugely misleading story. Snopes explains it in more detail in their article on the subject, but essentially the dog was fine, just a last minute change spooked him for one take. All safety precautions were properly observed, and the dog was unfazed and unharmed. Of course, the TMZ article that created the uproar had already done its damage. With its reputation in shreds, A Dog's Purpose paddled in and out of American cinemas with little fanfare. Outrage media cuts both ways.

"If we're voting with our box office dollars, then we have to vote for films that pay more than lip service to our ideals."

Finally, and most importantly, let's talk about the exploitation of our beliefs. Beauty and the Beast is a great example of this. We've already established that it's "gay moment" was about as mild as dollar-store salsa. In fact, before talk of the "gay moment" entered the headlines, the main debate over the movie was fairly mundane. Will this be better than the original? Is it just a cash-grab remake? Why is there so much auto-tune on Emma Watson's voice?

A lot of people were considering giving it a miss (in as much as it is possible to avoid a Disney movie). But with the "gay moment" in the headlines, suddenly the film became an LGBTQ battleground. If we didn't see it we were potentially helping bigotry, and undermining the cause's wider exposure in one of the country's biggest family taste-makers. By the time we found out how hardly "gay" it was, tickets had already been bought.

Whether the controversy was deliberate or not, advertisers, marketers, and so on, now know for sure that, even with the most token of token sops to a cause, they can galvanize a community and turn them in to box office dollars.

If promoters know that outrage marketing will work, they will use it. We as consumers have to be discerning, and if we're voting with our box office dollars then we have to vote for films that pay more than lip service to our ideals. Is it like Wonder Woman, where if a female-led, female-directed, female-gaze enabling movie succeeds it will lead to more of the same? Great! Vote away. Or is it a "gay moment" less gay than the Mariana Trench? Maybe save your money.

Have a happy blockbuster season!