Monday, September 20, 2010

Jersey Shore

Our lives are filled with stuff. As we have discussed before, this is what you get out of production for production's sake: a lot of stuff. It doesn't matter what you are producing. It could be Silly Bandz, or political commentary. It doesn't matter whether it's any good. Have you seen how many television channels there are? It's not because people want more of a good thing; it's because you're producing a commodity: you're putting less value into production than you're getting back in, say, advertising revenue. Do you see? Very little investment goes into reality TV, but the advertisers are there; so we end up with a lot of reality TV, in the same way that we end up with lots of other stuff.

There's money to be made as long as we're putting less into the finished product than we get back in exchange. Last week I saw an ad for some kind of chicken wrap from Taco Bell for $1. My friends, if Taco Bell thinks it can turn a profit off a $1 sandwich, we really need ask why Taco Bell thinks this is so. What does Taco Bell know that gives it the confidence to say that what it is selling you for $1 is actually worth less?

The first obstacle we confront when we are producing things just to produce them is the commodity. This is why Marx puts it up front in Capital. We have to understand the commodity, because we can't avoid it in this system.

As long as there's money to be made by putting less into something than what you get back, there are going to be a lot of commodities. We understand this when we see trash in the street, or when we walk into Kmart, but we need to understand this when it comes to how we relate to one another. We have to remember that capital is a social relation that is mediated by things.

Jersey Shore is a good case in point. It probably receives more advertising revenue than any other show on TV. What can you say about it? I think the people are very interesting. But it's difficult to make a judgment about what is happening because the real production is behind the scenes. You only see what some editor has made of these people, in order that the ad revenue keeps coming in. You've picked up a half-dozen kids from Staten Island, or wherever, but the real story is that they're linked into capital's circuit: there's a whole production team creating the commodity. You put less into the kids -- way less -- than you get back via the spectacle you've created.

The news is a commodity not unlike reality TV. In the same way that I find it difficult to discuss Pauly D or Jenni "JWoww" on the basis of what I am shown, it's very hard to make judgments about people or communities that assume a spectacular form in the news. "The news" itself is a commodity. It's not the truth. The most important thing to remember about "the news" as a commodity is the pretense it sustains toward being some kind of objective truth, whether it is "truth from the left" or "truth from the right." You have to think of it as information that has entered the capital circuit -- money put into circulation to produce something of greater value than the sum of its parts -- in order to become something analogous to "The Situation" himself. It should be regarded as an object of inquiry, not a firm basis for making judgments.


Ethan said...

I'm even gladder that you're back than I thought I would be. How was the 'cation?

Love the taco bell paragraph in particular.

almostinfamous said...

what Ethan said. We're just starting to get jersey shore over here. can you imagine that? they're exporting Jersey Shore to asia! we need anti-dumping laws on TV shows too, i think.

Randal Graves said...

If there's one thing, aside from reality, that's missing in the news, it's anchors with spray-ons.

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