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Re: <nettime> Corey Pein: Amway Journalism
Brian Holmes on Sun, 30 Nov 2014 02:34:56 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Corey Pein: Amway Journalism

On 11/28/2014 05:55 PM, nettime's avid reader wrote:

The old media was a vicious and ugly beast, but at least it
recognized the value of supporting full-time employees with
benefits. In techworld, everyone's a permalancer...
... Newspapers were always
ruthless capitalist enterprises that happened, sometimes by
tradition but often by mistake, to produce some valuable
journalism. But the rising tech monopolies are ruthless
capitalist enterprises that are plainly not interested in
journalism as that term has been understood by generations of

This Amway argument has a lot of truth to it, concerning the raw deal of the neoliberal economy. But it also resembles a lot of Jaron Lanier-type laments, and like all the rest of them, it contains a fatal flaw. It simply posits that THE OLDER SYSTEM WAS BETTER, without inquiring as to how it got that way. The so-called "decent jobs' that Americans and Western Europeans enjoyed after the last Great Depression were built on generations of struggle. Those struggles partially tamed the capitalist beast. The marginally better results that later journalists (and professors, doctors, public servants etc) produced for a few decades were not accidents. They grew out of the institutionalization of that generational struggle: a complex system of rights and responsibilities that gave relative autonomy to the practitioners of certain socially necessary professions. That relative autonomy was gained through both unionization and political action in the Thirties - essentially, through the struggle for social democracy and flat-out socialism. Later, a watered-down version of the social-democratic ideal was instituted as part of the new compromise that took form after the war.

The other side of that social compromise -- the capitalist side -- gave rise to institutions like Amway, which was founded in Michigan in 1959, basically as a distribution company recruiting door-to-door salesfolks for dodgy products like dish soap and a grotesque diet beverage called Nutrilite. That was the American way, right out of the heart of the good old Fordist system in Michigan.

Fast forward to the present. At least a decade too late, people who assumed they would already be in mid-career under the old postwar rules are discovering that they have been screwed by what you might as well call "the Californian ideology." Are they now going to struggle for everyone's rights? Do they realize that the new Great Depression is part of a process leading to climate chaos, mass migration, and national-fascist responses to civilizational decline - all of which will be our equivalent of WWII? Do they realize that the "capitalist beast" is producing all that, and not just the breakdown of their little niche? Or do they think that if they complain a little on their blogs and bring everyone to their senses, a nicer monstrosity from the past will come to feather their beds and upholster their new offices, so they can comfortably denounce an occasional corporate abuse here and there? While drinking a little Nutrilite, or maybe Soylent, to look good on their vacations?

The new media make for a lousy journalism career, that's for sure. But every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. Tactical media are a great way to revolt against capitalism, on all levels from the riots in the streets to sophisticated critiques of business, technology and government. Generations of struggle have proven this since the late Nineties. Those who do not realize it are actually nostalgic for the failed compromise that produced their present dilemma. They think the beast of their dreams will save them from the one they refuse to confront in the daylight. That's tantamount to being nostalgic for Amway itself - which became a global internet-based company in 2007.

OK, my fellow Internet journalists. I forgive you. But maybe it is time to wake up already?

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