My activist friend, Judy, who keeps me abreast of all important demonstrations, underfunded causes and Nefarious Evildoings of the Neo-Fascist Regime in Their Neverending Quest for Global Domination, is the one who pressed me to see The Corporation this summer. (Frankly, I would have preferred to see Riding Giants with my then-boyfriend and his surfing buddies, but I could sense that relationship was on the decline and felt my time might be better spent with actual friends who genuinely gave a crap about me.) Judy, ever the organizer, assembled a mini-caravan of people from our old workplace and my final Day Job, a stint in the research department of a large media-buying concern here in Los Angeles. Because while the company was home to many of the kinds of disenfranchised people you usually find doing monkey work in L.A. businesses, actors, photographers, radical lesbian feminists with multiple piercings and Interesting Hair, it was also a powerhouse media shop full of incredibly smart, wildly capable advertising mavens, and one of them had been interviewed for The Corporation, a documentary about the rise and rise of the corporate structure in America. (She was also very unkindly skewered for her zeal in various reviews, but we'll let that go for now.)
It was too long by a good half-hour and even the new seats at the NuArt haven't the heavenly, George Jetson-level of ahhhh that the ArcLight's do, but The Corporation kicked some serious documentary ass. In a surprisingly balanced way, it explained the trajectory of the American corporation from its (very) humble beginnings as a legal construct designed to protect and nurture fledgling businesses to the unassailable monolith it is perceived by many (including, in some instances, me) to have become.
Now, I do not hate business. Or advertising. Or money or power or Republicans. (Religion I'm a little shaky on, but since I've met some really cool, super-tolerant and loving people who are, in fact, devout followers of various religions, I'm trying to keep an open mind.) I think few things are inherently evil and none of the aforementioned (with the possible exception of religion) could begin to qualify. But as an observer of the media all of my life (both my grandfather and father were in the advertising business) and a player for a good chunk of it, I can absolutely agree that things have gotten out of hand, that the lust for money/power/total world domination has spiraled out of control and something needs to be done to shift the balance of power, especially in this country.
So how do you dismantle the corporate structure? How do you pierce the impregnable, scale the unscalable, attack the unassailable? How do you bring Goliath to his knees? (See? I do so like the Bible!)
With a David. Or rather, with a million billion zillion Davids. Only David, it appears, is manifesting in our time as the blog.
It's been all over the blogosphere for months and it's all over the mainstream media these days. Well, mostly. Time missed the boat with its annual cover, but ABC News and now Fortune have essentially anointed bloggers as People of the Year. We seem to have hit critical mass, and if my own usual place on the techno-assimilation scale is any example (I'm in that slim slice of the pie between Early Adopter and Mass Assimilation, kind of like the freaky, tail-end 1960-64 part of the Baby Boom I'm also in), blogs really are ready to hit the mainstream now. So even with the story about blogs, blogs are leading the way, which gives me hope.
The trick to toppling the reigning power is to find its weakness and expose it. To everyone. The corporation's weakness is not its bottom line but its unassailability, its Death Star-like way of sealing itself into an invisible sphere with a sheer face that makes it virtually impossible to attack. The secret, of course, is not to try to fight fire with fire, but with, say, darts or the Millenium Falcon or tickling, in the exact right spot.
I think the naked emporer construct is really the best metaphor* for the way blogs work vis-Ã -vis corporations. The Kryptonite Factor, which I discovered via Hugh MacLeod who discovered it via Rick Bruner who discovered it, I believe, via Engadget, was basically an exposÃ© of a flaw in the ubiquitous mac-daddy of bike locks, the Kryptonite, wherein one bike enthusiast figured out you could bust the unbustable with a Bic pen. Kryptonite gets wind of the blog unrest and posts lame morsel of non-response on its corporate website (westandbyourproduct; ourproductisgreat). Blogosphere is outraged and goes wild; story gets picked up by the majors (New York Times, AP); Kryptonite is ultimately forced into action, admitting culpability by offering to exchange any affected lock, free. From the Fortune article:
"It's been, I don't necessarily want to use the word 'devastating', but it's been serious from a business perspective," says marketing director Karen Rizzo. Kryptonite's parent, Ingersoll-Rand, said it expects the fiasco to cost $10 million, a big chunk of Kryptonite's estimated $25 million in revenues. Ten days, $10 million. "Had they responded earlier, they might have stopped the anger before it hit the papers and became widespread," says Andrew Bernstein, CEO of Cymfony, a data-analysis company that watches the web for corporate customers and provides warning of such impending catastrophes.
I doubt that the goal of most blogs is to bring anyone down. There are as many reasons for writing blogs as there are bloggers. Well, that's not true; there's probably more like five or six reasons, and variations on a theme. But from my brief time in the blogosphere (8 months reading, 2+ blogging) I find that the blogs I frequent have two things in common: a clear voice and an honest intention. Transparency is key in the blogosphere, which is I think why the old school marketers are having kind of a rough time figuring out how to cash in on this whole blog thing. I spent years in advertising wrestling the twin demons of spin and obfuscation, and ultimately, I got plumb tuckered out.
Problem is, that's almost the sum total of weaponry in the marketing arsenal, and it's no longer enough. Blogs may be small but we wield the mighty sword of truth, and we'll wave it as we please.
The bike lock is buck naked.
*I'm forever dancing through fields of metaphors, (punctuated by parenthetical remarks) trailing ellipses in my wake. Sigh....