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AdLib On June - 7 - 2011

Have you ever been to Costco on the weekend? If not, you are missing a great opportunity to view a regularly scheduled allegory for American society.

On the weekend, sample trays and exhibits for a variety of foods and products are set up on various aisles throughout the store. From pot stickers to lime yogurt, from swiss cheese to coconut water, a diverse cornucopia of free food is presented to the public, intended to convince the public of what they should buy.

Who doesn’t like something being offered for free? In fact, many people eat samples of things they don’t really like simply because it’s free (“Aw, what the hell, I’ll try the green tea flavored seaweed crisp!”). It would be an interesting social experiment to set up a stand there offering samples of “Cardboard Quesadillas”, cardboard sandwiching melted cheese, just to see how many people would try it despite being fully aware of what it is.

There is a kind of hunter-gatherer thing going on with people at Costco, once they realize or remember that there is free food to graze, they’re casually spying around corners, cruising up towards a sample table as if they don’t need a free snack then snapping it up without making eye contact with the preparer. People are magnetically attracted, waiting in swarms for the next plate of samples to be offered. When the samples are ready, hands swoop in swiftly like eagles snatching up prey…with some bewildered eagles left momentarily hovering over the barren plain below.

Some folks act casually, as if it’s no big deal if they get a paper cup of scissor-cut chimichanga or not, others roll their cart past those waiting and just snatch a piece as they roll on (often older ladies). Some allow others to go first, others take several samples for themselves, leaving none for others.

Our Weekend at Costco is a ready allegory or at least sample of our consumer society, particularly when it comes to how people interact with the society around them.

Primarily, there is the ready consumption of whatever is freely offered. This aspect of consumerism isn’t necessarily confined to one type of product or another, whether at a sample table at Costco or on one’s television. For example, whatever the MSM offers as news to the public, is just as immediately consumed without much discernment. After consuming, the result may be, “That left a bad taste in my mouth” but no matter how bad that “byte” of news  was, it is still consumed and is still being digested.

So, the public consumes things sometimes solely because they are readily available. This can be bad for one’s physical or mental health as the old adage, “You are what you eat,” is quite accurate, as anyone who’s seen McDonalds frequenters who’ve squeezed their Big Mac shaped body into a bathing suit at the beach can attest.

Consuming something based on it’s availability instead of the quality of it’s ingredients or the reputation of its manufacturer necessarily puts the decision making of what one consumes into the hands of the entity that can make it most available. Such an entity may have little  concern for what substance is in what’s being consumed. In fact, it means greater profit for that entity to manufacture a product as quickly and cheaply as possible regardless of the value of its content. Investing time to improve the quality of a product, when the key selling point of that product is availability, would appear to most businesses to be a waste of resources and a loss of profits.

So, applying this to the MSM news industry, the cheapest way that they can fill their “sample tray” with tasty treats for the public makes the most sense. Analysis, investigative reporting and critical thinking invested before presenting the free news-nibblies for the public is seen by the corporate management as wasteful and they’re proven right each time the public devours their empty-caloried offerings. There is little incentive to produce a higher or more conscientious quality of news for consumption if what can be produced cheaply and of minimal quality is always gobbled right up.

Pundits seem to be most like the folks who cut lines to grab the samples ahead of others, selfishly intent on just filling their own bellies. They thrive on the cheapness of news, with so little substance or perspective in it, they happily fill that void with their own ego.  And the public is ultimately left to watch such self-centered people happily continue on while the public is left with nothing of substance.

The way people respond, individually and as a group, to certain stimulus can be consistent despite the difference in the specifics at hand. When it comes to consumption, of food or information, there are similarities in how people behave and are motivated to consume. The billions that have been spent over decades, through market research and through measuring the results of consumption through profits and ratings, have made the corporations that sell to you (as consumers and voters), experts in knowing what buttons are most effective to push to get the desired response from people.

The one thing that sabotages all of this is awareness. Once a person or the public becomes aware that their behavior is being triggered or exploited intentionally by others or they become critical of how they’ve allowed themselves to behave, they can retake the power that’s been robbed from them.

When it comes to news, one can’t watch nonstop coverage of Weinergate then complain about the media spending time on it instead of far more important and urgent matters. If folks choose to pass by the sample table when childish flirting “scandals”  were being offered and instead gathered around the Climate Change demo table or another table with something of more substance to offer, there would be tastes of more worthwhile things in the following weeks.

Consumers ultimately have control over what is sold to them based upon what they choose to consume…or not consume.

Just something to chew on…

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

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