Propaganda and Delusion

CityLab reporter Laura Bliss writes about “the realm of speculative transportation.” It is a useful concept, denoting the raft of lavishly hyped promises about “autonomous” and “electric” automobiles.

One question this burgeoning realm suggests is how much of it, at the planning/managerial level, stems from delusion, and how much from propaganda.

Surely, delusion is there. People who make comfortable livings from working on deadly products find ways to not just justify it, but spin it as visionary.

Yet, the habit of including preposterous techno-promises in the automotive marketing mix did not emerge last week. It is as old as the overclass push to sell cars.

This fact strongly suggests that the use of car-of-the-future promises is also knowingly propagandistic, i.e., that car-makers consciously use images of impossible futures as cover for keeping the existing meat-grinder going.

Alas, since business corporations are private tyrannies, the extent to which the realm of speculative automobility is a carefully planned marketing tactic remains unclear. It would be extremely fascinating to lay hands on the evidence, though.

EVs Doing Their Real Work

evil angel image “Electric” automobiles will go down as one of the greatest hoaxes in human history.

In the early 21st century, as the reality of greenhouse gas pollution became less and less deniable, the corporate capitalist overclass continued to sell its core product, automobiles, on the same premise as always — bigger vehicles for bigger profits.

The auto-making corporations simultaneous sold a few loss-leading “electric” vehicles, partly as a way of researching possible future adaptations but mostly to put a halo around the insane idea of continuing to rely on automobiles for everyday transportation.

The would-be critics generally ate it right up.

By now, it’s clear that this trick produces spectacular results.

According to Cox Automotive research, light trucks now account for a record 69 percent of new automobile sales in the United States. In other words, of the 17.3 million new vehicles sold here last year, 12 million of them were pickups, SUVs, and “crossovers.”

“Electric” cars sold here in 2018? 361,307 — reported with an celebratory exclamation mark!

So, for every new “electric” car sold, there are 33 new light trucks entering the ever-expanding U.S. automotive fleet. Quite a feat!

By the way: At the average late-2018 new-automobile selling price of $37,000, new vehicle sales accounted for $640 billion in effective economic demand in 2018 in the USA. That is roughly the same as the Pentagon’s annual budget.

Department of Yes

money cornucopia imageTrump is a logical endpoint of Reaganism, which has never yet — not even now — been opposed, since it emerged.

In subtler times, the overclass merely used GM heads to front the Pentagon. Now, they need not feign even that much distance. Boeing execs now sit themselves right down in the public seat, to zero controversy.

The attached talk, never very subtle, is now utterly shameless.

According to The New York Times, here is what the new Defense Secretary said at a recent insider meeting:

“We are not the Department of No,” Mr. Shanahan told Pentagon officials after Space Force was announced.

Not the Department of No. Mark that one down.

The military being a department of yeses is extremely relevant to the ongoing reign of the automobile, since both that phenomenon and the Pentagon budget pass the social order stringent apublic-spending litmus test. The terms of that test come straight from corporate capitalism, which mandates that government spending be huge and growing, yet occur only in the very few product-usage areas that neither directly supplant capitalist sales nor establish precedents harmful to the reigning insistence that profit-maximizers’ schemes are the only possible way to meet human needs.

Don Quixote Triumphs Again

quixote and sancho panza Ah, McKibben…

One of the reasons democracy is so crucial is that, contrary to the beliefs of the US founders, it itself is a major check-and-balance.

350.org, you see, is not a democratic organization. It is a property of Bill McKibben and his donors and his carefully selected fans (whom I am tempted to call enablers).

Praising himself for going on “a gruelling tour,” our Man of La Middlebury now claims that “divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts.”

The series of specious claims about pertinent facts in this declaration is stunning.

So is the claim that fossil fuel divestment is a “major action” against the forces driving the planet to catastrophic climate change.

That, of course, is an extremely debatable hypothesis, not a clear fact.

The major counter-argument is that fossil-fuel divestment is a distraction and a detriment to effective movement against the core forces of destruction.

Are, as McKibben would have it, “the fossil fuel companies” really our main enemy, or are we up against something a great deal bigger, wider, and tougher than these important but perhaps secondary organizations?

Is trying to demonize “the fossil fuel companies” really a good way to raise the deeper issues that even McKibben admits need raising? Or is doing this actually a way of continuing to not talk about what really needs to be talked about, while also nurturing the dangerous fiction that we will somehow figure out how to run all our corporate capitalist stuff on wind and solar?

In a true grassroots social movement, all this would be openly discussed, decided, and reconsidered over time. In 350.org, however, we simply get what we are going to get, no debate, please and thank you.

Hmm…where have we heard that theme before?

Fake News

blind men touching elephant image The New York Times today features a front-page story suggesting that the oil industry is the main source of the Trump Administration’s suspension of pending rules requiring faster improvement of automotive fuel-economy standards. According to Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi, “it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation’s oil industry.”

This is rotten-appleism/liberal practicality/craven punch-pulling, mixed with patent hogwash.

Let’s start with the obvious unreality.

First, in Tabuchi’s telling, the oil industry was, at some time, a hidden opponent of rules reducing its own sales? ROFL. Pure balderdash.

It is also simply bad history to suggest that the idea of halting Obama’s CAFE rules originated with the petroleum corporations. The Trump Campaign was obviously planning such a move all along. And, contrary to Tabuchi’s claim that “[c]armakers, for their part, had sought more flexibility in meeting the original 2025 standards, not a categorical rollback,” the auto corporations have been every bit as early and eager as the oilmongers in their entirely welcome lobbying on this issue. They may have framed their wishes with a more careful eye to their public perception, but it is naive in the extreme to therefore make these dedicated devils look like angels in this string of pathetic events.

Which point brings us to the NYT‘s rotten-appleism: The oil industry is not the relevant villain in our shamefully under- and mis-discussed cars-and-energy crisis. The oil industry is huge and important and partially independent, but it is nonetheless a squarely subordinate part of the automotive-industrial complex, which is itself a deeply logical, probably indispensable component of corporate capitalism. To miss this institutional fact is to do damage to the possibility of its decent resolution, by passing off a mere symptom as the disease we need to cure.

As much as liberals and greens want it to be true, we aren’t going to sweet-talk or band-aid our way through our coming storms. Self-delusion will not cut the mustard.

Brainwashing on Facebook

You want a real case of Facebook knowingly selling space to evil mind-controllers? Here is a straight-up FB lie from your friends at ExxonMobil:

algae ad image

There is a zero percent chance that algae or any other bio-fuel is going to replace current petroleum use. No entity in the world knows this more surely than does the ExxonMobil corporation. Yet, this is what it wants you to think it believes.

None of this, of course, should lend aid and comfort to the liberal-green delusion that the fossil fuel corporations are our main problem. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Our actual problem, however, is bigger and deeper: cars-first transportation and other key forms of unending commodity-maximization.

Corporate capitalism, in other words.

The Haloware Thesis

Long-time readers will know that DbC contends that so-called “electric vehicles” are, in both design and effect, haloware — loss-leader products promulgated by the sellers of pickups and SUVs as a way of staving off democratic contemplation of the suicidal idiocy of using automobiles for everyday locomotion.

The proof is in the pudding here. As Zeke Hausfather reports:

Despite record sales of electric vehicle in the US – the total number just hit the 1m mark – there are nearly 12m more cars with internal combustion engines in the country than there were in 2008.

This, of course, is exactly the intended pattern. A tenth of the population drives around flattering itself for its Tesla or Leaf, while the rest keep buying trucks.

And this is just the half of it, since “EVs” are actually 80% natural gas, coal, and nuclear cars.

Sing it UB40

The Yellow Vests in France

yellow jacket tax protester Many have been wondering what’s up avec des gilets jaunes.

DbT‘s editor is the farthest thing from an expert on French society, and has not set foot on French soil since 1987.

Nevertheless, since the automobile and its French accoutrements play such a central role in the thing, DbT hereby offers its official guess:

The Yellow Jacket movement is a rightist version of #Occupy.

Marine Le Pen is a big fan of the phenomenon, and is trying to ride its energy into new elections.

Meanwhile, the thing, like #Occupy, has neither leaders nor a coherent agenda, and is fueled by Twitter storms and pose-striking. Hence, it won’t last, and will have little effect.

None of which is to excuse Macron, who is a yuppie dunce bent on repackaging dangerous (witness the neo-fascist tendencies afoot) Reaganite dogmas.

Trying to sustain an automobile-centered way of life, however, is a losing gambit, in any form. Capitalism’s #1 machine is simply unsustainable under the given laws of physics, which are rather strict.