Preserved Stories Blog


The hippies were the creation of the American advertising industry, according to Thomas Frank (1997)

In reading The wage slaver’s glossary (2011) I came across the claim that the hippie phenomenon of the late 1960s and early 1970s was a result of efforts by the American advertising industry to advance American business interests.

The reference is to The conquest of cool: Business culture, counterculture, and the rise of hip consumerism (1997).

The glossary is a collection of blurbs. I was interested in borrowing the book from the Toronto Public Library because it features drawings by Seth, a Canadian comic book artist/writer.

Seth is working in a ‘cool’ medium, to use the terminology of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ media advanced by Marshall McLuhan, whose ascent to media guru status, as it has been noted, owed much to the work of a public relations consultant who helped him at an early stage of his career.

Cool medium in this case refers to a low-definition comic strip. Not a lot of detail. Plenty of room for one’s imagination. As has been noted, TV used to be a cool (low-definition) medium but now it’s high-definition. That now presumably makes it ‘hot’ in McLuhan’s frame of reference.

Story grammar of comic books and warfare

When I think of story grammar, I think of the grammar of war.

Seth has a good grasp of story grammar. He holds the reader’s attention from one comic-strip sequence to the next. The story grammar is separate from the fact it’s a comic strip. Any narrative involves sequences in which the attention of an audience is held for a given period of time, after which there’s a transition to something else.

The method of transitioning is in itself a creative choice. The story in the end is concluded. How it is ended, whether it’s a comic strip or warfare, involves a measure of creativity. In warfare and in other engagements, the strategic process of arriving at a conclusion is termed the ‘end game.’ Without such a process, there is more chaos that otherwise.

Sometimes, especially in the era current era of climate change, wars continue pretty much indefinitely. Particularly in what are characterized as failed states, warfare provides a means of employment and profit for a range of entrepreneurial enterprises as Harald Welzer (2012) outlines.

Wage slave’s glossary (2011)

The Wage slave’s glossary (2011) has a satirical and cynical edge which limits the scope of its overview but the references are of value. By way of example, the book (p. 92) cites Thomas Frank (The Conquest of Cool 1997) as arguing ‘persuasively’ that the 1960s-1970s counterculture was invented by ad-men and marketers as a way to revitalize American business.

The reference to Thomas Frank (1997 brings to mind an April 2013 Harper’s article by the anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann entitled “Blinded by the right? How hippie Christians begat evangelical conservatives.”

Luhrmann structures her article as a series of story lines, seeking an explanation of the progression from hippie Christians to evangelical conservatives. Her approach to the structure of the article works well. Each story line except the concluding one, she posits, has inherent weaknesses. Her final story line is presented as offering the summation that makes sense for her. She concludes the article (p. 44 of the print edition) with an overview of the latter story line:

“Their contemporary descendants still hate what they see as the ultimate drug: the human addiction to easy solutions. Someone like Betsy Jackson would rather struggle to change on her own, alternatively heeding God and ignoring him. ‘I still battle with wanting to do it my way,’ she tells me. ‘That’s a daily struggle. You know? I always think I have a better idea than God.'”

The good Parsi: The fate of a colonial elite in a postcolonial society (1996)

Luhrmann is an academic whose books include When God talks back: Understanding the American evangelical relationship with God (2012); Of two minds: the growing disorder in American psychiatry (2000); Persuasions of the witch’s craft: ritual magic in contemporary England (1989); and The good Parsi: The fate of a colonial elite in a postcolonial society (1996).

The concluding chapter of the book about the Parsis, as outlined in a blurb at a link in the previous paragraph (see above), brings to mind the relation of Western anthropology to the Orientalism debate. A related topic concerns the impact of postmodernity on historical practice.

Luhrmann is also author of an April 13, 2013 New York Times article, “When God is your therapist.”

Bannock, beans, and black tea (2004)

Bannock, beans, and black tea: The life of a young boy growing up in the Great Depression (2004) is another book illustrated by Seth, who is mentioned above.

Update

A March 16, 2016 CBC The Current article is entitled: “It’s not bigotry but bad trade deals driving Trump voters, says author Thomas Frank.”

Share this:

This entry was posted in Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *