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Our Elementary Right

All of the Renegade Consumer message, and really all forms of consumer awareness and protection, come down to a single right.

That right can be stated in a simple declarative sentence. Grasping it, and all it represents, though, will take a solid leap of understanding... of mental re-ordering, of dismissing carefully fostered illusion... of faith, perhaps. So consider:

We have a right not to be sold to.

And there you have it.

Your response is likely something close to the "Well, of course!" end of revelatory reactions, if not a more emphatic, "Well, duh!" But it's right there, in that obviosity, in the inherent sense that 'we have a right not to be sold to' along with something like 'we have the right not to be hit by a bus,' or 'we have a right not to be eaten by zombies' that both problem and solution lie.

The problem is that some overwhelming majority of us carry the idea of that right as that level of assumption, up there with buses, meteorites and zombies. It is part of the basis for the notion held by many that we are somehow inherently immune to advertising and marketing, affected only if we consciously (or through flaccidity of spine) accept it. This is of course nonsense: the childish/self-serving belief that consumer engagement is somehow a level playing field with equally matched combatants.

There is an increasing tide of insightful writings on how the 'MIC' uses ever more sophisticated approaches to sell to us: from ever more invasive tracking to the perceptions of big data to behavioral engineering at the most cutting edge of the field. Let's just accept all that, and that awareness is finally rising, which is to the greater (greatest?) good.

But even the most insightful writers are still stuck in something of the same groove as 'consumer advocates': they can't see the rain forest for the ground cover. They discover, they analyze and they rail, if not rant. Some are doing so from the highest bully pulpits in the media. Hearteningly, most comments responding to these articles and essays reflect a rising level of public awareness and agreement. But still, they don't quite make that final leap, that this terribly invasive, controlling, life-shaping manipulation is transgressing not only our right to choose which color blender we might want, but that right stated above:

We have a right not to be sold to.

Pundits and public alike have not yet made the leap from "it's wrong to try and sell us crap this way" to the more fundamental "it's wrong to (relentlessly) try and sell us crap... at all." Consumer advocates will spend eight pages explaining which blender you should buy... but never say not to buy one at all. And these increasingly "woke" observers of consumer issues can spit venom at, say, the monstrous invasiveness that is Alexa Q. Amazon... but not see that the whole press of buybuybuy is in itself even more monstrous.

But yes, I adamantly maintain that this is a real right, and that we have been coerced into not only abandoning it but rejecting it—as real, as important, as something we are inherently entitled to. So once again, turn these words over slowly in your mind:

We have a right not to be sold to.

If you should still be finding this obvious, or silly, or as pointless as if I am banging my fist on a lectern about our right not to become zombie chow, put it all in a larger context. We are incessantly pounded to buy, and we long ago left behind the more or less balanced relationship of "advertising" over there and our carefully-guarded wallet over here. We are fifty years or more into the era of not just "selling" but manipulation, coercion, outright brainwashing into perceived need and consumption. Modern marketing has gone far beyond simple enticement and want-inducement to finding ways to trigger base behavioral responses, to "sell" to our hindbrain and to short-circuit judgment, resistance and real choice.

We have been, and are, relentlessly pounded by the disinformat campaign of thousands of powerful consumer goods sellers, many of us for our entire lives. The binding of this campaign to "convenience" like Alexa/Siri and to inappropriate areas like entertainment and the interior of the family home has pressed this cold war right to our souls... as the current generation of body- and personal-space-monitoring systems attests.

And we just gobble it up, because we've been convinced it's just the greatest innovation and advancement of lifestyle. And, by God and Steve Jobs, a necessity.

But turn this around a little. In what other arena would we tolerate this omnipresent, overwhelming, titanic, invasive roar to do something against our individual judgment?

Religion? Hardly. If the Catholics or evangelists or Scientologists took to the public arena with an everpresent, inescapable campaign of proselytization, we wouldn't tolerate it for a week before First Amendment-bending laws contained the effort to an appropriate, or at least smaller space.

I could give a series of such examples, but let's jump right to the nuclear option, and what may be the closest societal analogue to the crushing pressure of marketing: sexual and gender relations. After a slow pushback of the historical order over the last several decades, we finally exploded at the assumption of a subset that sexual harassment, oppression and life-control was an okay, wink-wink, everybody-knows thing. Women in particular have had to swim in an environment where a spectrum of unwanted attention, coercion, innuendo and outright violation was "just how it is."

But now, after MeToo and the public crucifixion of some of the worst offenders and propagators, we finally seem to be over the top that no, it's not okay to grope your secretary, make lewd remarks to co-workers, assume that any sexually desirable person just has to put up with any form of your walking arousal. From face-slaps to lawsuits to national disgracing, those subjected to this "way it is" attention and control have said, "Enough."

And it's time for us, as consumers, to say "Enough."

Apple and Amazon and Target and Procter-Gamble and Frito-Lay and Gap and Ford and every other consumer-good maker and seller in the world needs to be told, frankly, to fuck off.

To get back to their side of the field; to deal with us as individuals and buyers worthy of a respecting relationship. To present us with their wares—necessary, nice, desirable, useless or outright crap—all they like. But not to invade, control, brainwash, manipulate and spent their greatest efforts on trying to bypass our judgment to all but mug us into buying what they want to sell.

It's very, very simple—as simple as the idea that you can't do any of the above to get a bit of slap and tickle, either. This equally simple idea needs to inform every writer, every reader and every subject of the massive monitoring, tracking, invasion and coerced consumption assault. We need to go beyond simple outrage that Apple and Amazon and Google are invading our personal space—increasingly, our very, very personal and family space—for absolutely no reason except to increase their sale and revenue. From MeToo to UsAll. From Black Lives Matter to Consumer Privacy Matters.

We need to understand that this is a dirty, distorted reflection of a right we have been cheerfully schooled to ignore:

We have a right not to be sold to.
We have a right not to be sold to.
We have a right not to be sold to.

Ball's in your court.

James Gifford (sig)

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