Commercialism Essay, Research Paper
1. Like a highly contagious virus, Culture Industries are transforming the world with a corrupting influence on the most unlikely of cultures. The corrupting influence of commercialism has all but destroyed the sacredness of the religious counter-culture and symbols of the Church. For many years, the religious heritage of the Church played a counter-cultural role in American and transnational cultures. It countered the evil aspects of contemporary pop cultures within American and transnational societies. Many of the religious symbols, signs, stories and information once held sacred by the faithful as artifacts of worship are now very much the shared property of culture industries. Volvo sells cars that will “save your soul,” MCI uses priests to vouch for the trustworthiness of their promised long distance rate savings, the Vatican entered a partnership with IBM to digitize the entire holdings of the Vatican Library, and “?like Mickey Mouse, Batman, and the Rolling Stones the Pope has his image licensed to makers of hats, mugs, and T-shirts,” (The World Journal, Michael Budde.)
2. The culture industry includes commercial interests like the media conglomerates, Time-Warner and Disney; information and communication firms like Microsoft, IBM and AOL; and market research giants like Equifax and TRW. Make no mistake; these huge multinational conglomerates are ‘closet neocolonialists’ of the aggressive kind. The culture industry is loosely defined as “sectors that use symbols, stories, images, and information to generate profits,” (Michael Budde, The World Journal). Their message is a gospel of contemporary commercialism and multinational capitalism. Their symbols, signs, stories and information are broadcast to multinational households and are euphoniously designed to make disciples of all who sit in front of their great electronic pulpit. They preach thousands of messages through a daily barrage of accurately timed 15 and 30 second commercial spots. “Their products and activities occupy more of people’s time in the United States than anything else except work, school, and sleep; by some estimates, Americans take in more than 16,000 commercial messages, symbols and reminders a day. It is much the same in Japan and many West European countries, and the globalization of culture industries is expanding the list of countries whose cultures are being transformed.” (Michael Budde pg.2, The World Journal)
3. It was reported that “?each person in the United States spends three to four hours a day watching television and 20 hours a week listening to the radio’ (Commercialism-The World Journal, spring 1998). Add to this the amount of time devoted to movie-going, home movie rentals, computers and the Internet, and it becomes very clear that commercialism’s corrupting influence has transformed American culture and the way it spend its time. By contrast, some estimates suggest that only 3 percent of parish-registered American Catholics spend as much as six hours per week on parish activities other than attending Mass-(Commercialism-The World Journal, spring 1998). Those individuals who watch television rent videos, go to movie theaters, purchase print media or breathe air are the potential converts of culture industries. Including, but not limited to, your infant children and pets; they’ve discovered that pets (especially felines) has a huge influence on consumer spending. Why this blatant discrimination against canine mammals? One supposition would be that the culture industry might need more time to gather the various pieces of datum on our four-legged friends; perhaps those nice people at Alpo could give them a hand.
4. Adorned in the negligee? of capitalism, culture industries are seducing the church to the dive of Commercialism. These industries are luring religious leaders from the cold hard grasp of the vow of poverty to the silky, warm, alluring embrace of contemporary commercialism. They promise that the hypnotic power of their commercial messages will bring lucrative profits to church coffers. Conveniently, the culture industry fails to point out that this profit simultaneously provides their commercial interests with economic and political fuel. So that they are able indirectly to maintain their transcontinental campaign to extend their influence into multinational cultures. If that sounds like neocolonialism, it is. Their sagacious attempts, to help church leaders fill their half-empty coffers through joint use of the church’s sacred symbols and to bolster the sagging economy of governments like Mexico and Russia through lopsided trade treaties are neocolonialism incognito.
5. The venal-like symptoms of commercialism are easily detected as some of its victims are tempted with lucrative opportunities to make astronomical amounts of money in relatively short periods and non-profit organizations are overcome with an excessive impulse to make profit. Other symptoms are strange insatiable desires seducing its victims to consume everything from ‘Charman’ toilet tissue with lanolin, and cologne that smells like Michael Jordan to beer that will bequeath unto you sex appeal, popularity and athletic adeptness. Strange huh? Wait, it gets stranger.
6. The culture industry thoroughly scrutinizes American and multinational cultures through covert information-gathering activities. The information enables them to effectively tempt their victims with a virtual marketplace-an haute couture of commercial products, which seems to have life-giving qualities. Our products, they tout, have innate attributes and personalities that “?may not add years to your life, but will add life to your years.”
7. The corrupting influence of commercialism has had a hypnotic effect upon people and institutions across transnational cultures. They have led consumers to believe that products will give them appealing attributes and personalities, and so these consumers pay a lot of money to become walking billboards for advertisers. Like mannequins, people adorn their heads with Winston caps; their shoulders with Marlboro jackets; and their feet with Air (Michael) Jordan shoes.
8. The corrupting influence of commercialism has all but destroyed the sacredness of the symbols of the Church. Her counter-cultural religious heritage is fast losing its stabilizing influence upon American and international cultures. Michael Bodde argues, “?the “Big Five” churches in Britain (the Anglican Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed churches), which decided that their appeal would be increased if all cruciform images were eliminated from advertising even (or especially) at Easter. For their part, corporate ad agencies are eager to work with churches; marketing professors have noted with interest that “the clergy seems to be more open to advertising than the general public.” Churches, in the eyes of ad execs, represent “viable potential clients for advertising services,” since they are among the largest groups in the under-served (by ad agencies, anyway) nonprofit sector,” (The World Journal).
9. Many of the religious symbols, signs, stories and information, once held sacred by the faithful as artifacts of worship, are now very much the shared property of culture industries. The Vatican entered a partnership with IBM to digitize the entire holdings of the Vatican Library. “IBM is spending $1 million a year to scan 20,000 images in a multiyear project; the resulting information will become part of the IBM Digital Library, which will combine the Vatican collection with those of other major institutional archives,” (Michael Budde, pg.8; The World Journal). In its idolatry, the culture industry uses the sacred artifacts of the church to worship the false gods of secularism, humanism, materialism and capitalism at the altar of commercialism.
10. In their relentless pursuit of lucrative opportunities to make profits, the clergy is preaching a strange brand of evangelicalism and are willing to pay the costs of losing their own souls. There is no prebend for these fanatical commercial-evangelists; they simply want all they can get. The culture industry, in joint venture with the church, is paving the road for their conglomerates to become transcontinental behemoths with increased power in the realms of commercialism and capitalism on a global scale. They will stop at nothing short of multicultural transformations of every nation on the planet.
11. Regarding commercialism in the church, the bible says, “Entering the Temple, Jesus drove out all who were buying and selling there, and overturned the money-changers’ tables and the seats of the pigeon-dealers,” (Matthew 21:12, Richard Weymouth, The New Testament In Modern Speech). Commercialism in the early Church was taboo. Jesus, The High Priest and founder of the Church, overturned the tables of the capitalist and banned them from using the courtyard of the church for a marketplace. Today, church leaders have welcomed the culture industry to set up their money tables right smack-dab in the aisles of the Church.
12. To some, the culture industry has become the ’still small voice’ reassuring the modern-day prophets of the church. To others, they are like a country preacher spitting out his message of hell-fire and brimstone frightening the Church with a hellish nightmare of lean coffers. Then, with the cunning of a serpent, they beguile religious leaders with the promise of prosperity but only through the satanic power of contemporary commercialism and at the cost of compromising the sacredness of their religious cultural symbols.
13. The Roman Catholic Church alone influences more than one billion people worldwide and thus is a powerful non-profit, counter-cultural, religious institution. In the person of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic church has a worldwide media personality with high visibility and popularity ratings in multinational markets and media, which is a cultural industrialist heaven. This is why for-profit global culture industries have given the Catholic church a significant role to play now and in the future. Like Colin Powell and Newt Gingrich, Pope John Paul II has entered the ranks of big-advance authors employed by global publishers. “Based on surprisingly strong sales of the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church, Alfred A. Knopf in 1994 paid a $9 million advance for the rights to Crossing the Threshold of Hope, a collection of Pope John Paul’s spiritual and philosophical introspection,” (Michael Budde, The World Journal).
14. Whether other churches will have any significant role to play depends on how much money the Catholic Church make for the powerful culture-transforming, for-profit global culture industries.
15. The joint venture between the Catholic Church and the culture industry made possible not only a worldwide promotion of the Pope’s publication, but simultaneous releases in “?21 languages and 35 countries, with extensive public relations campaigns in major cities coordinated by the Italian publisher Arnaldo Mondadori Editore, which acquired the worldwide rights to Crossing the Threshold (Michael Budde, The World Journal). Industry experts project worldwide grosses from the papal blockbuster of between $100 million and $200 million.
16. More recently, and much more ambitiously, Michael Budde wrote, “?the Vatican has authorized the production of merchandise “inspired” by the Vatican Library’s collection of more than one million books, 100,000 prints and drawings, and other holdings, and has taken on a corporate partner for the venture. Spokespersons estimate initial licensing revenue to the Vatican of $5 million a year for the first five years, rising to $10-20 million a year for the following 15 years.” (The World Journal, 1997).
17. With information on religion and the Church coming by way of the culture industries, and with most of its members far more involved as television viewers than as Church members, the Catholic Church will almost surely increase its partnerships with (and reliance on) for-profit ad agencies and similar firms or commercial interests of the culture industry. Church leaders seem to have left themselves few other options.
18. The major players of the culture industry have already taken positions in several existing religious cable television networks as well. In a 1998 spring report, it was reported that, “?the industry powerhouse TCI backed the ecumenical Faith and Values Channel (now called the Odyssey Network) in 1988 and helped Pat Robertson and his son start International Family Entertainment in 1990 (the Robertson’s invested $180,000, while TCI’s John Malone went in for $45 million).” (The World Journal). What’s in it for the ‘for-profit’ cable conglomerates? Commercialist-gold pal, in the form of good old public relations, and control over market share, products, and the minds of consumers on a global scale.
19. It is not yet clear how far the Catholic Church will take its embrace of commercialization. However, it does not take an active imagination to conceive of the Catholic Church sponsoring in-depth psychological studies of their members in an attempt to see what symbols, songs, or stories might “trigger” increased contributions or attendance. One must admit, it is certainly tempting to leave such options open to discussion even though Mr. Budde makes a very sobering point: “?the religious identity of the Church is more than another product label, logo, or brand name.”
20. The Church, as it embraces all Christian religions, is participating in unprotected relationships with culture industrialists, who roam the transnational landscape seeking gullible cultures that they might bamboozle into embracing their alternate lifestyle of contemporary commercialism. Within this lifestyle, they value the industry itself more than people, or privacy and least of all, the counter cultural heritage of the Church.
21. The Church would regain her identity and the sacredness of her religious symbols if she were to employ her new found friends to sell more virtues and characteristics of Jesus, than the products smeared with the greedy fingerprints of the culture industry, and cheapened by contemporary commercialism. Perhaps, the Church would first have to free herself from her lustful embrace of the multinational capitalist culture and adopt a more protectionist view of her counter-cultural heritage. Perhaps, she should protect herself from the adulterous aspects of contemporary capitalism wherever it may rear its prosperous, manipulative head. The Church must reclaim its own independent identity as a counter-cultural religious institution formed by its own stories and images, on which cultural industrialists can make no claim to creative ownership. In an article entitled “The Catholic Church in the World Market,” Michael L Budde wrote, “The alternative to an approach that reemphasizes the counter-cultural nature of Christianity is to embrace the ethos of the culture industries without reservation,” (The World Policy Journal; 1998; Michael L Budde).
22. After all is said and done, the signs of the times are clear for those who care to see them. They are clearly documented in the large movements of the culture industries and in the small items buried in the business section of the newspaper, like the recent one in which Disney chairman Michael Eisner announced his newest choice for the firm’s board of directors: “Father Leo O’Donovan, S.J., President of Georgetown University. According to Eisner, O’Donovan was chosen not only for his moral leadership, but also for his business acumen and managerial success at the Jesuit institution. In ways like this, Christianity’s hopes for the promised Kingdom of God blend into Disney’s Magic Kingdom-a promise fulfilled in the here and now, and one with abundant merchandising and shopping opportunities,” (The (Magic) Kingdom of God: Christianity and Global Culture Industries (Westview Press 1997)).
23. While scholars, sociologists, and political and economic pundits are busy researching the consequences of the developments within pop-culture, they fail to research the hidden meaning of the culture industry’s corrupting influence on the counter-culture of America’s religious institutions. These people, “?have curiously focused little attention on how global culture industries affect religious traditions and communities. We therefore have no way to judge the significance of the Pope’s acting like a media mogul, or godless conglomerates,” (Michael Budde, The World Journal).