S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 March 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 

NikeTown Crier

 

[]

High above Bryant Street in San

Francisco, there's a new

eye-catching billboard. More

flag than ad, it features no

text and no photographs - just a

black background, a red oval,

and that ubiquitous white

swooshstika. Like the 20th

century's most notorious logo,

from which it appropriates its

color scheme and bold graphic

style, the Nike billboard is a

highly effective piece of

iconography, galvanizing teenage

thugs and suburban housewives

alike with its symbolic magic.

It announces the debut of Nike's

retail presence in Union Square

but staring up at it, it's

easy to imagine that the

company's new chain of stores,

extravagant as they are, are

mere prelude to a far grander

vision of corporate sovereignty.

 

Even wearing Air Jordans, it's a

giant leap from NikeTown to

NikeState, but Nike CEO

Phillip Knight, like any

multibillionaire, must entertain

at least occasional dreams of

the status that statesmanship

might afford him. After all,

isn't fashion just fascism with

more emphasis on uniforms than

ammunition? Every time a new

NikeTown opens, the faithful

come in droves to pledge their

fealty to Knight's vision:

Eight-year-olds break their

piggybanks to buy overpriced

wristbands; aging Yuppies dress

golf cap to walking shoe in the

emperor's new clothes. The

patriotic equivalent of such

shows of consumer devotion is

increasingly rare today; even

the militia movement can't match

the brandinistas for numbers.

Wandering the retail mazes of

the nation's NikeTowns,

passively absorbing the

totalitarian adspeak that adorns

the walls, they wait for their

call to arms, restless and

dutiful.

 

[]

Isn't it time, finally, to fully

implement the corpornation, the

real Mall of America? As long ago as

1946, Peter Drucker was declaring

the corporation America's

representative social

institution; in the fifty years

since then, corporate influence

upon our lives has become so

routinely all-pervasive it's

hard to remember it wasn't

always that way. Until the late

1800s, though, corporations were

chartered only for specific

purposes and durations, with

additional limits on

land-ownership and

capitalization; now all it takes

to start one is 10 spare

minutes and a few hundred bucks.

 

Today, the few people who dream

of resurrecting those original

restrictions are either

dismissed as purveyors of

parannoying cant or totally

ignored. As for the rest of us,

well, except for the most

egregious displays of

multinational malice, all is

permitted. That's how it goes

when you're in love - and

really, which of the following

institutions evoke the strongest

feelings of ardor these days:

Nike, Starbucks, and Nintendo,

or Congress, the Executive

Office, and the FBI? There's

certainly no one building fan

pages for Louis Freeh.

 

As much as we'd like to declare

ourselves citizens of our

favorite brands, most

corporations are probably

somewhat less inclined to have

us. Even if citizenship were

invitation-only,

corporation-states would still

lose out on the hundreds of

billions of dollars available to

them now as corporate

wealthfare. There'd be no more

taxes, but also no more

subsidies, bargain-basement land

deals, or overseas co-op

marketing campaigns. And without

the divertissement of political

scandal, public scrutiny of

corporate behavior would likely

intensify. There's a reason

Clinton attracts more corporate

support than any previous

Democrat; his virtuoso facility

for courting federal

investigations makes him an

excellent media baffle. With the

press so engaged in

deep-throating the details of

botched blow jobs, there's less

bandwidth to spend on corporate

snow jobs.

 

[]

On the other hand, given the

current climate of consumer

indifference to corporate

iniquity, maybe baffles like

Clinton aren't really necessary

anymore. Outside NikeTown's San

Francisco grand opening,

activists protesting the

company's employment practices

in Indonesia were met with

apathetic shrugs. What was it

the ordinary Germans said in

response to Hitler's diabolical

directive: Just do it? To

assuage the few reporters who've

shown more interest in

sweatshops than shopping for

sweats, Nike recently hired

freelance Samaritan Andrew

Young to put a positive spin on

the situation - but in the land

of NikeState, that kind of

corporate rhinoplasty would be

superfluous. Dissenters would be

banished to the Birkenstock

Nation.

 

[]

Deliverance from government

regulation and PC activism would

certainly be enough to make some

corporations embrace the new

world order. Cigarette companies

could forsake their strained

attempts at hip stealth

marketing and return to the good

old days of honest, aggressive

addiction cultivation.

McDonald's could threaten

rainforests with impunity, and

cosmetics companies could start

tarting up bunnies like drag

queens again.

 

[]

Of course, too much corporate

self-interest would still have

dire consequences; consider the

case of the Republic of Cuervo

Gold, a small island country in

the West Indies founded last

year by the forward-thinking

tequila-makers. Despite its huge

surplus of smarmy guy-life

'tude, the Republic is

languishing - apparently no one

can exist on (or stand) tequila,

sand, and Cuervo Gold Ambassador

Dan Cortese for more than a few

hours. To succeed in a world of

corporation-states, strategic

alliances would be more

necessary than ever.

 

How such partnerships all sort

out, however, is ultimately

incidental. The important thing

about the evolution from

nation-state to corpornation is

how this change would reinvest

our lives with meaning. With

religion reduced to little more

than vaporware and PR, and

patriotism a mere marketing

technique for celebrities who

can't sing or act, we have few

real opportunities to seriously

express our belief in anything.

We love our brands, yes, but

what can you do to show that

love except buy lots of crap and

maybe make a Snapple commercial?

A world of corporation-states

would inevitably present more

meaningful ways to prove faith:

Whopper vs. Big Mac? Now that's

a war worth fighting.

 
 
 
courtesy of St. Huck

 
 
 

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