Michael Moore has announced that the DVD of his documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” is now available. On its own, that wouldn’t really be enough to interrupt an episode of Law and Order:SVU with a special report. What makes this release interesting is that it is being carried by Wal-Mart, which is featured prominently in the film in a not particularly flattering manner. As Moore says on his blog:
The fact that Wal-Mart is carrying this movie — a movie that specifically exposes Wal-Mart’s past practice of taking out secret “dead peasant” life insurance policies on its employees and naming itself as the lone beneficiary should the employee meet an “untimely” early death — well, my friends, need you any further proof that Corporate America is so secure in its position as the ruler of our country, so sure of its infallible power that, yes, they can even sell a movie that attacks them because it poses absolutely no threat to them?
Moore contends that Wal-Mart is simply unafraid of any negative publicity due to their market dominance. They are too big to be hurt by a little documentary. I would go a step further. I believe that Wal-Mart is expressly aware that they can make a bundle off of this. And since their mission is to make money and increase shareholder value, that goal takes precedence over any potentially bad PR. They are demonstrating a principle articulated by the anti-consumerist artist Banksy, who said:
“I love the way capitalism finds a place – even for its enemies. It’s definitely boom time in the discontent industry.”
Modern marketing philosophy long ago adopted the position that the counter-culture was cool and, in order to attract contemporary consumers, you have to be willing to bash whatever is considered to be the establishment, even if it’s you. That strategy has led to progressive radio stations, who are owned by giant conglomerates, to explicitly insult their corporate parents. It has led to graffiti being embraced by staid art galleries. It has led to television commercials with music that is notably inconsistent with the product being advertised. Some of my favorite examples of the latter:
- Jaguar’s use of “London Calling” by confirmed leftists The Clash.
- Fidelity Mutual Funds use of David Bowie’s “Changes,” which contains the lyric “Don’t want to be a richer man.”
- Carnival Cruise Lines use of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,” which is about heroin use, not partying on yachts.
This self-deprecating brand of promotion is kind of like McDonalds opening up a health food restaurant and imploring people not to poison themselves on the crap at those golden-arched fast-food joints. And now Wal-Mart is selling Michael Moore’s Capitalism. What a world.