Disaster Advertising

Your mental environment just got a little more saleable.


Audio version read by Sloan Garrett – Right-click to download

In 2011, KFC introduced a 64 oz, $2.99 soft drink – a soft drink so big it needed a bucket handle – and vowed to donate $1 from each Pepsi purchased to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Media outlets from Mother Jones to the SF Chronicle and The Atlantic decried the cruel irony of the promotion, listing the progression of soda sizes from the 1950s through to today, underscoring our ballooning caloric intake and skyrocketing obesity rates. But in the end-times era of capitalism, it should no longer come as a surprise that the reigning corpo-political oligarchs present us with combo meal solutions to the very problems they helped create.

Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock Doctrine presented the formula with which the US and other Western countries achieve what Klein refers to as the neo-conservative “policy trinity,” or “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending” (17). Step one: orchestrate, accelerate or anticipate a catastrophic event. Step two: take advantage of the post-catastrophic shock affecting your target group, community or country. Step three: swoop in, like vultures after carrion, and implement wholesale gutting of core, essential services under the auspices of “starting afresh with a clean slate” and “taking advantage of the opportunities tragedy has provided.” Step four: using money from the public coffers, privatize everything and then sell it back to the consumer-client-citizen at a profit. The name of this phenomenon? Disaster capitalism.

This formula, used so successfully to colonize physical territory, works the same way to lay claim to our mental environment.


Post-9/11, post-housing bubble recession times have proved fertile ground for the neo-conservative policy trinity. According to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report, property tax revenue and state aid to cities are shrinking simultaneously for the first time in over 30 years. In cities like Trenton, NJ, this has resulted in the laying off of over one third of the police force, and corresponding massive increases in gun assaults and robberies. Other cities have had to close fire stations, turn off streetlights, grind their subways to a halt, increase class sizes and let potholes bloom.

This is where our good friend KFC comes back in: the Colonel would be more than willing to fill your pothole, replace your fire hydrant or fund your police force through city advertising dollars if you’ll just let him stencil a red-hot chicken deal on City Hall. From Baltimore to Phoenix, Minneapolis to Syracuse, city councils are contemplating selling public space as ad space. And thus, fulfillment: powerful corporate lobbying has deconstructed government to the point that it needs to seek out private sponsorship to keep performing what used to be considered public duties.

In the media world, news outlets have turned to unprecedented single-sponsor partnerships to pay the bills. When The Huffington Post launched its weekly magazine app, their sole “launch partner” was Toyota, whose National Marketing Manager referred to the partnership as “an easy decision” in a BusinessWire press release; the car company, she said, is constantly seeking ways of “enhancing the user experience through strategic media partnerships.”

Where does this leave us, the user-consumer-client-citizen? How long before we see a Kentucky-fried capital of Missouri? The aesthetics of our cities, the tone of our schools, the topography of our mental environment, the packaging of human beings as brands – the appetite of corporations has permeated our culture in a way that may prove even more disastrous than the privatization of water.

The neoconservative policy trinity has reached bucket handle proportions: we have entered the era of Disaster Advertising.

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Private-company funded and advertised local government? Reminds me of the country-like franchise-owned territories that replace the US in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.


So, is "neo-con" just a euphemism for corporatist? I prefer the term that Benito Mussolini coined, fascist. Nobody seems to recognize the term corporatist and neo-con seems to be somewhat ambiguous, but everybody recognizes a fascist.


Fascist is a very specific term whose usage should only really be applied to right-wing authoritarians united by a particular notion of national identity (e.g. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy). With the Nazis this came with racist mythology and often enough fascists of all stripes adhere to overinflated ideals of machismo. "Fascist" is a term thrown around far too lightly, often by people who don't fully understand what it actually means.

Corporatist would be a more appropriate label in this instance. I don't believe these people believe in anything other than increasing their profits. That some of them might be right-wing authoritarians and extreme nationalists likely has little to do with their shameful business practices.


You are absolutely correct. Fascism inherently requires racist ideology, but "corporatists," which is a euphemism for "capitalists," are *equal-opportunity* exploiters.


Its all an attempt to increase profits. When everybody is out exhausting their paycheque/credit line right now, what diff will it make who gets the last squeeze out of somebodies debit card? Their is a section of road next to railroad tracks that even mountain bikers avoid, if KFC wants to paint their name over a funded repair then I say hell yeah. The fact is all levels of gov't are OUT of money and now its another brave new fiscal world out there open for the imaginative vultures with a buck to invest. If you don't like what they come up with; just get your crowbar out and let your swinging do the talking. Also, because its all out in public, the action-reaction dialogue will spark some truly public debate and get us away from these artificial online debates.

fact vs fiction

It is not a fact that governments are out of money. Certainly not in Canada. They spend wastefully and foolishly, padding their cronies and crying poor while continuing to bestow cushy contracts on those deemed deserving. They are in no way broke. They promote public-private partnerships or even total privatization for many reasons, but being broke is not one of them. being inept, perhaps, but not broke. Kentucky-yucky should not be allowed to pave a road unless they do it for truly altruistic reasons, in which case, it can be done anonymously. or maybe there should be a model where corporations (who benefit hugely from taxpayer funds in many ways) donate money to community infrastructure and initiatives but don't get their name plastered all over it. There could be a record saying "kentucky-yucky donated 5 million last year to various public interest projects" Hey. Wait a minute. There used to be a system like that for corporations. it wasn't called community donating. It was called paying taxes, just like the rest of us schmoes have to do.


Government is already owned--why not make it official? Maybe the name "United States" could be replaced with Lockheed-Martin? Now, that would be status!


Government is already owned--why not make it official? Maybe the name "United States" could be replaced with Lockheed-Martin? Now, that would be status!

Bill Wolfe

Check out NJ Governor Chris Christie's privatization plans, his energy master plan, and efforts to privatize state parks and allow private oil and gas companies to run riot installing all sorts of pipelines across public lands.

These pipelines will allow fracking gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and NY to reach NYC metro markets.

Christie is like ALEC - he sets the template and game plan the other right wing Governor's follow.


How much money did KFC give to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation? Do KFC still sell their bucket sized fizzy pop?


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