Cultural Politics of Unhappy Little Vegemites

There have been various critiques already mobilised regarding what is at stake in this uFail 2.0 iSnack 2.0 shenanigans. I like Chookspot’s critique on on nationalistic grounds where the unveiling of the new name was likened to someone in the US arse-fucking a bald eagle as the quarter time entertainment at the Superbowl.

It reminds me of Tom Soutphommasane’s piece in the Australian about the Aussie political left reclaming patriotism. Pride in your country is pure ideological expression. I have never experienced ‘Australia’ and yet I live here. It is therefore interesting that Vegemite is taken to be a cultural icon of national significance. Maybe I have never lived anywhere long enough without Vegemite to properly appreciate it? I know I was once in the business of sending Vegemite care packages to a girlfriend who moved to the US.

As a structure of feeling, patriotism can mobilise bodies into action. Surely Autralian patriots understand that Vegemite was fucked as soon as it was sold? (Or not sold as much as through a process of mergers and aquisitions became controlled by Kraft US.) Getting mobilised and angry about the image of the brand is a bit farcicial when the structural existence of the company left our shores years ago. Maybe this is what ‘cultural politics’ actually is?

It would be interesting to find out who was behind the Vegemite iSnack 2.0 debacle. My experience working in a ‘creative industry’ is that the ‘creatives’ are often hampered by the (middle) management structure and all the pre-thinking that gets done. Pre-thinking isn’t forethought; in fact, it is almost the opposite of forethought. ‘Pre-thinking’ is what you do when you incorporate what you think your immediate boss is going to think about what you are doing, and this has to incorporate what that person’s immediate boss is going to think and so on. This continues until it reaches a point where you need to incorporate the thinking within thinking within thinking of someone who has no fucking idea about the very real constraints and opportunities that guided your creative process to begin with.

I am interested in the people behind the decission making process because clearly it is distributed across a number of people. No half-intelligent, switched-on person from my generation would ever suggest iSnack 2.0 as a serious contender for the new name of the Vegemite product; but such a name is derived from some hyper-mediated version of the popular culture to which my generation belongs. Therefore, there must have been a creative trajectory where someone exposed decision makers to such a culture and the respective marketing buzzwords (buzzwords like ‘buzzword’) that belong to it, but the ultimate decision was made by someone who has no fucking idea about the absolute ridicule generated by such a non-ironic marketing gesture.

Maurizzio Lazzarato has argued that what contemporary advertising does is not sell us a product as such, rather it sells us a world within which the product exists and within which we want to exist (and therefore have to consume said products to belong, etc). What world does Kraft think we are living in?

Perhaps iSnack 2.0 is actually a post-ironic critique of the alienating effects of commodity captalism? (No, it isn’t. Well, not yet.) The only way for Kraft to retrieve something from this is to push it to the absolute absurd limit. Create a world within which everything literally is iBullshit, like an appropriation of the Ikea existence from Fight Club, which kind of made Ikea cool in some post-ironic fashion: everything becomes empty branded commodity and it’s ok, because we KNOW it is.

I have fail on my mind at the moment.

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