What would happen when one's dependence relies fully on technology? Or when mother Earth is on its verge of collapsing due to humans' rapacity? These questions of sinister sure generate a sense of fear; yet, are we actually living in that current state? Feed is a novel written in 2002 by M.T. Anderson that rebukes about the culture that the author was living in that period of time. The book depicts corporate power in the United States of America by showing that everything is controlled by the corporations/ ”government” ranging from School™ to a feed-user's thoughts and feelings; the width of spectrum is as wide as it can get. Even though the author's intention was never to write about his prediction of future technology, but rather to divulge the current cultural conditions, the menacing effect of mindless consumerism, and abuse of corporate power. Therefore, corporate control shows the danger it possesses through the act of corporate interference in school, having total power over consumers, and the alteration of information, which will result in an enslaved civilization full of uneducated sheep of the government.
As School™ is now controlled by corporations in the novel instead of the government, subjects taught in School™ are on the contrary than when it was under government control. M. T. Anderson explores the following scene like so:
School™ is not so bad now, not like back when my grandparents were kids,
When the schools were run by the government, which sounds completely like, Nazi, to have the government running the schools? Back then, it was big boring, and all kids were meg null, because they didn't learn anything useful … Now that School™ is run by the corporations, it's pretty brag, because it teaches us how the world can be used, like mainly how to use our feeds. Also, it's good because that way we know that the big corps are made up of real human beings, and not just jerks out for money. (Anderson 109-110)
The author wrote the following scene to portray how Titus and probably most of his feed-user friends detest the retro method of spreading education when it was under the rule of the so called ‘Nazi' government. This is also the author's way of saying that Titus and his friends have been highly brainwashed by the corporations; to hate school is one thing, but to think that subjects like science, math, etc. are uneducational is another thing. However, Titus may think this way due to the fact that the society no longer needs ‘educated' individuals because why would they need them when they have feed implanted in them, right? Well, this mindset that feed-users have is crucially fallacious. It is unknown if the corporations would keep a closed mouth with no interference when individuals discover new inventions, which is unlikely; however, without proper education, these individuals are not able to excel and discover new inventions that might save the dying planet. As a comparison, there is a high chance that Elon Musk would not be able to invent SpaceX if all he was taught in college was how to use a smartphone. This is why the interference of corporations in school is treacherous
Corporations have one ultimate goal, and that is to constantly sell products and earn money. How do they maximize their marketing potential? They interfere in school to train the young ones to be loyal and eager consumers/customers of their future. Once this is successfully done, all they have to do is sit back and enjoy their unlimited power over these consumers who will blindly purchase anything the corporations produce like the futile bird as an example that became a huge trend. This will eventually result in the corporations to further exercise their control by producing more products and instill more education propaganda. Basically, products purchased by consumers, equal corporate expansion.
Furthermore, there are countless aspects in which the corporation known as FeedTech has control over the United States; not only it has control throughout the country, FeedTech possesses an immense amount of power that eventually leads to total control for literally each individuals that have Feed inside their head. Anderson evidently wrote the following scene like so, that might have enraged a lot of the readers:
She chatted, Hi, I'm Nina, your FeedTech customer assistance representative. Have you noticed panic can lead to big-time underarm odor? A lot of girls do. No sweat! Why not check out the brag collection of perspiration-control devices at the DVS Superpharmacy Hypersite? … I'm here to inform you that FeedTech Corp has decided to turn down your petition for complementary feed repair/replacement… (Anderson 246)
It is explained that later in the book, Violet's attempt to create a profile that does not show any advertisements failed miserably. She tried doing so by showing interest in random products that is not normally targeted by someone her age, but end up not buying them in an attempt to confuse the feed. However, this act of rebellion backfired on her. When Violet was on her verge of collapsing and needed investors to fund her feed restoration, investors denied her request as Violet is not a “worthy investment”. The reason of the corporation's denial was because pocket filled with money is their first priority, and one's life does not even come second. Why would the corporation spend a dollar or two from their own pocket to save a life, right? This is ultimately the corporation's way of saying “There is no way in hell you can outsmart us in any way. You try to do so, you pay the price”. FeedTech offered a critically paralyzed girl a perspiration-control device in order for her to avoid body odor. As determined as Violet was to not purchase anything that is advertised by feed, soon enough the corporations found a way, thus leaving Violet devastated. Though this might be in a different context, in some aspects, the given scene in Feed can be related to a passage by Henry Jenkins in the book Signs Of Life in the USA about corporate/ producer control in this case. Jenkins stated:
You're watching American Idol and a text message comes in informing you that AmericanIdolWatch.com reports that the guy who sings like Alvin the Chipmunk is outpolling your favorite contestant, so you log in to check the report and then phone in your vote to American Idol before “Alvin” can move on to the next level. (Jenkins 423)
So how does Feed is even related to American Idol? Well, both are under the rule of corporations or producers. It's a battle between producers and consumers; consumer's actions are based on the control of producers, because for a person to phone in their favorite contestant in order for the contestant to win just shows the amount of control producers have over consumers. Consumers spend their time watching, eating, listening, and purchasing, they buy products that do not generally make them happy, they have constantly consume newer and “better” things like clothes, cars, shoes. Take the advertisement of branded handbags as an example on how consumers are manipulated; first, there is production of a new handbag model but producers will not start marketing it to the public right then. Producers will then negotiate a deal with celebrities and offer them incentives to have pictures taken of them while holding the bag in public. The “paparazzi” pictures will proceed to spread on the Internet as it attracts consumers to purchase the bag in order to look like the celebrity in the picture. The truth is that the celebrity only carries the handbag because they are paid to do so, yet consumers purchase them because they want to look like a celebrity and feel relevant. In short, if consumers do not vote for the guy who sounds like “Alvin”, then “Alvin” is not able to win; and if Violet does not buy products in Feed, then Violet's life is in jeopardy.
The corporate known as FeedTech alters every information that is meant for the people to see. They have total control of what we actually see and not see even if that means news coverage in the United States or outside the country. As mentioned in the introduction paragraph, M.T. Anderson wrote this novel based on the cultural conditions during his time. This means that the corporate in Feed is highly attached and can be compared to the government in real life. Titus' bad dream proves so:
I had nightmares … then came all these pictures, and I couldn't figure them out. I saw khakis … and then I saw them torn and there was blood on them. It was a riot on a street, and people were screaming in some other language, … and they were throwing stones and bottles, and the police were moving forward on horses, and a man in the crowd waved a gun, and then the firing started … and clouds of gas drifted through them and the American flags they were burning started to spark big (Anderson 151).
Titus' nightmare explains that these images he's seeing in his dream originated from a hacker that tried to make Titus aware of what is actually going on around the world. The hacker wanted Titus to realize that the world is not a pretty little bubble that he is living in all his life. This can be compared to what actually is happening in real life; the government also decides what we see and not see. The national news goes through a long journey of editing when covering news that is soon to be broadcasted to the public. Actual incidents are edited, cut, and they might add on fuel to a fire because attracting consumers is the main goal of theirs; without anyone viewing their news, they are powerless, and the best part is that it has never even stated that all their news are the truth. Just like the government, FeedTech does not want their consumers to be distracted by what is going on around the world, all they want is for the feed-users to purchase every product they advertise.
To sum up, corporate control is an important theme because if corporations negatively alter education, information, and have complete power over consumers, total control means no freedom, and no freedom leads to an uneducated and unfruitful civilization. At the end of the day, numbers play a massive role in everything and like it or not, money speaks the loudest voice. This explains why it is vital to prevent producers to have total control and power over consumers; ideally, power should be equal for neither consumers nor producers.
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