New Slaves, Noam Chomsky & Baudrillard's Hyperreality: The WallStreetBets Revolution

“Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” this line was uttered on ‘Yeezus’ the sixth studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you probably already know how much I love Kanye. Throughout the course of my life, the man has dropped nothing but great music. But it's more than just his music, his insights on life shaped my perspective on the world. I am being completely unironic when I make this point, watching Kanye West interviews when I was in the 9th grade made me think about the nature of life and my environment differently.

In the spirit of honesty, as a 14 year old I didn’t particularly enjoy Yeezus, I was listening to Drakes Nothing Was The Same and J Coles Born Sinner, both of which dropped that same year. Now as a pretentious & artsy grownup, I can see the appeal and appreciate it, but as a kid, I just wanted to hear some good music. The album was very experimental, with industrial sounds and Eurobeats, it was aggressive and had a lot of punk-ish anti-corporate messaging, it was nothing like the sound we were used to hearing from Kanye.

One song from the album that resonated from the moment I heard it was ‘New Slaves.’ This song, and the subsequent interviews after the album release, helped inform and shape my perspective on corporate interest and capitalism. Kanye talks about the Prison Industrial Complex and corporations profiting from prison labour, he named specific corporations, private prisons and government institutions that aided, and had a vested interest in the continuation and growth of this system. That led me down the rabbit hole into finding out the incarceration rate in general (one out of every 100 people in the United States is in a prison or jail), and the disproportionate incarceration rate of black people in America, and how a lot of those numbers are shaped, based on corporate interest, making prison a new form of socially acceptable slavery. He also made various allusions to corporate slavery like sweat shops, factories, 9 to 5's, project buildings and the mental material slavery of the postmodern age. As I get older, more layers of the song begin to present themselves and make sense, like how media, marketing and advertising are used to manipulate and control the masses.

"You see it's broke nigga racism

That's that "Don't touch anything in the store"

And it's rich nigga racism

That's that "Come in, please buy more"

"What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?

All you blacks want all the same things"

Used to only be niggas, now everybody playin'

Spendin' everything on Alexander Wang

New slaves"

Our desires are used to manipulate our trajectory in life. Sigmund Freud, the popular Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, talked about the unconscious desires of humans and how they control us without our knowledge. Freud had seen the tragedies of the first world war and began becoming more and more pessimistic about man. He believed that man, especially in groups, was vicious and sadistic. He believed that man could not control his hidden irrational forces. His nephew Edward Bernays took his uncle Freud's teachings and capitalized on them in the United States. Bernays invented public relations, and he was the first person to use psychoanalysis as a marketing scheme to manipulate the masses and form a society of happiness machines, focused on consuming products they don’t need, to make them feel superior to others. He changed the American masses (and eventually the world) from people who were only accustomed to buying things with practical use, into buying products because of the feelings they bring. Bernays took control of the unconscious desires and put them to use for economic profit.

Bernays was quoted saying: ”The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.”

Now your honour, before you presuppose this to be some hippy Freud talk, I would like to present exhibit A "Torches of Freedom." : "Torches of Freedom" was a phrase used to encourage women's smoking by exploiting women's aspirations for a better life during the early twentieth century first-wave feminism in the United States. Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality with men. The term was first used by psychoanalyst A. A. Brill when describing the natural desire for women to smoke and was used by Edward Bernays to encourage women to smoke in public despite social taboos. Bernays hired women to march while smoking their "torches of freedom" in the Easter Sunday Parade of 1929, which was a significant moment for fighting social barriers for women smokers. Bernays created one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. Millions of people harmed their own body because they were manipulated into believing it was a symbol for freedom. This technique is still used to this day with all products, our unconscious desires are used to advertise to us, that's why no perfume commercial is ever about the perfume. Another example of how it can be used negatively is how every entertainer advertises their liabilities, conveniently from the same jeweler, who's also famous, and that's our dream, to buy the jewelry, just to mismanage any life changing amount of wealth, into the purchasing of mediocre products, all to keep us running on the hamster wheel.

In an interview with Zane Lowe, Kanye referenced the bar “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” as the reason to why the song, that was clearly a hit by radio programming standards, was not played on radio. Radio, television and mass media are tools used by the elite to control the masses. Corporations use public relations and psychoanalysis in media, in order to curate their marketing to our unconscious desires, create reality and control the masses.

Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist, said in his book titled ‘Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media’ “The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.” Among the many controversial assertions presented here is his contention that about 15 percent of the population is indoctrinated to support and manage cultural life. Th0se are the agents of the simulation, managers, TSA agents, people that maintain the rigidity of the corporate status quo. "Then there's maybe 80 percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not to think . . . And they're the ones who usually pay the price."

Kanye said the reason the line “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” was the most controversial line, in a song that details multiple allegations of corruption and bureaucracy, is because if one person isn't controlled, then the 80 percent realize that we individuals have autonomy in our decision making, then there will be a global shift in power.

Last week a war began between “retail investors” (individual day traders, or regular people) and institutional investors (big Wall Street firms). Hedge funds, supposedly the professionals, have been betting against GameStop’s stock using a trading technique called short selling. Day traders, organizing under the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, are holding onto the shares of GameStop that they own — despite skyrocketing values that have made some of them millions of dollars on paper — to stick it to the hedge funds. The battle began last week, when r/WallStreetBets realized that its users, who had bought into the stock when the supposed smart money was shorting it, effectively controlled the supply of GameStop shares in circulation. Hedge funds lost billions of dollars and Wall Street had to get help from brokerages like Robin Hood to literally prevent people from purchasing stocks, in order for the Hedge Funds to make money. They manipulated the market in front of our eyes, in order to keep the rich, richer.

People on Reddit realized that through connection, unity and information, we are unstoppable. All they had to do was be well informed on stocks, and then unite, in order to make change. The 1% is still figuring this social media thing out in real time, just like us. Kids on Reddit used the elites trick against them, and they lost, so much so, that they visibly manipulated their free market. This was a revolutionary moment, on so many levels. Hedge Funds and big investors have been manipulating the market for decades, retail investors had no way of knowing, or even participating in this effort. There is a growing understanding among young people that we are powerful, especially when we are well informed and united.