Exxon Telescreens

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The really top-drawer dystopian novels end up like news accounts that got published a couple of decades before the events they describe.

Orwell’s 1984 came to mid the other day as I rolled up to a pump at an Exxon station and found myself being pestered by a TeeVee built into the gas pump. It came to life – loudly – as soon as I fed my credit card into the reader. Pushy sales pitches masquerading – as online – as “content,” the euphemism for ads from which you will “learn” more as opposed to merely being the object of a sales pitch.

Is there any escape from perpetual peddlering? How long before someone figures out how to embed a tiny flatscreen on the side of a Starbucks coffee cup?

It’s not two-way, I don’t think.

Yet.

But like Orwell’s Telescreens, you can’t turn it off or even turn it down – unless you are an Inner Party member, I suppose – and the only way to get away is to stop pumping and flee. I did exactly that.  I put in the bare minimum $5 and took off.  Luckily, there are still some old-timey stations that just pump gas and not ads, too.

Speaking of which – how about Yahoo?

They are doing the electronic-funnel-in-your-mouth thing, too. If you empty your email (in-box, spam, trash) a got-damned video begins to play. You did not ask – or click. It just does. And turning it off is hard. Some bastard arranged the software such that you have to click double-plus-twice before the damnable “message” cues off.

This has also become SOP on CNN’s site.

Try to read something – and within seconds, a video plays. And will continue playing. Endlessly. YouTube, too. Watch one video – one you chose to watch – and another dials up, unless you manually click on “cancel.”

I guess they don’t want people to read anything – and silence is, of course, dangerous. People might actually think if they weren’t being constantly distracted by metrosexual male announcers with ubiquitously scruffy beards (the one still-allowed expression of superficial maleness) or his always-perky female counterpart.

On and on they yak, never ending.

There are TeeVees in McDonald’s. Everywhere. Most people have several in their homes, there’s one in their car and they carry around a miniature one in their pocket or purse.

Just like 1984 – only voluntary in the technical sense that the government hasn’t exactly forced them on people. But try to avoid them, regardless. It is damned hard. Even if you personally don’t grok or want and may actually despise all this stuff, you’re carried along for the evil ride, as in a rip tide.

A gadget-bedazzled public wants this stuff and the corporations happily oblige because there is money in it. The banks spew debt to finance it and everyone – or almost everyone – “buys” in because hey, plants crave Brwando. It has electrolytes and plants crave that.

Try to buy a new car without a TeeVee built into the dash. It is almost as hard as finding a car without air bags, but unlike the air bags the TeeVees weren’t mandated by the government. The child-minded fools out there want to be distracted and to peck at images on a screen like seagulls do at scraps of aluminum foil left on the beach.

Most car reviews – not mine, I am an Aurochs –  hardly mention mechanical things or driving things. Instead, they harp on the electronic things. Because, like plants and Brwando, it’s what people crave.

The dystopian novels were predictive in another important way. The only escape is to shed the lot of it. Halfway measures aren’t possible. You face the choice of becoming a bedazzled Elio who craves his Brwando fix each day – or you can become a Mr. Savage, as in the counterpoint to Orwell’s 1984 – Huxley’s Brave New World.

Which, arguably, was the more predictive of the two. Control – via soporific and enstupidation rather than outright violence, which in the Huxlian world was hardly ever necessary. Turn adults into perpetual children, addled and – mostly – docile. Feed them sex and distraction, especially sports but also celebrity.

Keep them entertained – which means, keeps their minds off anything else. Do this early – and often enough – and they will never develop the capacity to think. Or mind being fed “content” while they feed their car petroleum Brwando.

It is, after all, what they crave.

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79 COMMENTS

  1. How about trying to watch a baseball game on TV?

    The sides of the upper decks are covered in video screens and they slather the entire stadium with ads so that no matter which way you point a camera, there are half a dozen corporate logos in your field of view…to go with the literally nonstop color commentary.

  2. This is not new, Shell stations have had these for at least a decade. They did used to have a mute button but not anymore. If I pull into a station with the obnoxious tv, I immediately pull out and find another. The never ending ads have to opposite effect on me that Madison Ave should consider, I make a point to stay away from products and retailers that ‘badger’ me with their drivel. How about airport terminals, has anyone ever been inside a terminal waiting to take off and NOT be forced to listen to CNN?? Grow a brain folks and push back.

  3. I usually buy my gas at a farmer’s exchange in Ellsworth, Mi. Low tech pumps and no screaming tv screens. In fact the pumps don’t even have credit card payment! How’s that for anti-social? probably fascist neo-nazis!
    Yup. You gotta turn the pump off and walk into the store past the bins of seed, bird food for the feathered friends and the cat that likes to occupy the counter. Not to mention other impulse items that only a farmer would need.
    Oh yes, you can buy honey and some good local maple syrup when in season.
    No 10 yard line of coolers selling energy drinks, nasty Starbucks, or HFCS sodas. No beer either. No counters filled with rotating hot dog cookers, nacho/cheese dispensers, and self serve soda pop.
    You get free pencils, we’re talking low tech here and no wi-fi, no phone recharging stations, no charging station for Musk’s over priced electric powered scams on four wheels.
    The floor is wood….hasn’t had a coat of varnish on it for decades. They do use computers though.
    I like the free pencils. Oh yes, they also have the farm equivalent of weekly auto sales magazine….if you’re looking for a 1949 Farmall or late model John Deere.
    I buy my sunflower seed for the winter birds, Dairy Doo, honey and maple syrup there. On yeah, I also buy gas there. Low tech pumps and feed and seed.

    • They probably have the same low tech gas pumps that I used to run out of regular and premium on when I was a service station manager during the oil embargo. I’d move into the service bays and start making money after they started sucking that loss-leader gas.
      The question is, if their power went off, would they have to close the store, or can the employees do math with a free pencil and a piece of paper, and make change without the cash register?

  4. The gas station/convenience store closest to my daughter’s house has these (my wife likes to take a “comfort break” before showing up at her house), and I noticed they soon had the “mute” button prominently marked apparently in response to all the customer complaints.

    • The mute buttons have been there since the beginning, because they were designed by geeks who are used to including them on phones and computers, as a shortcut to getting to the mute functions buried in menus.

  5. If you had a Tesla, you would be charging it in your garage and never have to see a pump screen again!

    I know how much you love Teslas though.

  6. One of the reasons why I will never buy another vehicle is because my 2003 E-150 beat the black box by 2 years. IMO, the only place that a screen belongs in a dashboard is where the instrument cluster used to be, and I don’t want any “content” that wasn’t shown by the instruments it replaced. I’ve had it for about 8 years and it’s drivability is better than both of it’s predecessors combined. Since I have never traded a vehicle in on another in my life, nor bought a new one, I doubt I’ll quit this one unless it is damaged beyond economic repair like the last one. The automakers are all suffering, and I have absolutely no pity for them, because they have chased the disposability beast until it has stopped and is biting them. Repair is about to replace replacement in a big way. It occurred to me yesterday that 3 of the 5 tires on my van came from the last one. What are you going to do when the screen in your dashboard starts running commercials at stop lights?

  7. Got no time for TV at de station. Most times I be holdin sumpin over my mouf jes sloppin up de drool cause all I can think about is gettin in de sto,orderin a sack uh dem weenies whut been spinnin on de rack since last time I got gas. Shoot, I don’t get moren 2,3 gallons at a time so I can stop in fuh some mora dem hotdogs…..wif eberting on em. Gas run out over my ride but I stop it quik befo it can drip on muh crome twennyfo. At ee85 be real tangy.

    • FoSteve, a very easy cure for that is Adblock plus. Install it on your browser, then put the cursor on anything you don’t want to see, like that flashy clover,rt click and it gives you options one of which is to block that frame and that’s the last time you’ll see it.

  8. We should have seen this coming…
    When they installed dispensers for that awful tasting ribbed chewing gum in the rest rooms.

    • Doug, it comes(so to speak)in lots of flavors now and just as chewy as ever. Don’t think it will stick to your head post overnight but it’s worth a “shot” to try.

      • You can blow great bubbles with that gum! I made a balloon animal! Put putting those machines in the terlit- what scumbags!

  9. That would infuriate me – so far the stations I use don’t have it – here in Rivercity. I have made decisions on car servicing based on the waiting room too. Nothing like having someone already tuned into “The View” while you wait. All local newsites seem to be the same now – all video – very little text, & apparently no proof reading.

  10. Really liked your departure from wrenching this morning. While most people sympathize with this article most are also witless/willing victims!

  11. Some telescreens at Florida gas stations tell me how cop heroes “got my back” and that I should look out for their safety while they write tickets on the highway.

    • Hi Zach,

      Cue Higgins voice from Magnum, PI…. oh… my … god!

      I’d be severely tempted to hose down the place with gas and light it up with my Zippo!

      • Speaking of which, there is a certain gas station in my neighborhood that gets its petroleum from a regional supplier who seems to be cornering the local market. The other day while I was filling up, one of the tankers was refueling the place and I noticed the full living-color advertisement on the side of the tanker declaring “WE SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT,” with color pictures of costumed swine of both sexes and every imaginable race.

        My immediate visceral thought was “time to find a new gas station,” but then a thought occurred to me: how many firms of this type DON’T support “law enforcement?” They HAVE TO if they want to stay in business. As a mob enforcer would say to the small business owner who vacilates about paying “protection,” “bad things tend to happen” otherwise.

  12. “The question is.” said Alice to the iPhone, “how you can do so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Trumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

    “petroleum Brwando”???

    Is that E85 Eric?

    Did you know that 85 equals anywhere from 51 to 83? – “according to ASTM 5798 that specifies the allowable ethanol content in E85 as ranging from 51% to 83%”

    I miss Bill Bonds and Doris Biscoe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFDh9-v7wiw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOB0-d9FSgE

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGIiLuyefiE

  13. It’s typical technocratic shenanigans. They know people are slowly waking up, so I guess their strategy is to up their game with the mind control.

    • Yep. Between computers, phones, music, movies, incessant noise, and fast-talking voices in unnatural speech patterns (usually with percussive noises/beats/thumping music in the background) coming at one from every direction, one never has a free second to think if you live anywhere near civilization, or willingly partake of the media. After being so bombarded, not only are people afraid of that inner voice….but they’re actually afraid to be quiet!

      Mind control like never before in the history of the world.

      • It’s definitely shaping society. I find people are becoming extremely simple-minded and narcissistic. Look at current TV commercials at how warped, retarded, and annoying they are. For example, check out Mountain Dew’s warped “”Puppymonkeybaby” commercial on YouTube. I feel like I need a bath after watching today’s TV programming. I’m so glad I cut the cord. It’s so much more pleasant watching Rockford Files on DVD, anyway.

        • Hehe, I don’t know which I find more annoying: The incessant yammering of “news”casters; tghe laugh tracks on shows that aren’t funny; the background music/sounds, or the commercials. It’s like the actual content, although bad enough, is the least of it!

          I can’t tolerate TV- Just my All In The Family, Honeymooners, Odd Couple, Twilight Zone, Seinfeld, etc. DVDs…. but just the act of sitting there in a chair, motionless, staring at the box, is so unnatural and decadent, I hardly ever even watch those anymore. I want participation and intellectual stimulation…not comatose passivity.

      • If you haven’t already, read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” a brilliant short story about how brain implants that screech noise keep intelligent people from using their minds, in the interest of equality.

      • It is good to live where there are 14 registered guns per capita, and no screens aside from smartphones and fast food restaurant menu boards.

        • It’s even better to live in a state where citizens can buy, sell and trade guns among themselves freely with no paperwork- so the gov’t doesn’t even know who has what.

          • Odd that having no official address you’d consider yourself a citizen in the conventional sense. Maybe its meant philosophically.

            Me, I’ve been living in a nameless numbered PO Box in one of the 50 states for decades.

            I tell strangers where I actually sleep, but not anyone in the real world who I don’t know and trust with my life.

            • Hi Tor,

              I decided to be like the man in the high castle, Hawthorne Abendsen, and make no secret of my location. Let ’em come. I am under no spell that I have super power and can defeat them. I’m just too tired to hide.

              The grasshopper lies heavy…

  14. These things are an assault on my ears and an unwelcomed invasion into my life with their incessant shrieking about the latest celebrity gossip, sports stories, ads, or latenight comedy recap. I didn’t ask for this! All I wanted was some gas! I guess that’s not good enough for the head honcho at Gas Station TV. He wants to invade my time while I’m “not moving around”, with “nothing to do”, and “bored”. Heaven forbid I have a few minutes of uninterrupted quiet time to think while fueling up.

    Then the second I put the nozzle back into the pump, the shreiking stops without so much as a “Thanks, and good day to you.” (Not that I expect or even want that). It’s like the screen says, “I got what I want. Peace out.”

  15. Where does it end? I will not tolerate this. I freaking HATE TV/noise/blaring yakity-yak. Back in NY, late 90’s, they had already put TV screens on the platforms of commuter rail stations, and in the check-out lanes of some grocery stores….which just meant that I ceased patronizing such places. There’s going to come a day when when EVERY place has them. Then what?

    One of the many reasons I moved to the boonies!

    And really, don’t they have a freaking clue that everyone and everything are already over-saturated with advertising, to the point where it does no good? People just ignore it; tune it out. And even if they don’t….I’d imagine that most people are aware that the companies which spend so much on advertising, generally offer the worst deals; or at the very least, you know that what the ads are saying is BS. I mean, who pays any attention to such things? I want to buy a product or a service, I research it, and look at user reviews, etc. I don’t get my info from organization who’s trying to sell me their freaking product!

    General rule of thumb: The most heavily advertised stuff is usually the poorest deal/worst crap. The good don’t need to advertise…good reputation and word of mouth does it for them, and not having a huge advertising budget enables them to keep their prices within reason.

  16. Our Wal-Mart gas stations were doing this a decade ago. Selling fuel additives, a check on the weather, and some news/sports/lotto highlights. Since their gas is shit, I haven’t been there in forever. None of the stations I frequent have TV but some of them have radio…

    …and speaking of radio, what really grinds my gears is the muzak that is played everywhere you go. The same playlist is on EVERYWHERE! Doesn’t matter if you’re at the grocery store, the mall, individual shops within the mall, Home Depot, WalMart, burger joints, it literally doesn’t matter. Same songs, all day, every day. There’s no variety. At this point I’d be happy to hear elevator music! It used to be that stores would pride themselves on differentiation. Now it seems they’re all racing toward sameness. No wonder the current crop of humans appears gelded.

    • Yeah. If you call your internet provider, you get this irritating high tech spacey sounding bump that goes on and on in repeat loop. Sometimes you call your bank and you get the same thing. Good observation. You hit the nail on the head.

    • Ed,
      Walmart has never sold gasoline. You must be talking about the petroleum retailer leasing space in their lot.
      Their gas comes from the same refinery that yours does.

    • I saw them at the two stations I stopped at last week, both were pretty far off the strip. They used to say that Japan was 10 years ahead of the rest of the world. Today I’d say it’s Las Vegas. Marketing everything everywhere all the time. Technology used not for making your life better, but to keep you in line, sell you product and extract as much money from you as possible.

      • Out of town Moms and Pops at the overgrown kiddie arcades. (locals only pretend to gamble if it saves money.) There’s places with penny machines. Idl play one penny one line to get my visiting friends their barley sodas.

        No clocks. No holidays. No identity anything. Depoliticized population. 25% illegals. 20% blacks. 10 east asians. 10% other asians. Just a transient, risk loving, consumer culture.

        Average worker is single and multi divorced. Had over 10 jobs in the last 5 years. Or worse huge gaps without explanation.

        Just bright lights. General regions of old.

        Palace Station. Caesars Palace. A pyramid with a flashlight shining into space.

        Eddie Barzoon types galore. And worse, Mormon prude types who are militantly anti-barzoons.
        http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-26/first-time-americans-spend-more-eating-out-food-home

        • It’s all a game now. Entertainment eating. Entertainment travel. Entertainment by playing dress-up in your clubbing uniform. Entertainment shopping. Stand in line and on line with your phone everywhere. All for fun!

  17. The TV at the local McDonalds is tuned into a news station, so I don’t mind watching so much (despite the low quality of what passes for news these days) as I eat my burger & fries. Because I’m a news junkie. I’m glad they don’t have it tuned to “E!” or one of the other channels that tell people their spouse is cheating on them, and that if they were to eat nothing but beets they’d lose weight.

    The advertising screens at the gas pumps — I’m so tempted to squirt some gap-filler expanding foam into the speaker grille to shut it up.

  18. You’re just getting these things in your area?
    Some stations by me are on their second installation. I think some on their third.

    The screens in the cars are mandated via the backup cameras BTW.

  19. I stopped going to our local Sunoco because of this years ago. I just can’t handle having a tv scream at me. Same thing in airports with the “news” blaring from tvs everywhere. Same thing with the self checkout machines at the grocery store (they used to have mute buttons, but must have been disabled). I find myself wearing earplugs or earphones far more often in public these days.

  20. “Turn adults into perpetual children”

    Indeed. This is the goal. Because, It Takes A Village to raise a child. And “the Village” is your friendly local, state and federal GovCo.

    This, however, is nothing new. It started in earnest during the Progressive Era of the late 19th century.

    https://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/24

    Prior to this children were viewed as small adults. In the ensuing 140 years we’ve seen the concept of adolescence take hold to the point where New Jersey has just enacted a law forbidding cigarette sales to those under 21. And the headline says it all…

    http://www.nj.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2017/07/nj_bans_sale_of_tobacco_to_anyone_under_21.html

    “Child” labor laws, mandatory school attendance laws, laws restricting any and all activity based on age; they are the lifeblood of the “Nanny” state. It will only grow with time…until it implodes under the weight of its own contradictions.

    Government is like kudzu, you bring it in thinking it will solve a problem then IT becomes the problem and is nearly impossible to eliminate.

    • The minimum wage and child labor laws were eugenics in disguise for at least some who made them happen. Both were to make life more difficult for those deemed unfit. To turn children into liabilities instead of assets. To make it too expensive for people to get a first job.

      But I know, seeing things this way, our dear ruling class as having ulterior motives that keep them on top is a conspiracy theory. But there has to be a self serving reason our dear leaders did these things for those things that actually do help the common man never go anywhere. If there was a real concern for the common man then just by random chance these things would happen some of the time.

    • This is the strange distopian world we live in. On the one hand, we all root for Bart Simpson, the Delta House and Goodfellas. But then we gin up support for more laws, more restrictions and in the process make the forbidden fruit even more desirable. I don’t understand why we can’t figure this out. When I was a kid I knew all the stories about smoking, but did it anyway. When I came to my senses I quit. I know plenty of other kids who did the same, and a few who are still smoking today. Laws don’t matter, except that it gets kids questioning authority at a young age.

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