Psychology, 2010, 1, 305-315
doi:10.4236/psych.2010.14040 Published Online October 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial:
High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market
Mark B. Borg, Jr.
Community Consulting Group, New York, USA.
Received July 14th, 2010; revised July 31st, 2010; accepted August 3rd, 2010.
In this article, the author utilizes a novel action research approach to developing an interpretation of a colonial dis-
course that reproduces an otherness that is consistent with traditional views of history and ideology. Through this
unique educational—for both author and client—approach, further analysis reveals a colonial discourse that has be-
come unhinged from its historical roots and taken flight into supermolecular space where its origins and impact have
been thoroughly dissociated from its cultural impact. When our identities are thoroughly absorbed into and taken over
by consumer products, we enter a corporately induced, mass-media augmented hyper-colonial in which our minds,
bodies, and senses of self become defined by those products. A primary research question is: how can we intervene in
colonialism when the colonized is an inferior/lacking version of our own self ? The ways in which this hyper-colonial
state captures and makes use of desire and is then marked—marketed—by/through a society-level drive is explored
throughout this article. The author “takes a walk”—that is, he uses a week-long organizational consultation that was
conducted for a marketing research organization to analyze the ways that the dynamics of a hyper-colonialized con-
sumer culture were at play in the consultee’s marketing strategies that target American youth.
Keywords: Hyper-Colonial, Consultation, Action Research Education, Consumer Products, High-Octane, Marketing
1. Introduction: Under the Influence of…
In the first half of their “Capitalism and Schizophrenia”
series, Anti-Oedipus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
claim that “A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better
model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch” [1].
While that might seem like a wild and untenable position,
let me suggest that what they mean by “schizophrenic”
has everything to do with the emotional condition
wherein one is as totally and absolutely accessible to the
data—via sensory impression, stimulation and even
over-stimulation—that our world has to offer (sight,
sound, smell, taste, touch, not to mention emotion itself).
Being “schizophrenic” is being in a state where every-
thing (including, most especially) we ourselves become
“desiring machines” [1]—where we can make connec-
tions and more connections between ourselves and the
world around us, connections that, from the shut-
down, anxious and/or depressed “neurotic” state we are
safely defended against; and, therefore, we miss out on
much of our lives. In this paper, I am suggesting that the
“schizophrenic” position conceptualized by Deleuze and
Guattari, an opportunity for a new variety of educational
experience—using this as a model for Action Research—
And, so…
In this article, the author—in the role of organizational
consultant—undertakes an analysis of colonial dynamics
in global times, and does so via the process of taking a
walk from as Delezian/Guattarian a position as is (hu-
manly/machinically?) possible. I present an analysis of
the camouflaged colonial discourse that directly and
overtly reproduces otherness in ways which are consis-
tent with traditional views of its historical and ideologi-
cal underpinnings and effects, and then propose that such
analysis sets the stage for conceptualizing a colonial dis-
course that has become unhinged from its historical roots
and taken flight into supermolecular space, where its
origins have been thoroughly dissociated from its cultural
and contemporary effects and the dynamics that sustain it.
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
In this process, we can see that “although the physical
instruments of brutality associated with imperialism are
no longer in direct use, the colonial instruments live on in
contemporary advertising and related discourses” [2].
When our identities are thoroughly absorbed into and
taken over by consumer products, we enter a corporately
induced, mass media-augmented hyper-colonial in which
our mind, body, and sense of self become defined by
those products. Colonialism is replaced by hyper-coloni-
alism, which then becomes a vanishing mediator; like
capitalism itself, the colonial influences are disassembled
from their colonizing—and ubiquitous—influence and
force. The (dis-)associated dynamics, especially as re-
lated to consumption practices/rituals, then become part
and parcel of—and unconsciously accepted as—the so-
cial-economic-political context/climate within which we
operate (under the influence of…).
Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to
the influence of these mediators, as children are “essen-
tially invisible in theories of consumer society and cul-
ture” [3]. Children (as well as the parents, adults, and
institutions that engage with them), especially during
time periods of development when social insecurity is
high, then represent targets for colonial marketing strate-
gies that have been mainly ignored [4]. Such insecurities
become associated with an overall sense of—a lack
in—self, and marketing strategies target this insecurity as
part of a package deal where insecurity equals inferior
(and lacking), which in turn requires intervention (aug-
mentation) and overcompensation for this lack that has
been induced by the dynamics of the consumption cul-
ture itself A primary research question is: how can we
intervene in colonialism when the colonized is an inferior
version of—and a lack at the core of—our own self? This
begins to describe a process whereby the hyper-colonial
apparatus captures and makes use of desire and is then
marked—marketed—by/through a society-level drive to
consume (more and more…).
2. Road-Trippin’ with the Root-Beer Man
I recently completed a consultation in Southern Califor-
nia with Mr. D., the marketing director of a newly estab-
lished marketing research organization. The goal of this
consultation was to help him conceptualize, strategize,
and organize his role in this new position. Since the
company is still in the dream stage, he is currently gain-
ing frontline experience by consulting to an already es-
tablished research group. Every day you can find him in
Los Angeles, San Diego, or Orange counties, driving a
huge truck with numerous spigots on one side. His job is
to pour beverages from those spigots, pass them out, and
then—through some version of an interview—moni-
tor/record the responses of the drinkers. I was thrilled to
know that my consultation would take place in this mon-
ster vehicle while scouring the California coast in search
of opinions on high-octane energy drinks. Despite the
fact that the beverage being tested was Red Bull (“the
drink that gives you wings”), Mr. D. has come to be
known around Southern California as the “Root Beer
Man” (as he drives around SoCal in a huge Thomas
Kemper—itself a marketing research organization—root-
beer truck).
While I could explore the development of Urban Sen-
sor, much of our weeklong conversation focused instead
on the brief history and cultural location of high-energy
drinks. Mr. D and I discussed the many ways that the
combination of marketing strategies and popular culture
serve as psychological and institutional responses to, and
the exploitation of, youth in western societies. Through
highly charged products such as Red Bull (and high-oc-
tane energy drinks in general), it is possible to show how
corporate commodification is indoctrinating a younger
generation into a globalized and colonized set of cultural
rituals [5]. And these colonial processes, if they are im-
plemented during a time where one’s so-called self is at
its height of suggestibility, will not only influence but
also inhabit and become synonymous with one’s very
sense of self. If all goes well in the budding evolution
toward the status of consumer, a new colonized self will
serve as a stand-in for the one that was proven to be
lacking/inferior in the marketing discourse itself. Con-
sistent with this assertion, Alison Hearn suggested that
work on the self is purposeful and outer-directed;
self-production is heavily narrated, marked by visual
codes of the mainstream culture industry, and subject to
the extraction of value…[and taken together this consti-
tutes a kind of] self-branding, found across several dif-
ferent kinds of media, and illustrate the erosion of any
meaningful distinction between notions of self and capi-
talist processes of production and consumption [6, p.].
The end result: a generation that is branded with the
markings—and inhabited by the insatiable socio-dy-
namics of infinite and insatiable drive—of a neoliberal
and atomized consumer society.
3. Research Design
The underlying ideological frameworks that underlie
colonialism and hyper-colonialism and their effects are
often invisible to those who are subsumed in/by them and
are difficult for consumers to articulate. Therefore, I em-
ploy a methodology that explores aspects of these effects,
and the enactment of the dynamics that represent these
effects, through a socio-cultural reading [7] of how one
in marketing—Mr. D. (AKA, the Root Beer Man)—
conceptualizes his role and the sense that he (and he and
I together) makes of informant narratives about repre-
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes PSYCH
sentations of product use-value, superiority, and over-
compensation implied/offered through the vehicle of
advertising. My analysis specifically addresses colonial
dynamics as they were imposed upon young people
through the quite leading questions that were developed
by the marketing research department of his company
and delivered by Mr. D. The informants, in general, were
not actually asked questions regarding preference of one
beverage compared with another (as is traditional in
market research); instead, they were asked to describe in
detail how Red Bull worked for them, what it did/does
for them—questions that would encourage them to de-
scribe what would essentially be their relationship
to/with Red Bull. This article, therefore, primarily fo-
cuses on Mr. D’s telling the “story” of Red Bull, his ex-
perience as “marketing researcher,” and how he and his
organization articulate—and rationalize—their primary
task. However, the narrative ultimately comes together
through an analysis of the dynamics associated with how
it was that Mr. D engages with the consumers.
In actual practice, I undertook a participant-observa-
tion stance in what was contracted as an action research
consultation [8], and joined Mr. D in pouring out small
cupfuls of Red Bull and observing, and recording, both
his manner and style of inquiry as well as the responses
of the informants. Mr. D’s primary research method in
his role for Urban Sensor was narrative research—and
my own research of his role and process was in parallel
with his methodology. The aim of the research was to
understand how individual informants consume not only
the beverage itself, but the whole image and representa-
tion of the product as it has been delivered to the public
by not only Mr. D but through a panoply of marketing
strategies that have resulted in some—many—of the in-
formants in fact describing their relationship with the
product. Similar to Money, “the emphasis [was] formerly
placed upon individuals and how they ‘make sense’ of
[this product] and, in turn, how they narrate this to oth-
ers” [9]. This research relates to the idea of “narrative
functions” [10] and the idea that the stories concerning
consumer culture—objects/products—can provide access
to ideas about lifestyles, cultures, and everyday life.
Of the well over 300 informants, 56 (31 females, 25
males) individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 (the
product’s “target segment”) agreed to take the semi-
structured interview that took place in a variety of
Southern California locations—primarily, Newport Bea-
ch, Laguna Beach, and San Diego. These are affluent
areas, and the informants who were formally interviewed
were nearly all Caucasian, and from upper SES house-
holds. Semi-structured interviews were selected as the
principal method of data collection. This article primarily
focuses on the narrative that was delineated through my
conversation with Mr. D (qua marketing imperialist) and
the ways in which a colonial discourse was made mani-
fest in his articulation of Red Bull as product par excel-
lence (which became increasingly mythologized and ro-
manticized as the week wore on), the enactment of his
role, as well as in his actual engagement with the “target
segment” for the product he was researching himself.
4. High-Octane Drinks for the Y and Z2
Mr. D stated, “The US has increasingly become a society
in constant need of a pick-me-up. America’s overexpo-
sure to caffeine is marked by the large number of Star-
bucks and Starbuck clones found on what seems to be
every other street corner.” These pick-me-ups may rep-
resent a version of our growing palliative care sys-
tem—that is, our increasingly complex methods aimed at
reducing pain and distracting ourselves from sources of
everyday anxiety that can, at times, be (or seem to be)
unbearable [11]. “Feeling better” itself has become the
new “civilizing mission” [2] toward controlling global
resources and transforming the colonized into full-bred
consumers. The effectiveness of this strategy requires an
ideological framing to support the colonizer’s attempts at
subjugating the colonized [12,13].
Many 30- to 50-year-olds (late boomers and maturing
generation X-ers) are well-acquainted with the with-
drawal headaches that accompany 24-hour periods with-
out coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Mr. D and I
wondered together what fate may await members of gen-
erations Y (ages 12-19) and Z2 (ages 8-11) who are the
prime targets of energy drinks, which might be the ado-
lescent equivalent of the adult-versioned double hit of
espresso mixed with mega-doses of sugar and milk. Of
course, when answering this question, we have to con-
sider the possibility that it may not be the drink that is so
addictive, but the underlying message that success—or
maybe just daily survival—demands a pick-me-up!
“Feeling better” and being “picked up” are no longer
simply emotional states in this process. Instead, they are
mandates—they are demands for how one should feel/be,
and certainly how one should respond when asked [11,
14]. In this sense, these mandates have ideological im-
“Ideology,” as Bonsu suggests, “is a system of thought
that maintains particular forms of power relations, which
are often invisible to those who are actively involved in
its dispensation…Colonial ideologies related to images
of conquest and subjugation found residence in media
and other discourses” [2]. The core of these discourses
renders colonial subjects into a subhuman status; and, in
the case of hyper-colonial subjugation, a part of the self
must first be split off so that it can be the subhuman
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
other to be subordinated by what will eventually become
the consumerized self. An ideology of palliative
care—feeling better—entails a process of increasing dis-
sociation from the parts of the self that do not measure up
to the demands of this mandate.
Mr. D stated that, “Because of its 56% market share,
Red Bull is the product most often mentioned by gen Y
and Z2 kids when they discuss the highlights and nu-
ances of their relationship with high-octane energy
drinks.” Sixteen-year old Jenny described how her boring
and pathetic life (her pre-colonized sense of self perhaps)
was transformed when she started “using Red Bull.”
Twenty-one-year-old Mike jokingly told us that it gave
them “wings,” which led to the end of his previous prac-
tice of “Doing the Dew” (the marketing slogan for the
caffeinated soft-drink Mountain Dew).
One might assume that such descriptions allude to get-
ting high or flying above the woes of mundane existence,
and this perspective is encouraged by website advertise-
ments showing cows hang gliding after drinking a can of
Red Bull. This particular advertisement is interac-
tive—by moving your mouse back and forth, you can
make a cow grow wings, take flight, and jump over the
moon. In the same manner as cigarette advertising, this
raises questions about the ethics of such sophisticated
marketing efforts being aimed at inducing adolescents
and pre-adolescents to consume a product that contains
adult doses of caffeine. Of course, the power of discourse
itself lies in its ability to constrain people from seeing the
ideological work it performs [13,15]. Fifteen-year-old
Steven told the Root Beer Man, “I only use it when I
need to, like, after being up all night or when I want to
hang out late with my friends. You know, not like every
day.” The use-value of the product, in these examples,
operates in a constraining manner, which masks our abil-
ity to recognize our support for the rhetoric of superior-
ity—the fact that we can now feel superior to our “bor-
ing” and “pathetic” non-octane pre-selves.
Looking at the growing sales figures for “high-octane
energy” drinks, it looks as though they are here for the
long run. Red Bull achieved record sales in 2008, thanks
to a strong performance in fast-growing markets in the
Far East and Canada. Red Bull, which is not listed on the
stock exchange, said it sold 4.02 billion cans of its en-
ergy drink in 2008, up 13.2%. By value, sales rose 7.9%
to 4.3 billion dollars. Sales in Europe grew 12%, with the
Far East up 79%, Canada 50%, the Middle East 31%, and
South America 26%. As mentioned above, Red Bull is
the category leader with a 56% market share.
Energy drinks seem to be favored by today’s pop stars,
with actor/rapper Ice-T recently working with Multime-
dia Distributing to create a product called Liquid Ice, and
Nelly launching a brand called Pimp Juice. Already,
these upper-SES, gated-community, Caucasian (i.e., bor-
ing) selves are being linked up with the Gangsta Rap
culture. Guaranteed, gen Ys and Z2s will never be right-
fully accused of lethargy as the energy drink phenome-
non joins Viagra on the list of life’s little necessities.
Why sit around playing video games when you can jump
up and down and act—or feel—as though you’re in one!
5. Mythological Origins of the Globalized
Mr. D, himself a Californian, said, “Legend has it that
Robitussin cough syrup, because it was foretold to have
enough alcohol to create a short but sharp high, was a
beverage choice among Southern California teenagers at
one point. Red Bull tastes considerably better than cough
syrup, but the end result is the same: a legal sense of
euphoria.” However, according to the Root Beer Man,
the street wisdom is that the Red Bull currently being
sold in the US is an inferior product whose success
comes from exceptionally clever marketing tech-
niques—packaging, distribution, and spin.
Spin begins to create and sustain a new territory,
where selves can be spilt (dissociated), where alien
power relations begin to infiltrate the mind and wage an
internal battle where inferior self is transformed into
other, and a superior (via overcompensation) consumer-
ized self takes over. At this point, we can now engage the
colonial discourse at the core of the Red Bull story.
Bonsu, regarding the ways that traditional (i.e., overt and
direct colonial) tactics have been replaced by insidious
dynamics that have gone sub rosa, writes:
The presumed demise of colonialism suggests an at-
tendant decline in the use of colonialist equipment that
sustained the dynamics of the era, implying that colonial
ideologies and the rhetoric of difference that defined
categories of otherness toward subjugation may have
waned. The seeming demise also funds a latent process
that entrenches colonialist ideologies in contemporary
media audiences. It allows the dominant globalization
discourse to engage in acts of imperial power that paint
specific portraits of colonialism-informed inferior others.
In doing so, globalization supports the mining of colonial
tropes and the invention of new forms of representation
that enforce colonial-era power relations [2].
Spin, advertising, and marketing strategies in general,
then, become the new forms of representation that en-
force/reenact colonial-era power relations.
Red Bull’s spin, as described by Mr. D, begins with its
“rags-to-riches” origins. He stated:
Red Bull was originally created in Thailand—a land
known for water buffalo and not beef cattle. It has been a
favorite of long-distance truckers, who guzzle it while
traveling thousands of miles per week with very few rest
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes PSYCH
stops. In Thailand, everyone from factory workers to
salaried office employees recognize the distinctive Red
Bull bottle as a reliable friend helping them make it
through the long work days that are the norm in South-
east Asia. This is obviously a very different kind of
use-value from that employed by U.S. teenagers. Then
again, the colonial dynamics do not seem to go hyper-
until the product/object penetrates a cultural space ripe
for augmenting (or substituting) self with (for) consumer
product (identification). In Thailand, a bottle of Red Bull
(or Krating Daeng in the Thai language) currently costs
10 baht—about 23 cents U.S.; in the U.S.: $2.50/can.
Mr. D continued his narration to describe how Aus-
trian Dietrich Mateschitz signed a licensing agreement
with Red Bull’s parent company, TC Pharmaceuticals, in
1984. He added carbonation and adjusted the recipe to
make it taste more medicinal, then marketed the product
as a hot new club drink to be taken by anyone feeling a
bit low on energy but determined to “party ‘till dawn.”
Red Bull wings were aimed at young men for whom in-
dividualistic, alternative lifestyles were the ideal. Mat-
eschitz waited until 1997 to enter the U.S. market; Red
Bull is now part of the multi-billion energy drink seg-
ment of America’s $60 billion soft drink market. ts suc-
cess confirms the adage that the company that organizes
the best marketing campaign will win, regardless of
product quality—an adage that Urban Sensor aspires to
emulate. But the way that certain winners spin their
products (and representations of such products) into cul-
tural symbols raises the question of how such products
contribute to and/or change the cultural climates in which
they are embedded.
6. High-Octane ID
All objects of human construction can be analyzed in
terms of what they say about the individual, group,
community, or corporate entity that created them. From
this perspective, they send messages influenced by per-
sonal opinions, preferences, desires, prohibitions, and
fears. Their originators put a great deal of effort into
reading us [16,17], and, consciously or otherwise, we
cannot help but read and acknowledge the messages they
want us to receive. This, however, first requires a process
of reforming the consumer mind to adopt the colonizer’s
worldview [18]. In classic Foucauldian fashion, the colo-
nized implicitly accept a subservient role without con-
scious effort and defend the colonizer to rule over (or in)
them [19]. Of course, we read the messages (especially
transmitted through brand symbols and slogans) sent
from the colonizer’s from the perspectives of our own
individual histories, character structures, and psychopa-
thologies: if I’m paranoid, the messages confirm that I’m
a target; if I’m narcissistic, they confirm my uniqueness;
if I’m psychotic, perhaps from the rocks, the insects, the
government, or the aliens [20]. This symbolic bombard-
ment itself constitutes a pervasive and chronic form of
violence [21].
Those who Mr. D interviewed—from a relational per-
spective—assume that they can plug into a high-octane
identification without concern for what effect this over-
compensation for their internal smallness will have on
the actual world. In the induced need for overcompensa-
tion and power, high-octane identification is another as-
semblage to be plugged into to shore up a fragile sense of
security in the delusional belief that security = satisfac-
tion. That (fleeting sense of) satisfaction dislodges disso-
ciated desires, though in so doing only postpones its ac-
tual fulfillment, and in a deep sense of deprivation, one
might be convinced that he/she needs this “flight” just to
survive the turmoil of adolescence (the primary target
segment for Red Bull). This then sustains a sense of apa-
thy as to how consumptive behavior becomes synony-
mous with one’s sense of “I” (who have) against the
backdrop of fantasied “other” (who does not have, envies
me, my size, my importance, etc.). This sets up then a
kind of society-level inversion—a Folie à deux where the
other (qua fantasy societal-screen upon which I project
my own insecure/lacking sense of self) is the representa-
tive of the very lack that I feel in myself.
To what degree is this same process being played out
in the larger social sphere? To what degree is Red Bull
speaking to members of the Y, Z2, or any other oddly
labeled generation? Similar processes may be going on in
the minds of adolescents who talk about how they use
Red Bull—“Only when I need it!” The term high octane
is both compelling and highly suspect in terms of poten-
tial overcompensation for a void of infinite lack that is
created and sustained by the marketing industry.
7. Entering the Hyper-Colonial
The combination of mass marketing strategies and media
targeting makes it seem as though the sprouting of wings
will be brought to us and our children in vivid Techni-
color on a flat-screen, high-resolution LCD video unit.
Using a mix of fantasy and desire, corporate functionar-
ies have created a 21st-century cultural perspective based
on corporate ideology and free-market values—what
Steinberg and Kincheloe have labeled the new “cultural
curriculum.” They believe that The organizations that
create this cultural curriculum are not educational agen-
cies but rather commercial concerns that operate not for
the social good but for individual gain … Patterns of
consumption shaped by corporate advertising empower
commercial institutions as the teachers of the new mil-
lennium … we must intervene in this cozy relationship
between popular culture and pedagogy that shapes our
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
identities, we must exercise our personal and collective
power to transform the variety of ways corporate
power—gained via access to media—oppresses and
dominates us [22].
When our identities are thoroughly absorbed into and
taken over by consumer products, we enter a corporately
induced, mass media-augmented, hyper-colonial in
which our minds, bodies, and senses of self become de-
fined by those products (product labels and slogans be-
come inscriptions on our psyche). Ngugi states that
Colonialism…relates to the use of discourse to fashion a
targeted image of a particular culture or group of people.
It serves to extend the political power of the dominant
culture over the subjugated other. The priority of coloni-
alism and its variants is to facilitate cultural acquisition
via conceptual assimilation [23].
And, whereas great powers were once able to militar-
ily and economically occupy conquered territories for
exploitation and gain [24], national and international
corporations create and sustain a sense of culture and
thereby now occupy realms of consciousness [25,26]. As
colonizers, these organizations benefit from occupying
the human psyche [27]. Using their power to enter the
private lives of children and adolescents, the corporate
producers of high-octane symbols destabilize the identi-
ties of youth [28]. High-octane drinks exemplify the
processes by which marketers wage constant war over
whose product will reach the level (label) of stability that
comes from being identified with excellence through
consumption. And this sets the cornerstone for the inter-
generational transmission of hyper-colonization. After all,
cultural artifacts have always assisted in the processes of
creating/fabricating ourselves and our social affiliations
(including product loyalties); the contemporary process
entails the corporate colonization of both cultural values
and personal/group consciousness.
We are currently dealing with a system of representa-
tional politics in which commerce serves us a form of
cultural production that elevates aesthetics to their most
ubiquitous organizing principle [29]. According to Fre-
nch cultural theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
the media deterritorializes our identities to allow corpo-
rations (or products) to reterritorialize them [30]. Culture
and commodity become indistinguishable in this matrix,
and social identities are shaped almost exclusively within
a consumerist ideology of deterritorialization (sprouting
wings) and reterritorialization (clipping wings): in need
of more wings. In Henry Giroux’s words,
Commercial culture, coupled with popular culture, has
become the new transnational force used by global capi-
talism to both capture and open up markets, as well as to
redefine the very nature of identity, needs, desire, and
democracy itself. Stripped of its political context, de-
mocracy, under the onslaught of global capitalism, is
transformed into market relations, and citizenship is re-
duced to the obligations of consumerism [31].
We live surrounded by the commercial equivalent of
carpet bombing, attacked with an endless array of con-
sumptive images hyper-colonized by globalized forces
that now represent the contemporary evolution of the
symbolic order we are both captured by and embedded
within. And, to exist outside or beyond it is to cease to
exist at all. The guiding message of this symbolic order
was the focus of a comment made by former Senator Bill
Bradley (a prominent liberal spokesperson) that the
United States is “in danger of losing a generation of
young people to a self-indulgent, self-destructive life-
style” [32]. However, Bradley appears to demonize the
youth who are caught up in the lifestyle and fails to im-
plicate adults and the corporate colonizers whose oppres-
sive tactics usurp the false structure of a mythologized
democratic system that now serves as but a stand-in for
the rapacious hyper-colonial system which incessantly
replaces it.
8. Hey Butterfly, Pop a Red Bull, Get in
Your SUV, and Sprout Wings—The Nets
In the hyper-colonial the things (i.e., commodities) are
used in a manner that says something—much/ every-
thing—about the user. The Red Bull consumer might say
(and believe), “I am larger than life”; “I feel that I have
risen above and beyond my corporeal reality.” As I sug-
gested earlier, objects may find use value as a psycho-
logical defense, compensating for a chronic sense of
smallness or meaninglessness within an otherwise ver-
tiginous social or symbolic order [33]. According to
Marx’s conceptual framework, commodities appear to
consumers as though they are endowed with special
powers—that is, they are fetishized [34]. Zizek asks if
this is what Marx was referring to in the following ex-
cerpt from his famous fiction about commodities com-
municating with each other:
If commodities could speak, they would say this: our
use -value may interest men, but it does not belong to us
as objects. What belongs to us as objects, however, is our
value. Our own intercourse as commodities proves it. We
relate to each other merely as exchange values [35].
Of course, some objects not only “symbolize” power
but also put the acquirers into positions of exercising
power. The product’s (fetishized) insignias/messages are
external (not part of one’s nature): I internalize—not
merely ingest—Red Bull to assert power, my place in the
world, and/or my need to fit in. Red Bull then introduces
a gap between what I (as the user) am and the function I
exercise sustaining an internal project involving Mani-
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes PSYCH
chaean essentializations where devalued pre-self is re-
placed by self-in-flight (i.e., complying with the mandate:
feeling better now).
Since there’s really nothing there but cognitive artifact
and social construction, the gap between what I am and
the symbolic mandate that confers “authority” (my enti-
tled position in consumer society) to me is fraught with
impotence—in other words, I may fly, but there won’t be
anything to catch me if (or when) I fall. Are we already
so unhinged from our senses of self and of self-and-other
that flying has become a metaphor for our current state?
By flying, I don’t mean in an exhilarating sense, but ago-
raphobically floating in a social atmosphere that makes
us feel the lack of grounding of our individual and mu-
tual experiences—dreading the immanent tank, the fall
into death (drive). As Zizek notes:
The paradox of the Freudian “death drive” is…that it
is Freud’s name for the very opposite, for the way im-
mortality appears within psychoanalysis, for an uncanny
excess of life, for an “undead” urge which persists be-
yond the (biological) cycle of life and death, of genera-
tion and corruption … human life is never “just life”:
humans are not simply alive, they are possessed by a
strange drive to enjoy life in excess, passionately at-
tached to a surplus which sticks out and derails the ordi-
nary run of things [36].
In our sense of excess, of universal surplus, we can
become detached—have taken flight, finding ourselves
sticking out and derailed (or unhinged), and taking a nose
dive into oblivion—from the use value of any and all
exchanges (emotional, social, and communal). Marx ac-
knowledges the dual position of material production as
“the (re)production of the social relations within which it
occurs” [34]. And, therefore, we are catapulted into un-
dead—think zombie, vampire—excess/surplus (of de-
sire/enjoyment) that is the death drive.
All drives, then, share with desire the property of
never achieving their aim [37]. The drive always circles
around its object but never achieves the satisfaction of
reaching it. The purpose of drive is simply to maintain its
own repetitive compulsive movement, just as the purpose
of desire is to desire. This then sets up an imbecilic cycle,
where we can become attached to market forces through
some bizarre social X-(or Y or Z2) factor that works like
an algebraic remainder that parasitically becomes a core
part of our own individual, and isolated, self-iden-
tity—not realizing how the colonial imagination has been
smuggled into contemporary discourse, and how we are
under its influence. This dynamic process then enacts a
living form of internalized and acted-out conjunctive
synthesis where we can live out our repetitive de-
sire-become-drive ad infinitum, where we connect and
connect and connect to repetitive need/lack/need/ lack
(…), and are infinitely available (and easy) targets for the
hyper-colonial forces that undergird our every step.
And why are we labeling our respective generations
with algebraic Xs and Ys, and Z2s? Does this signify
what we are currently reproducing (the death drive) in
terms of social relations—especially in terms of market
segments? We target the Ys and Z2s for Red Bull mar-
keting pitches and X-ers for SUVs and Caribbean holi-
days. These symbols convey how easily we have been
transfigured into algebraic groups of prey for advertising
and marketing predation. Algebra is all about taking un-
knowns and giving them numerical value—the first step
toward capturing exponentials in geometry and calculus.
The elements contained in the capturing process—indi-
viduals, groups, corporations, governments, etc.—begin
to resonate and destabilize the separation between the
elements themselves. This is a perfect scenario for hy-
per-colonial fascism: an externally imposed and inter-
nally regulated set of established standards that authori-
tatively dominate the social unconscious.
The techniques applied to both adults and youth are so
similar that they bring to mind Freud’s “narcissism of
minimal differences” [38]. This dynamic has been used
to explain in-group/out-group discrimination—that is, I
need a “you” on which to project all the unwanted parts
of “me.” The “narcissism of small differences” formula
goes something like this: a) although two groups may
seem alike, they have minor differences; b) rituals are
developed to maintain these minor differences and to
maintain a psychological barrier between the opposing
groups—a barrier that absorbs the flow of aggression and
(in times of peace) stops members of the two groups
from killing each other [39,40]. However, this is particu-
larly problematic as the minimal difference being sus-
tained is between a pre- and post-hyper-colonized self
(self becomes other and dissociated).
In like manner, corporate impersonalization sustains
oppressive marketing techniques by desubjectifying their
targeted populations. The predation becomes displaced: it
is not my children, my family, or me who is being op-
pressed and/or hyper-colonized, it is some abstract
other—a rival, an enemy, ultimately an inferior version
of myself—who probably deserves it [41]! And the nar-
ratives presented by Mr. D and his cadre of informants
were, overall, consistent with colonial ideologies [42]
that seek to camouflage the instituted order of differences
and hierarchies. The implication is that without these
differences—without containers for projecting the un-
wanted and intolerable aspects of ourselves—we would
become fragmented, lose all sense of our unique identi-
ties, and forsake our special status in the socio-symbolic
order. This essential difference arises when we subtract
the false and simulated differences from the “pure” dif-
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
ferences between individuals or groups and the back-
grounds of popular culture implemented by corporations
and sustained by hyper-colonialism. The necessity of
sustaining this essential difference works quite well for
establishing our status as targets for vast, impersonal
market forces, wherein society projects its darkest as-
pects onto individual consumers or targeted groups [43].
It may be too early to tell what kinds of effects—ac-
tual and placebo—will come to be associated with
high-octane desire and the marketing slogans that pro-
mote it (e.g., “It gives you wings”). From a naively opti-
mistic perspective, the high-octane obsession might stop
a future generation or two from engaging in and experi-
menting with drug and alcohol abuse. But substituting
high-octane desire for the drugs and experimental char-
acter styles used by previous generations may not be as
innocent or innocuous as it first appears. Considering the
synonymy of desire/drive and identity in our culture, the
implications of a high-octane identity could be problem-
atic for a generation needing a flimsy grandiosity to
compensate for an unconscious angst over being per-
ceived as corporate prey. This substitution/compensation
process becomes especially dramatic if we consider how
it simultaneously ushers us in and sustains our sense of
being wholly consumed by the driven mandate to con-
sume that penetrates into our individual and social psy-
che(s) straight from the nonverbal voice of the hy-
9. Conclusions: The Effects of Road
Trippin’ on Urban Sensor
“Wait a minute,” the Root Beer Man stated with alarm as
we went over our case notes and headed toward the ter-
mination of our consultation, “We’re just talking about
the mundane topic of youth beverage drinks, right?” His
(feigned) alarm suggested that perhaps what we were
exploring together was really just mundane (i.e., “nor-
mal”) life and how it has been chronically carnivalized to
the point that our positions and identities within it begin
to transgress familiar territories as they enter hyper-co-
lonial space. But let’s not let Mr. D’s seemingly naïve
question fool us.
Education through the analysis of “normal life,” thro-
ugh being in that “schizophrenic” state (model) of being
just “out for a walk’ [1] had seemed to accomplish its
One might notice while reading through this paper a
significant paucity of analysis of any overt reference to
signs and representations of product (i.e., Red Bull). And
that is the point. We are at a point in the history of
high-octane (desire/drive) products where we no longer
need their multiform representations for them to have life
inside of us. The messages that were once transmitted
through such signs have taken flight and now exist in the
cultural imagination (nobody needs to advertise the
benefits of capitalism over, say, socialism, right?). A
further analysis reveals how Mr. D’s approach to his
consultation project reveals/repeats the underlying hy-
per-colonial dynamics/discourse that we have been ex-
ploring in this article.
Let’s think back for a moment on Mr. D’s marketing
strategy. He drives around SoCal in a Thomas Kemper
root beer truck—in fact, he is known as the Root Beer
Man. He wears a black tee-shirt, audacious surf jams,
and flip-flops. Something is missing. He is researching
Red Bull, but he (re-)presents nothing—no banners, no
running video stream, and not even an actual can of the
drink with its bright yellow bulls, in a backdrop of blue
and silver, in near collision—to suggest that what will be
spurting out of the spigots on his truck will, in fact, be
Red Bull. His tactic goes further than the mere presenta-
tion of the blank screen technique where children can
simply project their fantasies onto/into the product; Mr.
D substitutes one fantasy (self) for a superior one. He
seems to offer an inferior product (root beer), and then
replaces that (lacking) product with a product that “gives
you wings.” Though he does not tell the recipi-
ents/informants that he has replaced the product (at least
in terms of presentation), by the time most of them are
engaged with it/him, they seem to know it, and therefore
the responses obtained in the interviews (especially as
they relate to the relationship that one has formed to/with
Red Bull) reveal the cultural placement—at this point in
time—of the product, leading to the discovery of just
how extensive Red Bull’s cult following is at this point in
time. Red Bull, with 12 years of marketing/advertising in
the U.S. under its belt, no longer needs any kind of
launch pad to continue its flight (in the cultural imagina-
Regarding the discovery of what is to be the next uni-
versal surplus item, we might find in such discoveries
that we are all capable (if not willing) of being unhinged
from the use value of any and all exchanges. This is the
process revealed in the final analysis of Mr. D’s en-
gagement with the consumer market. Those in market
research can then register and quantify our reactions to
the product du jure in order to provide insights for com-
panies who want to build cult followings for new prod-
ucts (e.g., Diet Red Bull). This insight is used to help
them help us (and our children, families, societies, etc.)
fill in the void that exists in the people who seek connec-
tions with something/anything (i.e., their products). This
filling-in allows us then to chronically dissociate the lack
that underlies the universal—become particularized—
item/Thing (das Ding). The Thing—Das Ding—is the
beyond of the signified—that which is unknowable in
Sprouting Wings in the Hyper-Colonial: High-Octane Desire and Youth-Targeted Market Predation
Copyright © 2010 SciRes PSYCH
itself. It is beyond symbolization—a lost object that must
be re-found. However, and this is the trick, it was never
really there in the first place [44].
Once das Ding becomes the undead representative of
our anthropomorphized object/other (in fantasy and
through implicit communal consensus), it sustains the
cycle of missing-the-mark (drive: imbecilic repetitive
motion sustaining desire through its lack of fulfillment)
and becomes the sliding foundation for marketing en-
docolonization. Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer [45]
coined the term endocolonization, a sociological/psy-
chological process where individuals identify with op-
pressive forces and attempt to colonize their own groups
or families with the belief systems of the oppressor group.
Of the process of endocolonization, Krautwurst notes
two aspects:
One macrosocial, wherein a war economy is carried
over into peacetime, is restraining potential development
in civil society. The other microsocial such as the human
body is increasingly becoming a site of technology itself.
Like all colonization, endocolonization is an emptying
out, a deterritorialization, conducted in conjunction with
a technoscientific reterritorialization which disrupts and
fractalizes human and social totalities, which should re-
main whole [46].
Endocolonization is marked by the unconscious rec-
ognition that sources of security and protection are “emp-
tied out,” and therefore are also sources of oppression
and terror (“disruption” and “fractalization”); this results
in overlooked psychological trauma that can lead to
strongly dissociated experiences in individuals [47,48],
families [49], and communities or cultures [50-52].
Mr. D’s organization is not disputing what has become
a core tenet in American life, which is to look outward
(or into the fictive forward) rather than inward for ful-
fillment. From the perspective of a socially functional
denial (and an endocolonized state), to do otherwise
could in and of itself be considered traumatic. As for
what was alluded to with Marx’s comment on “the
(re)production of the social relations within which it oc-
curs,” the it is the kernel (of the socio-symbolic) that Mr.
D’s organization will pursue while unraveling a particu-
lar community’s/society’s connections (rather than dis-
rupt the smooth flow of colonization) and interdependen-
cies and attempting to extrapolate its findings to a larger
Somewhere midpoint, Mr. D and I lost sight of the
consultation and we too found ourselves lost in the hy-
per-colonial. We put together our case notes and a sum-
mary of the process, but it was aside from the point of
our engagement. We asked ourselves: Were we analyz-
ing the hyper-colonial as a dark element to be flushed out
of hiding and labeled as toxic? Or were we attempting to
master it and send it off to do our bidding? How often do
we find ourselves inadvertently undertaking the Franken-
steinian task of forging—or forcing—together various
and disparate parts of this and that, only to find that the
monstrosity (“Everything is a machine,” [1]) we have
birthed has assumed a life of its own, sprouted wings,
and taken flight?
With our flight into the hyper-colonial, colonialism
has gone underground and now resides in the consumer’s
fertile imagination where it performs powerful work that
perpetuates colonialism in different guises [2]. Mr. D and
I agree that marketing to/in a consumer culture is facili-
tated by a process that works because we are completely
enmeshed with an advertised/consumerized milieu that
invites us to “freely” create ourselves (anew) in accor-
dance with the way in which it has already created us
[15]. The hyper-colonial evolution is evident across nu-
merous societies that are inundated with so many choices
that the essence of what we need to simply get through
the day has become distorted. We have observed that
people are motivated toward need attainment, and as they
become insatiable, they negate the ubiquitous messages
(think of the warnings on cigarette packages) that speak
of hazards to health or economics. These motivations
speak to consumers who are hard to please, get bored
easily, and become restless or discontent unless a product
provides ongoing enjoyment—jouissance—that fuels a
need to consume more and to simultaneously get better
(i.e., more intense) effects. The walls of hyper- colonial-
ism are splattered with a subconscious graffiti that blast
signals into our unconscious minds, suggesting that ours
is a society (world) that forces us to endure our mundane
lives with a scarcity of resources while simultaneously
offering an abundance of distractions (products, etc.)
which will serve us (while milking and sustaining—
rather than meeting—our actual needs/ desires). Mr. D is
investigating the origin and proliferation of this notion,
as seen in the advertising campaign for BMW’s 6 series:
“U.O.U.”—you can be driven to maniacally indulge and
ultimately possess a (perpetual and perpetuating) sense of
(ever-shifting) satisfaction, and yet you remain psychi-
cally indebted to our Products/Objects (complete with the
intergenerational transmission of the psychic interest that
is accruing)…ad infinitum.
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