Dylan Matthews on Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti’s background as a critical theorist:
“Nobody wants to be a shill for your brand,” former Buzzfeed chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan once told New York Magazine for a profile of the company’s founder, Jonah Peretti. “But they are happy to share information and content that helps them promote their own identity.”
So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti’s academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negations entitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” After the paper was mentioned in New York’s Peretti profile, Critical-Theory.com’s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed’s entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.
In brief, the paper argues that, going forward, capitalism will need to be constantly producing identities for people to adopt at an ever-increasing rate. And now Peretti’s at the helm of a firm that’s doing exactly that.
This reminds me of Zizek quoting Jean-Jacques Lecercle about how Deleuzian thought ironically became the ideology of the ruling class. In this excerpt, Lecercle imagines a Paris yuppie reading Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy:
he incongruity of the scene induces a smile – after all, this is a book explicitly written against yuppies /…/ Your smile turns into a grin as you imagine that this enlightenment-seeking yuppie bought the book because of its title /…/ Already you see the puzzled look on the yuppie’s face, as he reads page after page of vintage Deleuze…  What, however, is there is no puzzled look, but enthusiasm, when the yuppie reads about impersonal imitation of affects, about the communication of affective intensities beneath the level of meaning (“Yes, this is how I design my publicities!”), or when he reads about exploding the limits of self-contained subjectivity and directly coupling man to a machine (“This reminds me of my son’s favored toy, the action-man who can turn into a car!”), or about the need to reinvent oneself permanently, opening oneself up to a multitude of desires which push us to the limit (“Is this not the aim of the virtual sex video game I am working on now? It is no longer a question of reproducing sexual bodily contacts, but to explode the confines of established reality and imagine new unheard-of intensive mode of sexual pleasures!”). Is today’s popular culture not effectively permeated by Deleuzian motifs, from the Spinozean logic of imitatio afecti (is this impersonal circulation of affects, by-passing persons, not the very logic of publicity, of video clips, etc., where what matters is not the message about the product, but the intensity of the transmitted affects and perceptions?) to new trends in childrens’ toys (the so-called “Transformer” or “Animorph” toys, a car or a plane which can be transformed into a humanoid robot, an animal which can be morphed into a human or robot… is this not Deleuzian? There is no “metaphorics” here, the point is not that the mechanical or animal form is revealed as a mass containing a human shape, but, rather, the “becoming-machine” or “becoming-animal” of the human, the flow of continuous morphing. What is blurred is also the divide machine/living organism: a car transmutes into a humanoid/cyborg organism – therein resides the horror…)?