In the “Argestes” episode of season two of HBO’s Succession, we find Tom and Cousin Gregg at a retreat for media elites full of TED talks and nature tours. Tom and Gregg’s discussion on the bridge represents the modern reimagining of the ‘who’s on first’ comedy gag, this time saturated with big data surveillance and inauthentic corporate responsibility.
As the slogan evolves, Tom blatantly declares ‘We Hear For You” as “gibberish,” albeit a gibberish that is productive. It establishes the desired tone while keeping far from any legal gray areas in terms of audio capture. It is aggressively banal, pointing toward care and the public good without being as blasé to actually use such terms. It is cool, to them.
In another vocabulary this can be termed as ‘business bullshit’, as Andre Spicer (2017) extends the work of Harry Frankfurt and David Graeber into current corporate organization. Management speak has infected multiple sections of the economy, because, despite its essential buffoonery, it accomplishes things. People who use it have power. And it even gets parroted by our half-zipped Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the show. “It’s good because, its like, not clear exactly what the hell it means” explains Cousin Gregg.
Not only does the slogan preside as bullshit, but it conflates message for contribution. The Roys, as wealthy owners of a media conglomerate, do not need to hear from us, nor desire to. Reminiscent of Jodi Dean’s (2005) communicative capitalism, where democratic ideals are materialized in network technologies that privilege not the sharing of opinions, but the mass spreading of them. Circulation dominates deliberation.
This fantasy of participation is shattered, both in our reality and in the show, with anyone who crosses Logan Roy, the owner/patriarch/leviathan that screams ‘Fuck Off!’ to anyone who slightly displeases him. As the other characters attach themselves to brand slogans, management gobbledygook, and buzzwords, only those with actual power are given the latitude to speak freely with the same expected results. For the general mediatized body politic, the only responses required is that of no response. We Hear You (and we just don’t care).
Dean, J. (2005). Communicative capitalism: Circulation and the foreclosure of politics. Cultural Politics, 1(1), 51-74.
Spicer, A. (2017). Business bullshit. Routledge.