Friday, June 15, 2012

"We're Done Here," A Message From America's Car And Truck Commercials

Attention, former customers: We your nation's car and truck commercials have made an important decision, and we wanted to let you know as soon as possible. We're finished. All of us. We're stepping out of the game. It's over.

Of course we're proud of much of our past work. For many years we were honored to keep you entertained and even inspired about the kind of country this is, and the kinds of things we could do. But we feel increasingly uncomfortable selling this image of America at a time when we need more sober analysis and critical thinking about our government and its policies.

We have massive budget deficits, unchecked military interventions all over the world, and a growing network of spy agencies and defense contractors beyond any democratic supervision or control. A little girl saluting a flag just isn't going to cut it.

Obviously part of the reason we have a dysfunctional foreign policy is we're dependant on oil. And we feel extremely guilty about our role in that. Not lobbyist guilty, but sometimes it's close. The problem however, is more complicated than merely oil imports - it's about intellectual decay. Sometime in the past few decades politicians and advertisers discovered that you could win an election or sell a product just by making people feel really, really good about our country. Voters and consumers rewarded them for it, and they responded by making people feel good about feeling good. It created a powerful cycle of consent and control. And the only problem is that we lost sight of the fact that feeling good about the country isn't the same thing as being a good citizen. Sometimes they're the exact opposite.

Do you get that? Do you people understand this? When we kill off thousands of our soldiers in wars we don't understand, and the government tells us we're not any safer so they can keep rifling through our bags or hunting foreigners with flying robots you shouldn't in any way feel good about that. It's your duty - not your right, although it's that too - but it's your duty to get mad and perplexed and ask questions and read as much as you can to find some answers and change things. A picnic on a pickup's bed with Mellencamp blasting from the radio has nothing at all to do with this. Getting a gentle high about this place isn't helping. Try some confusion and anxiety. You need it.

Until then we're going to sell cigarettes.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, Mr. Bibeau. I have to say, though, that the Chrysler "My Son Steven" ad pushes rather different buttons for me than would a simple, cynical appeal to feel-good patriotism. I wish I could put my finger on it. The spot is about parental pride and approval, economic gamesmanship and upward social mobility. All of it is built upon the notion that even though "Dad" had to make sacrifices by working long hours and being away from his family, he still managed to teach his son what he needed to know in order to make him the success he is today. It's worth noting that the qualities Dad valorizes in himself don't seem to apply too much to Steven, with his sharp condo, hot wife, nice car. No children. For whom does Steven sacrifice his time and effort, and who will learn to "play the game" from his example? The dog?


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