William A. Gralnick
The answer is short and not what you’re thinking. The answer is commercials. Hear me out.
I’ll give you some examples and then show you what they’ve done to us.
Starting with Big Pharma is almost a cheap shot it is so obvious. Whoever decided it was alright to promote prescription drugs on television is a dolt. The way it is done makes it worse. Do you understand half the words that are used? I don’t. Aren’t you smart enough not to take something if you are allergic to it? I’d hope so but of course would you know that anyway given all the ingredients mentioned are in Latin. And do they tell you why one drug for something is better than the other? Not often. They just tell you it is. They do tell you how many ways a drug might kill you or otherwise ruin your life, but at about a third or more speed faster than the promo part and not quite as loud. Doctors and pharmacists know about drugs—period.
How ‘bout we jump to two quick food examples. Taco Bell. Here we see two sets of folks arguing over whether their new product is a taco or a sandwich. Really? Do we care? “Not I,” said the little duck. Or their latest where two teens are locked in a romantic embrace at the ocean’s edge when a buoy falls over and its bell rings. She thinks Taco Bell, leaves the guy, the rustling waters, the darkened beach and walks to a Taco Bell. ‘likely that’s something that will never happen, even if the guy’s a lousy kisser.
One that could have been good is the Subway sandwich commercial that shows a sandwich being magically layered up so you can see how much is stuffed into the bread. So far so good. Then we cut to Tom Brady holding one, looking and sounding like he’s non compus mentis while the commercial cuts away from him. He who looks like a jerk.
How about insurance? Farmers used to have a good set of commercials, based on true incidents. Remember the museum that showed various weird accidents that Farmer’s covered? They were true incidents and humorous commercials that had a direct message: you drive like a dummy; we’ll still cover you. Now we are treated to a house destroyed by a storm upon which, lickety-split, goes the framing, the windows, the walls, the roof in a matter of seconds. If you’ve ever had to deal with a disaster and then had to deal with an insurance company, you like me, will want to throw a shoe at the TV.
Then there’s Liberty Mutual with this gem. An Afghan Hound is sitting next to a guy on a bench who looks like an Afghan Hound. Do I have to go on?
I’ll finish with Geico. Which makes you want to buy their insurance more—A) Flo and here side kick, the two of whom could be cast for Dumb and Dumber, B) the star of the company the Gecko, or C) in his reprise the Gecko asking you if 57 years of making Raspberry Jam rings your chimes? I mean come on, folks, what do you take us for?!? And there begins my reasoning.
For decades this country has allowed big business to lie to us, to tell us half-truths, to foist off on us mostly bad humor about incredibly complex and for some potentially fatal products. Madison Avenue had, and still has, the whole world in its hands. I had a friend who was a real “Mad Men.” He had a high-ranking position in a high-ranking ad firm. The wife and I had just finished the series Mad Men and I was soon to have lunch with him. So, I asked him, “Is that the way it really was?” “Worse,” was his reply.
The society has been marinated for so long in this witch’s brew it has become inebriated on it. It doesn’t recognize the potion having become so inured to it. Thus, it is a mindset, a blanket thrown over much else. Let us then come to government, fake news, and all that jazz. It really no longer matters what or how politicians talk to us. If you were to take the points I’ve made about commercials and did an overlay of them politically you would get Donald Trump. He’s casual. He tells jokes and uses humor. He is supremely loose with the facts. And he flat out lies. Shortly after the Arizona forensic recount was completed and the report said that in fact the Democrats had more votes not less, Mr. Trump gives a speech in which he proclaims (my words) that the Republicans slaughtered the Democrats and the election was stolen. We are so used to this by now, and from the gentler approach to the truth by others, Democrat and Republican, that we’ve take a ho-hum attitude toward it.
That ho-hum attitude may be the ruination of American Democracy and it started with television commercials-at least from my perspective.