Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Stupid is as
I tried to watch Mad Men. I am always interested in trends but as with most things in popular culture it left me cold. For the most part it is just a commercial for cigarettes. Look smoking is cool, remember when all the cool cats smoked and wouldn’t it be nifty if they did again? In the end it is just a mediocre soap and that is a thing just not my thing. Would like to find out if the tobacco companies financed the show from jump but the show does lead into my larger point.
American’s do not like facts but instead they like a story that fits what they already believe. I am not immune to this most American of delusions so my take should be examined in this light as well. The Ad agency guys in the show spend their time looking down their noses at the little guy while they try to fool him into buying whatever widget this weeks account is for while they do the typical soap opera plot over and over. The one thing it does get is the contempt that marketers have for the target of their propaganda. The point in time that marketing became more important than the product was the end of the advance of the middle class. I will include those pesky numbers and facts at the end but for now I am telling a storey and do not wish to break my rhythm. It is my point that you do not actually give a crap about the facts anyway and if the storey is not conforming to your preconceived ideas you will have already tuned it out.
With the end of the 2nd world war there existed large industrial capacity to match pent up demand and the modern middle class exploded in the U.S. The G.I. bill fueled education and government investment in infrastructure made the perception of unlimited potential for growth reality for an instant. That bubble burst in the late fifties and we have been on a bubble to bubble ride ever since but something happened in the seventies that altered the equation and we have never owned up to it. We reached the point that there was not enough cheap energy to go around.
The timing of the first oil shock is etched in my mind as I was a California boy about to get the key to life my first drivers license. Freedom, riches and above all sex all flowed from this magical achievement and as the price of gas went overnight from 29 and 9/10s to 59 and 9/10s all that evaporated in an instant. My father was in the Gas selling business at the time so for us it was sort of a total collapse of the world but it didn’t last. The resultant recession ruined demand oil prices once again crashed and we went back to the same old waste it ways with one exception. The marketers had sold us the idea that conservation was evil. Ronny Raygun and his morning in America bunch had tapped into the idea that we like to be told that we are better than everyone else. We are really into the manifest destiny American exceptionalism nonsense and we would rather live like shit and believe things are great than fix things. Yes we could out compete anyone that had been destroyed in a war of unprecedented scale. The being born on third base and believing you have hit a triple mentality permeates our experience. The latest example was John Sydney McCain 4th generation privileged son of admirals trying to claim his man of the people mantle when running against the elitist son of a divorced mother. 57 million idiots bought that lie but the fact that the marketers sold us that idea is the problem. We want to believe the smart guy is an elitist. For some reason we do not like people that are smarter than us running things. Is it that we are afraid that the smart guys will screw us over? The dumb ones fronting for the republicans have screwed us repeatedly and for some reason we don’t seem to care but let a smart guy want to run things and we freak out instantly. I think the marketing folk figured this out quite a while ago, that is why all smart people in popular culture are portrayed as idiots or social misfits. Television needs to sell us that reason and education won’t make you happy other wise the old nonsense of religion and nationalism will fail to satisfy and the rabble will demand competence and facts as opposed to faith and dreams.