Mussolini certainly would have been proud of Signore Marchionne’s “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl ad. It is a classic piece of fascist propaganda, aimed at the usual target — insecure lower-middle class white men. Nationalist, racist, profoundly irrationalist and macho-sentimental.
The core of the irrationality is the ad’s (and the underlying essay’s) intentional, reactionary obliteration of the huge institutional differences between the facts of the present and an idealized past. The ad (and essay) clearly paints today’s “farmer” as the same figure as yesterday’s — i.e., as a worker, rather than a mere business manager. That is, of course, a huge laugh. As observed by Alexis Madrigal, in an excellent story we linked yesterday:
It’s true that whites are the managers of 96 percent of the nation’s farms, according to the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture. But the agricultural workforce is overwhelmingly Mexican with some workers from Central America thrown in. The Department of Labor’s National Agriculture Worker Survey has found that over the last decade, around 70 percent of farmworkers in America were born in Mexico, most in a few states along the Pacific coast. This should not be news. Everyone knows this is how farms are run.
This, of course, is indeed well known, though apparently not strongly enough to keep Chrysler’s target audience — white, lower-middle class, urban, suburban, and exurban “country” dudes — from seeing through the ideological game being run on them.
Meanwhile, the real point here, in the TCT view, is the basic math of the thing. To wit:
According to the latest surveys:
The average individual farmworker income ranged from $12,500 to $14,999 and the average total family income ranged from $17,500 to $19,999.
Farmworkers worked an average of 42 hours per week.
Only 39 percent of farmworkers reported being covered by unemployment insurance, 54 percent said they were not and 8 percent did not know.
A mere 8 percent of farmworkers reported being covered by employer-provided health insurance, a rate that dropped to 5 percent for farmworkers who are employed seasonally and not year-round.
The asking price for the most stripped down (and best-selling) Ram pickup truck? $22,640, or more than one-and-one-half times the total annual income for the typical person who actually does the tasks described in the Chrysler ad.
To borrow a line from another fascist personality: When I hear the word “farmer,” I reach for my revolver.
And, these days, behind every non-humble farmer fantasy stands our market-totalitarian overclass and its army of commercial indoctrinators.