In the last years before his historically catastrophic assassination, Martin Luther King used to lament to his closest comrades that he was “afraid we’re integrating ourselves into a burning house.” How apt that fear turned out to be is still under-appreciated. Among the burning rooms that has yet to be discussed is this one: corporate marketing.
In quainter days, there used to be debate over how to police corporate advertising. How should we protect ourselves from the more obvious lies while also preserving freedom of speech, to which even assholes are entitled?
This concern is, like so many other remnants of the concessions our overclass once had to make, no more. These days, the biggest corporations blatantly lie in their mega-million-dollar marketing campaigns, and nobody so much as sniffs.
Case-in-point: The “More Bars in More Places” campaign now being run by AT&T (…formerly Cingular, formerly AT&T Wireless, formerly AT&T).
1) Don’t entertain the purported “humor” of the ad.
2) Notice the actual scenario being dramatized. Invariably, it is actually proof of why people DON’T really need cellular telephones: These things don’t work very well, cost lots of money, exploit people’s exaggerated fear of crime (the cardinal symptom of “mean world syndrome”) and social disconnection (a very real problem made worse by cell phone solipsism), and degrade human relationships.
Capitalism’s apologists have always portrayed their system as “the end of history,” the best of all possible ways of setting social priorities.
The classic statement of this claim came, of course,