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Truth in Advertising


Truth in Advertising

As the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true it probably is. And yet the entire American advertising culture is built on making various products seem too good to be true and as a country we buy it hook, line and sinker. We question everything in this country but if we see something on television we almost give it a pass – “Well if it’s on TV it has to be true.”

Perhaps that is less true these days than it has ever been before. We’ve just become so used to being lied to that we accept as a matter of course that we’re being lied to constantly, even when we may not be. It’s hard to separate truth and fiction; white lies from half-truths. It’s too much work to figure it out, so we just either assume everything is true or everything is a lie. It depends on how optimistic a person you are I suppose. Some of us are more cynical than others.

I didn’t used to be this way. In fact, I hate being this way. I used to be one of those guys who believed that people are basically good. I’m not so sure about it these days. I have begun to believe that people basically suck, that they’re so focused on their own narrow self-interests that they’ve given up on the common good. Charles Dickens would be horrified.

It’s hard to believe in anything good these days when all you see are talking heads blaming poverty on the poor, screaming that we’re spending too much on deadbeats and that those hard-working Americans should keep their money rather than have to spend it on others.

When did we all turn into Ebeneezer Scrooge? When did our values become so distorted that money has become more important to us than the lives of our fellow humans – of our fellow citizens of this country? Why are profits for men who are billionaires many times over already more sacrosanct than providing for the basic needs of people – of children – in poverty? And why are those who claim to be Christians claiming that these are Christian values?

I’ve read the Bible, folks. In it I’ve read that Christ healed the sick and fed the hungry. He hung out with the poor and stated flat-out that it is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. He railed against moneylenders setting up shop in temples that were supposed to be places of worship. It is the only place in the Bible where we see the Savior losing his temper. How do you reconcile these actions with those who seek to cut off funding for food stamps, who wish proper health care should only go to those who can afford it, and for whom those who can afford to pay more in taxes should not but those who can’t afford to pay more should bear more of a burden relatively speaking?

It’s completely hypocritical, but that’s how his country is these days. We no longer lead the world in innovation and quality of life but we sure do lead it in hypocrisy. We lie about everything; we lie about the privacy of our phone calls and correspondence. We lie about our government’s role in surveillance of citizens who are not accused or even suspected of crimes. We lie about who we are online. We lie about our education, our employment, our marital status. We post pictures that we find on the Internet and claim that it is us.

That is how our culture has evolved. Lying has not just become acceptable, it has almost become expected. This is not to say that we should be honest in everything we say – we need to use common sense and consider the feelings of other. Sometimes saying nothing is a better alternative than saying how you really feel or perceive things.

It’s easier to agree with people rather than disagree. It takes a lot of energy to state your position and stand up for it. Trust me, I know – I’m one of those sorts who used to hate rocking the boat so I’d just smile and agree, even if I didn’t. I didn’t want anybody to be upset with me and quite frankly, I felt that there were so few people who liked me that I couldn’t afford to piss off the people who did.

That’s utter garbage. I’ve since learned that people who genuinely like you and care about you won’t be put off by a difference of opinion. One of my closest friends – my college roommate – and I couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, politically speaking. He’s a proud Libertarian who often comments on my links and posts on Facebook and sometimes our dialogue can be quite contentious. Because I don’t agree with him politically doesn’t make him less of a friend. When we get together in person we crack each other up. We have far more common ground as people than can be sundered by spirited debate. I may disagree with him on nearly everything political but I will always consider him one of my closest friends. No matter what I post I have no doubt that he will think the same of me.

There are those who of course won’t like what I have to say. They might not agree with me at all. They may even think I’m an ignorant Liberal who understands nothing of the real world and seeks to undermine the American family values that made this country great. That may well cost me some friendships but I won’t be sorry for those who feel they can’t be friends with me for my beliefs. I’m at a point in my life where I feel it necessary to stand up for what I believe in. I will use my gifts as a writer to articulate those beliefs. I won’t back down or soften my rhetoric because of those who might disagree. To do so would be to betray my own beliefs and I won’t do that ever again. You may take me or leave me – that is entirely up to you. At least you’ll know where I stand.

That is truth in advertising. What you see is what you get. WYSIWYG, or “whissy-wig” as it’s pronounced is a tech term that we can translate to a more cultural role. How different our country would be if WYSIWYG were adopted as a national standard. If truth became a national priority. If politicians had to own up to their misdirection and inconsistencies between words and deeds.

In that kind of world, the bottom line would become less important than maintaining integrity. There was a time where that was so – when a person’s word was their bond and when honor was of greater import than personal gain. As values they seem archaic now and that really is a national tragedy – maybe even a national disgrace. Somewhere along the line, truth and honor became dinosaurs. To my way of thinking, that’s part of why we’re in the mess we’re in now and why things are going to continue to get worse. And maybe it is better that those of us who value these old-fashioned and perhaps ridiculous ideals should go extinct along with them.

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One Response

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