Honestly, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Ya know, I’m really slow sometimes. It took me way longer than I’m going to admit, or even allude to, but slowly I got clued in to a well kept secret. Well, really, it’s not much of a secret, and that’s why it’s so embarrassing to admit I didn’t see long, long ago. Everybody already knows, and everybody is part of the hornswoggle. It’s a matter of fact, humans love to pretend. Us higher functioning primates marvel at myth and magic. Fantasy and fairytale fascinate. Illusions and imitations grab our attention. Superstition and pseudoscience mesmerize us with their imaginary worlds. And best of all, mixin’ n matchin’ ’em altogether, fictions and facts and fictions, makes for a scintillating seething cyclone of krazy make-believe. We be so deep in pretense that when confronted with the truth it makes us angry. And bestest of all, we feel all wooly warm when the daydreams and pipe dreams get laid on us in thick goopy layers of delightful deception.
Just Ooogle “honest reviews.” There are websites dedicated to honest reviews. Yup, and with the word honest in their URL, too. That surely guarantees the truth, don’it?
The prompt for my search into honest reviews was a review I read about a product that misfires on every cylinder. The product’s shortcomings are supported by graphs accompanying the review, but the text is anything but damning. Every paragraph back peddled the reviewer’s real feelings; every flaw laced with finding a silver lining. One lone person left this comment, “What does it take to get a bad review these days?” I guess the commenter doesn’t know how to read between the lines when evaluating evaluations. Instead of telling the truth, what pro-reviewers do is hint at it as they fabricate their fairyland.
The speciality of American commerce, the conventions of economic theory, the operating principle of the entire world trade system are based upon fictions. Pretty stories we like to tell ourselves. The imaginary and illusory power our lives.
Two giant fallacies are at work—the belief in growth, and second, the belief in advertising. Advertising, advertising, where for art thou advertising? How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Advertising works. There’s ample proof of that.
Advertising is ineffective and inefficient. There’s ample proof of that, too.
Advertising introduces us to new products. We’d be slow to learn about some great new stuff without it.
Advertising limits our exposure to only the biggest companies with the biggest budgets. We’re cheated out of knowing about those special, unique products and services that are likely right around the corner from home.
Advertising fuels the economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every day on getting us to consume, consume, consume.
Advertising is a huge drain on the economy. The billions spent on advertising products we already know and use everyday could be better spent on R&D, higher wages, greater employment, infrastructure, capital improvements, and hundreds of other more productive ends.
Advertising supports TV programing, newspapers, magazines, search engines, networking services, webpages.
Advertising has so deeply permeated everything it’s impossible to watch a program, drive safely, read, or walk down the street without being blindsided by unwanted, unsightly distractions popping up in our faces or assaulting our ears.
Advertising informs us, entertains us, keeps the information industry whirling, and apparently gives us what we want, and lots of free stuff.
Advertising misleads, lies, stupefies, promotes wasteful overconsumption and obesity, and all that free stuff, we’re paying for it whether we want it or not.
And we are paying for it big time under the illusion of free. The world estimate for advertising expenditures in 2013 is over 500 billion USD. The US accounts for over one third of that, more than one-hundred-seventy billion dollars. That’s a baffling number. (And it excludes the obscene amounts of political campaign spending.) To attempt putting that number into context, let’s whittle it down into something relatable. Let’s say your income is $80,000 per year. It’ll take you 2,125,000 years to pull in 170 billion. No, that’s not a misprint—over two million years. (If one of the first homo sapiens to walk the face of the earth were still alive today, that person would have earned less than a 10th the amount.) Ya know, that’s still hard to wrap my head around. Try this one. You could buy 915 Boeing 767-300ER jetliners, then fly a new one every week for the next 17 years and 7 months. (Use campaign spending to pay for the fuel, airport fees and flight crew.) Wildly extravagant and still a little hard to fathom. Try another. The 65 million people in the US who earn less than $34k a year (that’s half of the working population) could have a $2600 per year pay raise each. Not such a big raise unless you’re at minimum wage, then it amounts to better than a 15% increase. (Think of the effect that would have on Main Street’s economy.) Or you can look at it this way, if instead of advertisers supporting TV/radio, cable/satellite, magazines/newspapers, internet services, podcasts, etc., you were to pay directly for only the programs you watch, articles you read, music you hear, then the average cost to each adult would be less than $700 per year, or less than $60 per month, less than some people’s monthly cable bill.
Imagine the fantasy world of advertising vaporized. Imagine a real world free of interruptions, pop-ups, billboards, and the mountains of other annoying, wasteful visual detritus. A world without the mental pollution of advertising. A world where we each pay for the media we consume and get what we pay for.
And this leads me to Honestly! part two : The Demon-Haunted World.
In the meantime, check out these links.
I’m not the only one driven crazy by ad pollution, fortunately you can click on the Reader button : [Ads Are Polluting Our World: How Advertising Trashes Our Planet and Our Brains]
A lighter view of the problem : [Ad pollution and the fall of civilization]
São Paulo, Brazil bans : [Visual Pollution]
A website dedicated to : [Brandalism]
And more : [Why Brandalism]
And a film : [This Space Available]
For another take on ad pollution, and a perfect example of an unreadable webpage were it not for the Reader button : [Ad Pollution]
Related topic : [Let Them Eat Growth]