Newmann: What you don’t hear in the ads
We live in an electronic information age where, ironically, much of the information does not really inform.
One self-proclaimed cornerstone of information, television news, often comes at a rapid-fire pace, is prone to change just as quickly as it appears and can often leave us bewildered (and utterly confused, as in “But I thought they just said half an hour ago that A was B and now they’re calling it C”).
There’s generally very little time to process, to digest, what you’ve just heard — and then to actually ponder it — before the next big thing comes at you. And that next big thing could contradict the first big thing — or even go off on a tangent about another new next big thing. Meanwhile, dare you to even try to remember what the first big thing was all about.
Adding to the confusion are the networks that play to partisanship. If you switch between all these purveyors of information, you might think you’re living in a separate universe with each push of the channel button. The truth of one can be the falsehood of another. Constructive dialogue often takes a backseat to rants. So much for informing. Fortunately, you can find some sort of middle, or even rational, ground watching your kids’ cartoon network.
Information is also proffered in the ubiquitous commercials, the ones that show you that you’ll get everything you ever wanted in life if you just use the advertised product. The detergent that leaves your whites “really white” is an example. I can live quite happily without my whites being “really white.” They already are white and, besides, “really white” sounds more like paint color. They’ll probably continue to stay white if I just remember not to put them in with the non-whites.
Some of the most plentiful forms of information come in medical commercials. These generally promise a cure for all your ills — or at least some of them. Happy people are out walking, biking, dining or playing with the grandkids because they’ve used the product and found relief. Many of these products no doubt work … and do provide relief.
But try listening, at the end, to the disclaimers that detail the side effects. Try is the operative word because the narrator starts speaking more rapidly than the best auctioneer. “Side effects could include a swollen nose, breath like a skunk, a new ear in your forehead, severe diarrhea, vomiting, night blindness — and death.”
The minute I hear the word death, I change the channel. At least these disclaimers give you some information about all the nasty stuff that can happen (provided you can keep up with the staccato narrative). As for the merits of the products … maybe your doctor has a bit more objective info (if he’s even heard of them).
As we are now moving into the height of the political season (deck the halls), it would be remiss not to mention the wonderfully informative political ads. Here is intellect at its best … all the smears (“This guy is a crook, stole money from orphans, beats puppies and even his mother doesn’t like him. How can you trust a anyone like this to represent you?”); all the promises (“When I get to Washington, I’ll weed out corruption in the Supreme Court, set up 12 charities for vagrant cats and make sure all Americans get free use of sidewalks”).
The disclaimers on these ads are nowhere near as genuine as the drug ads. They simply say something like, “I’m Hugo Paltroon. And I approve this ad.” Unfortunately, by approving such inane ads, Hugo shows he’s really not fit to go to Washington … or even to Newark.
One of the most interesting aspects of these ads is that, between mud-slinging sessions, the candidates might actually tell you what they’re going to do if elected. But, and here’s the rub, they generally don’t give you the pertinent information: exactly HOW they’re going to get it done.
On Capitol Hill, the machinations for any change are ponderous at best. They’re certainly not geared toward a quick fix. Or, in many cases, toward any fix at all. So one can promise the earth, the moon and the stars. And, at the end of the day, still just be in the same swamp.
Tom Newmann is a ski instructor at Beaver Creek and at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand, who has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at email@example.com.