I’ve written more than a few times about not having a Tee Vee. Bla, bla, bla; I’ll spare my readers the “I don’t have a Tee Vee” shtick except to say that I’ve become quite sensitized to the dramatic pageantry which is television. I am not unsympathetic to the way in which the medium draws in and mesmerizes its victims, I mean viewers. I was once like you.
I do, however, listen to the radio. Sound engages listeners in a different way than sight. This difference doesn’t make one immune to the deception of advertising and I’ve gotten into the habit of saying the following sentences out loud when I hear a radio commercial which sounds false or misleading:
“Is that really true?”
“Who paid for that commercial?”
I don’t always know the answer to my first question, but I always know the answer to my second question. The “Salesman” paid for the commercial and they want to sell me something. Sometimes it’s a product. Sometimes it’s an idea or a feeling. Persuasion and fantasy are involved.
The other day, I heard a commercial for a veteran’s organization. I don’t remember the name of the organization, but the actor reading the script for this non-profit kept referring to “war” as “conflict.” That’s a perfectly lovely and innocuous word for death, violence, and mutilation. William Tecumseh Sherman, famous for his “scorched earth” policy towards the Confederacy at the end of the Civil War is alleged to have said “War is Hell.” If war is hell, then it might also be repugnant. But if it is repugnant, will donors part with dollars to support its perpetuation?
So there is a “newspeak” of war being referred to as conflict. Is it true that war is really just conflict with guns and drones? Who paid for that commercial?
The language of The Salesman is creative and crafty, whether it is about war, peace, or banking. I got an application for an American Express “Gold” card. A “free” card for a year. OK, so next year, they will charge me $175. No problem. Skimming the brochure, I noted that as a member, I will “live gloriously” and “the sky is not the limit.” Did I miss the section of the brochure which explained that one of the rewards of membership is a free trip to Mars? Is it true I will live gloriously? Who will pay for it?
Finally, yesterday’s “public service announcement” told me how to greenly recycle my electronic gadgets. The commercial boldly ended with the happy exclamation that it is “as easy to recycle your electronics as it is to buy them.”
Buying and selling. And selling. It’s the job of The Salesman to brighten the darkness with happy thoughts of more, more, more.
A paraphrase keeps running through my mind as I think of the difficulties of discerning truth in the midst of such smooth and seductive words. Your enemy, The Salesman, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for wallets to devour.
I’m being an awful cynic now, aren’t I?
Do you remember Stan Ridgeway (from Wall of Voodoo) and his song, “Salesman”? Whenever I think of “the salesman,” I think of this tune.
A few lyrics:
Now, I’ve been travelin’ long and hard
And all over this big land
And I got something here in my bag for every woman and man
And nowhere is too far ’cause I cover a pretty wide base
From way down South to way up North
I’ll shake hands with any friendly face
Why don’t you sell me something?
Why don’t you sell me something
Now I got a box in hand
Aand I’m gonna travel that land
I’m a salesman for hire
And I never get tired
So just plug it in and it’ll work
Don’t worry about it breakin’
It’s factory made and guaranteed, and we’re not fakin’
When you have an economy based upon hustling, in order to make it in that economy, you have to embrace the hustle to varying degrees.
Stan Ridgeway’s voice is perfect for those lyrics.
Indeed, do the hustle.
War is A Racket, wrote Gen Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in the history of the USMC. A short book well worth reading.
Butler, you might say, is the antidote to the salesmen of “conflict.”
No one but Butler ever mentions who gets to pay.