Writing about lies on television may be like shooting fish in a barrel,
but after the giant M&M attack on Thanksgiving Day, I can't resist.
I've been collecting lies on television for some time now. My theory is that
Americans are so inured to being lied to on television that the big, important
lies they're fed, like "I'm a uniter, not a divider," "Iraq has
weapons of mass destruction," "Mission accomplished" and "We
do not torture," no longer makes any dent in their consciousness.
Advertising claims serve the same function as body blows in boxing,
which soften up the fighter before the uppercut to the head puts him out. Television
lies train people so that in the end, they will accept almost any kind of propaganda
from our incompetent and ill-intentioned government.
Here's a recent example. Television is full of commercials that try to sell
us antibacterial soaps by warning us about the dangerous germs in the air, on
our hands, in our food, on the kitchen drainboard. Yet just a few weeks ago,
the Food and Drug Administration reported that popular antibacterial soaps and
washes offer no more protection than regular soap and water. The FDA told soap
companies to prove their claims before they advertise them on television - as
if they ever would.
Or, an announcer blasts out, "America's favorite hero is back!" Well,
you might think, Colin Powell is finally denouncing the Bush administration,
as did his chief of staff a few months ago. Well, you might think wrong. It's
Chuck Norris, of all people. Remember him?
Or, you'll hear over and over again, "It's the ultimate showdown!"
Do they mean special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald vs. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney?
Nope, they mean, "'Medium' versus medium."
Drug company commercials are always a favorite, because they're stuck by law
with having to be honest; they have to list potential side effects. Who can
forget the hilarity of "If erection persists for more than 24 hours, call
your doctor." Recently, we've been seeing a lot of that luminescent floating
butterfly Lunesta, a non-narcotic sleep aid. We all need a sleeping aid now
and then, and Lunesta might be a great product. But how effective can it be
if we might end up with a headache, an unpleasant taste in our mouths, dizziness,
nausea or withdrawal symptoms? Pleasant dreams!
Then there was, "You've waited! You've dreamed! Now it's finally here!"
Universal health care? George W. Bush and Dick Cheney indicted for crimes against
humanity? Nope, it's endless shrimp at Red Lobster, fool.
And damn, don't those Target commercials look fine? In terms of design, they
rock. "Making amazing design accessible," they say. What bewilders
me is why a store which sells merchandise one step up from the tackiness of
Wal-Mart tries so hard to attract up-scale shoppers who will inevitably be disappointed.
I'm speaking from person experience here.
Recently, I wanted to buy two wicker file cabinets for my office. On-line,
Target had the cheapest ones. The closest Target was in Hadley, Mass., so I
took the precaution of calling first to make sure they had the file cabinets
in stock. After being disconnected two or three times and then being put on
almost-eternal hold, I was assured that the store had them and would hold two
for me. When I got there, I was handed two tiny wicker jewelry cases. I felt
like I was reliving the Stonehenge scene from "This is Spinal Tap."
By the way, you can't lose weight by eating chocolate and pre-packaged lasagna,
either. The truth is, there is no truth on television.
So what about the giant M&M? If you were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving
Day parade on NBC, you would never have known that a giant M&M balloon ran
amok in Times Square, knocked a 30-pound street lamp fixture into the crowd,
and hurt two young girls. One of the parade's narrators was Katie Couric, whom,
we're hearing, despite her not having a shred of credibility, could be the next
anchor of CBS Nightly News.
According to The New York Times, when it became time for the M&Ms' appearance,
"NBC weaved in tape of the balloon crossing the finish line at last year's
parade - even as the damaged balloon itself was being dragged from the accident
scene. At 11:47 a.m., as an 11-year-old girl and her 26-year-old sister were
being treated for injuries, the parade's on-air announcers - Katie Couric, Matt
Lauer and Al Roker - kept up their light-hearted repartee from Herald Square,
where the parade ends."
Wake up, America. The answer is simple. It's diet, exercise and a quick impeachment
trial. Trust me on that.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont
and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. She can be reached