Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hold your nose & vote Democratic if you want our elected officials to work for the 99%

By Marc Jampole 

Today’s the day for my annual Vote Straight Democrat essay. These past few years it seems to be an exercise in futility in every other area than social issues, as many Democrats are almost as right-wing as the Republicans on economic and foreign affairs issues, further to the right than the Eisenhower administration.

Most Democrats were once true progressives, which makes it doubly frustrating. The urge to stay home rather than vote for an Allison Lundergan Grimes or an Andrew Cuomo is strong.

But there are only two ways to influence elected officials, because those are only two things they want: votes and money. Correction—they want money and need votes. Unless you’re willing to cough up a few thousand—or a few hundred thousand—bucks, all you can offer a politician is your vote.

Votes don’t speak as loudly as money because you only have one vote and you can give many, many, many dollars. But the collective votes of demographic groups can speak loudly and clearly to the candidates.

Nothing short of an enlightened dictatorship will magically transform the United States overnight into a land in which all people get adequate health care, education and retirement as part of the social contract, there is an equitable distribution of wealth and income and we have secured our future as a species by slowing down man-made global warming and resource shortages. 

In our system of government, movement in a new direction, or back into old and successful direction, comes slowly. We have to keep pushing, just like the 1%, social conservatives and gun manufacturers have kept pushing over the past 35 years, gradually increasing inequality, limiting the right to an abortion, weakening unions, lowering taxes on the wealthy, attacking any scientific theory that doesn’t support their views and making it easier to carry guns in the street and get away with shooting people in cold blood for flimsy excuses.

To turn back the tide may take as long as or longer than it took for the right-wing waters to gather and flood our country. The first step is for progressives to show our power, which we can’t do if we don’t vote, since we 99% don’t have the same ability as the 1% do to feed money to the candidates and parties. Until minorities, young people and the poor establish a track record of voting, Democrats will continue to ignore our pressing needs, make compromises with the right wing and pursue militarism and 21st century imperialism abroad.  

Right now the best reason to vote Democratic is that the other side is so much worse. Let’s call it “voting on the Gore,” as we now know that progressives who voted for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore for president in 2000 are in a large part responsible for the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, the torture gulag, the disastrous federal tax cuts for the wealthy, racking up major debt and then paying for it by cutting funds for education, the poor and our infrastructure, the embedding of the religious right in key government posts, the curtailment of civil rights in the name of security—and, as it turns out, possibly the 9/11 bombings through deliberate ignoring of many warnings signs.

Today we have to vote, and vote on the Gore. But if we can swing the Senate for the Democrats, erode the Republican majority in the House and start to hand governorships and state legislatures back to the Democrats, we will be in a position in 2016 to move the party left—to insist on more progressive candidates, and to maybe get Elizabeth Warren, Bill De Blasio or some other progressive on the national ticket.

But if we stay home this year, the Democrats will once again treat 2016 as if it were Halloween and dress up as a bunch of right-looking centrists. And I’ll be back again telling everyone to hold their noses and vote straight Democratic. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kellogg’s adds to infantilization of American adults with Fruit Loops TV spot

By Marc Jampole 

It’s Saturday night. The kids are in bed and their early-thirties parents are finally alone.  She slips into a negligee while he opens a bottle of wine. She turns off the lights and waits for him on the sofa by the soft flickering light of a few candles. He programs some smooth jazz into the stereo, then sits down beside her. He tells her how beautiful she is.

Sounds like a great way to spend an evening without the kids, doesn’t it?

But not if you’re in a TV commercial for Fruit Loops, a Kellogg’s dry cereal with toxic contents: sugar is the first ingredient and you won’t find a single fruit or fruit product anywhere in the list of ingredients on the side of the box.

The commercial starts with an attractively plain-looking man and woman pouncing onto a plushy sofa, both with smiles as large as a half moon now that the kids are asleep and they are alone. But instead of getting amorous, she frenetically grabs a joy stick and starts playing a video game on the flat screen, while he excitedly spoon feeds her Fruit Loops from a large bowl which may or may not contain milk. They are completely into it, but not in a sexual way, but gleeful, like children at an amusement park having fun.

They do what boys and girls of all sexual proclivities do before they discover sex.

Kellogg’s is obviously targeting adults, but in doing so, they offer not an adult pleasure, but a retreat to a pre-sexual childhood. Contrast with the TV spot for Post’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch of a few years back that equated eating the cereal to scratching a dog’s belly, suggesting it was the highest of sensual pleasures. 

Kellogg’s is only one of many advertisers who infantilize adults or present a juvenile world as the ideal for adults.  Advertisers want adults to behave like children because it makes them better consumers. Children are more self-centered and find it harder to think long-term, so they are more likely to make an impulse purchase for themselves. Children have less sophisticated thought processes and are therefore easier to convince to buy or believe something. Children have not had rigorous training in economics, the scientific method and logic, all part of the core curriculum of any high school. Children tend to believe anything an authority figures says.

But as OpEdge has demonstrated in several columns, advertisers are not alone in supporting the infantilization of American adults. Year after year, the movie industry turns out movies about adults remaining children, behaving like children or returning to childhood. The “Harold & Kumar” movies,  “Old School,”  “Big,”  “Grandma’s Boy,”  “Ted,”  “The Wedding Crashers,”  “Billy Madison,”  “You, Me and Dupree,”  “Dodgeball,”  “”Step Brothers,”  “The 40-year-old Virgin,”  “Knocked Up,”  all three “Hangovers,”  the “Jackass” movies, “Bridesmaids,”  “Hall Pass”  and “Identity Thief” --these infantilizing movies dominate the playlists of the dominant cable networks. Marketers from the American Museum of Natural History to amusement parks are packaging childhood experiences for adults, as are makers of products for children such as LEGO and My Little Pony, who see a market in adult followers.

The 2006 satirical film, “Idiocracy,” depicts a future world in which humans have become stupid and illogical, basing most of their knowledge on what television commercials tell them. Thus they water their crops with Brawndo, a Gatorade like liquid they believe is good for everyone and everything because ads tell them “it has electrolytes.”  Of course the crops fail.

When I see commercials like the one for Fruit Loops and movies like “Ted,” I wonder how far off we are from the world of “Idiocracy.”  It wouldn’t be the first time that the educational levels and cultural sophistication has declined for a period of time. Think of the decline of knowledge and literacy in Western Europe after the death of Charlemagne.  

It’s more than just the infantilization of adults in the mass media and mass entertainments that troubles me. There’s the virulent reaction of the religious right and their political factotums to scientific knowledge. There are the attempts by state school boards to sneak fake theories and false notions into curricula. There’s the retreat from modernism in poetry and other art forms.  There’s the almost plague-like spread of celebrity culture stealing more and more news media space and time from real news and the discussion of issues.

Many signs point to a new dark age of ignorance falling upon the United States.