Say Something Meaningful

1944 new yorkers

I don’t expect all advertisements to be truthful or even transparent – no ma’am. I am not easily fooled by animated cars that are made of skin, reflect the landscape, chase down wildcats, and fold into my pocket. Fooled – never; enchanted – absolutely. Jeanne Randolph in Ethics of Luxury: Materialism and Imagination points out smartly that in advertising, “reasoning is assailed by unique rhetorical charms: Cherry, Strawberry, Grape. Three reasons to buy Froot-Loops” (pp 9 – 10).

But who does the MTA think they are kidding? 1,944 people saw something and said something, meaning 1,944 incidents – some percentage of which were non-incidents – were reported and processed and counted. It’s reassuring that there are people watching out for us, or at least themselves, here in the Big Apple. But cradled in this false assurance are only more questions – how many saw and said something the year before this snitch campaign urged commuters to remain ever vigilant? Did any of those sightings and sayings avert disaster, or do we simply have a tiny army (1,944 is not that many in this city) of slightly paranoid individuals who reported suspiciously abandoned plastic bags and soda cans to the already harassed MTA workers? [An asside: I assume they are harassed since they are so nearly impossible to locate when I am lost and need answers to why the L, G, and 7 trains are simultaneously not running, and how I can get home from my stranded position. Far be it from me to criticize the MTA - I know their employees are very hard at work strategically posting informative signs about transit changes in the most clever hiding spots.]

“If you have nothing useful to say, say nothing at all!” – That’s my proposal for next year’s campaign.

Speaking of advertisements, I am mesmerized by the animated ads for the current roster of anxiety drugs – the animations are so inert and relaxing as to lull me into a dreamy state where I do not hear the speedily spoken list of side-effects including death, stroke, and heart attack. I feel the drugged sleep of poppies coming on, à la Dorothy en route to Emerald City. I feel myself slowly curling up on the train tracks with a speeding train hurtling towards me – i’m…just…so….sleepy……
sometimes it is all I can do to change the channel before I start to drool and mumble incoherently.

Artist Justine Cooper, whom I blogged about before, has a great piece called Havidol which is itself an ad campaign for a fictional drug using the methodology, language, and gentle imagery favoured by the pharmaceutical industry. Also check out this group who wants to end such pseudo-educational drug campaigns.

One Response to “Say Something Meaningful”

  1. admin Says:

    Related article found in The New York Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/07/nyregion/07see.html

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