American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
October 31, 2006
LIVING HAPPILY EVER AFTER IS FOR FAIRY TALES
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Once upon a time there were newspaper ads and shiny magazine pictures telling readers there were ways to improve their health and well-being, and for a small investment (the purchase price) problems would be solved. Prior to the printed page, "snake oil" salesmen worked from the back of a wagon verbally seducing listening customers into buying a pint of their magic elixir - 40-percent alcohol not listed in the ingredients.
I never thought I'd wish to go back to letters addressed to Occupant - you know, mail I could tear in half right at the mailbox and toss into the trash can at the side of the house. Publishers Clearing House did get me, I'll admit. Well, somebody has to win!
Electronic mail is different. It arrives directly into my computer, the screen is 12 inches away from my face, hitting me right between the eyes with unbelievable offers, truly invading my sense of propriety.
I can't tear it in half but I can delete it and it's gone. Poof! All gone. But not forever. Just hitting the delete key allows "someone" to know a living person is hitting that key. There's a potential customer, perhaps a na´ve little old lady in Dubuque - long the target of advertisers and con artists.
Other than deleting, it's possible to block the sender. But the sender tries to trick me by appearing to be a friend - surely I would open a letter from a friend - but I don't fall for the old "wolf in sheep's clothing" and I thwart their efforts. An e-mail letter will come from "Marsha" with the subject line "Hi, Constance, it's me." A slow smile crosses my face as I say: "Gotcha." I do not know any Marsha and nobody calls me Constance. Poof!
Is the problem really as great as I suggest? Yes. It's exactly like the days when a charming salesman got his foot in the door. Try as you might to close the door on his size 11 boot, you are stuck listening to his pitch about aluminum siding. The cyber salesmen act just as charming by suggesting that if you wish to be removed from their mailing list, just fill in your name and address and they will comply with your request. If you fall for this, then they can say "gotcha."
There is nothing new about manufacturers creating needs in potential customers by inferring they'd better do something about that "problem" that could be noticeable to someone else. For example, no one ever heard of B.O. until Lifebuoy soap suggested body odor may be the reason someone has no friends, or isn't invited to parties. The illustrations showed a sad and lonely person looking quizzically at the camera. The problem with Lifebuoy was that the orange-colored, octagon shaped, bar of soap smelled so foul that one sniff and other party goers wondered if he must think he has B.O. or why would he be using it?
That same quizzical face was used in aspirin ads, showing the person holding a hand to her forehead wishing for relief from her headache. Dandruff had so many products, shampoos and cures on the market to rid the user of flakes on their shoulders that dark suits and dresses went out of fashion
Not only do these product representatives incur my wrath I also resent the mortgage hucksters who want to reduce what I pay monthly at my address, which they use in their marketing ploy, adding "regardless of my credit rating," suggesting I may have a problem. My name, address, credit rating, and the like are all my own and not to be suggested as public knowledge. How dare they? Television ads are aimed at a market and I just might fit the profile, but computer advertising is too personal and I don't like it.
I should have warned "don't get me started" as I began these reasons for being furious before I even have a cup of coffee each morning. But, while I'm at it, let me say that the political ads are really nothing new, as bad as they seem to be. They are so overly produced by "handlers" that you can't judge the candidates by the messages. We have always had political party planners so eager to end up on the winning side that they stop at nothing to reach their goal. "Crooked politicians" was an oxymoron long before my first vote.
In earlier years, fraud was evidenced by the number of dead people's names appearing on the lists of registered voters - as voting. In the neighborhood, it wasn't even considered scandalous. They'd laugh and murmur "tsk, tsk" with a wink-wink. The men behind the man in those days were just shrewd in-the-know fellows and party favorites meeting in smoke-filled rooms. They weren't today's young political science majors with M.A.s in Communication who skipped claas the day they taught that truth and believability were the viable way to win elections, not lies added to more lied in a smear campaign.
It took me 40 years to learn tobacco companies actually touted the benefits of smoking as part of a life to be lived happily ever after. And yet, almost from the beginning, the detriments of smoking, both to health and society, far outweighed the benefits suggested. Those suggestions came in the form of beautiful people having fun, fun, fun, laughing and showing gleaming white teeth as they shared "special moments" with friends and lovers.
We continue to be attacked through the blitz of electronic mail offering us "the good life," whether with personal enhancement, financial security, or a mating game to match me with that one special person - without regard for the one I already have at home - and cheap pharmaceuticals from Canada or Panama. Except for the pharmaceuticals, which by law must reveal all the terrifying side-effects, the electronic overload is equipped to convince us the rest of our days will be fun-filled and secure. The stories beginning "Once upon a time" and ending with "and they lived happily ever after" were merely glimpses at the potential, not a promise. Living in vistas of sylvan charm were part of that dream, too, but now if we look closely behind that little electronic mailbox, we'll see the shadow of the big bad wolf who gobbled up Red Riding Hood's grandma. "Oh, Grandma, what big lies you have." "The better to fool you, my dear."