by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
December 1, 2005
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- 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? President George W. Bush and Vice President 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 writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.