Another blog full of short takes, beginning with a political cartoon I saw a few weeks back that gratuitously communicated a “big lie” through conflation, which is when someone equates two things that aren’t comparable, like comparing Bush II’s national guard record to John Kerry’s Viet Nam combat experience.
The cartoon, by Steve Breen, depicts the similar reactions to the news in 1945 announcing the European armistice and in 2010 announcing the end of the combat mission in Iraq. Both hear the same news, in 1945 from the radio, in 2010 from the TV: “After thousands of troops lost their lives and billions of dollars spent, combat ops are over in….” For 1945, it ends with “…in Europe…” and in 2010 it ends with “…in Iraq…” The pudgy middle aged guy listening to the radio in 1945 rejoices, while his 2010 alter ego sits with the expressionless expression of the shell-shocked.
Let’s forget that there is a certain duplicity about Obama “marking the end of combat” when 50,000 troops and another 80,000 mercenaries remain in a country involved in “non-combat” operations.
Let’s focus instead on the manipulative conflation of deaths between World War II and Iraq, saying both were in the “thousands.” I can’t tell if Breen was in favor of or against the war in Iraq—you could read it both ways. But either way, to compare the dead in these two wars shows a poor understanding of history. The United States suffered about 416,800 military deaths in World War II, compared to 4,421 during the conflict in Iraq (or at least so far). And remember that we currently have about 2.5 times the population than we had during World War II. Whatever Breen was trying to say, he magnified the impact of the Iraq War on the population. About the money, though, he did get it right on the money. Paying for the unnecessary and ill-managed Iraq War is bleeding the country financially and will continue to do so for years.
Now turning to one of my favorite subjects, Wal-Mart’s marketing campaigns: I’ve been following Wal-Mart’s recent series of lifestyle commercials, which follow years of the mass market retailer focusing TV ads exclusively on prices. One thing that’s been hard to miss in these ads is the lack of men: be it celebrating Christmas or doing back-to-school shopping, men are nowhere to be seen in Wal-Mart’s portrayals of the life of families.
Now finally, Wal-Mart has put a man into a TV spot about how it helps families pursue their lifestyle. No, he doesn’t shop, but he’s right there on the couch watching football with the kids while munching on all the goodies mom bought at Wal-Mart. And true to the real world as Wal-Mart always is in these commercials, dad is carrying a big load around his middle.
FYI, the week before the start of the NFL season the airwaves were saturated with commercials for food products that are traditional game-time munch foods, like grilling sausages, chips, beer and both frozen and delivery pizza.
Finally, in case you had the idea that Parade was the only celebrity-obsessed general interest magazine, check out the latest issue of AARP, the slick bimonthly magazine published by the American Association of Retired People for those over 50, or contemplating being over 50 one day. From the photo of actor Dennis Quaid on the cover to the very last page, AARP is obsessed with celebrity. The issue does contain AARP’s usual tip-focused articles on personal finance, travel, mental and physical health and retirement living. But as much as possible, it covers TV and movie personalities: Jane Pauley on finding hidden strengths; Quaid’s campaign to improve hospital safety; Lady Gaga, Pink and 6 other young celebrities who dye their hair gray.
The focus on cheap celebrity as opposed to the real accomplishments of politicians, writers, inventors, business people, scientists, teachers, researchers and explorers (yes, they still exist!) is always best seen in round-up columns in which a group of people are asked something or the same fact is revealed about each, e.g., where they all went to college.
In the case of AARP, it’s the regular feature on the very last page in which AARP tells us what prominent people turn 50, 60, 70 (and sometimes 80) this month. For the most recent issue, AARP features seven people, as follows: turning 50 – Hugh Grant, Damon Wayans and Colin Firth; turning 60 – Fred Flintstone, Joan Lunden and Bill Murray; and turning 70 – Raquel Welch.
We have 5 actors, 1 news personality and a fictional cartoon character. As the Latin used to say, “res ipso loquitor,” which means it’s a thing that speaks for itself.