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Moment of Truth: A Certain Reckoning

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I avoid advertisements as much as possible. I’ve avoided them like the plague, which has been good practice for the plague. I’ve missed all the commercials my friends are in because of that avoidance. When I listen to podcasts I scrub past pitches for absolutely anything. But Hulu makes you sit through the ads. I mute them, but sometimes I’m not quick enough. Thus, many’s the time I’ve heard, “At so-and-so, we believe—” Every company pulls this crap at some point, no matter how non-sensical it is. “At White Claw, we believe –” there is no “at.” You’re a beverage. And you don’t believe in anything but making money. “At Clear Blue, we believe –” What do mean, “at Clear Blue?” You’re a stick women pee on to see if they’re pregnant! You’re not a place. There’s no brick-and-mortar house of pee sticks. And what can you possibly believe? “At pee stick we believe in the pH level of urine.” You believe in selling pee sticks. You don’t have any other beliefs, because you aren’t human, regardless of what the Supreme Court has said in the past. You are an agreement to peddle pee-activated color-changing material housed in plastic for the profit of your owners and part-owners. You are a legal construction designed to be a financial instrument. That’s all you’ll ever be. Give up your stupid dreams of being a real boy, Pinocchio, it’s not going to happen.

I’ve gone off before about advertising. Commercial advertising. How it’s a waste of education dollars. Because that’s what it is, bad, poisonous education. A commercial is a 15 to 60 second lesson on acquisitiveness and shallow values. It’s school for consumers, and most of it is either outright lies, id-tapping fantasies, or dramas meant to communicate insecurity. Sometimes I’ll catch a radio ad out of the corner of my ear, and something they say, some made-up statistic, reassures me about the future, then suddenly I’ll realize what’s happened, what I’ve bought into, and out of shame at being such a gullible sucker I want to stab myself in the brain.

The amount of money spent on advertising is hard to get a grip on. There are figures that represent ad purchases, but the limits of an ad purchase are murky. Is it the money a company pays for advertising space? Is it the money a company spends paying the ad company to make the ad? Is it a combination of the two? Figures range from $214 billion to $512 billion “spent on advertising,” all the way up to the astronomical figure of $3.4 trillion dollars that “advertising contributed to the US GDP in 2014” – from a study released by a consortium of advertisers in 2015, a group determined to prove how important it was for the government not to tax advertising:

“Advertising contributed $3.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2014, comprising 19 percent of the nation’s total economic output.” So, about 1/5 of our economy is tied up in this monstrous school of lies? Okay, I can live with that.

“Each dollar spent on advertising expenses generates nearly $19 of economic output that would not have otherwise existed.” How would that work? I’ve heard this idea of dollars generating other dollars before, but to me it always sounds like some kind of unholy alchemy.

“I’ll explain: In 2014, advertising accounted for $5.8 trillion in overall consumer sales, totaling 16 percent of all sales activity in the U.S., and supported 20 million, or 14 percent, of the 142 million jobs in the U.S. in 2014.” Wait, there’s only 142 million jobs in a nation of 350 million people? I know some are too old, or young, or imprisoned, or otherwise job-incompatible to work, but, like, more than half the population out of work? Okay, maybe. But I think we’re short a few jobs. I wonder if that’s a feature or a bug of capitalism?

“Every $1 million spent on annual advertising expenses supports 67 American jobs.” – Hey, that’s roughly an average of $15,000 per job. Not a very high take-home for the worker, and remember that some workers are taking home much more than the average, meaning most workers are taking home much less than the average.

“Every direct advertising job supported another 34 jobs across all industries.” Wait, really? That has got to be an extremely loose definition of “supported.” How does someone making less than $15,000 support themselves, much less the employment of anyone else? 34 people? Did anyone check these figures? What does this advertising worker buy, used coffee grounds from street urchins living in cardboard boxes?

So, not only do advertisers lie to us, they lie to themselves and the government. And the lies are everywhere. Yelp reviews are advertisements, and in addition to the reviews provided for free by us idiots, people get paid to write reviews. Yeah, some reviews are fake. There are tens of thousands of people writing good reviews on Yelp and Google for money. And, since that’s true, why wouldn’t some people take money to write articles praising ballot propositions, like Prop 22, that might have a damaging effect on the prospects of eventually forcing corporations to actually treat their workers relatively decently.

The USA has become like a dodgy carnival in London in the 1800s, where everywhere you looked were touts angling for your shillings and quid, or whatever, trying to pry your farthings from your fist, while everywhere lurked pickpockets and cutpurses of every stripe employing every possible strategy of guile. If, at the end of a day and a night of taking in the freak shows, fraudulent spiritual and scientific demonstrations, and eating lard pies laced with chunks of barbershop patrons, you ended up alive, albeit robbed of all your clothing, recovering from a surreptitious poisoning by a cunning boy who seduced you disguised as a girl, or vice-versa, who’s left you naked and missing a hand, an eye, and all your teeth, being picked at by geese at dawn in the fecal muck of the Thames at low tide, well, you considered yourself damn lucky, Sunshine.

Oh, we’re headed for a reckoning. This species is headed for a reckoning. This civilization is headed for a reckoning. And these professional liars, and teachers of the art of lying, indoctrinators into the church and army and bureaucracy of lying, oh, are they headed for a reckoning.

“Here at Home Depot,” they say to me in their sirens’ singsong tones, “we believe that a good stabbing in the brain is the best way to free yourself from this multi-dimensional web of lies whose fibers wrap themselves around the Earth a thousand times before they penetrate your flesh and weave themselves into your nervous and limbic systems. Stabbing yourself in the brain is liberation! It’s a vacation! You owe it to yourself to stab yourself in the brain, and not with any old ice pick, with a DeWalt high-tensile carbon steal ice pick, now on sale! Buy a dozen for Christmas, they make great stocking stuffers!”

Imagine that. Imagine me, a lowly gig worker, on vacation. “Here at Postmates, we believe that every day should be a vacation. Not a paid vacation, just a vacation where you drive around the neighborhood, seeing the sights and picking up and delivering food for your friends.”

That reckoning’s a-coming. And a stabby reckoning it will be, Sunshine. Have a jabby, stabby reckoning, during this year’s militia-enforced Christian season of lies. May your rulers be archaic and scabby, and may all your reckonings be stabby.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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