Jeremy Chiaroscuro Explains Advertising
I wanted to ask Mr. Chiaroscuro about some of the tricks he had used to propel faceless nonentities into the Senate and up to the White House.
"Jerry, just Jerry. That's what everybody calls me."
"Then, what do your friends call you?"
"Please don't make me laugh, it causes wrinkles, which are bad for my career on the VoxP news network."
I'd seen him several times on television, praising his clients to the skies and lauding their morals and statesmanship and condemning the fiends and scoundrels in the other party, but I'd also heard that away from the cameras, he and James Carville had high old times.
"All right, Jerry, then. You've been remarkably successful in spinning flax into gold. Didn't you get Paul Ryan elected and you the one who succeeded in passing him off as some kind of conservative? Can you tell me where these techniques came from, how you learned them—or are they rather the reflexes of shark that smells blood?"
Chiaroscuro acted as if he hadn’t heard me; perhaps he hadn’t. A cigarette in his mouth, remote control in one hand, and a small Perrier bottle in the other, he fixed his gaze on the TV screen.
“Look at this. Whaddaya see?”
“It’s just a commercial,” I replied absentmindedly, “for a middle-priced car.”
“Just a commercial. Even a guy who studies French lit must have heard that TV programs are the stuff inserted between commercials. What is this commercial saying?”
“I suppose it says buy this car, because it is fast and good-looking and takes you nice places. What else?”
“The car doesn’t matter. It’s an American car made by affirmative action workers who pay dues to the Mafia. Everyone knows it’s crap…”
I tried to interrupt, but he cut me off.
“Advertising is never about the product. Notice, for example,” he explained in a condescending tone, “notice how in the beginning the guy is in a suit, obviously a worried businessman. He’s alone. But when he gets in the car he has taken off his tie and there’s a girl beside him and what a girl. Not just a bimbo, but the kind of girl you’d want to marry—this car goes for 57-9 without extras and the guys on the line could never afford it. No, this car is for accountants who think they've got ideas and 35-40 year old execs looking for the right kind of woman. Buy this and you buy a new life. All they really get is debt, but in their minds they're Brad Pitt.”
“Yes, I understand. Sex sells.”
“Sure,” he said, “sex sells but so do fear, greed, gluttony, envy, and hate.”
He clicked the remote on we saw a commercial for “silver” vitamins.
“See that, these 60-somethings still have it. They’re going to the beach to make out, but better than that they’re cheating death. If they can just stretch out their lousy lives long, enough, the scientists will come up with a cure for death. Won’t that be dandy!”
“I know why I think it’s a bad idea, but why do you?”
“Start with the obvious. Who’s going to pay for their Social Security? The government’s gone f-ing crazy, putting those warnings on cigarette packs. People gotta die some day, and a few months after retirement is the perfect age.”
“Why did they do it, then? Are they reallly that crazy?”
“Nah. I’m not talking about the Greenies and whack-jobs, but think about it. Who makes the most money out of cigarettes?”
“The tobacco companies?”
“You’re an idiot. It’s the state governments. They get more in taxes without doing anything.”
“Then why the warnings?”
“First it makes them look good, you know, compassionate. But more to the point, it justifies their outrageously high taxes. It’s not tyrannical, it’s for the public good. It’s for the children. You don’t want the little darlings smoking, do you? Tobacco kills, but weed is good for you, right? Weed and adderall and zoloft and purple drank--they're no problem."
"Are you opposed to prescription anti-depressants?"
"Me? Hell no. I own stock in several drug companies. What people do with them is none of my business. I am interested in the hidden contradictions. I make my money by understanding and exploiting hypocrisy. Believe me, I understand what's going on. Nicotine keeps the brain alive, and that’s the last thing any government wants.”
“Isn’t government involved in a contradiction?”
“Anything but. They get more and more tax revenues for discouraging people from using their brains. They have it both ways, which is the way government always gets it.”
“Are you saying that state senators and bureaucrats were clever enough to figure this out?”
“You’re being stupid again. They don’t figure anything out. They’ve been to school, which is how they train people not to use their brains for anything but watching TV and surfing the net. These guys all have to be on “the right side”. It doesn’t matter what the question is, women’s rights, Gay Marriage, tobacco. Somewhere someone decided tobacco’s bad for you, and then the politician’s only job is to figure what’s in it for him.”
“What happens if everyone quits smoking and lives to be 99 years old?”
“First, the politicians making decisions today won’t live to see that happen, so it doesn’t matter. Second, they really believe something will always turn up to save their ass. Like Covid19”
“How does a virus save the politicians?”
“You don’t get it? A third of the deaths have been in nursing homes for the elderly, and over 90% of the victims have been over 60. If I were running the government of Italy—that’s a country with high welfare payments and too many old people—I’d be down on my knees to Baal or whatever god they worship, thanking him for this deliverance.”
“That’s pretty cynical.”
“That’s what everyone says when you tell them the earth goes around the sun or that two plus two equals four and never three or five. ‘That’s unfair, you’re cynical.’ Listen man, I’ve got more to say about this Corona thing. Remind me later."
Taking a drag on his unfiltered Camel, he turned back to the television, which he stared at with intense and unfeigned interest.