Mad Men

Back when I was writing for the very local newspaper, people would occasionally tell me I whiffed of H. L. Mencken, in a vague salute to my general crotchetiness and cynicism.  Mencken was actually a nasty supercilious man who, despite his intellectual agility, must have never hefted a barbell, since among other things he disparaged chiropractors, something no weightlifter would ever do. He did say one thing that seems sadly true: no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

If the election season weren’t enough evidence for that perspective we have Internet advertising. I am assembling a short digest of e-mail subject lines that drive me away from the product.

Anything that is “Madness” (Monday Madness, March Madness, whatever) I will run like hell from. If it’s Spring, I will smell the flowers but I will not spring into savings or anything else I am being sold. Sneak Peaks will be ignored (there is a delightful account on Twitter called Stealth Mountain whose owner has somehow automated Tweeting of the phrase “I think you mean ‘sneak peek'” to anyone who makes this dispiriting error). If it is a weird trick, whether it involves belly fat, wrinkles or auto insurance, I will not only not click on your ad, I will scream obscenities at it.

“Hurry” is another one that guarantees I won’t. I said a long time ago that I would not rush for Jesus Christ, something I phrased that way because I was talking to someone who actually believed in the Sacred Godhead Of Jesus Christ, and I mean it. For a bathroom, in some circumstances, maybe. I am sure as hell not going to drop everything I’m doing because some marketing department wants me to feel urgent.

You political assholes need to take a clue too. If your e-mail is headling “BREAKING,” meaning the other side just did something awful and you want me to wring my hands about it (and send money), I will delete it. I have already read the news, and decided if it means I need to contribute anything to anyone. Cute little no-caps subject likes like “got a minute?” go down the Delete Drain too. For one thing, they look too damn much like spam, especially since they’re always from the unknown name of someone inside the campaign and not clearly marked as being campaign e-mail. The horrified superlatives will guarantee I don’t click either. “Insurmountable?” No, just ignorable.

Oh, and if it’s “Exclusive”? So “Exclusive” that I don’t recognize the company advertising and am left to wonder from whose list you bought my e-mail address?

That unsubscribe link at the bottoms of messages you get from a legitimate company, it’s a wonderful thing. Don’t make me use it. Any more than I already do, anyway.


11 thoughts on “Mad Men

    • Well, dear, if it’s well crafted and doesn’t insult my intelligence before I open it, I might give it a whirl.

      I once dated a peculiar gentleman who was fascinated with the subculture of panhandling winos. He actually gave a dollar to one after saying “I want to hear a good story about why you need the money.” “I need gas for my motor boat,” said the wino. It had panache.

  1. I don’t shop, or to try not to shop, based on the use of bad grammar. Tesco has a long-running campaign ‘every little helps.’ Every little WHAT?!?? Ugh. And now people say it… How hard is it to include ‘bit’, really?

    • Thank Frog I have no television, and my radio is locked on the local non-commercial classical station. I only risk exposure when the gym’s front-desk big-screen TV (which is usually tuned to Fox News, gaag) utters an ad. With Fox involved it’s the least of my trials.

      I liked Mencken superficially on slight exposure, and then — the chiropractic thing aside — realized I was looking at just another representative, however witty, of that species that thrives on derisive put-downs and the winking approval thereafter exchanged by everyone in their own camp. It’s why I have no use for the P.Z. Myers, Penn Jillette species of atheist/skeptic, who express ideas that I also hold about the critical importance of science and skepticism but focus their public dialogue on mocking people who do entertain unsubstantiated (or not yet proven — there have been some embarrassing backpedals in scientific history) beliefs. Mocking, in fact, seems equally popular among Rand fanatics and libertarians in general, the people Mencken would probably be comfiest with today, though you can find it anywhere.

      It’s important to keep unprovable beliefs and naive fantasy from governing public life, a helluva an uphill fight in the US currently, but simply sneering at the people who cherish them is not productive or human, however maddening the stupid gets. Mystical instincts are part of the human condition and making fun of them gets us no forrarder or closer to a rational world, in fact makes us poorer.

      • Oh! So hard not to mock, yes, Penn/Gillette are comedians so, it’s their job. But still, no matter how much I agree I don’t see how it helps. Even Dawkins is accused of mockery by his opponents – how could I ever compete with that level of insecurity? I’ve had a recent incident in which a death occurred that might not have, if proper medicine were applied – but I don’t want to be the dickhead who says so. Oh it is so hard to be the voice of science and non-faith, and not hurt the ones you care about.

  2. Actually – a second thought upon the bitter, mocking humour – it does serve a purpose. Humour is,traditionally, a low form (especially sarcasm). So it might bring people of a lower mind-set (I’m hesitant to say intelligence) in to thinking new ideas and questioning the old. People like my husband are just so damn ANGRY about being lied to by their loved ones, it does take bitterness and mockery at first to get them interested and then researching for themselves.

  3. I just see the mocking and snarkiness as something that satisfies the source more than it advances the argument. When there’s a death because of irrationality — and I lost someone very close that way — it’s punch-a-wall infuriating. But people making fun of her faith, while they may have inoculated the greater public by pointing out the absurdities, didn’t have the power to save her life. I spoke softly about a few things. Helped, but not enough.

    And I get a vibe from a lot of the militant atheist crowd that whiffs “If you don’t think exactly as I do, you’re stupid.” Substitute “damned” and you have the religious position that causes all the worst problems with religion. Some of these atheist spokespeople will not even let agnostics alone, accusing them of being trimmers. I am an agnostic. I’m not a trimmer. I am in no way capable of effing knowing if there is an intelligence intrinsic in the universe; my brain weighs three pounds or so. I CAN adopt working hypotheses abotu things that are closer to home, and use a scientific turn of mind to do so; nothing else would seem sensible. The people who want me to “come out” as an atheist are demanding a uniformity and conviction that is not available to me, and who does that sound like?

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