On Advertising

Advertising has gained such phenomenal power, it’s now allowed pretty much everywhere.  And because it’s allowed pretty much everywhere, it has gained phenomenal power.

In fact, it has almost single-handedly destroyed the concept of public space because of its invasion of said public space with constant and loudly-proclaimed messages intended for private gain (not for the public good). 

This power has increased tremendously with the Internet.  No need to go into detail: everyone who uses the Internet is familiar with the intrusive pervasiveness of advertising.  More than that, given the addictiveness of online games and social media, advertising in those contexts is especially pernicious.

And who is it who creates all these ads?  Who is it who decides which words and which images the rest of us will be forcibly exposed to day and night for most of our lives?  Predominantly, male business students.  Male business B students.  (They’re the ones who major in Marketing.)  That is to say, largely uneducated young men.  Who probably didn’t take any courses in the sciences or the humanities after high school (and they probably didn’t do very well in those courses then).   Who probably took just one psychology course during university, the one focusing on manipulating human behaviour.  And who probably haven’t read a book, not one, since they graduated (and they probably read as little as possible of the books they were supposed to read before they graduated).  All of which is to say that they probably have very little comprehension of sexism, racism, environmental responsibility, …   In fact, I remember reading the words of one young man who’d said “I was studying political science at the time, so I had never thought about social processes like misogyny and sexism.”  (What?  What?!)  And I suspect business students are even less aware, less informed, than poli-sci students. 

So they have no clue as to the consequences, for both men and women, of seeing images of subordinated and/or sexualized women every day all day.  They are similarly clueless about the consequences of showing pick-up trucks and ATVs driving through pristine forests.  They know that attention is grabbed by flashing lights, and they surely know that driving a car requires one’s full attention, but apparently they can’t put two and two together and so continue to put huge billboards with flashing lights along roads.

And here’s the thing: people should understand the consequences of their actions before they’re granted unsupervised freedom to act.  Certainly before they’re granted the power to bombard people with words and images (which are, yes, HARMFUL).  With power should come responsibility.

So how is it that our government grants them such power?  How is it that it allows such HARM?  On such a large and relentless scale?  Legislation is for idiots, for those who cannot govern themselves, and clearly …

(What’s that you say?  Freedom of expression?  But freedom of expression is not, should not be, unlimited.  It is justifiably constrained when it violates others’ rights … to privacy (to be free from intrusion), to safety (to be free from harm), to autonomy (to be free of manipulation) …)

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