Friday, April 16, 2010

Stupid Advertising -- I

Before I begin, let me state that this will be my second effort at this post, as my fingers got twitchy yesterday and I deleted the original. That's what happens when a T-rex and his tiny upper appendages attempt to utilize modern technology. We also have real trouble with shoulder massages. However, let the reanimation commence.

My good friend, Clint Davis, recently posted on his Facebook page of his frustration with election season and the number of signs and flyers that get posted on public property during this time of madness. His brutal honesty has inspired me to come clean about one of my own pet peeves involving advertising and stupidity. To those of you who are gun-control advocates, let me apologize in advance, and warn that you may not want to read further. If you choose to do so, you may be unhappy with the clear logic of my argument.

A few years ago, a government-funded agency called Project Safe Neighborhoods initiated an advertising campaign, aimed at (this term will seem quirky later in the blog) -- I assume -- young people who watch shoot-em-ups and believe this would be a cool way to conduct themselves. On my way home from my temp job, there are two billboards that are a part of the PSN efforts. On I-40 west, between Papermill Drive and Gallaher View, there is one that reads: Hope you like prison food. GUN CRIME MEANS HARD TIME. Further down on I-75 south, below the Lenoir City exit, is one that reads: No excuses. No Parole. No kidding. GUN CRIME MEANS HARD TIME.

Now, while I agree with the premise of "in general" anti-crime messages, this particular effort has a skewed logic, which I intend to point out and follow to its conclusion. Before I begin, let me state that I am a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution Of The United States. This states that, "a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Personally, I would -- in this day and age -- add the words, "in a responsible manner" after "arms," but in those days, responsible operation by anyone able to hold a gun without help was assumed.

Also, since this campaign targets a particular inanimate object (can we agree that firearms do not get up and fire bullets into people on their own?), it edges over into a somewhat silly dimensional portal. I am against crime, which I define as: a person infringing upon the rights of another person(s) and/or said person's property. Therefore, let us address the actual message conveyed by the billboards, as opposed to the intended message.

First, let us assume that I am a person of low principle. Let us further say that I need some liquid cash in a speedy manner, and I do not have access in any legal way to said cash. Based purely on the logic of the PSN campaign, I will drive to the local Farmer's Co-Op and purchase a fifty foot, industrial grade extension cord. You know the ones, they're Volunteer orange and about 3/8" in diameter. I will exit the Co-Op, then unpack the extension cord, and roll it up on my arm from elbow to palm.

Next, I drive to my favorite local emporium of alcoholic beverages (I don't know why liquor stores are such popular robbery spots, but they are), and exit my truck -- extension cord in hand. I walk into the store, then begin beating the cashier, head to toe, with my NOT A GUN. I convince the, now malleable store employee that, to prevent further beating, opening the register is a good idea. I remove all of the money from the till, give the poor fellow on the floor a couple more good whacks (remember, I am of dubious character), exit the store, don my truck and drive away.

Now it's possible that I might get away with this crime. However, given the forensic technology of the day, and modern investigative techniques, it is highly unlikely. So we will now assume that the Loudon County Sheriff's Department pays me a visit at home, and I leave with them, wearing shiny metal bracelets.

After a few days, I will be dragged before a criminal court adjudicator for a preliminary hearing. At some point the judge will be moved to quiz me about my choice of weapon for the alleged assault on the poor cashier. At this time, I will drag out the skewed logic of the Project Safe Neighborhoods ad campaign.

"Your Honor, those billboards on the interstate say that gun crime means hard time. Therefore, I expect any time that I serve to be quite lackadaisical."

At this point, His Honor will -- logically -- ask me, "Boy, are you stupid or sump'n?"

Because the use of any inanimate object for the purpose of committing a crime -- gun, extension cord, table lamp, salt shaker -- can land one in prison; federal prison. That's the place where men of lower moral character than myself will avail themselves of all kinds of liberties involving parts of my anatomy that I would rather not have liberated.

Thus, the ad campaign is, as implied by the title of this effort, stupid. The logic is flawed, and the whole concept useless. Because criminals are -- by definition -- optimists. They all believe that they are going to get away. The HBO program "Oz" was a better crime deterrent than the PSN billboards.

Thank you, my chest feels lighter already. Ciao, Baby.

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