Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A President for the rational and adult, not the childish or pathological

“Cheating on a quiz show? That's sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip.”
     —Charles Van Doren’s patrician father speaking with his quiz show cheater son (“Quiz Show,” 1994)
     Today, the OC Reg reports a big win for a team of students at Chapman University: O.C. student team is national champs.
     Beating 120 competing schools, the Chapman team won the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition. See their winning commercial above.
     The Reg’s small business reporter, Jan Norman, explains the competitors’ task:
     Each year, NSAC partners with a corporate sponsor, which provides an assignment outlining the history of its product and current advertising situation. The assignment reflects a real-world situation, Chapman said. Students research the product and its competition, identify potential problem areas and devise a completely integrated communications campaign for the client. Each student team then “pitches” its campaign to a panel of judges.
     This year’s sponsor was State Farm Insurance, which gave the teams the task of creating a hypothetical $40 million media advertising campaign for auto and renters’ insurance targeting young adults, ages 18-25, according to Chapman. Three State Farm executives judged the national competition.
     I’m inclined to agree that there’s real skill, talent, and artistry involved in this sort of thing—successfully causing TV viewers to buy a product and trust the firm that offers it. But, from a philosopher’s perspective, these powers are like those that make for a really good confidence man. Never mind whether State Farm’s product, compared to its competitors’, is worth a damn. Don’t care about that. Just get people to want it.
     Can you do that? If so, we’ll give you fabulous prizes and the key to the freakin’ city!
     I’ve always been uncomfortable with admiration and celebration of skills that run contrary to honest and logical communication—and community. Especially at a college or university. Higher education ought to emphasize the "truth" thing, not the manipulation and flattery thing. That's why I am, um, unimpressed with "speech" instruction. To me, "speech" seems to teach effective bullshittery, flimflammery, hornswogglery. Leave that stuff (along with your clown shoes) down at the carnival, man. This is a college!

     Lately, lots of people have been carping about President Obama’s failure to hang around the oil-soaked gulf and “empathize” with the victims and, in general, with the frantic American people, who, evidently, need to be tucked in and given hot milk at night when things go wrong.
     (But none of that plugs the goddam leak or pays for the damage! It’s just making people “feel” that something is being done, whether or not it is! What’s the matter with ‘em, anyway? Are they children! Mental patients?)
     The philosopher part of me wants to say: Obama’s instinct was to say, “screw that sh*t”?
     Really? Then I say: he's my kind of guy.
     Barack Obama: a President for the rational and adult, not the childish or pathological.
Dan Enright: How much do they pay instructors up at Columbia?
Charles Van Doren: Eighty-six dollars a week.
Dan Enright: Do you have any idea how much Bozo the Clown makes?
Charles Van Doren: Well... we, we can't all be Bozo the Clown.