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PART I OF ‘WHINING IN AMERICA’

Welcome to 1984, 16 Years Late

  I saw a clever commercial the other day during the Olympics.  It was an advertisement for Nike sneakers, featuring Olympic runner Susie Hamilton being attacked, cheesy-horror-flick-style, by a masked man wielding a chainsaw.  The athlete flees from the would-be murderer on foot through the woods, recalling scenes from Friday the 13th and the popular Scream trilogy.  With perfect form, she runs…and keeps on running.  The chain-saw man collapses, out of breath and unable to catch up.  Of course, the commercial implies that if we buy Nike sneakers, we too will be able to run like a gold medallist…or outrun pesky chain-saw waving psychopaths.

            Pretty clever, huh?  Considering the popularity of recent scary movies (and their parodies) and the current profusion of Olympic coverage, the ad seemed timely and amusing, much like Reebok’s titillating “Survivor” ads aired during (what else) “Survivor.”  Apparently the Nike ad was not clever enough—or perhaps it was too clever.  It was so offensive to so many people that it was pulled from NBC altogether.  Talking heads called the spot ‘controversial’ and ‘shocking.’  When I heard that, I spit my Starbucks right into my lap.  Controversial and shocking?  How about funny and absolutely harmless?  A spokesman for Nike was quoted as saying, “Our policy has always been to respect the intelligence of our consumer…we know they get the joke.”  Guess again, Nike.  It seems America is stupider than either of us thought.

            I had another coffee incident while watching the coverage of the New York Senate debate (I am thinking of sending the networks my dry cleaning bill).  My mouth dropped when I heard an analyst suggest that, during the debate, Rick Lazio had “invaded Hillary Clinton’s personal space,” therefore making him look “too aggressive” and harming his favorable ratings with women voters.  The comment referred to a moment when Lazio asked Clinton to sign a ban on soft money contributions, and she agreed pending a contract signed first by Lazio.  Lazio surprised Clinton (and viewers) by pulling out the signed contract and walking over to her podium with a pen at the ready.  Clinton became visibly uncomfortable and backed up, saying she would “shake on it.”

            It was glaringly obvious that Mrs. Clinton was squirming not because she was scared of Lazio, but because frankly, Lazio was making her look like a liar and a hypocrite.  Lazio was nothing short of cordial in his attempt to get the first lady to sign a written agreement.  She balked at actually backing up her talk with a binding legal contract, and in a last-ditch effort to save face, her campaign obviously tried to spin a story angled toward the physical intimidation of Congressman Lazio.  Amazingly, the media took their spin and ran with it.  Even more amazing is that I have now repeatedly heard the same sentiment from people on the street.  I am almost to the point of wondering if certain networks have actually found a way to brainwash viewers and are using Campaign 2000 as the testing ground.

            We are rapidly becoming a nation where one cannot speak his or her mind without worrying about being silenced by the ‘thought police’.  Larry Elder, a popular and highly-rated radio talk-show host in Los Angeles, recently wrote a book called The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America.  Rather ironically, Elder cannot get any coverage from the mainstream media (morning and evening news shows, network talk shows, etc.).  Perhaps the idea that there are things you can’t say in America (the country of free speech) is too controversial to be heard in America.

            This nation is far too easily offended.  I remember being teased as a small child and crying about it to my mother.  She told me (as most parents used to) to always remember that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Today children are taught that words and thoughts can be worse than physical violence.  When I was a kid, the only big rule was “Keep hands, feet, and other objects to yourself.”  Today, kids go through tolerance and sensitivity training (which often runs counter to the values parents may be teaching), and a child can get thrown out of school for simply calling another child a name (such as ‘gay’—do educators actually think third graders know what ‘gay’ really means?).  Funny, before all this speech and thought monitoring, I don’t recall there being many school shootings.  I leave the decision about the significance of that to the reader.


Next Week:  Part II of “Whining in America”—On Solidarity and Hypocrisy


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