State of Unrest, Indeed
The goal of this ad is to sell insurance. It communicates the fact that State Farm has 24 hour service. This is a legitimate value, and there is nothing wrong with advertising it, but apparently it must not be so much of a value (above that of it’s competitor’s products) that State Farm thinks it can be sold on it’s merit alone. Apparently the company thinks that it must also endear itself to potential customers in some other way. The entertainment value in this ad is not just supplemental, it is essential.
Humor is a fundamentally destructive element. There’s nothing wrong with that – provided that what is being destroyed (ie: mocked) is unimportant metaphysically. Is a person’s lack of interest in his real-life sexual partner – a sign of a lack of integrity generally – unimportant? Of course not. Anyone who would claim it is could be widely – and rightly – denounced for doing do. Nevertheless, that is exactly what State Farm is doing here – while making it seem like they’re not. In order to get away with it State Farm is counting on a confusion about the scope of the humor employed in this commercial. Within a culture, yes, such people are unimportant (ie: most people are not emotionally abusive and self-defeating in this way, at least not most of the time) – and that’s exactly the point that State Farm would claim to be making should they be criticized. They would specifically claim that they are not saying that an individual’s psychological problems are unimportant (to him). The facts don’t support this argument, however.
The phenomenon of “sex addiction” is at all time highs. Modern communications has made sex-based entertainment easily accessible, and as a result many people who wouldn’t have otherwise indulged, have. This, of course, has caused many problems within real life relationships. It is both a personal problem and cultural problem (precisely because it is a personal problem), in other words – and this commercial intentionally makes light of all of it.
What this commercial does is provide the ever-increasing number of people who are using sex-based entertainment a moment’s reprieve from the guilt and shame they (deservedly) feel about their behavior. Such people know that what they are doing is wrong. They know that they have a psychological problem, but they also know that the first step to correcting any problem is to acknowledge it – and that is what this commercial exploits. It makes such people feel like acknowledging it is what they are doing. It allows them to say to themselves: “Well, if it really was as bad as I suspected, I wouldn’t be able to even acknowledge it. Clearly I can acknowledge it (ie: I can laugh at this commercial), so it must not be so bad. At least I’m on the road to recovery.” This is counter-productive and destructive – because it is not really an acknowledgment. A real acknowledgment would be an explicit, intentional, independently-motivated event – not simply a vague allusion to a proclivity haphazardly stumbled upon while watching TV. They are not really on the road to recovery because of having watched this commercial.
To summarize, what is occurring here is that a major insurance company is resorting to psychological manipulation of the worst kind (ie: trying to make people who are encumbered with a psychological problem feel like they are doing something about it, when in fact what they are doing is ensuring that the problem persists) in order to increase revenues. State Farm knows that the value they offer (24 hour service) is, on it’s own, not enough to get people to act in the way the company desires, so instead of appealing to the rationality of people (ie: go into more detail about why it’s service is superior), it has chosen to appeal to their irrationality (ie: to get people to associate the good feelings they feel whenever they have moments of mental health and are objective about their problems not with a desire to fix those problems, but with State Farm and it’s insurance services). In times past this sort of the behavior was the province of “hucksters”, charlatans, and “snake oil salesmen.” People on the margins of the culture who were widely – and rightly – despised. Today, however – in America’s hamstrung, pressure-group-dominated “capitalism” – where the short-term is all that matters because it’s the only thing that can be predicted – is has become mainstream.
“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world?’ You are.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged