Archive for March 2014
This commercial is identical in it’s philosophical underpinnings to this commercial, so the following is simply a (customized) restatement of it’s analysis.
Even if this particular Fiat did not have have four doors, and even if these two men, here, knew that it didn’t, it still would not make their reactions appropriate. Their reactions are far too detached from the (overwhelming, albeit unusual) sensory evidence they’re receiving to rationally doubt the legitimacy of the “mirage” they’ve encountered. That level of skeptical detachment would only be appropriate had they perceived the mirage from a great distance, for example. What, then, is the comedic value of having them react as such? What is the object of the humor?
By equating an ignorance of the fact that there actually are four-door cars made by Fiat (as opposed to just two-door models) with a psychological imbalance that produces disproportionately skeptical and detached reactions to stimuli, the commercial is poking fun at a particular type of psycho-epistemology. Specifically, the conceptual type. A person who characteristically conceptualizes (ie: integrates) his experiences into usable (“actionable”) knowledge has a conceptual psycho-epistemology. Why would anyone want to poke fun at that?
The reason is because in today’s cultural atmosphere, there are many, many people who regard integration of any kind – integration as such – as presumptuous and counter-productive. They are who this commercial is targeted at (because, not coincidentally, many of them are urbanites. The type for whom a Fiat would be practical and stylish). Such people observe the fact that knowledge can be limited (ie: contextual – ie: always qualified with the implicit caveat “to the extent of my knowledge”), and conclude that knowledge as such is useless (which, in this particular instance, is highly ironic since it is the skeptical psycho-epistemology that they are seemingly attacking, in an attempt to flatter it). But is knowledge as such useless?
Consider, for example, someone raised in a small, all-white town in rural America. Someone who has never seen a non-white person before, and – if he has ever even heard of the existence of non-white people – been told negative things about them by the people he interacts with. Is this person’s negative reaction to the first non-white person he encounters inappropriate? It may certainly be unjust – the non-white person may very well be a worthwhile individual deserving of good will – but would that be the fault of the person who had the reaction? To his knowledge, such people didn’t exist – so when he encounters one it would actually be reasonable to react with suspicion and guardedness (just as one would react to the sight of a strange insect on one’s front porch). Or, if his knowledge extends to what others have told him about non-white people, and his reaction is outwardly hostile, would that not be reasonable also? The other people in his life have shown themselves to be trustworthy and objective about most other, simpler things (eg: the trash really was taken out, the tractor really does only need an oil change, etc), so would he have any reason to suspect them of dishonesty or poor judgment in this issue? They certainly are guilty of such things, but he doesn’t know that (and to suspect, without evidence, that they are is unreasonable).
Limited knowledge does not imply presumption – and it doesn’t even imply uncertainty. To the extent that someone can be reasonably excused for not knowing a given particular fact about reality (eg: that there are Fiats which have four doors), even if he is wrong, he is “certain.” Not certain in the literal (ie: meaningless) sense, but in the epistemological sense. Certainty does not require omniscience, it simply requires a rational process of thought. Provided that his conclusion is capable of being amended (without contradiction) in the presence of new evidence (as opposed to being arbitrary, and therefore incapable of being affected by evidence – even if the pronouncement happens to be literally true), there’s nothing wrong with living as if what he has concluded is true (because, as far as he knows, it is). Even with it’s vulnerabilities, that is a far, far far more effective way to go through life than operating under the “thoughtful” premise that each and every particular thing is a unique and unprecedented event (which, ironically, is a conceptual integration itself – so the people who do believe this principle are committing the fallacy of self-exclusion).
Many people in contemporary society have only been exposed to the arbitrary passed off as certainty. They have then concluded that certainty is impossible, and sneer at any pronouncements or demonstrations of it. Because this commercial is such a sneer, it provides them with yet another outlet for their contempt (which may have been righteous at one point, but has now morphed into an all-encompassing, cynical skepticism – which is just as destructive as the method of “thinking” that they despise), and in the process (hopefully, from the advertiser’s perspective) endears Fiat the car brand to them in a way that (apparently) the objective merits of the car never could (four doors notwithstanding).* It makes them feel as though the people of Fiat are “their kind of people.”
*Of course, it could be argued that the central message of the commercial is that there is now a Fiat which has four doors (ie: that it’s a presentation of one of the product’s objective merits, and therefore a legitimate advertisement) – but that presupposes that the people who would find that feature appealing don’t already know about it. Of course they already know about it, because by the nature of their psycho-epistemology necessitates that such things are always a possibility (even if the redesign, let alone mass production, of an automobile is a major, long-term industrial undertaking). Such people would never think to themselves “I wish Fiat made a four door car”, and then only consider the possibility of buying one that had four doors after they’ve had the “presumption” that none do corrected. Instead, they would think to themselves “I wish I had a Fiat that had four doors – and even though I’ve never seen one or heard of one, there there well very could be one out there (just as there could be one with one door, or eight doors, of 10,000 doors)”, and then proceed to go – blindly – to find one to purchase; never having seen this commercial. No, all this commercial boils down to is attempt to flatter people for being “honest” about the “limits of human reason”, and thereby seduce them into purchasing the particular four door car produced by Fiat.
This commercial utilizes the same psychological manipulation that this commercial does, and over the same economic phenomenon, but it is even worse in one crucial regard: instead of telling people that they don’t really have the character trait that they chronically feel they might have (because they really do), it tells them that while yes they do have it, it is actually a good thing. That it’s simply built in and “nature’s way.” This allows such people to not only feel okay with it and proud of it, but also to feel good about finally being willing to “see reality” for what it actually is (instead of pretending that things like moral and political principles – such as the sanctity of private property – are relevant to a successful life).
Whatever it takes to make a buck in a mixed economy.
The first commercial is representative of Minwax’ long-standing advertising style. They have, for at least a few years now, produced a number of commercials that are virtually identical to that one. If people think of Minwax commercials, it is commercials like it which they think of. The company knows this, so the second and third commercials are the brand’s most recent productions. These commercials are a (self) mockery of the earlier commercials. These commercials “explain” the pride which is shown in the earlier commercials by “revealing” that it is really a symptom of neurosis. By showing the people to be irrationally proud of their projects (which is what accosting complete strangers, and others who are clearly preoccupied, undoubtedly shows), Minwax is insinuating that there is no such thing as a rational pride in one’s work. By making fun of themselves – by now claiming that pride is something to be ashamed of – they are apologizing for claiming the opposite in their earlier commercials. They are letting everyone know that they’ve “seen the light”, so to speak.
Most of the today’s public is, at best, afraid of showing themselves to be innocent or genuine or proud in even the slightest degree (for fear of being labeled naive or pretentious or arrogant) – and at worst they are the cynical and nihilistic creatures who would make such accusations (creatures who hate the good for being the good). Because of this, Minwax cannot get it’s message to register with a wide enough audience by simply complimenting the innocent, genuine, and proud in people. Instead it must pander to the fearful and/or cynical within them, count on the fact that those emotions will be more frequently excited in today’s culture, hope that the experience of having those emotions touched (by viewing the recent commercials) will be intense enough to associate Minwax with experiencing them (the next time it happens), and in doing so remind the consumer about the product’s existence (should he also just so happen to be in the market for wood coatings).
Why would a brand of something as innocuous as wood coatings resort to such tactics? Why would they court disaster by pandering to the worst within people when, in the long run, it is the best within them that will be necessary to continue to desire to do something as straight-forward and innocent as home improvement projects? It is because in today’s semi-free, semi-controlled mixed economy there isn’t necessarily such a thing as “the long run.” When everyone’s economic interests are as much at the mercy of the whims of a relative few central planners – instead of the timeless, immutable laws of economics – all any company can do is decide to do whatever it can – no matter how dishonorable – to get as much as it can, as quick as it can. Such is the nature of today’s “capitalism.”