Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category
If they skimped on a few other things, virtually every middle-class American could afford (or at least qualify to finance) a brand new Cadillac Escalade. In other words: a Cadillac Escalade isn’t what an Egyptian pharoh, or an Indian maharaja, or an English King would ride in. Why, then, attempt to sell it as such?
The reason is because this commercial isn’t targeting people who would have to skimp in order to drive an Escalade. It’s targeting those are (slightly) better off than the average American. Those who wouldn’t have to skimp. This begs a question, however: why would such people feel complimented by being compared to various types of historical rulers? This is America, after all. An (ostensible) meritocracy. If anything, wouldn’t such accomplished people be (slightly) more likely to feel insulted by the comparison?
The reason why they will feel complimented is because in today’s economy, the way to get ahead isn’t to be objectively more productive, but simply to be more willing to benefit from the use of physical force. To be both innocent and guilty in regards to “tyrant-like behavior”, but to be more guilty than innocent.
The purpose of this commercial is to make the type of behavior that was the hallmark of historical tyrants feel acceptable. By providing the excuse that “it’s been like that forever” (and therefore somehow it’s okay now too), as well as the rationalization that if they didn’t do it to others, others would do it to them (so why not them?), Cadillac gives people who – despite all of the trappings that their “success” brings them – would otherwise feel miserable, a way to feel good for a moment (and thereby hopefully endear Cadillac – instead of Lincoln or Lexus or whatever – to them).
Even though it is laughably pathetic that someone could be so twisted that they truly think that their (slightly) greater wealth is of historical proportions, it is truly bone-chilling to see that evidently enough of the upper middle-class American populace has been more guilty than innocent for enough time now that, psychologically, they identify with pharohs and maharajas and kings, instead of with inventors, industrialists, and even their economically-inferior coworkers and employees (who, economically and morally, are just like they are, and are no threat – even if they’re not as well-performing).
These two commercials employ “evasion through hyperbole.” By dramatizing absurd, extremely unlikely scenarios, they allow people to evade something that’s actually occurring within the culture. Is it true that the government – and thus the police – are becoming more and more arbitrary and oppressive? Yes. Absolutely. Is it true that the business community is becoming more and more pretentious, and less and less truly productive? Again, yes. Absolutely (which would explain why America has incurred more debt within the last 15 years than it did in it’s first 220).
These things are so obvious that even the most oblivious, narrowly-focused person cannot help but have an inkling of them. As a result, they experience a certain amount of fear (because there are consequences) and guilt (because they are part of a “self-governing people”). These commercials provide such people with the following rationalizations: “This country couldn’t be headed towards a police state, because if it were then that is the kind of thing that would be happening. That isn’t happening, so I must be misinterpreting something. There must be another explanation for why the things which actually are happening – which I think are arbitrary and oppressive – are happening.” The other one allows the viewer to think “This country’s economy isn’t a ‘bubble’ built upon pretense and posturing – because if it were then things like that would be happening. They’re not, so I must be misinterpreting something. There must be another reason why I have that inkling.”
The effect of such subliminal messages are, not accidentally, a moment’s reprieve from such uncomfortable (but well-founded) feelings. That relief then registers in the memory of the viewer, so that the next time they appear (which these companies know they will – since they are responses to facts), the viewer will remember the experience of being relieved of them. They will then (hopefully) associate that experience with the particular company which provided it for them, think about how they happen to need help with moving, or shipping, or copying, or whatever – and then purchase the product or services being advertised (and from Old Dominion or FedEx in particular, since they “might as well”, since there’s really no significant qualitative difference between competing products and services).
There is nothing wrong with this commercial. It fulfills it’s primary purpose – informing the consumer about the product – as well as successfully entertains her in a positive way. The humor of the commercial, obviously, is the frustration rational, responsible, self-supporting people feel towards those who are irrational, directionless, and loafing in nature. The irrational person is technically in breech of his agreement to “pull his own weight”, so unilateral action on the part of the rational person is perfectly justified (which would technically make destroying the video game system just, provided it is commensurate with the offense as well as effective). The solution isn’t to destroy another person’s property, obviously – since such an action wouldn’t be commensurate with the offense nor effective – but to laugh about the idea is perfectly acceptable. It is a celebration of rational people’s habituated sense of fair play and justice, as well as their (righteous) scorn towards those who have no meaning or purpose in life.
It is all too rare, these days, to see a commercial that speaks to the best within people, and for that reason alone it is very refreshing.
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.
Maserati, with it’s new Ghibli, is choosing to take on a new set of competitors. The Ghibli is cheaper than it’s previous cars, so instead of exclusively competing with the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari, they will also be competing with Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Porsche, etc. There’s nothing wrong with expansion and diversification, of course, but it’s not as if the company’s previous absence in this particular market constituted oppression by the “giants” who were already there. Furthermore, even if they had been there, no one has a right to customers, first of all, so even if they had been in that market and had been getting beaten it wouldn’t constitute “oppression.”
All this commercial is meant to do is to pander to popular, Marxist ideas about economics (that it’s a zero-sum game, a struggle between opposing forces) in order to ensure that just as many rich liberals buy it’s car as rich conservatives do.
The difference between being a naughty or a nice person is much greater than the difference between being a red or a white automobile. Why would someone who’s naughty deserve a gift that is virtually identical to the gift that a nice person deserves? Because of how our economy is structured, the issue of “deserving or not” is no longer relevant in the economy. It’s possible to get paid by being either naughty or nice. That is what this commercial “addresses.”
In a laizzes-faire capitalist economy, because of the wisdom of crowds, the long-term trend is that objectively good (read: truly productive and mutually-rewarding) behavior succeeds, while objectively bad behavior fails. However, in today’s mixed economy (a mixture of freedom and controls), bad behavior is often just as personally profitable as good behavior. It’s perfectly possible to build a business plan on (or at least crucially supplement a business plan with) some bad idea held by a relatively small number of “members” of “the crowd” (ie: politicians or bureaucrats). Instead of spending time figuring out what is a customer’s objective best-interest, and figuring out how to make him see that your product or service serves it, a business can spend it’s resources trying to guess what a politician or bureaucrat thinks is the customer’s best interest, and pander to that without any consequences (because the consumer legally must follow those conclusions anyway). Or, a business can make a sincere effort to create an objectively valuable product, but simply fail – and avoid the consequences by instead, after the fact, convincing the politically powerful that “the crowd” was wrong and that it’s product should be the one (forcibly) “chosen.” The variations are endless.
This commercial appeals to the (often subconscious, unadmitted) awareness of this phenomenon that most people have. It was written about elsewhere on this blog regarding another commercial which appeals to it, but unlike that one – which uses evasion through hyperbole – this commercial uses the trick of “acknowledgment.”
In identifying a portion of it’s potential customers as “naughty”, Mercedes Benz is, in effect, saying to them “we know what you are but it’s okay. Others can see that in truth you are (in whole or in part) an economic parasite (despite your posturing as strictly an independently existing producer), so just admit it.” This message causes the viewer it speaks to to do just that: admit it. But then it tells him that he still deserves a Mercedes for Christmas. Somehow.
In other words: it tells him that so long as he acknowledges his flaw, that that somehow constitutes having fixed it, and therefore it’s okay go on living as if he were truly only a producer and not at all a parasite. This is nonsense, of course (acknowledging a problem is a necessary condition for correcting it but it isn’t a sufficient one), but Mercedes Benz knows that the desire to escape the guilt a parasite feels is so strong that he is susceptible to any rationalization offered to him. The company also knows that that rationalization will fade, that the truth will make it’s presence known again, and that the desire to rationalize yet again will return. They hope that when that happens, the viewer will think of the rationalization which Mercedes Benz gave to him, remember that it was Mercedes Benz that gave it to him, remember that he needs/wants a car, and conclude that he should buy one of their cars.
Children, as everyone knows, are siginificantly more existentially limited than adults are (simply owing to the fact that they are dependent upon elders for the crucial aspects of their survival). Yet, paradoxically (?), in spite of it, they are not psychologically limited. Because they are young and untainted by prevailing, incorrect philosophical premises, they are able to approach the world with an enthusiastic curiosity and ambition that is more difficult to maintain in adulthood. More difficult to maintain, but not impossible. – as this commercial implies (well, without buying a Jeep, at least).
This commercial conflates being existentially limited with being psychologically limited – precisely so that people will conclude that being the latter is just as inevitable as experiencing the former. The purpose of this is to make people feel as if their own lives are necessarily incomplete (as opposed to them just incorrectly feeling that way) so that they will regard buying a Jeep not as a substitute for happiness, but as the means to it.
Jeep knows (or at least should know) that it’s vehicles cannot actually – automatically – provide people with happiness simply because it enables them to experience new things. It isn’t the novelty of experience that make children excited about life, but rather the possibilities their souls – untainted by incorrect philosophical premises – see in what’s around them. It’s the correct philosophical premises that their relatively simple experiences cannot help but subconsciously inculcate into them – almost as if by evolutionary momentum – that make them that way.
Most adults are vulnerable to the conflation between existential limitation and psychological limitation because they hold irrational, mystical metaphysical beliefs. They regard the law of identity as conditional; and therefore they regard the fact that reality doesn’t allow an adult (a self-sustaining human being) to behave like a child (a dependent human) as arbitrary. As not immutably true. As something that could be otherwise – and because it’s not otherwise in their time or place, it’s somehow unfair. It’s somehow “limiting.” But, alas, it is not limiting – so buying a Jeep and taking it to new places will not – for more than a few moments at least – make someone happy. He will still be who he is no matter where he is. There is just no place on Earth that is radically different enough from every other place to cause that to happen. There simply is no Garden of Eden.
The fact that as a person ages his interests and options narrow is not a cosmic injustice (or a violation of God’s wish for man to be ignorantly, aimlessly, lazily blissful and secure in perpetuity). It is simply a metaphysical requirement, inherent in his nature, that he must accept if he wishes to continue to live. If a person accepts this fact, his psychology remains healthy (ie: his enthusiasm for his own interests ironically remains high, despite their narrowing) – and if he does not, his psychology suffers. Jeep, in this commercial, is pandering this philosophically-induced psychological problem. It’s subliminally forgiving those who have it for having it, and even complimenting them for it (ie: that their misplaced, foggy, microscopic desire to enjoy life – left over from childhood – is somehow an accomplishment) – all in the hopes that whenever those feelings arise in the future (which they will), such people will be reminded of the Jeep brand of vehicles (instead of, say, thinking through their philosophical errors and discovering the wonder that’s right in front of their noses).
This kind of sinister psychological manipulation is par for the course in today’s hamstrung, over-taxed and over-regulated, short-sighted “capitalism.” It’s what companies must do if they wish to be successful – even if it means imperiling their longer-term interests (because, ironically, it’s the same corrupt philosophical premises that commercials like this one pander to that created – and will continue to deepen – the sorry state of contemporary “capitalism”).