There’s (No) Truth in Advertising

I’ve spent a great deal of time lately wondering what is wrong with America. My grandfather claims that the primary problem is that Nobody Respects Their Elders Anymore and I cannot dismiss this out of hand, as he was fortunate enough to have witnessed America’s Golden Age, which coincidentally occurred during his youth. However, I think the real problem is deeper and much more sinister. The real problem is advertising.

            Partly due to the Superbowl, watching commercials has become a national pastime, surpassing in popularity other American pastimes such as family road trips and tax evasion. I’m not anti-advertising per se; the only real issue I have with modern advertising is that literally everything advertisers claim is a blatant and unabashed lie. To illustrate how far we’ve fallen, my grandfather insists that there was once a time in the life of our country (1942, he is pretty sure) when “There’s truth in advertising,” was a meaningful assertion, rather than an ironic and snarky response to false advertising made by people wishing to indicate how absolutely hilarious they are.

            Aggressive deception by advertisers is everywhere these days, particularly evident in the dishonest names restaurants adopt. My grandfather tells me that, during his day, restaurants were simply named for their owner (often, Joe). However, in our modern world, there exist restaurants like “The Cheesecake Factory” whose name seems to imply that shift workers will be serving your food in between their union-mandated hourly breaks. “Le Madeleine” is particularly sinister, because its name implies that the French endorse their food, when in reality, an actual French person would no more eat there than willingly participate in a military conflict.

            The advent of the internet has brought this problem into even sharper relief. A great example is the sort of email I receive (which claims to be from ‘an old friend’ and wherein the subject heading is typed entirely in capital letters). These emails make the ridiculous claims that there is such a thing as Nigerian royalty, or that I can miraculously increase my manhood to such an enormous size that I will have to special-order prophylactics from the company that manufactures T-shirts for Senator Ted Kennedy. I am skeptical of these claims. After all, why would a clothing company also make condoms? This is the sort of sharp reasoning it takes to combat false advertising.

            That is why I propose that, as a part of the mandatory high-school curriculum, students be formally taught to disbelieve everything they read in advertisements especially if it is written entirely in capital letters or sounds vaguely foreign, despite clearly being American. This could easily be done in place of whichever class is currently teaching them that it is perfectly acceptable to go around rolling their eyes at everyone. Also, my grandfather also requests a referendum requiring schools to teach students to say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ when addressing their elders, although, with all due respect, I think this is a stupid idea.