Stealing TVs & Shit: The Culpability of Advertisers In Encouraging Looting Behavior

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Leading up to the Presidential election of 1984, President Reagan was eager to have an ad made to tap into his view of the American ideal and ensure his re-election.  The resulting Ad is widely credited as being the best ever made for a political campaign.  It ushered in a new era of television advertising: the slice of life appeal. Advertisers were now showing people an ideal life and, at the end, providing the means to achieve it. This could mean voting for Reagan, buying a Chevy, or remembering to bring a six pack of Coors Light to your next BBQ. Turn on your television and you’ll still see this appeal in use. The benefits to this appeal for advertisers are staggering and thus they are hesitant to try something new.

The average American is estimated to experience 10,000 advertisements in a day. I’ll leave the citations to you as this is a short form blog. Given the high volume of advertisements reaching American viewers it is easy to see how, through social learning, cultivation, and classical conditioning, persons begin to blur the lines between advertisment and real life. In the words of David After Dentist, “Is this real life?” When the lines become blurred, value systems blur as well. Consumers inundated by messages demonstrating how material possessions can lead to personal fulfillment are susceptible to falling prey to this profit-motivated construction. Those living in this kind of society but lacking the income to participate in this vapid material exchange are left with strong feelings of cognitive dissonance. Is it any wonder then that when persons of a lower socio-economic strata revolt against the weight of being at the bottom the first place they head is to retail locations to steal the things they are made to feel they deserve but reality dictates they cannot afford?

Under this context I can understand why people steal TVs when stuff goes down. I get it. I don’t support it or approve of it, but I get it. Food for thought I hope.

  1. wanderinginlove says:

    This reminds me of a clip from President Jimmy Carter I ran across recently where he uses his national address to note that opportunity not capitalism is what makes America great. This part in particular can be found at about 3:30 ( )

    “In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

    I know you aren’t only talking about the U.S. here as people all over the world have recently “looted” in the wake of the breakdown of civil societies (England, Lybia, etc.) but imagine if we could have elected more leaders like Carter who wanted each citizen in a democracy to have “confidence and purpose” instead of the league of vulgar capitalists ushered in worldwide by Reagan. A part of me really thinks we might be able to understand looting as a symptom rather than just a crime. Of course if any president said these words now, but especially the one currently in office, everyone would just call him a socialist.

    • Beautiful thoughts from our former Prez. Sad that his immediate legacy became a martyr to the causes for which he fought. I like what you’ve said here. I’m still digesting. I like the idea of looting as a symptom. That idea deserves probing I think. Your comments make me think that it’s also possible that by stealing symbols of material culture, the looters (though they are most likely not consciously aware) are revolting against the imposed corporate morality of goods as God.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this great video. I’d never heard of it or of the content therein. Your point about the socialist label is also well taken. There is a very real fear (I think) within the current administration to run in the opposite direction of opinions and policies that evoke/stoke those irrational and uneducated fears amongst the populace.

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