During my 2006 race for governor my media team came up with a fabulously unique TV commercial. Even though we ran statewide and not nationally, we wanted to speak out against the war. Our ad pushed the envelope and called for the governor to bring the Maine Army National Guard home from Iraq. Some politicos argued that the governor couldn’t resist the president of the United States when the president called for troops. Others believed that as commander in chief of the National Guard the decision should remain with the governor regarding where and when his militia was deployed.
No matter what, we believed that this was an argument worth having. And any resistance to an immoral war — no matter how futile — was imperative.
A few weeks after the commercial ran I went to the Common Ground Fair. If you haven’t gone before you should go; it’s coming up in a few weeks and it is one of Maine’s greatest annual events. We were psyched. We knew that at this fair we would rub elbows with the audience we had targeted with the commercial: other tree-hugging environmentalists like me who believe that Mother Nature — not Monsanto — has the right recipe for corn. These folks also know that bombs and war are very bad for the planet. But when we got there almost no one we spoke with had seen the ad.
It wasn’t until I walked back to my car and inventoried the bumper stickers on other cars that I realized how many said “Kill your television.” I realized I had had the right message but the wrong medium.
I wondered how many other important tidbits of information this counterculture anti-television crowd was missing. But after this weekend when I stayed home and watched network television for about 20 hours, I decided these kill-your-television types are right.
The people who make network TV think we’re idiots.
All this time I’ve been defending TV and its ability to inform and entertain. But because I was watching Spike TV and American Movie Classics and getting my news online I had lost track of just how incredibly insulting the mainstream television messages had been getting. Sure, if you watch enough crime dramas on Spike TV you’re going to learn more than you need to know about erectile dysfunction, but you aren’t going to see ads about politics or get assailed by slanted news stories that drop the important facts.
It was a big weekend for network news. After all, Ted Kennedy died. And like the funeral of Michael Jackson, it was front and center on all the major networks. But Ted’s iconic funeral was mixed with current-day political discourse and that made it fair game for political ads where Michael Jackson’s funeral did not.
Now, chances are I don’t know you. But all the same, I hate the idea of you and me being insulted, and the stuff on TV this weekend was downright insulting. Did you see the commercial that tells you that if everyone gets health care there won’t be enough left for you? The ad has a guy in a white lab coat telling you that there will be lines for health care and rationing if everyone has access to affordable prevention and appropriate treatment for injury and disease. The ad says that’s because there just won’t be enough doctors to go around when health care reform allows us all to go to one.
They act like we don’t know that health care is already rationed in this country but that it is meted out according to ability to pay and not severity of illness. And the ad is trying to scare us because with equal access to health care you might end up in line behind someone who right now who can’t afford to get in line.
We should have ads for more medical schools — not ads telling you to cling to what you have and to hell with your fellow American. Pretty insulting!
I’m going to stick to Spike TV and “CSI” and hope that one day they’ll investigate “murder by selfishness.” Then the tens of thousands who die in this country without health care will at least get justice from the makers of these commercials.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.