Friday, September 12, 2003

Parsons' Children – The "Stand" Commercials

Those of you who have read 1984 remember the character Parsons. Orwell describes him thusly: "Parsons was Winston's fellow employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms…" and, of course, you remember his betrayal at the hands of his own children to the dreaded Thought Police.

Orwell's description of children in the hyper-politically correct world of Oceania is particularly telling when one views any of the current "Stand" anti-smoking commercials:

"Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it…."

These "public service" messages are "artfully" shot in some sort of pseudo-documentary style in hopes of appealing to what is perceived by marketers as the hip crowd. What we are treated to is a group of surly, inarticulate, unkempt and semi-literate teenagers who are righteously indignant that there are people in the world who smoke. Just looking at them, one has to wonder why we can't return to a "kinder, gentler America" where we would have smacked the smirks off their little pierced faces.

But the "Stand" campaign reveals a great deal about the entire anti-smoking crusade. It is a chance for people who are either too busy or too lazy to put up the demands of middle-class morality to feel that they are in a state of grace and provides them with the syllogism – "I don't smoke, therefore I am a good person."


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