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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
chet w Objectionable Material - The sequel (62* d) RE: Objectionable Material - The sequel 05 May 98

Alice, very interesting to suggest parallels between the subject at hand and doomsday or other cults. I'd be interested if you could point me in the direction of what you learned in your research. It is amazing how easily even mature adult minds can be manipulated. I guess the most pervasive example is in advertising as practiced in the US. One phenomenon that baffled me from the beginning was and is the frenzy that people of all social groups feel to pay for the privilege of carrying advertising on their clothes for private corporations. A quick story: In 1990 my wife and I visited Czechoslovakia. (She had left in 1980 and, that act being illegal, we were not able to go there until the communists had lost power). One day on the streets of beautiful Prague we saw a young man wearing an expensive-looking leather jacket with elaborate embroidery on the back that read "Harley-Davidson T-Shirt". There were several other sightings of such meaningless but vaguely American fashion, but this was the best. Of course in that case it was as much an expression of anti-Russian as it was pro-American T-shirt. I never thought at the time that this was similar to what happens here every day; People pay huge amounts of money for clothes with the manufacturer's name writ large. Last Christmas season I was walking through a fancy department store here in South Carolina when I saw a rack of ordinary sweatshirts, at 85 dollars each, that had embroidered on their fronts "Calvin Klein Jeans". Then a day or two afterwards at a Christmas party I saw a friend of a friend wearing the very shirt. My feeling is that if we wear the name of a business on our clothes, they should be paying us, not the other way round. But people do it constantly. I see kids, including my students, who don't look like they get enough to eat, but they're wearing 150 dollar shoes with "Nike" or some other such name; Shirts, pants, hats and underwear and hats with "Tommy Hilfiger" prominently displayed. A security guard was shot in an Atlanta mall last fall (I was there) when he tried to stop three kids, age 14 to 16, who were trying to steal Tommy Hilfiger clothes from Macy's. Advertising is speech. Advertising profoundly affects behavior. There are of course other forces at work but there always are. The same is unavoidably true for speech (or art, if you like) that is not overtly commercial, but has that little shred of content that people see as political, protection-worthy speech. There is a powerful notion of brotherhood ("no defeat, no surrender") that goes with the clothes, and with the songs. If all that was at stake was a matter of taste, I would not be so persistent and passionate about this subject, but children are dying every few minutes partly because of this mystique. I see nothing wrong with people of good will practicing social marginalization on these money-makers, just as we did with the Ku Klux Klan and just as we'll have to do again with skinheads and neo-nazis. (Did you see the huge nazi rally in Leipzig, formerly East Germany, on the news last week?) I don't want it to be the case again that, by the time they come for me, there's nobody left to say anything.

Hope this makes sense, Chet W.

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