American Culture c. 2017

Robert Heilbroner reported that “At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?”

The problem, of course, goes even deeper than this. It isn’t just the surfeit of lies, but also the legitmization of an overall attitude that celebrates irrationality and defies grown-upness.

Consider how this recent General Motors Corporation advertisement somehow both dismisses and flips the middle finger to a question that, if we had an ounce of healthy democracy left in this society, would actually be at the center of national debate: How in God’s name can we still be making cars, to say nothing of “luxury” cars?

To extend Heilbroner, how strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that, despite continentally obvious prospects of calamity, simply refuses to face up to the simplest costs of its core, defining technology?

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