If you watched the World Series, you no doubt saw a commercial from Microsoft touting their soon-to-be-released Windows smart phone. In it, a slick flurry of scenes depict people so engrossed in their smart phones that they spill drinks, trip over or trip up other people, neglect their clients or patients or seductively dressed lovers, and even fish a dropped phone out of the bottom of a urinal – which prompts a disgusted observer to utter the ad’s sarcastic punchline, “Really?”
Amusing in its depiction of a defining obsession of our age, visually striking and scored with stirring music that rises to a crescendo, the commercial is a big step forward for a company long-known for its terrible TV ads.
Or is it?
Because as you watch the spot, you’re amused and riveted right up until the limp close – which reveals that the cure to this raging societal obsession is switching to a Windows phone. In other words, the message is: A Microsoft product will make you want to use your phone less.
Well, perhaps we finally have truth in advertising.
Touted as a “phone to save us from our phones,” it’s “designed to get you in and out and back to your life.”
Nice try, but the problem isn’t that existing smartphones aren’t efficient – it’s that they’re not just useful but mesmerizing, in large part because people keep adding more apps to them that they love to use. So unless your phone is boring, has no apps or is inefficient, it will not save anyone from their compulsive smartphone use.
This commercial seems to me a perfect symbol of our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party times: an utterly illogical message dressed up in diverting packaging. They’re hoping you’ll just buy it rather than think about what it really means – because if you do, it all falls apart.
We laugh grimly now that anyone ever fell for arguments such as needing to burn the village to save it (during the Viet Nam war) yet during the health care debate, millions of clueless citizens were terrified that Medicare might fall into the hands of the federal government (which always made me wonder who they thought ran it – the tooth fairy?)
The same folks who told us it was treasonous to protest the Bush Administration’s war on Iraq have portrayed the Tea Party protests as the patriotic cause of “taking back our country” from the lawfully elected government. (Please look up “treason” in the dictionary, fellas.) The same folks who, when they disagreed with the message, ignored the fact that free speech is perhaps our most precious national right, as well as the fact that our country was founded by protestors (making it as American as George Washington) now dress up in Revolutionary War garb and portray themselves as freedom fighters for their incendiary protests of not just the policies but the President. It seems the height of either hypocrisy or illogic, but then these are people who embrace leaders with absolutely no idea of what’s really in the Constitution.
Throughout this election cycle we’ve been told by both traditional Republicans and Tea Party candidates that too much government is the real problem -- and the only way to solve it is to send them to Washington to serve in government. (Because, you know, there’s such a strong history of people who are elected making their jobs obsolete.)
This Escher-like maze of illogic has been adopted by even those who are so far inside the Beltway that they can see the back of the buckle (witness John Boehner promising to shake things up in that dastardly town of DC as if he’s the new sheriff come to town in Blazing Saddles).
Not that inexperience is a good thing, either. Here in California, we elected a Governator who was a true outsider – a man with absolutely no political experience but a lot of cachet and charisma – who promised to “blow up the boxes” of our dysfunctional state government. He leaves office several years later having admitted defeat. A billionaire who wants to replace him has essentially cribbed the same campaign (that’s what you get when you hire the same advisors). Apparently vowing not to get fooled again, the people of California are rapidly turning from her to the old hard-nosed pro.
Every politician has to be evaluated on merits, not message. Messages lie. Deeds tell the truth.
Not smartphones but illogical and wishful thinking is what we really need to be rescued from. It’s time for a citizen to save us from our citizens. And that citizen is you, as you vote, both today and in the future.