Commercialism — Good or Evil?

6/16/2012



Since advertisements are constantly seen each day on billboards, television sets, magazines and anything that gets attention, it’s hard to imagine a world without commercialism. So was there ever a time in U.S. history when it didn’t exist? We know that the original pilgrims of 1620 were never bombarded with tourist brochures, Indian Casino flyers and flashing signs that read "All You Can Eat Buffet" once they left the Mayflower — so where did American advertisements originate? Apparently in 1704, the Boston News-Letter started to advertise land deals and ship cargoes prior to the Industrial Revolution — leading up to the obnoxious broadcast ads we have today; seen in drug companies, car dealers, injury lawyers, bikini models and everything under the sun.

Nowadays, mass consumerism doesn’t just exist on television and radio anymore; it’s distributed to our cell phones, laptops, iPads, and any device that connects to the Internet. Were not just drenched in it, were drowning in a bayou of redundant promotional endorsements, movie trailers and classified ads. Agencies don’t only invent new ways to exploit products and sponsors, they also partner with manufacturers who create new consumer electronics — and use them to exploit marketing tactics to the general public. Consumerism seems to encourage a free-people to spend their hard earned money on objects or services that imply temporary happiness — gambling if joy comes from the purchase at all.

According to Stuart Elliot with the New York Times, advertising is a 500-billion dollar a year industry. However, he never emphasized that those agencies use a term called Psychographics, which attempts to categorize consumers according to their attitudes, beliefs, interests and motivations. For example, if a single sexually-active male loves women and parties, he’s most likely to buy a beer brand associated with an attractive woman who displays that beverage in an advertisement. The flaunting women in those commercials are usually marketed towards shallow men, guys who are so media-illiterate, they think attractive women are usually waiting for them at the grocery store when they purchase the product.

Most citizens and religious organizations may find these tactics manipulative, while others believe they encourage selfish and childish behavior amongst teenagers and adults. A local minister by the name of Leon Pierce, who resides over The Truth, The Life & The Way Fellowship in Salt Lake City, had something to say on the matter. “To me, the ads are kind of subliminal, they infiltrate your mind and try to persuade you to buy their products — even when you’re watching something else. What they really need to show, are more Public Service Announcements that speak out against bullying in the schools,“ Pastor Leon said.

Nonetheless, those who control sectors of consumerism may believe there are two kinds of people in life, the producers who earn the big money, and the working or middle-class consumers who spend it. But surely this can’t be true, can it? Are hard working consumers meant to remain in poverty while the wealthy producers become richer each day?

In 1995 a television pitchman by the name of Don Lapre told late-night viewers to buy his "New Strategies" booklets so clients could learn how to become incredibly wealthy like him; either by purchasing-and-selling products of their own, or by advertising his 1-900 numbers on television. After 16 years of swindling millions of dollars from thousands of naïve consumers, his publications were considered nothing more than “Get Rich Quick” schemes. He was eventually arrested for realtor fraud and after he lost everything in 2011, he committed suicide (by cutting his throat) in prison, while awaiting trial.

Although that might be the ugly side of sectored consumerism, others still believe that supplementary parts of commercialism helps our nations financial system, such as Professor Cody Carlson, a History Professor at the University of Utah. He was recently interviewed on the topic when he explained that consumerism is the driving force of today’s economy. And that commercial marketing may or may not manipulate people into buying consumer products, but at the same time, those companies also hire employees, pay taxes and help American innovations grow and flourish.

In conclusion, If you hate advertisements and mass commercialism, don't shoot your television set, punch your radio or spray graffiti all over billboard ads, the solution is simple. Take a day off from work and power-down all your electronic devices, read a book, join a club, or become a company’s competitor. Get involved and become part of the solution than complaining about America’s problems.


—Dante Antonio Dominguez



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