Nero's Fiddle
A View From The Handbasket

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Providing the Petard
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:02 AM
It's been amusing, if frustrating, to watch the parade of hand-wringing talking heads proclaiming, "In the name of freedom, we must not allow Ahmadinejad to speak!"

At the risk of stating the obvious, allowing someone to speak simply opens their ideas to scrutiny. A confident and free society will let anyone speak, a fearful and tyrannic society will shut down speech. Columbia University and other organizations had the opportunity to put Iran's president's ideas to the test in a way that would never happen in his own country -- how could anyone interested in objective reality turn that down?

And the result spoke for itself. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post writes:

"For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the National Press Club yesterday.

That's true -- as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by poison gas. And you'd also have to overlook 500 years of fighting during the Ottoman Empire.

But never mind that: Ahmadinejad was on a roll.

"Our people are the freest people in the world," said the man whose government executes dissidents, jails academics and stones people to death.

"The freest women in the world are women in Iran," he continued, neglecting to mention that Iranian law treats a woman as half of a man.

"In our country," judged the man who shuts down newspapers and imprisons journalists, "freedom is flowing at its highest level."

And if you believe that, he has a peaceful civilian nuclear program he wants to sell you.

Much of officialdom spent yesterday condemning Columbia University for hosting the Iranian leader while he visits the United Nations this week. There were similar protests outside the National Press Building in Washington, where reporters gathered to question Ahmadinejad in a videoconference. "Don't give him any press!" shouted one woman.

But that objection misses a crucial point: Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he informed the Columbia audience.

I'm finding it hard to see how letting Ahmadinejad put his collection of opaque answers, facile taunts and self-evident falsehoods on public display enhanced his stature in any way.

0 comments on this post
Monday, September 24, 2007
Mutually Assured Hyperbole
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:56 PM

Many months ago, I posted about various television ads that took the truck-as-surrogate-phallus theme to new, um, lengths.

But I hadn't seen anything yet.

While Chevy has stayed mostly on the sidelines with feel-good patriotic treacle, Ford and Toyota have been engaging in a dizzying battle to see who can make the most outlandish and impractical demonstration of how omnipotent and indestructible their big trucks are.

(As an aside, Toyota has been running some amusing ads for their slightly less huge Tacoma trucks that parody this sort of thing, with Tacomas getting hit by meteors and surviving huge robot dinosaur car crushers. So some arms of Toyota's ad agency are getting as exasperated about this as I am.)

Recently, I've been seeing this Ford ad where they stick a Ford pickup truck in a cargo plane, land the plane, and dump the truck out the back tied to a big chain. Then the truck uses its brakes to stop the plane on the runway. Then some guy tells me how great it is to know that your truck could stop a plane with its brakes.

This must be the sort of thing that the people who buy these big trucks worry about. "If I get chained to a runaway cargo plane, will my brakes be up to the job? Or will the guys with F-150s laugh at me as I careen off the end of the runway?"

The Toyota Tundra ads are just as dumb, though not quite as over-the-top ridiculous as this one. Though I imagine they'll have to up the ante to match Ford. I predict an ad where a Tundra prevents the space shuttle from launching with a rope tied around its side mirror while a gravel-voiced narrator says, "Whoa, nellie!" or "Happy birthday!" or something like that.

The punchline is that sectors of the media constantly deride hybrid cars as "marketing hype" and "just about showing off," as if the people buying them are victims of brainwashing. Truly, *any* consumer product can justifiably have this accusation hurled at it, but it seems particularly apt for these overbuilt monuments to four-wheeled excess.

0 comments on this post