Dateline: NEW YORK-Hugo "Sellout" Slickster, a recovering ex-advertiser, opened The Center for Alienated and Cynical Advertisers (CACA). Its mission is to provide support for advertisers who are withdrawn and embittered because their job forces them to dehumanize consumers and thus themselves.
"I took creative writing in college," Slickster told the crowd of reporters soon after he'd cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of the New York facility. "Then I realized there's no money in that for most writers, so I went into advertising. As impractical as it is, I wish I'd stayed in creative writing."
He recalled the first day of his studies in the field of advertising. "At first, I was taken aback by the focus of the introductory textbook. I thought it would cover the tricks of the trade, maybe how to put an optimistic spin on an imperfect product-that sort of thing. But the first chapter's title was 'Why you must Deaden your Heart and Learn to Loathe every Consumer.' I asked the instructor if this was some sort of joke. She told me that advertising isn't for bleeding hearts. 'If you love your fellow man,' she told me, 'start a charity. But if you want to go into business, know that you're in a war. And you can't destroy your enemies unless you hate them.' 'But if you hate and destroy consumers as your enemies,' I asked her, 'who will buy the products?' I'll never forget what she said next: 'Consumers are like cockroaches. You can never destroy them all.'
"For weeks I puzzled over what she'd told me and what I read in that textbook. I learned how to build up your contempt for consumers by objectifying them, by thinking of them as market-researched statistics and targeted demographics, as biased bundles of instincts and emotions that are driven by a primitive unconscious which can be enslaved and branded with code words and cognitive framing techniques. I learned how to 'destroy' consumers by making suckers out of them, perpetrating bait-and-switch operations by holding out abstract goods like happiness or a satisfying sex life and sticking the buyers only with loosely-associated, low-quality products manufactured by low-wage labourers in the Far East.
"Eventually everything clicked: consumers are loathsome materialists and so they deserve the crap that businesses feed them. Consumers demand this crap! They lap up the frozen foods, the designer underwear, and the mindless television programs as if they were cups of life-sustaining water. So they're abominable and we advertisers were entitled to abuse them however we wished. In fact, our honour required that we lie to them in a thousand ways, to pay them back for their sinful demands."
Only years later, after landing a string of advertising jobs, did Slickster realize he was trapped. "It dawned on me that I didn't live in a cave. I too was a consumer, so as an advertiser I'd been trained to hate myself. That was the trap. It's one thing to be cynical about your enemies if you can distinguish us from them. But what if there's no such difference? Does knowing you're a selfish, self-destructive materialist make you any better than the deluded herd that merely consumes without seeing the whole disgusting process for what it is? No, it only makes you doubly cursed."
And so for every half-truth Slickster wrote in his advertising copy, for every phony, manipulative situation he conjured in his video or internet propaganda for soulless corporations, he felt he was wounding himself.
"It was like going into battle with a sword, but every time you stab someone, the sword turns around and slices you too. I had no doubt consumers are pathetic creatures. I'd seen it first-hand; I'd seen the dirty tricks work, seen the masses gobble up the new line of crap in the false, irresponsible hope that those poisonous doodads would give them what they really want out of life, namely something to believe in, something sacred. The hipster secularists thought they were so sophisticated, leaving their church and buying into the hedonistic myths. They forsake their spiritual leaders, the priests and rabbis and imams-who are ignoramuses, of course, but at least they care about people instead of passionately hating them all. And the secularists pledge themselves to the Corporations. They beg hollow parasites like us for salvation, they demand that we make their lives worth living-we who condescend to them so brazenly, with a panoply of professional techniques; we who are forced to demonize them so we can conduct our evil business and feed the cattle a diet of lies.
"Oh, the demonic horror of it all! The bare-faced absurdity! I broke down and quit my job. I had nowhere to go, you see. I was truly alienated. I despised both the consumers and the producers, both the outsiders and the insiders, if you will. I was alone and I needed help, but there was none to be had. No one sympathized. That's when I vowed to help myself." Slickster used his life savings to establish CACA for fellow discontented advertisers. "I knew I wasn't alone. Eventually, advertisers come to feel like they're leading double lives. And now CACA will be there for them. To paraphrase a line from The Dark Knight film, it's not the caca they want, but it's the caca they deserve."
However, many advertisers dismiss CACA as "feel-good pablum." Johnny Pantsonfire, who runs an online advertising firm, contends that Mr. Slickster is only embarrassing himself. "I'm the one who gave him that nickname, years ago. 'Sellout,' I called him, because he'd wanted to write novels and then he found himself writing copy for fast-food chains. But we all laughed when we called him a sellout, because we meant it as a compliment. And it is good to sellout, to earn a living in the limited time we have. You can wallow in self-doubt or mock everything from the sidelines, but you'll have nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, advertisers will carry on greasing the system."
Pantsonfire denies that he has only contempt for the viewers of his ads or that he wants to destroy them for being a plague of degenerate cretins. "I don't hate anyone. I'm a happy guy. And why shouldn't I be! I have a big house, a wife with big tits, a sports car, and a well-paying job. What more could anyone want?"