to make of vice a virtue

I can't decide who's worse: politicians, or advertisers.

Granted, they're both evil... making their vicious ways through life ever-vigilant for the worst in others, their twitchy little rodent-noses sniffing out the fear and foolishness in their fellows, so they can manipulate it into more money and power for themselves.

Usually, their wily, malevolent schemes are transparent to even the most minimally-enlightened. "Elect me, and get this candy bar, paid for completely by the other guy!" a politician'll say. "Buy this candy bar," an advertising executive will add, "and not only will you put a good man in office, you'll become sexually irresistible to the gender you most fancy."

And even though I'm a bit of a sucker, myself, I do tend to shrug and say, "buyer beware," figuring that if the sheeple aren't willing to open their eyes to what's going on, it's their own dang fault they keep getting turned into cutlets on some rich dude's plate. Sometimes, though, these politicians and advertising executives get super-duper sneaky and evil - and that's when I get mad.

Take the above advertisement, for example. In it, a syrup-voiced actor says the following: "To hold a patent that has changed the modern world would define you as an innovator... to hold over eighty thousand? Well, that would make you the creators of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class..."

Ignore, for the moment, the laughable, obvious lie that Mercedes-Benz holds over eighty thousand patents that have changed the modern world. I want to draw your attention, instead, to the really weaselly bit, here - the implication that all these patents (which they do, no doubt, hold) define them as uber-innovators.

This makes me angry; because they've gone even further than to tell a lie. They have taken an injustice and defined it as its opposite. In Robert McKee's book Story, he calls this sort of thing "the negation of the negation [where]... we lie to ourselves and then believe it." It is at this place, he says, where "truth vanishes." An example of this would be in a dystopian novel, where a totalitarian government has convinced a subjugated people that their slavery is actually freedom. Another example would be this car commercial.

See, the truth of the matter is that large companies, such as Mercedes-Benz, hire gaggles of patent lawyers to take patents out not just on innovations they've paid for, but also anything even remotely like what they've paid for, in order to create an insurmountably-expensive paper-mache legal barrier to anyone who'd want to build off what they'd done, and innovate something new.

Patent law was invented to enable investors to profit from their substantial initial investments in R&D - not to squelch future innovation. But some advertising executive somewhere thought to himself, "Y'know - we could spin this! We could take this weaselly little bully-move this company's doing here, and we could pitch it as if the reason they're twisting the little guy's arm is that they love the little guy, and want to make him a better man, with a better world to live in. That way, they get to be jerks, sell cars, and get thanked for it. What could be better?"

Politicians are exactly the same. I just read the script for the 1997 film WAG THE DOG. In it, an American President's cronies manufacture and then endlessly spin a war against Albania, in order to distract from the dude's despicable, child-molesting activities. It's a comedy; but it's so true, it hurts.  And it works!

I'll bet Mercedes-Benz sells a lot of E-class sedans, too.


  1. have you seen the movie/documentary called CORPORATION? I think it was made by one or two Canadian filmmakers. The film opened my eyes to what can happen when greed takes over; patents on food, patents on seeds!? One of my favorite stories in that film was where a small South American country (Bolivia?) was bribed by a multinational to privatize their water and give them the contract then the corporation managed to push into law a ban on the collection of rainwater.

  2. I've not seen it, no. Watched a ten-minute clip on youtube, and that was enough to let me know that if I watched any more, I'd just get angry about something I'm impotent to change. Well... not entirely impotent. I vote with my dollars, as much as I can.


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