Talk About Your “Fetishism of Commodities”: a Priest, a Truck, a Girl, and an Idiot Nation

This story (below) is interesting on numerous levels. It tells the curious and disturbing tale of a Super Bowl advertisement that didn’t happen. …

In a proposed Ford commercial that never saw the light of kick-off, it turns out, a priest was depicted feeling “lust” of a curious kind: for a pickup truck.

A young girl appeared in the advertisement – returning with her mother to reclaim the keys for this hot item, which the priest was caressing. The girl had mistakenly dropped the keys in the church collection plate.

The priest must have run out into the parking lot to fantasize about throwing off his collar to run away with his new turbo-charged hunk a hunk of burning utility vehicle.

Apparently some members of a group representing survivors of priestly sexual abuse saw the commercial’s promo and connected the girl and the priest to claim that the advertisement trivialized the well-known sexual misdeeds of the nation’s clergymen. The advertisement was killed for that reason.

Not having seen the promo ad, I don’t want to appear to deny that it may well have trivialized those misdeeds. It probably did.

Still, I find this little dispute to be typically American in that nothing is said about the core sickness that lay at the heart of the commercial: the rather over-literal “fetishism of commodities,” to use the title of the fourth section of the first chapter of Karl Marx’s Capital, Vol.1.

The corporate advertising industry has no shame, — nothing that would stop them from insulting Christians by portraying a priest having pseudo-sexual daydreams about a Ford pickup. If not for the misstep on the girl and the subsequent intervention of the anti-abuse advocates, the ad would certainly have survived with this crass commodity fetishism intact. All-too-typical for a country that was riveted to the point of mass fever by the spectacle of Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton’s adulterous liaison but officially bored to tears by the stunning levels of domestic and international social and economic inequality that were reached under Clinton’s vicious neoliberal reign.

The really sick thing is the way this sort of stuff plays out politically. The lords of our corporate-crafted “popular culture” know all about it. Basically, these Orwellian/Huxlean masters use sex, violence, constant spectacle, and an endless electronic parade of scandalous late-imperial gluttony to shock the Hell out of the confused and bewildered herd, whose lack of access to basic Marxian common-sense (much more widely available in other societies) encourages their dangerous blind authoritarianism. The freaked-out mass of outraged proto-fascist Caucasians lurches further to the right, grumbling about those terrible “Hollywood” liberals.

Lacking any elementary understanding that America’s powerful, decadent, and “repressively de-subliminal” (Herbert Marcuse) mass entertainment culture is a quintessentially CAPITALIST, profit-lusting enterprise, the herrenvolk is encouraged by shameless media excess to ironically embrace a party that is even more dedicated than the corporate Democrats to giving the corporate communications empire an ever freer hand to offend, manipulate, titilate, misniform, and market the masses: to manufacture cluelessness.

Meanwhile, the conservative counter-reaction from evangelical and other appalled sectors gives the purveyors of mass consumerism a perfect “Church Lady” foil to more effectively market their stupid, fetishistic, and nauseating stream of “cool stuff.” Leading capitalist media has, since the 1960s, curiously aligned itself with and profited from “counter-cultural” rebellion against the corporate state and religious conservatives. This corporate “conquest of cool” (left business and cultural historian Thomas Frank’s excellent phrase) is displayed in clever advertisements in which anarchic youth undertake “hip” resistance to “square” authority figures and puritanical ideals by purchasing supposedly liberating products (from Nike shoes to the latest software) and services (on-line trading) provided, ironically enough, by repressive and authoritarian corporations. The corporations have long been playing both sides of — and profiting economically and politically from — the ongoing “hip” v. “square” contest.

It’s part of how you get an idiot nation.

Here’s the story, which I got at http://money.cnn.com/2005/02/03/news/

February 3, 2005
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln Mercury unit says it won’t air a Super Bowl ad depicting a clergyman lusting after its latest truck following a protest that the spot made light of a church sex scandal.

The Ford (Research) commercial, titled “Charity,” was to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl football broadcast, television’s most-watched event, where a 30-second spot costs $2.4 million. In the ad released to the press this week, a Christian clergyman finds a set of car keys in the collection plate.
In the church parking lot, he finds the new Lincoln truck and begins caressing the vehicle but stops when a parishioner arrives with his young daughter and explains that the child dropped the keys into the plate by mistake. After collecting himself, the clergyman posts his next sermon’s theme — “Lust” — on the church’s outdoor sign

A group representing victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests urged Lincoln to withdraw the ad, produced by agency Young & Rubicam. The group said the commercial “trivializes childhood sex crimes by trusted clergy” by combining the image of the clergyman, a sheepish-looking young girl and the theme of temptation
The group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, is one of the largest support groups for clergy molestation victims. The American Catholic church has paid millions of dollars in recent years to settle hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits against clergy.

“We were surprised by the negative reaction,” said Lincoln Mercury spokeswoman Sara Tatchio. “It was not our intention to offend anyone.”

Advertisers have been shy of stirring controversy since the 2004 Super Bowl, when singer Janet Jackson exposed her breast during a half-time performance and prompted an indecency crackdown by federal regulators.
Tatchio said the company was considering whether to run another spot during the Super Bowl.

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