Companies Cash in on Patriotism


Sarah Turner


In the aftermath of
the September 11 attacks, Madison Avenue wasted little time devising ways to
draw customers to their products. Some of these efforts have bordered on the
unseemly.

United Airlines
is running a commercial about a firefighter who boarded a recent flight. The
advertisement says that once the crew found out there was a firefighter on
board, they placed him in first class and the captain announced, “There’s a hero
on board.” The commercial ends with the sentence, “People are getting back on
board United.”

A Chevrolet
commercial shows dramatic scenes of firefighters before a shot of a Chevy
cruising down a scenic highway. The advertisement ends by flashing the patriotic
words, “Keep America Moving.”

Even Lee Jeans
has gotten in on the action. A Lee doll is featured in a commercial with a
Band-Aid on his arm and a Red Cross sticker that says, “I gave blood.” In a
radio ad, Toys-R-Us encourages parents to bring their children into the store to
color a flag.

The Food
Network is running commercials to encourage people to cook together to relieve
stress and to watch their programming. The ad states, “We’re all feeling a
little overwhelmed, but we have to keep going.”

Newcastle Beer
has advertising posters in bars that say, “Drink Newcastle to help the victims
of September 11.”

The New York
Stock Exchange is now running commercials that end with, “Let Freedom Ring,”
thereby associating the civil right’s movement with the bell that ends each
day’s market speculation.

These ads want
us to associate patriotism with consumerism. But there is something tawdry about
it all, as when fast food chains like Arby’s and McDonalds place “God Bless
America” on their outdoor signs right above “99 cent Double Cheeseburger
Special.”

Many of the
corporations that are showing this fake patriotism are the ones that are
undermining the foundation of American democracy. In each new election cycle,
corporations spend millions of dollars in campaign contributions and on
lobbyists to push their pro-business agenda in Washington.

These ads
demean the memory of the more than 5,000 people who lost their lives on
September 11.                                   Z

Sarah
Turner is a weekly opinion columnist for the
Daily Cardinal,
a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an intern at the
Progressive Media Project.