American Newspeak

Ewald (
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:17:45 -0700

From: Wayne Grytting <>
Written by Wayne Grytting #54

A Rose By Any Other Name...
Wal-Mart's crusade to clean up song lyrics for our nation's youth gained
a boost when none other than Mr Virtue himself (William J. Bennett) and
C. Delores Tucker penned an op-ed in their support. Answering critics'
charges that Wal-Mart was stifling freedom of speech, the two declared
"It is absurd to call this censorship." What then are we to call the
practice of "re-editing" and "sanitizing" songs and refusing to sell
objectionable CD's? In their words, "Wal-Mart is exercising quality
control - which it does everyday for every product." Thus an offensive
"Boys2Men" rap song is to be thought of as being like a mangled can of
Drano. Where everything is just another product, why speak of
"censorship"? It's just "quality control" now, done, no doubt, by quality
control engineers in white coats. A hearty thanks to Mr. Bennett and Ms.
Tucker for bringing "censorship" to an end. (NYT 12/13)

It's a Wonderful Life
Comedy Central was planning to present a spoof of the Christmas classic
"It's a Wonderful Life". Unfortunately, their production of "Escape From
a Wonderful Life" ran into a roadblock. Republic Pictures, owners of the
film rights, threatened to sue. But that didn't stop Comedy Central. The
plucky humor show vowed to fight back in court. At least it did until it
learned one more vital piece of information. And now for the rest of the
story... What Comedy Central didn't know, but soon learned, was that
Republic Pictures was a sister company. Both were part of the Viacom
family of companies. Said Comedy Central Vice-President Tony Fox, "We
feel silly for not realizing that, but in today's media world it is easy
to do." Apparently overjoyed by the discovery of a long lost sister,
Comedy Central canceled it's parody. (BW 12/16)

Commercials Squared
"We interrupt this commercial message for another commercial message." It
was only a matter of time before advertisements would start reproducing
and spawn their own commercials. This historic step has finally been
taken by MarkeTVision. These producers of infomercials now include ads
for other products in their half hour shows. There is even a technical
phrase to describe the adding of commercials on top of commercials. It is
called "revenue - enhanced programming". MarkeTVision has found that
revenue from the "image spots" (or short commercials) can cover the costs
of the longer infomercial. The idea was tested recently with an
infomercial on Grateful Dead products. MarkeTVision plans to "take the
idea of revenue - enhancing programming and introduce it to the Fortune
500 companies and their agencies." We can hardly wait. (AA 12/2)

The Lower Levels of Free Speech
Max Bloom, a small businessman, recently discovered there are a variety
of levels of free speech. Mr. Bloom is the inventor of a potato shaped
pillow called the Original American Couch Potato. The couch potato
pillow, an obvious necessity for millions of sports fans, comes with an
owner's manual and the slogan, "This Spud's for You" - which is where he
got in trouble. Yes, Anhauser - Busch took offense to this parody of the
Budweiser slogan and sent a "cease and desist" order demanding that all
packaging with the slogan on it be destroyed. They could stop such a
spoof because, according to attorney Douglas Mirell of Los Angeles, "The
Supreme Court says commercial free speech bears a lesser level of First
Amendment protection" than other forms. Among other parodies that have
been throttled: Jordache jeans stopped the selling of "Lardache", the
roomier jeans and Johnny Carson stopped Johnson's Portable Toilets from
using the slogan "The World's Foremost Commodian." (WSJ 12/12)

Luxury Comes Back Out of the Closet
While donations for charitable causes have been stagnating, the sale of
luxury goods took off last year, rising 30%. Dan Phillips, editor of the
Robb Report, states that "The luxury industry is alive and well. It's
acceptable to be well off again." Conspicuous consumption has it's ups
and downs. Isaac Lagnado, publisher of the Tactical Retail Monitor,
recalls that "In the 80's there was a progressive buildup of wealth and
the need to flaunt it." This primal need to buy BMW's does undergo
periods of repression as occurred in the early 90's when, reports Mr.
Lagnado, with all the downsizing there was actually "embarassment at
flaunting prosperity." (Imagine how the rich must have suffered.) But the
simple fact that the wealthy are getting so much richer has, according to
Cornell economist Robert Frank, "shifted the standards of acceptable
consumption levels." Or, we might add, shifted standards at the top of
the social food chain.
(NYT 12/12)

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