Psst, Consumer, Wanna Buy Your AlieNation?

 

Like many Americans right of center, the ads I see online feature plenty of vaguely patriotic products. Some of the stuff’s campaign gear. Some of it’s randomly tacti-cool. (Already got a tactical pen? Have you tried our tactical toothbrush yet? Got the toothbrush already, have you? What about a tactical toothpick?) Perhaps because my browsing habits are eclectic, the ads “targeting” me are eclectic, too. According to my ads, I’m a Trump-voting, militantly pro-life charismatic sedevacantist Catholic wiccan secular humanist who’s also militantly pro-choice and pining for the deceased Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I’m deaf, too. Because of earwax. But at least I’m not alone in that: judging by consumer ad complaints, the main symptom of Covid-19 is massive earwax buildup.

People who say they know about these things say that Covid’s virtual earwax buildup is a symptom of declining click-throughs on online ads. The more time we spend online without clicking through on ads, the more “bottom feeder” ads we see. Maybe I am who I am to online marketers because I don’t click through. Therefore I must “want”, in no particular order, Osteen Cubes, <insert name of Biblical woman here> Anointings, conversational Medieval Latin kits, “homeopathic” essential-oil blends consecrated to Jesus or my choice of goddess. Little lapel pins featuring lab flasks bubbling vacuities like “Science is real!” or light-splitting prisms spelling out “I’m gay for science!” in rainbow writing.

Rapid-fire lapel pin advertising directed my way, whether from right or left, never hits its target, since even if I saw a pin I liked, I wouldn’t buy it. If I saw an ad for a lapel pin featuring the smexxxiest anthropomorphized doped garnet laser — adorned with real synthetic garnet chips reading “She blinded me with science!” — well, I’d chuckle. But I wouldn’t click.

I keep getting ads for the LastSwab, which tries to pretend it’s not about earwax, but kindareally is. I’ve grown to hate LastSwab. The LastSwab “helps combat the billions of single-use cotton swabs that are produced every day.” I have never, personally, needed to combat any kind of cotton swab, but according to LastSwab, I’m not the average person, who “goes through hundreds of cotton swabs each year.” I suspect the average person isn’t LastSwab’s “average person”, either, in that mean swab usage likely dwarfs modal and median swab usage. Even with a family of five now, a pack of 375 swabs lasts us several years. LastSwab seems handy in a travel dopp, but at home?

I know what would happen if I used LastSwab at home: I would lose it. Maybe the kids would hide it, like they do other small objects which aren’t technically disposable but become so once you have kids. No LastSwab would be my last one, which rather defeats the point.

But where was I? Given the incongruous ads I already get, it’s only a matter of time before I see side-by-side ads for both “The Oatmeal Anointing: Empowering your God-given Femininity through Biblically-Blessed Soluble Fiber” and a “Getcher rosaries off muh ovaries!” Margaret Sanger prayer candle. As far as I know, neither of these products exists — yet. Nor do carven pink quartz “crystals” monogrammed RBG, though the consumer’s choice of tchotchkes commemorating Ruth Bader Ginsburg is astoundingly varied. But they will. For one thing, mixing New-Age woo with either Christianity or secular humanism seems increasingly common in a world of postmodern bespoke religion. Secular prayer candles are already A Thing. Even of Melania Trump, if you’re so inclined.

Melania is a beautiful woman, but her face graces some ugly tchotchkes. The ugliest advertised to me so far is a commemorative coin. The coin’s appearance would make a velvet Elvis blush: it’s a coin that looks like a tiny commemorative plate. But that’s not the ugly part. The ugly part is the alienation.

The ad for the coin reads,

This Limited Edition Coin Angers Democrats in [Your State], Get Yours Today — Proud Patriots

What is the point of that coin? Where would you display it to make Democrats so angry? Why do the “Proud Patriots” think it’s a selling point to include the name of my state, as if the coin would be more “effective” in my state than in others? What is this product except an excuse to hoover off a few bucks from someone seduced by the prospect of purchasing the other tribe’s anger with money and commemorating that purchase with a naff tchotchke?

I’ve long loathed patriotic American car commercials for being cheaply manipulative, but it took me a while to articulate why I resent their manipulation so personally: They play on my patriotism, too. If I were immune to patriotic sentimentality, I’d find such advertising less repulsive. But I’m not. So I resent the hell out of its manipulation. I was raised to be patriotic but not sentimental: How dare advertisers find that one rivulet of patriotism even in stoics like me which overflows into sentimentality and then try to milk it dry to sell me something. Ugh! Disgusting.

It would be funny, though, if the Americanness of American-made household appliances were advertised like the Americanness of American-made cars. If swirling Old Glories disclosed small appliances skidding down scenic mountains trailing beautifully-lit clouds of dust behind them. If larger appliances bounded across amber waves of grain with dogs perched nobly in back. If grizzled heartlanders approvingly eyed other grizzled heartlanders over their toasters, silently communicating the trust all good Americans ought to feel in anything American-made. If patriotic clothing tumbled slo-mo in an all-American dryer. If I saw appliance ads like that, I’d chuckle. Even feel affection for the product. Still, probably not buy it, since more prosaic concerns like affordability and space preoccupy the attention of reluctant consumers like me. And what does my resistance to consumerism get me?

Online earwax ads. The virtual circle of life. Or virtual terrorism. It’s hard to tell.

As much as I loathe patriotic car ads, at least they aim to exploit my love. They play on my sense of attachment, good attachment. Folks selling you the lie that you can buy magnanimity at least presume you aspire to magnanimity, if only haplessly through consumption. That coin ad? It aims to play on hate. Not so much the consumer’s hate of Democrats; instead, the ad supposes that I, the consumer, will assume that Democrats hate me, and I should revel in their hatred. More specifically, I should revel in how much my neighbors hate me, hence the ad’s mention of my particular state — or, if the ad were more targeted, as some are, my particular town.

The coin advertisers may call themselves Proud Patriots, but their advertising exploits political alienation, not patriotism. Display your “patriotism” by distancing yourself from the actual Americans around you! Brilliant!

Except, a coin isn’t for displaying patriotism — or even partisanship. A bumper sticker — an item made for display — reading The only good lib is a disenfranchised lib might, in fact, anger the Democrats in your state, as the coin promises to — that is, if you actually put the sticker on your car and drove around with it.

But this coin? Who is it for? It’s not for the Democrats in your state, despite the ad. It’s not for your neighbors. The right may have its share of kooks, but most of us aren’t kooky enough to accost random neighbors with numismatics, not even to score political points. Those closest to us may witness the small detritus of our lives, like coins. But a coin like this is mainly just for you. It’s a talisman, not a display. A talisman for you and your alienation. The talisman of a small god — and alienation is a small god indeed.

Sad.

This coin ad’s sad attempt at patriotism only inspires earwax-level disgust, not the desecration-level disgust of an effective “Buy American” car commercial. The ad can’t revolt me, just annoy me, since it doesn’t repulsively exploit the good of patriotism. Patriotism expressed through alienation is a broken patriotism. It is not good. It is, arguably, not even “real” patriotism, though it’s real enough in that it’s the patriotism enticing more and more Americans — on both sides of the aisle — at least online.

Is “bottom feeder” online advertising just that bad, or are we becoming an AlieNation?

Published in Humor
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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I’ve been getting ads for a Space Force $2 bill.

    • #1
  2. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Political coins can be silly  . . .

    but then, there are some I might want to own.

    • #2
  3. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Interesting.  I don’t get these online, but similar things are all over the kind of cable channels I watch at night, in between episodes of “Love After Lockup.”  I need a tactical remote control.

    When I want to anger Democrats in my state, I just go out to get the mail without a mask.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: conversational Medieval Latin kits

    Aw, you get all the cool stuff!

    Actually, due to my searching and browsing habits, Google thinks I’m a 13th century warrior-monk, possibly with the duties of a herald.

    • #4
  5. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Already got a tactical pen? Have you tried our tactical toothbrush yet? Got the toothbrush already, have you? What about a tactical toothpick?

    I don’t know about those items, but some tactical Depends would be pretty cool . . .

    • #5
  6. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    I’ve been getting ads for a Space Force $2 bill.

    Space Force $2 Bill

     

    • #6
  7. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Political coins can be silly . . .

    but then, there are some I might want to own.

    They should have spelled “cents” “sense.”

    • #7
  8. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Hey look! It’s Midge. Hi, Midge!!

    • #8
  9. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    The only object you should put in your ear is your elbow.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    The only object you should put in your ear is your elbow.

    I use cotton swabs to clean and dry my ears after a shower. Carefully. Been doing it for decades, 365 swabs a year. An elbow just wouldn’t do the trick. 

    Everybody tells me I’m not supposed to do it.

    Take that, everybody.  

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Political coins can be silly . . .

    but then, there are some I might want to own.

    They should have spelled “cents” “sense.”

    He won’t know the difference.

    • #11
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    For decades, I noticed an ongoing matchup between Beer Commercial Patriotism and Pantyhose Feminism. Lately, pantyhose has been less of an advertising presence, so the important job of exploiting public issues to sell products to women has been taken on by haircare, beauty, and soap products, i.e. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty”. These newer ads mingle smugness, rage, and self-pity. 

    If you believe the ad agencies, men are now self-righteously anti-sexist, so they don’t want to ogle women, they want to “Be the best we can be”. But there’s still a place for cultural conservatives in ads for men. They’ve shifted to light trucks, whose ads almost always have Appalachian or Southern male voices in such a low, growly register that even Jubilation T. Cornpone’s hound dog covers his ears. “Ow! The cliches!”

    • #12
  13. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Hey look! It’s Midge. Hi, Midge!!

    I know! I was so delighted to see her name on the post!

    • #13
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I’m so glad I stopped watching TV years ago, so I’m not plagued with those ads.  That just leaves web ads for me, but even there I’ve been a vicious and ruthless ad blocker for so long now that was does get through I sometime let be out of pity – for a long time it was a Tecovas cowboy boots, and I think the reason I got those ads for the next 3 years was due to having clicked on the ad once.

    I don’t get the patriotic ads (or if I do, I stopped noticing them a while a go).  As an NRA life member I still get the magazine, but that usually goes right into the recycling bin anymore (I should find where I can stop that one) – still, I occasionally peruse it on its way back out the door, and that’s where I see the patriotic ads (often for ugly cast sculptures of eagles fighting, or for ATVs).  

    Online lately it’s mostly been for camera gear, or holsters, or “Asian women want you”, and not even the holster ads qualify for patriotic kitsch (the asian dating ads definitely don’t).  I’ve seen the Last Swab ads a few times, but thought “a swab I have to wash with soap and water?  That seems wasteful on its own.”  

    The one ad class I’ve gotten most consistently, for reasons I have been unable to fathom, has been for those Chinese fashion knock-off web stores.  I don’t understand that one at all, but they’re often trying to sell me bikinis it seems.

    On Facebook I do get a lot of ads for Catholic kitsch – scapulars especially.  

    All told, I think I’m basically not the target audience of almost any ad campaign anymore.  It’s rather nice.

    • #14
  15. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It would be funny, though, if the Americanness of American-made household appliances were advertised like the Americanness of American-made cars. If swirling Old Glories disclosed small appliances skidding down scenic mountains trailing beautifully-lit clouds of dust behind them. If larger appliances bounded across amber waves of grain with dogs perched nobly in back. If grizzled heartlanders approvingly eyed other grizzled heartlanders over their toasters, silently communicating the trust all good Americans ought to feel in anything American-made. If patriotic clothing tumbled slo-mo in an all-American dryer. If I saw appliance ads like that, I’d chuckle. Even feel affection for the product. Still, probably not buy it, since more prosaic concerns like affordability and space preoccupy the attention of reluctant consumers like me. And what does my resistance to consumerism get me?

    • #15
  16. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Black Rifle Coffee sent me a Coin / Medallion for being a coffee club member.   It is beautiful,  very well made.  Not sure what the hell I am supposed to do with it —  I am not a medallion collector.   I appreciate the Pro Military, Pro Police ethos of the company,  but mostly I just drink the coffee.  The coffee tastes good.    I appreciate that it is not sold to me by Leftists,  but mostly it is overpriced, very tasty , coffee.   I would rather they charged less rather than sending me incendiary stickers or medallions,  but drinking the coffee tells my family that they bought me a nice gift.  And the coffee actually does taste really good.

    • #16
  17. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Ooo, wait, I did just get an ad for a tactical walking stick staff for seniors.  It’s a walking stick AND a harpoon AND a scythe – you know, for those walks where you use the scythe to sheer the legs off that wild poodle before you spear it and take it home for dinner.

    That and an ad for homeopathic remedies for tintinitis  – of the sort that start with “Doctors hate this!”

    Which rather begs the question: Do doctors hate “this” because it works?  Or because they have to deal with patients after “this” didn’t work?

    • #17
  18. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Ooo, wait, I did just get an ad for a tactical walking stick staff for seniors. It’s a walking stick AND a harpoon AND a scythe – you know, for those walks where you use the scythe to sheer the legs off that wild poodle before you spear it and take it home for dinner.

    Just wait, there’s more!

    It has a saw, a hammer, a fire starter, AND a glass breaker!  Just what any senior needs for wild suburban poodle hunting, or to go after big game like the elusive bitchin-frisbee, and terrible terriers.

    • #18
  19. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    “Online earwax ads. The virtual circle of life. Or virtual terrorism. It’s hard to tell.”

    I had a hard time picking out the most pungent portions of your delightful rant to highlight. Every word cried out, “we are going insane” but we don’t need a commemorative coin to commemorate it.

    Where did those word tags at the end come from? I may start adding tags to my posts. It seems to add a certain cachet. I particularly liked The Oatmeal Anointing.      

    If that sounds like sarcasm, it is not.

     

    • #19
  20. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    There are very few sites on which I allow ads.  And most of the time when I find myself arriving at a new site that requires me to disable my ad blocker, I simply go elsewhere.  Life’s too short.  It’s not foolproof, and I do see some ads (the earwax one is particularly noxious, especially since I’m not a fourteenth-century scribe who might find the stuff useful as a  binding agent and fixative for my painted illuminations (this might be the tie-in to the ads for “conversational medieval Latin kits” which @midge mentions she is also receiving–I suppose they might be useful as an aid to the ordering process in this context).

    But between the blockers, and the fact that I’ve pretty much trained myself to ignore whatever is on the screen that I don’t want to look at, the ads don’t bother me too much.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for a “tactical” anything.  I’m not clicking on any of the links to find out what they even are, because I know what will happen if I do…

     

    • #20
  21. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Anyone remember the years of post-9/11 ads on Fox News and elsewhere for gold coins that were supposedly minted from gold in underground vaults of the World Trade Center? Gradually, as lawsuits approached, these claims were moderated slightly.  

    Among dubious ads, how about the standardized language that once read, “Try this weird old tip to —–“, which nowadays seems to have been replaced by “Forget about needing a gun if you have this ——” (flashlight, camping knife, pepper spray).

    Among political spam I’ve received, I’ve grown to dislike Mike Huckabee’s ads for an astroturf outfit called the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a straight up religious conversion campaign–which is their legal right–disguised with BS about all the work they’re doing helping discover Holocaust survivors or Covid victims, which is not right at all. 

    • #21
  22. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Black Rifle Coffee sent me a Coin / Medallion for being a coffee club member. It is beautiful, very well made. Not sure what the hell I am supposed to do with it — I am not a medallion collector. I appreciate the Pro Military, Pro Police ethos of the company, but mostly I just drink the coffee. The coffee tastes good. I appreciate that it is not sold to me by Leftists, but mostly it is overpriced, very tasty , coffee. I would rather they charged less rather than sending me incendiary stickers or medallions, but drinking the coffee tells my family that they bought me a nice gift. And the coffee actually does taste really good.

    What’s this Black Rifle coffee-duder-thing you’re speaking of?

    • #22
  23. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    The ads themselves don’t worry me much.  What bothers me is the thought of someone working in a warehouse, shipping orders for those political tchotchkes, stacks of plastic and metal crap shipped from an even drearier location in China (packages smeared with Tha Wuhan, no doubt), shuffling around the warehouse, pick/pack/ship, to people one can only describe as hopelessly lost, if they’re ordering this garbage.

    Advertising works, apparently.  Works by destroying souls.  Imagine the feeling of waking up in the morning, knowing you’re going to pull 8 hours of shift work at the Craptastic Medallion Shipping Company of Bohunk, Nowheresville, USA.

    Gah.  Be grateful, today, if you are not involved on either end of these transactions.

    • #23
  24. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    OK, @midge, it sounds like you are a tough customer.  But here is a patriotic product that will melt your cold, cold heart and have you whipping out that credit card.

    • #24
  25. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    men are now self-righteously anti-sexist, so they don’t want to ogle women

    Oh, we still want to (and do) ogle women.  We just don’t want to be caught doing it . . .

    • #25
  26. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Ooo, wait, I did just get an ad for a tactical walking stick staff for seniors. It’s a walking stick AND a harpoon AND a scythe – you know, for those walks where you use the scythe to sheer the legs off that wild poodle before you spear it and take it home for dinner.

    I do have a sword cane . . .

    • #26
  27. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I know you spent a lot of time on this, and your effort is commendable.

    But the only thing I got from it was that someone sells reusable cotton swabs.  The only things worse than that would be reusable toilet paper or reusable feminine hygiene products. Yech.

    • #27
  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I suspect the average person isn’t LastSwab’s “average person”, either, in that mean swab usage likely dwarfs modal and mean swab usage.

    Argh! This is a terribly typo. It should read “mean swab usage likely dwarfs modal and median swab usage”! Phew! Fixed!

    • #28
  29. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Anyone remember the years of post-9/11 ads on Fox News and elsewhere for gold coins that were supposedly minted from gold in underground vaults of the World Trade Center? Gradually, as lawsuits approached, these claims were moderated slightly.

    Yes.

    Among political spam I’ve received

    Most of that sort of thing that comes my way comes, unbidden, as texts.  I think @midge may have covered that sort of thing in a previous post, although it may have been someone else.  Not sure.

    • #29
  30. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I know you spent a lot of time on this, and your effort is commendable.

    But the only thing I got from it was that someone sells reusable cotton swabs. The only things worse than that would be reusable toilet paper or reusable feminine hygiene products. Yech.

    Oh, I think both such things exist and have a pretty long history, simply out of necessity and lack of better alternatives, although in current times they’re both re-imagined as a sop to the climate-emergency alarmists.  (Not recommending; just observing.)

    • #30