Monday, October 20, 2008

(Unwashed) Mass(es) Communication

Did you know that it would be nice if a mentally challenged girl could be voted prom queen based solely on her inner beauty? Don't answer that yet. I have another question: Did you know that it would be nice if, after trying for a long time to get a cab in the pouring rain, you decided to give your taxi to two scared-looking and soaking-wet children who also need a cab?

Allow me to answer for you: No, you didn't know that. You may think you did. But somewhere out there is a billionaire betting millions that you and I and other members of the Great Unwashed are utterly oblivious to such simple tenets of human decency.

The above scenarios — the prom queen and the cab — are TV commercials that are part of a wide-scale and no doubt very expensive advertising campaign with the tagline, “Pass It On,” as in “Compassion: Pass It On,” “Inner Beauty: Pass It On,” and so on, appearing via billboard, TV, and other media. The ads are attributed to an organization called the
Foundation for a Better Life, which is a nonprofit organization “privately funded by a family that prefers to remain anonymous.”

Prefers to, but isn’t. According to an
article by the Association of Outdoor Advertising, the family is that of Philip Anschutz, the Colorado billionaire who:

—In 2006 was the 31st richest person in America, with a net worth of $7.8 billion,
according to Forbes magazine.

—Opposed gay rights by helping boost Colorado's 1992
Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn local and state laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.

—Was involved in the production of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

—Helped fund a group that promotes teaching
intelligent design and criticizes evolution.

The Foundation for a Better Life claims to not be affiliated with any religion and, indeed, the Pass It On campaign seems to keep religion out of it. That’s not my beef.

The ads themselves are downright heartwarming — not objectionable at all.

That’s my beef.

If the messages are so universally clear and true, why do I need to have them preached at me? And why does Anschutz’s money qualify him to do the preaching? Is there any chance that I or anyone else viewing these ads could teach Anschutz a thing or two about right living? About decency or ethics or morality? Is there any chance that someone like me could teach Anschutz a little about what it’s like to be a teenage girl in a world obsessed with physical beauty?

Is there any chance that any of us might tell him what a truly moral person might do with all that money?

He’ll never know. Because he has the money to buy a position of moral authority. And we don’t.

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