The Nonsense That Sells

The website recently ran an ad on tv touting the fact that their loyalty program requires no loyalty whatsoever. This particular pitch got me thinking about the state of our society which has devolved to a point so sloppy in its thinking, let alone commitment-phobic, that the wily folks on Capitol Hill and Madison Avenue devise strategies to let us think we can have our cake and eat it, too. You can be thin and eat as much as you want! A loyalty program with no loyalty required! Cheat on exams with no repercussions, but your degree will still be considered valuable! Trust us, it’ll all be fine.




It is a cunning mindset which plays fast and loose with the definition of terms, terms like “loyalty” or “opportunity” or “fair.” For Machiavellian types, these common words beg to be redefined by those who conduct their business using funhouse mirrors or sleight of hand, knowing that the rest of us won’t look closely at their definitions. Hmm, what if we were to redefine the term “medical professional” to mean someone with training entirely different than what is currently understood? (Imagine your future at a CVS Care clinic-who do you think will be working there?) Maybe I use the term “loyalty” knowing full well that you’ll react believing what I mean is X when actually, I mean Y. Too bad for you if you discover this too late!


While it’s certainly true that people of goodwill can legitimately use words differently, more and more I detect this sort of obfuscation (thank you, Bill Clinton) by political leaders and their ilk. While it’s bad enough to confuse people deliberately, it is equally troubling for the rest of us to stand around like cows, accepting what we’re told without thinking things through to their logical conclusion. Does it make sense that can you receive more and better medical coverage while paying less? Who makes up the difference? As stated during my college commencement speech, “There is no free lunch.” And, for those who must now pay a lot more, how do we benefit from a policy that offers a whole bunch of services we don’t need or want? And, why in the world would anyone accept that Capitol Hill gets to live under different rules from the rest of us? Does this make sense? How can a person stridently argue against new taxes when their children are enrolled in off-site, special rehabilitative programs paid for by the taxpayers?


These are highly complicated, emotional issues, I know. It’s not that one political position is inherently superior to the other, but I have observed numerous examples of real people who do this. Sort of like that loyalty program without requiring any loyalty: I can do whatever I like and also demand my additional, special benefits.


But back to the bit where we’re standing around like cows, uncritically accepting what we’re told with little thought given to the consequences. Last week, I was preparing to drive over to Arlington, VA to see a play with a friend. I’d been to my friend’s home before, so I sort of recalled how to get there, but just to be certain, I typed the address into both Map Quest and Google Maps for a trip itinerary. Well, it’s a good thing I’m familiar with this area, because both services insisted that there was only one way to cross the Potomac River. No matter how often I dragged the route line another direction, the computer was adamant that I had to use Chain Bridge. I did not use Chain Bridge. I chose Key Bridge, so I blew off its directive and, eventually, quite reluctantly, GoogleMaps course-corrected as I proceeded on my preferred path. But, the insistence of these two apps that there was only one way to cross the river got me thinking and made me hesitate. What if I didn’t know the area as well as I do? It would be far more likely I would’ve driven the route as instructed! Do you recognize what a short step it is from fallacious road directions to other sorts of deceptive declarations? This ties back into an earlier post where I discussed critical thinking skills. The part that scares me is that I’m no policy expert, so how can I know if something doesn’t make sense? How can I know if I am playing the fool by blindly accepting what I’m being told?


The point of this post is not to promote paranoia, but I write these words and use examples from my own life because I know how easy it is for me to ignore my internal warning bells and defer to the supposed expertise and wisdom of superior minds—be that vague responses or assurances given by those close to me, the “experts” on Capitol Hill, or definitive statements from Google Maps. A loyalty program that requires no loyalty? Does this make sense to you?


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One Response to “The Nonsense That Sells”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good writing. Thanks!

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