Shop 'til you drop: TV commercials reveal an obsession with excess

leallan@tcsn.netNovember 26, 2012 

I thought the nightmare was all over on the seventh of this month when I knew no more political ads would pollute my TV watching, as limited as it already is. Newton N. Minow, former chairman of the FCC, was certainly on target when he said in a now famous speech in 1961 that TV had become a “vast wasteland.”

We TV watchers endured months of insipid commercials touting the political candidates and ballot propositions as either God-sent or something about to destroy America as we have come to love it.

My outrage was ignited this time by the incessant commercials encouraging me to take part in “Gray Thursday,” “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the media joined in the fray reporting on it all as if it were legitimate news.

The electronic news media isn’t just reporting it; I believe it helps whip people into a frenzy of shopping during irregular store hours in the lead-up to Christmas. Pictures of people in line days before a store opens, and then employees opening the doors to the waiting throngs, are the ultimate display of gluttonous behavior, and they get shown on television to be seen by the rest of the world.

We are led to believe that if sales of electronics, clothing, toys, automobiles and all those playthings do not increase, it is an economic disaster and not good for the country. I cheer when I see a headline saying that sales for those consumer goods are down, that people are being more careful about how they spend their money.

This materialistic activity is further displayed with shows such as “Ellen” where people in the audience scream when they find out they are getting some doodad for free. I do applaud her donations to folks in genuine need.

I realize I am no longer the target audience for anything except adult diapers or Metamucil. But I’m very concerned about both the retail industry and the news media’s ongoing attempt to whip us into extreme shoppers who turn any given holiday into a reason to spend.

Lon Allan's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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