Your Call Is Important To Us

BOOK: Your Call Is Important To Us
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Cover Page

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

Chapter One  YOU’RE SOAKING IN IT

 

 

Chapter Two  PAINTING THE LAWN GREEN

Public Relations and Advertising

 

Chapter Three  IF YOU’VE GOT THE MONEY, HONEY

A Fond Look at the Boom and Subsequent Bust

 

Chapter Four  WORLD CO., INC.

Artificial People Power

 

Chapter Five  DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT

or We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules

 

Chapter Six  PILLZAPOPPIN’!

The Rise of Big Pharma

 

Chapter Seven  THE BEST POLICY

In Which Your Humble Correspondent Confesses to Being Totally Baffled by the Entire Insurance Industry

 

Chapter Eight  MALLS, SPRAWLS, AND TELEPHONE CALLS

Why the Signs Are the Same and the Service Tends to Suck

 

Chapter Nine  SLEAZE BITES AND FLUFF CRAWLS

or Can We Dumb This Down for the Kids?

 

Chapter Ten  THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

or Life During Wartime

 

Notes

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

 

 

 

 

For my family

 

 

 

I have many people to thank for this, and the first is Gary Ross. This book was his idea, and he shepherded me through the early stages of its production. I’d also like to thank the rest of the staff at the now-defunct MacFarlane, Walter, and Ross. I am very grateful to McClelland and Stewart for picking up the manuscript after MWR’s unfortunate demise, and extend special thanks to Marilyn Biderman and Dinah Forbes at McClelland. I’d also like to thank Crown, my American publisher, and my editor there, Rachel Klayman.

I am also profoundly grateful to all the policy wonks, journalists, authors, and experts cited in my notes for doing the good work, and providing me with hours—nay, years—of enlightenment and entertainment.

Those are some of the nice people who helped me make the book, and I extend a blanket thanks to all the others who made this book pretty and available. I’d also like to thank the people who make me me. First, thanks to Sarah Fulford, for many years of friendship and support. Thanks to my mom and dad for reading many drafts. Thanks to the people who helped me goof off and not think about the book, like the brothers Forbes, Rosa Alcala, and kim dawn. Thanks to my teachers, in particular, Harold Kyte, Dr. Elizabeth Edwards, Dr. Calin Mihailescu, and Dr. Rodolphe Gasché. Thanks to my delightful colleagues and students at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Finally, last but not least, thanks to C.B., for everything, every day.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 
 

No matter how cynical you become, it is never enough to keep up.

—L
ILY
T
OMLIN

 
 

W
e live in an era of unprecedented bullshit production. The more polite among you might call it poppycock or balderdash or claptrap, but the concept remains the same, and the same coursing stream of crapulence washes over us all, filling our eyes and ears and thoughts with clichés, euphemisms, evasions, and fabulations. Never in the history of mankind have so many people uttered statements that they know to be untrue. Presidents, priests, politicians, lawyers, reporters, corporate executives, and countless others have taken to saying not what they actually believe, but what they want others to believe—not what is, but what works.

I am not so naive as to lay claim to some golden age when everybody meant what they said, and said what they meant, and the world entire was bright with the glare of truth. First, I came to consciousness in the eighties, so people have been conducting themselves in a sleazy manner the whole of my short life. Second, every historical era conjures up its own lies, noble and banal. Since there have been snakes for the squeezing, there has been someone to flog their precious oil. We distinguish ourselves largely in terms of largeness. Our era is unique by virtue of its sheer scale, its massive budget, its seemingly unlimited capability to send bullshit hurtling rapidly over the globe.

There is so much bullshit that one hardly knows where to begin. The platitudinous pabulum that passes for stirring political rhetoric is bullshit. The scripted, question-proof events that pretend to be spontaneous exchanges are bullshit. The committee-crafted persona and the focus-grouped fad and the rule of the polls are straight-up bullshit. The disease hysteria du jour is bullshit, and so is the latest miracle pill. The new product that will change your life is probably just more cheap, plastic bullshit. We endure bullshit in the course of our workaday lives, in the form of management-speak memos about optimizing strategic objectives and result-based, value-added service delivery. We tolerate bullshit in common life-maintenance transactions, like banking and shopping. Most of what passes for news is bullshit, and even if you are so fortunate as to find things worth watching or reading, the content you desire will be punctuated with shills for things you don’t need, like ginormous automobiles and toxic faux foodstuffs.

Even a cursory study of bullshit yields an embarrassment of riches, an all-you-can-eat buffet of phoniness, like when a Bush staffer eulogizes departing press secretary Ari Fleischer with the words, “His message discipline was extraordinary,” a bullshit description of a peerless bullshitter. Or check out the Web presence of a swank PR firm, like Burson-Marsteller, mouthpieces for many a megacorp, and thrill to their proficiency in
change communications, issues management, reputation management,
and the coup de grâce,
personal and social responsibility.

“Your call is important to us” has been chosen from a very deep reservoir of bullshit phrases for the title of this book because it best exemplifies the properties native to bullshit. It tries to slather some nice on the result of a simple ratio: your time versus some company’s dough. Like most bullshit, the more times you hear it, the bullshittier it gets. This is why bullshit is best served quickly, with many visuals, in mass quantities, with no questions from the floor.

Throughout this book, we will look at some of the world’s muchness of bullshit. I have elected to proceed on a sector-by-sector basis, since bullshit is not just a phenomenon but an industry—one of the growth industries of the information age, in fact. But bullshit is not a single industry unto itself, nor a sector proper. Instead, it rides shotgun, running interference for all the major modern sectors. We shall commence by looking at the two fields of human endeavor that have distinguished themselves as the most prolific producers of bullshit: advertising and public relations, which get bonus points for encouraging the industries that follow in their wake to tart themselves up. Next, we will see how financial markets, corporate structures, and lax laws allow for more merde, with entire companies—your Enrons, your WorldComs—exposed as mortared with bullshit. Then we’ll have a look at politics, which is a business as well, alas. Finally, we’ll look at a few examples of bullshit produced by some of the sectors that affect your everyday life, like pharmaceuticals, insurance, the service industry, and the media.

BOOK: Your Call Is Important To Us
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