“In back,” turned out to be–a library.
I was conscious of Herrera’s eyes on me, and I don’t think I showed any of what I felt. I even stayed with him for an hour or so, while he devoured a wormy copy of something called Moby Dick and I glanced through half a dozen ancient magazines. Some of those remembered classics went a long way toward easing my conscience–there was actually an early “Do You Make These Common Mistakes in English?” and a very fine “Not a Cough in a Carload” that would have looked well on the wall of my office, back in Schocken Tower. But I could not relax in the presence of so many books without a word of advertising in any of them. I am not a prude about solitary pleasures when they serve a useful purpose. But my tolerance has limits.

from “The Space Merchants” by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, 1952

The Space Merchants was written as a satire, but more and more of it has become depressingly true. There are few spaces left without advertising.

We now have:

  • commercials on public broadcasting
  • commercials masquerading as news shows in classrooms
  • cartoons that are little more than half hour commercials
  • athletes have become billboards
  • the State of the Union address is used to promote a brand of children’s videos.

The EPA has brought us another step closer to the world of Mitch Courtney. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved display of promotions for causes or charities on the labels of pesticides, disinfectants and other commercial poisons. Link The area devoted to the ingredient list and safe handling instructions can now be cluttered with the logos of charitable organizations.

In other words, a pesticide manufacture can put the American Cancer Society logo on known carcinogens with a small donation. A Feed the Children logo can be used to crowd the safety warnings of a rat poison. A chemical fungicide can compete with Neem oil by donating to the Sierra Club.

I’ll close with the words of Mitch Courtney.
“It was an appeal to reason, and they’re always dangerous. You can’t trust reason. We threw it out of the ad profession long ago and have never missed it.”

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