Monday, June 23, 2014

WARNING! Your Car is not a Starship

I have always been amused by disclaimers in advertisements. Well, sometimes horrified and sometimes amused...

We have all see the drug ads on TV. They advertise an anti-depressant and then tell you to call a doctor if you have thoughts of suicide. Um...huh?

Zoloft, an anti-depressant can cause a whole slew of problems, including insomnia and impotence. Neither (and I am not psychiatrist) is going to make someone feel a whole lot less depressed. I won't list the other things [vomit, like coffee grounds] because they are too many and too [seizure] horrible to [hallucinations] mention [dry mouth and constipation].

This morning, however, I heard a series of commercials on the radio. Within one commercial break from the radio show, I heard three disclaimers -- disclaimers that convince me that we spend far too much time mirco-analyzing our world and, truth be told, far too much time in litigation; for, after, all what are these disclaimers but arse-coverers?

First, a car company bragged about the "reliability" of its trucks. Lots of deep, gravelly men's voices and some choice crunch-guitar chords in the background hyped up the testosterocity of the trucks. Which is fine. At the end, though, an announcer quietly explains: "'reliability' based on longevity." This, I imagine, is there in case some bean-counter questions the advertisers for making baseless claims and takes them to court...

Mountain Dew then advertised a product that makes one alert and able to deal with anything. One of the major claims is that it has "electrolytes." It is called Kickstart Limeade. With this drink, one can talk his way not only from the crowd to "backstage" at a concert, but into becoming the actual driver on the band tour bus. But, the writers are careful, at the end of the commercial, to make it clear that the electrolytes are only added "for taste."

I guess they don't want to be sued by a guy whose electrolyte balance wasn't optimized by his soft drink.

Then there was a car commercial -- Toyota, I think, but don't quote me on that -- that boasted "NASA-inspired zero-gravity seats." At the end, a bashful announcer admits, in a whisper, that the seats "were not designed by NASA."

This annoys me on two levels. First, the redundancy of it. "NASA-inspired" and "NASA-designed" are two distinctly different things. Isn't that enough? Second -- is it that important? Well, yes, if you live in fear of some bonehead suing you because he bought a car that he thought, based on your "misleading" commercial, had space ship seats.

Such micro-analysis. Such paranoia of litigation. Such minimal personal responsibility... And no area is exempt. Even in education. The school I help run has 24-hour grade posting. Parents can check grades around the clock. Still, we send home report cards; still, we send home "interim" reports; still we send home warning letters; still we send home failure notices that we pay to have send certified mail, so no one can say we didn't keep them informed. And, yet, they still do.

I once had a parent complain that he "didn't know" his kid was in academic trouble -- this is after 24-hour grade posting and two letters, one from the end of the first semester; the other, during the middle of the second semester. His complaint? We should have called him on the phone.

I wonder if his car has rocket boosters.


  1. I thought I left a comment, but I guess it didn't go through. Thank you for saying all of this, because I personally suffer from this paranoia. In a world where both science and science denialism are growing fast, people will often cite the slew of side effects of drugs for neurological disorders as evidence that they're bunk, and that they do more harm than good. Of course, professionals in the field know that the only reason they're listed is because if they didn't list every single potential side effects, no matter how astronomically (see what I did there?) improbable they are, if someone were to experience one of those side effects, they could sue.

    Let's think coffee cups for a moment as well. Even when pouring your own coffee at a convenience store, both the cups and the pots are labeled: "Caution: Contents are very hot!" in bold, red, and all capital letters. Why? Because apparently, someone can go to a store to get coffee, and then pour it themselves; yet the fact that the coffee can be burning hot somehow eludes them.

    I think it's funny to reflect on this. All throughout my K-12 education, the American glitter-words of "liberty" and "freedom" were drilled into my head, on top of "take responsibility for your actions." Yet, when I listen to the implicit suggestions of my surroundings, it seems like it's conducive to anything but personal freedom or responsibility... because we have none. It's everyone's fault but ours.

    1. Just once, Alexis, I want to hear of a case when the judge says, " left your coffee cup on the edge of the table. It spilled on your kids, scarring him forever. You don't get a monetary reward for that -- you get to live for the rest of your life with the knowledge that you were more worried about checking your texts than in watching how close your coffee was to your baby. Case dismissed."