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A Cliff by Any Other Name . . .

Although at first it seems like just a clever phrase that has caught on, "Fiscal Cliff" is obviously the tag line of an ad campaign to herd everyone to only one conclusion.


by Loyal 9 staff

Smoking santa

It's all in the packaging.

New essays will appear here every few days. Our archive starts, though, with this demo written in November.
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My brother and fellow Loyal 9 staffer, Luke, spent some time writing for the advertising biz. It seemed to me to actually be a fun and honorable profession: rebuilding an aging but venerable restaurant chain; trying to walk the line between hip-but-not-too-hip for lacrosse gear; reminding the locals that the largest ski resort in the country still loved them.


But, it’s also easy to see in the world around us how seedy and dirty and downright evil such skills can be deployed. And, sometimes, it all comes down to the power of one carefully chosen word that overwhelms and claims the conversation, settling the debate with one only one RIGHT answer before the debate has even begun.


We may accept this from an industry such as tobacco advertisers who rebrand a centuries old habit with the magic of a new name. Now instead of the brown drooling image of “chewing tobacco” we have the healthy miracle alternative of “smokeless tobacco.” Eureka!


The peddlers of brown slime are at it again in a campaign of spectacular guile and bile. It is our politicians and bankers setting us up to beg for what they want, with the smug, insulting confidence that we are, all of us, easy suckers of such a blatant con. It is one masterfully chosen phrase surely coined by Madison Avenue masters: Fiscal Cliff.


Really? We are facing a fiscal cliff? Really? Maybe we are. My one page article doesn’t claim to provide a simple, miraculous answer to such a complex, future-defining question (unlike so many other one-pagers with the answer).


Instead, all I want to point out is WE ARE BEING PLAYED. Fiscal Cliff. Boo. Scary. Fiscal Cliff. Bad. Fiscal Cliff. Save us. Fiscal Cliff. The debate is solved.


The forthcoming mix of tax breaks and spending cuts is bad. How do we know? It’s the Fiscal Cliff, and no one wants to go over the cliff. And now the spending cap is rearing its head again. Only one solution. Move the cap higher again. Otherwise, there is only one way to go. Down. Bumper over bumper, crashing down the Fiscal Cliff.


Democrats, republicans. Doesn’t matter. Fiscal Cliff. Instead of pushing for a political showdown this year, we’ll be pushing for an action. Unfortunately they’ve set us up to make it easy on them. Yet, action isn’t the same as solution.


I have yet to see a confession from a single senator or representative that the cliff they are warning about is a hole they dug themselves -- a hole they dug with an unconstitutional power transfer. Using the lack of agreement on the last budget debacle as an excuse, the legislators decided that power was too broadly shared over the 535 legislators we elected and that a “super” (or higher) committee of twelve could be trusted to do the right thing (I wonder what their donor list looks like). Now it’s all set up perfectly. Yes, a cliff is perfect, when it’s a Fiscal Cliff, because now we have all been herded onto the same trapped edge, demanding the same thing, what they want us to demand.


Maybe the phrase was just a clever metaphor from a clever journalist that just caught on. There hasn’t been this great of an influence on the English language since the Bible or Shakespeare. Every newscaster, every columnist, every pundit, MSN or Fox, every conservative and every liberal is spreading the trend. Are they lazy? Maybe they are just follow-the-herd sheep doing what everyone else does, like little middle school followers – one day feathering their hair, then on to wearing shoes without socks, then baggy pants, then skinny. Or are they all cogs of the ad campaign?


George HW Bush once said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on." Was he talking about us? Are we just stepping in line to the brand-managed, calculated slaughter? If we are the lemmings they play us for, it’s not the Fiscal Cliff we need to fear, it’s the present where our discourse is a thirty second Superbowl spot and our minds are controlled by one clever phrase.


Comments






David
UT
05 May 2013
at 05:57PM

Excellent article. I guess I was trapped on the "cliff" with the rest of the lemmings. Maybe I can help get us down. Hurricane, Utah


When even one American -- who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.

- Harry S. Truman




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