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The man in the white coat

By Lawrence Henry
web posted July 16, 2001

I'm sick of it. It's gone too far.

I just heard a brand-new commercial on WABC radio, New York, in the middle of the Paul Harvey newscast. Prime-time. Calculated to reach the widest possible audience. I paraphrase the content, but it's close.

"We worry about drunk drivers. But did you ever think about all the things that people do in cars? Like adjust the air conditioning? Or the CD player? Or maybe talk with somebody? Or use a cell phone? Or even have a drink - even of water? Or maybe even nibble on a few french fries? You really should think about these things. They can distract drivers. Have you ever done them? They're dangerous."

All this delivered by an announcer with one of those typical furry, soft, drippy caring 'n' sharing voices. Then the inevitable payoff: "Brought to you by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

My tax dollars paid for this piece of advertising. They paid for the multi-million dollar contract granted to a major advertising agency. They paid for the on-air talent (royalties included). They paid for the media buy.

My dollars paid to invite Big Brother into my home, and to threaten me implicitly with passing laws to control what I do in my own car.

That's not the only government commercial, of course. You can hardly escape them. The EPA advertises. So does the Department of Education. So does OSHA. So does the Food and Drug Administration.

I'm an old adman, trust me. There is only one reason to advertise anything: to make it grow. To sell more of it. To increase its influence. I subscribe to the Original Sin theory of government. The first government was a robber baron who set up an ambush on a road. The founders of this country knew that, and did their considerable best to give us a Constitution that would prevent our own government from robbing us.

Every government advertisement is a robbery.

It is long past time to pass a good law, a law prohibiting government from advertising. No magazines, no newspapers, no TV, no web sites. No direct mail. No grants to do-gooder surrogates like People for the American Way or the American Cancer Society or the American Lung Association or the Ad Council.

This is my faith-based initiative.

It's time to shut these bastards up.

The protest will arise: "But how will we tell the people about all the services government provides?'

You won't.

If people want government services, they can take the trouble to find out about them. It isn't hard.

America has very little to fear from the man on the white horse. We have a great deal to fear from the man in the white coat.*

That man is sneaking into our homes every minute.

I want him out.

* Footnote for the younger generation, who may not know. "The man on the white horse" is a traditional literary symbol for a military or fascist dictator. The "man in the white coat" is a doctor.

Lawrence Henry is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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