Jimmy Monack is an award-winning teacher, writer, photographer and filmmaker.
It was bound to happen.
In April of 1975, an advertising man conceived of a product that would sweep the nation and fill Christmas stockings after listening to friends complain about how pets can often be a pain-in-the-butt. The Pet Rock sold 1.5 million units and made its inventor, John Dahl, a rich man. Yet, what made this story utterly delightful is that everyone, yes everyone, was in on the joke. It was America at its tongue-in-cheek best; if only the rest of the country was as sharp as the proud new owners of a rock. But most of the time, it goes differently.
In December of 1953, as told by Harlan Ellison, there was the story of a science fiction writer who complained of not making enough money. A colleague suggested that the writer start a religion; no taxes, steady revenue stream, the whole bit. With a combination of psychology, space alien lingo, and balls the size of asteroids, the writer hit the streets to bolster the dwindling sales of his book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” by, yep, L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1987, T.V. evangelist and faith healer Peter Popoff declared bankruptcy. In a spectacular scandal, he was caught on a radio frequency getting advance messages about specific ailments of those attending his services. The scam went like this: After filling out prayer cards before the event, his wife would pick out a few and then relay information to him during the service, CB-style, so he could spot the afflicted in the audience, smack them on the head with some God power and, poof. Healed. A few months after his mighty insolvency, he was back, sans radio earpiece, but with newly bottled holy water. Today, he still drives a Bentley.
In 2005, the engineer Hau Thai Tang was tasked with resurrecting perhaps the most recognized symbol of American supremacy and swagger; the Ford Mustang. While the new technology would easily outdo the performance of Steve McQueen era models, there was one thing the newer engines just couldn’t do; rumble and roar the panties off of titillated teens. The solution? Pre-recorded muscle. With the newer models, growls come gurgling from stereo speakers so the driver can experience the macho on the inside, but bother no one on the outside. That year, Ford ramped up production by 70% to meet demand.
There are myriad examples of this American penchant for willful gullibility. Will McAvoy’s character encapsulated this via his spot-on monologue in the first episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom.” Actor Jeff Daniels explodes with, “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world… We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending… So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the **** you're talking about!... Yosemite!?”
The above stats are largely correct. Add to that list: the acceptance of the World Wrestling Federation, anti-vaxers, the cosmetics industry, the diet industry, pornography as defacto Sex Ed, Reality T.V. (make that 90% of T.V), Freedom Fries, The Satanic Panic, and, for the love of God, the sensation of Honey Boo Boo. Ah, P.T. Barnum would be proud.
Assuredly, this country has contributed exceptional technological innovations and has set precedents in equality and freedom. Yet, the bulk of the intellectual milieu and its impact is, and will be for the probable future, at the level of, say, Vanilla Ice and beer pong.
In the American experience, there are out-of-the-blue moments, events of genuine surprise, unpredictable conclusions, and flat-out flukes. And then there are times when a collective shrug is in order, to be accompanied by an obvious, “Yep. Should have seen that one coming.”
Finally, on February 5, 2013, the twenty-four-year-old social media consultant, Justin McConney, said “Oh no” upon realizing that his boss was taking public relations into his own hands by sending a Tweet… all by himself. The rest, as they should say, was bound to happen.
The bulk of the intellectual milieu and its impact is, and will be for the probable future, at the level of, say, Vanilla Ice and beer pong.
© 2021 Jimmy Monack