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Published:March 16th, 2010 11:35 EST

Is the culture we see on TV one that we can trust?

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

I like the trick can opener and kitchen knife advertisements. They come to me as comic relief from the unrelentingly sleazy health insurer, pharmaceutical, accounting and lawyer advertisements.

Television advertising strikes me as a composite portrait of a corrupt society. Buy our insurance and we guarantee we`ll pull every dirty trick in the book to deny you benefits. Buy this wonder drug even though there is a long list of the ways it may harm you. Hire our lawyers because the way people are screwing you, you need us, but of course we`ll screw you, too. Let our lawyers (even if you wouldn`t buy a used car from them) defend you from the IRS.

tv advertising

A close companion to all this sleaze is the degradation implied in the violence of our films: the ubiquitous shoot-outs, slugfests, martial arts preposterousness, vehicle crashes, glorification of militarism, eye-for-an-eye scripts, and the sheer murderousness of the special effects scenarios. All this connotes a culture unwilling to rise to its nobler instincts, a phenomenon surpassingly strange in a churchgoing nation. As a Christian I am increasingly unable to find Christ in our religiosity. Where is there even a verisimilitude of Christ in our popular culture?

Sure, this is the way the media support themselves. No argument there.

But why on earth is government seen by so many Americans as the villain in spite of this daily bath of free-market sleaze, corruption and greed? Would we really rather have insurance tricksters between us and our doctors than government? Do we really prefer dirt bags to bureaucrats?

Oscar Wilde wrote a story called The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is about a handsome young man about town who never seemed to get old. But up in his attic there was a portrait of him that did get old "and horrid. The picture of our society I see on television these days is that painting in the attic, getting uglier and more horrifying by the day

We have the best civil service in the world. It actually works. The only thing wrong with it is the politicians who try every day to corrupt it, to put their stooges in high places, to distort statistics, to give misleading reports. The politicians scapegoat government so that we won`t notice their own corrupt ways. It isn`t the civil servants who are being bribed by lobbyists, it`s the politicians.

The politicians who campaign against Washington in order to get there and feed at the lobbyists` troughs have scapegoated government until resentment is so high our democracy is becoming paralyzed. They have blamed civil servants for the very corruption of which they themselves are guilty, and they have gotten away with it. This scapegoating of the government has now crept into advertising. It`s a kind of protection con, the real bad guys pretending to protect you from the straw-horse bad guys.

Ever since the Ronald Reagan presidency, politicians in both parties have waged war on the middle class because decent wages and benefits are seen as an impediment to the acquisition of obscene wealth by the oligarchs who pay for their political campaigns and then bribe them when they get to Washington. The middle class "a crowning accomplishment of an American capitalism tempered by compassion "has now become an obstacle to the acquisition of wealth.

These oligarchs don`t care if consumer buying power is disappearing with the middle class because they don`t care about America. They care about global profiteering, cheap labor markets, tricky banking, predatory lending and tax evasion. When they`ve bilked Americans dry they`ll get to work on the Indians.

These amoral big mouths have written a tax code Machiavelli would have marveled at. Each year it aggravates and cheats taxpayers, while corporations pay teams of lawyers to exploit its loopholes, a luxury out of reach to most of us. Reforming and simplifying the Florentine tax code would go a long way toward  countering anti-government sentiment.

When you endure the next evening of dirty-trick advertising on television remember what it represents, a kind of screw-you capitalism that will use every loophole and gimmick to swindle you. The politicians may call it the entrepreneurial spirit and American individualism, but it`s snake oil and shysterism.

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

The pioneering Online Originals (U.K.), the only online publisher to receive a Booker nomination, published his novella, Alice Miller`s Room, in 1999. Recent fiction appeared in Prima Materia (Woodstock, NY), vols. I and IV, and Breakfast All Day (London, U.K.).In his younger days his poetry was published in literary journals including Solstice (England) and Beyond Baroque and Phantasm (California). Recent poems appear in Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review (, Perpetua Mobile (Baltimore), and Attic (Baltimore). He is the English language editor of Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal (

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.

For More Information:

See me speak with writer Mimi Moriarty

Hear me read and talk about poetry

Enjoy original music from Far From Algiers

Tune in to Paul Elisha`s Bard`s Eye View as he interviews me on Veterans Day for WAMC, Northeastern Public Radio