What one trapping of contemporary culture," came the question, "would you miss the least if it were gone?" Usually, given an open-ended query like this, I come back with "How much time do I have?"

And indeed there are a lot of cultural artifacts that annoy the snot out of me. To pick a few not entirely at random:

  • Contemporary Hit Radio
  • The insistence that "intelligent design," at least in the context that its proponents want it taught, is something more than creationism in a new bottle
  • VH1's "I Love The [fill in any damn decade you can remember, even if you can't]"
  • Overpriced fragrances bearing the names of minor celebrities
  • The oversexualization of children under 16
  • The undersexualization of adults over 40

But day in, day out, the one thing you can count on to make the porcupine in me crop out is the public opinion poll, which some people, particularly in legislatures and "entertainment" companies, consider to be the very Voice of God.

It's probably no surprise that the proverbial Man in the Street loves public-opinion polls: it elevates him to a level far greater than he could ever achieve on his own, his viewpoints taken as representative of many hundreds or thousands, his offhand utterances granted the status of footnotes to history. "They're listening to me!" he beams.

Sure they are. Political research and marketing research have the same ultimate goals: to sell people something they would never consider buying in the first place. The aforementioned Man in the Street is valuable to the research only to the extent that he can be counted on to buy this soap, or to vote for that bubblehead.

Just once I'd like to hear this at a White House press conference, if not from Mr Bush, then certainly from his successor:

Reporter: Mr President, your approval rating has increased/dropped [choose one] five percent in the last month.

President: Who gives a crap?

Well, no, he doesn't have to say "crap," especially if he means something stronger.

The Vent

23 August 2005

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 Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill