Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who are the Mad Men selling us high-speed rail, the actors or the sponsors?

As promised here yesterday, we include the three minute  video ad sponsored by the United States Pubic Information Research Group, a Democratic PAC. (USPIRG) It uses two actors from the TV series Mad Men.

The USPIRG and the California branch, CALPIRG apparently see no irony is having these sleaze-ball characters, as they are portrayed by two actors on the Mad Men TV series, selling us on high-speed trains.

The endorsing advantages they list are those that the CHSRA and all the other high-speed rail promoters continue to cite, regardless of their lack of validity.  From the rail authority, we have the right to expect the truth; but from Hollywood actors playing advertising hucksters, we are not supposed to believe them.

Why would you want to have this "vision of the future" portrayed in the '60s anyhow? These guys, as portrayed, were wrong about everything and we, with the wisdom of hindsight, know that.  (Several programs were devoted to this fictional ad agency selling cigarettes as good for you.) Nonetheless, here they are trying to convince us, with their brainstorming, that HSR is a great idea that will solve all our problems. So, is High-Speed Rail the "cigarettes" addiction of this new century.

Remember they are actors and in this video they are extending their fictional, Madison Avenue setting.  Second, they are portrayed as being very bad people who are paid to lie.  It's not like those Hollywood actors who step out of character, like Barbra Streisand as herself, speaking about her political beliefs.  These are actors acting as liars.  Why should we believe anything they say?  Indeed, we're not supposed to.

The arrogance and naivete of the USPIRG to sponsor this video is stunning. They assume that we are all so stupid that we do not recognize the difference between TV fiction and reality.  Therefore we will be convinced by two actors playing sleazy snake-oil salesmen.  Obviously, neither of them appear to be characters in this charade that know anything about rail, including high-speed rail.

Furthermore, they are characterized to live in a time period when passenger rail was in decline in the US as a consequence of increasing air travel and the expansion of automobile and highway use. One of them says that the government gets big projects right.  Is he referring to the Interstate Highway Project of the Sixties?  The CHSRA claims that as a prototype for what they are trying to do now with this mega-infrastructure rail project.

What are we to believe?  That the Interstate Highway Program, with the wisdom of hindsight, wasn't visionary?  Now we know cars are bad.  Then, in the '60s, we believed that cars were good.  This video confuses us with this ambiguous issue.

So, now that we believe that cars are bad, was the Interstate Highway program bad also?  Was it a huge government mistake?  And why isn't HSR, now believed to be so virtuous, not going to be considered very bad forty years from now?

Confused?  You should be, except for knowing that this video is ridiculous and should, by all rights,  backfire on the sponsors.

Next time, the USPIRG can hire Harrison Ford to reprise his role in Blade Runner and tell us how wonderful high-speed rail will be in the dystopian future of that film!


Video: "Mad Men" Actors Pitch High Speed Rail
How would advertising big wigs launch a campaign to tout high speed rail in 1965? First, start with a meeting underscored with a jazzy record and bolstered with some fine spirits. Then, thing of the most anti-feminist angle possible (as in, ladies, don't worry about all those knobs and buttons in a car, be passive while riding a train!). Then scoff at predictions the price of gas could exceed a buck forty years out. In fact, scoff at the stupidity of even having to pitch the idea of high speed rail, since the idea should be selling itself.
Sound crazy? (Or at least funny?) A video starring "Mad Men" actors Vincent Kartheiser and Rich Sommer (Pete Campbell and Harry Crane) debuted on Funny or Die today in support of supporting present-day high speed rail efforts.
Are you buying what these "Mad Men" are selling?