Annals of Amoral Advertising: Citizens Against Government Waste Predicts Communist Triumph

A blog about politics, sports, media, stuff
Oct. 25 2010 3:05 PM

Annals of Amoral Advertising: Citizens Against Government Waste Predicts Communist Triumph

Citizens Against Government Waste is basically the same thing as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals : a reasonable-sounding name on a bunch of crazed fanatics with an untenable agenda. Why, yes, we should be nicer to animals! Why, no, that doesn't mean we have an obligation to try homeopathic medicine instead of real medicine .

So PETA says "don't mistreat animals," but what PETA means is that anything that happens between humans and animals is inherently mistreatment. And CAGW says "don't waste taxpayers' money," but what CAGW means is that government programs are inherently wasteful. (At least, government programs for liberal purposes are wasteful—the nonpartisan waste-fighting watchdogs at CAGW have somehow only added one item to their "War on Terror" page since 2007.)

This strain of activism—reasonable in the foreground, crazy in the background—encourages the production of pure bullshit, in the Harry Frankfurt sense : arguments that are made with complete indifference to whether or not they are true. Everything the advocacy groups say is in the service of the greater principle, so it's OK to make stupid and dishonest statements all day long.

If you argue with them, you sound like you're in favor of animal abuse or government waste. It's easier to just go along with the stupidity, like Bill Clinton mocking research about "stress in plants" in the State of the Union. Stress! In plants! Those ridiculous plant scientists , wasting research dollars on plants' feelings.

But eventually, the fanatics get confused and lose track of the difference between plausible and implausible bullshit. That's when you get the PETA campaign about how eating chickens is just like the Holocaust . And it's when you get the new CAGW commercial about how the Red Chinese are going to conquer America because we spent too much money on the stimulus.



Advertisement



Sure, it's xenophobic, if not racist (nice work answering the Yellow Peril casting call , you D.C.-area Asian-American college kids—very Gedde Watanabe of you). And as Alex Pareene and James Fallows and anyone who knows anything about anything have pointed out, the whole premise is preposterous. China is spending unbelievable amounts of money on stimulus projects, running high-speed rail all over the country, pumping public funds into the alternative-energy sector, on and on and on. They are reportedly mulling whether to stop their stimulus spending at half a trillion dollars or to just go ahead and make it a full trillion .

If the Chinese are laughing at us in 2030, it will be because they are zipping around their country on maglev trains while we are using mule carts to carry the few imported Chinese goods we can still afford, over the ruins of our own transportation network. Their entire country is one big public-works project. It's as if the Women's Christian Temperance Union made a commercial in which the Russians gloat about how America was ruined by drinking too much alcohol.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 8:07 AM The Dark Side of Techtopia
  Life
Quora
Oct. 2 2014 8:27 AM How Do Teachers Kill the Joy of Reading for Students?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 8:47 AM Season 2 of The Bridge Was Confusing, Bizarre, and Uneven. I Loved It.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 2 2014 7:30 AM What Put the Man in the Moon in the Moon?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?