I watched the Super Bowl last week over at Lefty’s house, along with a 100 million or so others here in the states and, probably, tens of millions more worldwide.
I made a point of getting to Lefty’s precisely at kickoff, wanting desperately to miss the four hours of repetitious and wearisome foreplay on Fox that preceded the game. The Super Bowl is one helleva marketable event, and Fox milked it to the extreme.
There were six of us at Lefty’s, lounging in front of his 65-incher and munching on one delicious appetizer after another: humus and baba ganoush, spinach and feta bourekas, falafel and Israeli salad, and baby lamb chops grilled to perfection. My mouth waters thinking about the food, and a smile creases my face as I think of the warm comradery.
The game, itself, was exciting and well-played. But the incessant commercials, for which some advertisers paid as much as $10 million for 30 seconds of airtime, seemed, at times, never-ending. A degree in economics wasn’t needed to differentiate truth from fiction. Expertly crafted, each spot was a high-definition raid on our subconscious, urging us to pick one possibly unnecessary product or service over another.
As we watched this moneymaking extravaganza of commercialism unfold, Freddy, a friend of Lefty’s, remarked, to no one in particular, that the Super Bowl broadcast is a well-constructed exercise in mass delusion.
“The vast majority of the audience does not have a load of disposable income on hand ready to spend at will,” he said. “Each commercial spot is a singular reflection of how capitalism works—get the audience to yearn for what everyone else seems to covet, then have them buy it on credit.
“The Super Bowl telecast, at its heart,” he continued, “is a celebration of greedy capitalism—one person’s advantage usually arises from another person’s disadvantage: the haves vs. the have-nots; the rich vs. the not-so-rich; and everyone against the poor. If you make a deal, maximize the benefit. Don’t ask yourself, what will be the effect of this transaction on that person over there? If I buy a particular car, for instance, am I increasing pollution, the chance of accidents, seeking to show off, or just looking for a convenient way to get around?
“Watch…,” Freddy continued, “Not one Super Bowl commercial will reference in any way the climate crisis, even though, just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a rather conservative group of government scientists—warned that we’re quickly running out of time to get our act together and that we should be preparing for worldwide, weather-driven catastrophes. Just look at Australia; the continent is burning.”
Maria, Freddy’s wife, then chimed in: “Is our form of capitalism and the American mindset even capable of preserving and protecting the environment? We extract every drop of fossil fuel from the ground by whatever destructive means possible, even though it increases the threat. And, why? According to Trump and his Republican cronies - this creates jobs. But that’s not the real reason.
“Jobs is a euphemism Republicans use for a deceptive seven-letter word politicians and corporations don’t want to pronounce: P-R-O-F-I-T-S. Republicans won’t say ‘profits;’ they tell us it’s because they care so much about working people that we have to keep using fossil fuels at a rate that endangers humanity’s future.
“The need to make higher profits trumps all else,” Maria persisted. “That’s the nature of our system. If you’re a CEO, or a member of a board of directors, or this president, you’re supposed to make profits and not pay attention to the costs to others, even if one of those costs may be the end of our world, as we know it.”
Someone else in the room, I’m not sure who, cut in, just then, and said, “We’re beginning to see some major protests, aren’t we?”
Maria quickly snapped back, “Protests? Not on a scale that can compete with the vast economic resources and political influence of the major energy corporations and this self-serving administration. The climate crisis is considered the number-one threat to world peace, yet here we are watching this sports spectacle being broadcast worldwide, and there’s not one mention.”
“I read, somewhere,” Lefty added, “that people in 65 different countries were asked which country is the greatest threat to world peace. The overwhelming answer? The US was number one. Ask that same question here, and Americans say that the greatest threat to world peace is Iran.”
“Our government is worried about oil and coal,” said Maria. “The rest of the world is worried about survival!”