April 11, 2021
Allowing the likes of Google and Facebook to reap the rewards of junk food ads leaves a sour taste in the mouth
The tech giants’ diet is bad for everyone’s health | David Mitchell
Sometimes, in my most misanthropic moods, I’m seduced by a libertarian approach to advertising rules. You know, just let it all out there. Let them go for it. Maybe you still try to prevent outright lies, but actually maybe you don’t even bother with that. Let them tell us that a McFlurry, say, brings eternal life and see whether doing so would really elevate sales even over the medium term – when the bloated corpses of the McFlurry gorgers begin to stack up.
And we’d be done with expressions such as “increases by up to” and “helps prevent” by which products’ efficacy can be almost infinitely exaggerated without a direct lie having been told. I think that might be refreshing, unless phrases by which false concepts are conveyed through an intricate lattice of literal truths turn out to be our current civilisation’s only lasting art form, with “not even a black hole can eat three Shredded Wheat” as the central masterpiece, brilliant because it is a lie made permissible only by the fact that no one is supposed to believe it.
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