28 Dec 2000 stephane   » (Master)

Nothing of substance to report from today, but I wanted to share a passage from something I'm currently reading. The passage in question is from Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America, by Stephen M. Fjellman. The book discusses the Disney theme park's rewriting of history and culture to suit corporate aims. Fascinating stuff. Anyway, here's the quote, which has nothing to do with Disney at all.

Joel Achenbach characterizes this turn as "creeping surrealism" -- the general fear, brought about by the manipulation of narrative and public discourse, that "nothing is real anymore." His introductory example of what people have come to understand as normal is taken from the back of a package of Pepperidge Farm "Nantucket" chocolate chunk cookies: "Only the bakers of Pepperidge Farm could pack so much scrumptious personality into classic American cookies....They added a heaping measure of fuss and bother. That meant making each cookie one of a kind, with an individual personality all its own. So they gave them rugged, irregular shapes, just as if someone had lovingly shaped each cookie by hand." Achenbach comments:

Each sentence lacks credibility, starting with "Only the bakers of Pepperidge Farm," etc., an absurd lie that, as trained consumers, we let pass. Beyond the quicksands of the language there are several levels of untruth: First, there's the Humble Down-Home Multinational Corporation affectation. Pepperidge Farm is a huge company that is itself owned by Campbell's, the world's largest soup company, yet it pretends these cookies are virtual Mom-and-Pop numbers. Fine. We can live with that. At least they don't claim that elves bake them in a brick oven in a hollow tree (as Keebler does).

What is more disturbing is that they have clearly designed a machine that makes cookies that look like a human being made them. And then -- astonishingly -- they confess the fakery right there on the back of the bag.

Not only has the line between realtiy and fiction become attenuated in the United States, but, says Achenbach, "Americans...no longer think the distinction matters...lies have been raised to an art form in this country, information manipulated so delicately, so craftily, with such unparalled virtuosity, that you can no longer tell the genuine from the fake, the virtuous from the profane."

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