You don’t win a debate by having a debate. You don’t lose a debate by having a debate. Unless you go into it stoned, high on principles instead of sober and willing to question the underlying assumptions you’ve been sold as truth.
This is what went wrong in Afghanistan. This is what went wrong in Iraq.
We didn’t debate. Instead, we were sold Evildoers. We didn’t debate. Instead, we were sold mushroom clouds. We didn’t debate. Instead we were sold WMD’s, all of this underscored by war drums with a unifying hook, “Either Your With Us Or Against Us.”
It works in the movies. It works in commercials. It doesn’t work in life.
There’s nuance. There’s consequence. There’s words twisted to make us feel better about ourselves. Words like friendly fire, collateral damage, compassionate conservatism.
I had to get out of advertising. I absolutely had to get out of advertising. I’d learned everything there was to learn. I was repeating myself, pretending each year was a new year, when in reality, it was the same year, repeated over and over and over.
Sal DeVito taught me to use 7-words or less. His mantra was “Good Is The Enemy Of Great.” Richard Kirshenbaum taught me to use the mango as the media buy. His mantra was “Under The Radar.”
Here’s a small case study in flying under the radar. What you do is approach grocery stores and pay the produce department to put stickers on mangos saying, “Now Available In Snapple.” That’s how you launch Mango Snapple. End of small case study in flying under the radar.
Not sure if it was a book on Bill Bernbach. Not sure if it was a book on Rosser Reeves. Not sure if it was a book on David Ogilvy. Not sure if it was a book on Howard Gossage.
But in one of the many books I read on advertising, trying to push myself, endlessly trying to push myself, which is the advertising hack’s disease, I learned to treat my message as an unwelcome interruption. I learned to stay away from sans-serif fonts. I learned to zig when everyone else zags. I learned to say more with less, another pithy fucking insight: say more with less.
Either You’re With Us Or Against Us.
We’ll Be Greeted As Liberators.
I had to get out of advertising. I absolutely had to get out of advertising. I was becoming an incredibly skilled, overpaid liar. I loved the money. I hated myself.
I’d listen to Bill Oberlander, top-shelf creative director, A-List Talent, in a Burberry Suit, going on and on, clearly in love with the sound of his voice, in worthless meeting after worthless meeting, going on and on, knowing I was on track to becoming a B-Movie version of Bill Oberlander.
I loved the script. I hated myself.
President Obama made a strong choice, stepping back from the self-generated momentum to attack Syria. It reflects a depth of character in the man, which reminds me why I voted for him in the first place.
Someone was lying with a skill I had been teaching myself to master. Someone was lying with a casual ease I had been teaching myself to master. Someone was lying in 7-word sound bites, zigging and zagging, sans-truth, twisting the Marlboro Man into the Energizer Bunny of Hate.
He Keeps Going And Going And Going…
We didn’t debate the war. We didn’t debate the second war. We didn’t pay for the war. We didn’t pay for the second war. Consequently, we were invested in nothing.
If You Don’t Stand For Something, You Stand For Nothing.
You Can’t Sell A Man Who Isn’t Listening.
They Misunderestimated Me.
The only thing President Bush asked of us was to “Get Out There And Shop.”
That was the moment, the sound bite, the sloppy lie, which snapped me out of my stupor, “Get Out There And Shop.” Beneath the conceptual march to war, I could see the strategy. As Richard Kirshenbaum used to say, “Your Strategy Is Showing.”
It’s unbecoming to have your strategy showing. It’s unimaginative to have your strategy showing. It’s the surest sign the lie is too big, too egregious, too eager to be rammed down your throat, even an A-List Liar, like Karl Rove, couldn’t hide the seam.
Your Strategy Is Showing, Karl.
You don’t win a debate by having a debate. You don’t lose a debate by having a debate. You grow. It’s time for us to grow. It’s time for us to grow the hell up.