A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted

There’s a sucker born every minute.”
– P.T. Barnum

Do you ever really listen to the “As Seen on TV ” genre of commercials that proliferate on radio and television these days?  I’m not talking about just being aware that one of these commercials is playing in the background.  I’m asking if you really pay attention and think about what the announcer is saying and what it really all means.  Sadly, I have to admit to the fact that there are times when I do just that.
Sometimes I find myself listening very intently.  Not because I’m actually being seduced into parting with any of my money in order to obtain a bottle of the latest instantaneous weight loss miracle drug or the newest high technology skillet to which nothing, not even its own non-stick surface, can adhere.

No, what grabs my attention is the rampant application of illogic, mumbo-jumbo, and slight of hand which marketers employ in their attempts to entice people to purchase items for which they really have no need and which, in all likelihood, will not function as advertised.  At least not for very long.

I find myself wondering how anyone could be so gullible as to fall for the claims that are made on these commercials until I remind myself that the ever-suffering widow of that recently departed Nigerian Finance Minister shows no sign of backing off in her never-ending attempt to find others with whom to share her wealth.
But back to the commercials.  What do you think it actually means when you learn that the product being promoted, “…..is a $199.00 value, but it can be yours, not for $150.00, not even for $100.00!  It can be yours today for the amazingly low price of only $19.95! 

Now you might be thinking that it means that the true value of this “$199.00” item is actually $19.95.  “But Wait!”  

It’s really only worth a paltry $9.98 because, “If you call now, we’ll send you a second Gee-whiz Whatchamacallit at no additional cost! ”  (….you just pay shipping and handling.)

“But remember, you have to call within the next 10 minutes to take advantage of this incredible offer.”

Unless of course you happen to change channels and come across the same advertisement a couple of hours later, in which case your 10 minutes of opportunity have been miraculously restored.  It’s interesting to note that this same phenomena occurs whenever we learn that “….supplies are limited!  So act fast! ”

And don’t ever forget that, “Operators are standing by! “


Photo credit: Anna Fischer Foter CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Jessica Watkins DeWinter / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


Reality Denied Comes Back to Haunt

Remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.
–  George Costanza

Today’s sports headlines have led me to consider Alex Rodriguez as my latest candidate to be the poster child for the practice of Situational Ethics.
Now in case you don’t know who Alex Rodriguez is, he’s been the New York Yankees starting third baseman since 2004.  The Yankees thought enough of his talents at playing the hot corner to sign him to a contract in 2007 which will pay him a total of $275 million for his services through 2017.

Alex, aka ARod, is also a baseball player who for years vehemently denied using PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) only to recant and confess in 2009 that, in fact, he’d been lying about his drug use and had “experimented” with PEDs back in 2001 through 2003, but only because he was under such tremendous pressure to perform.  Subsequent to his contrite mea culpa, the presumption was that Alex had clearly seen the error of his chemically augmented ways and that he has been performing as an “unenhanced ” athlete since that time.

At least that’s what we were supposed to have believed.

Fast forward to Monday, August 5, 2013.   Based on an extensive investigation and what can only be assumed to be overwhelming evidence, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Alex Rodriguez was being suspended from baseball through the end of the 2014 season; a total of 211 games.  His offense?  The continued use of PEDs and his attempts to mislead representatives of major league baseball who were conducting the investigation.  As a footnote, twelve other current MLB players were suspended for inappropriate drug use at the same time.

cheatersEnough about Alex.   What really concerns me is our society’s continued and growing acceptance of what I refer to as Situational Ethics.  I think that it’s safe to list Rodriguez as a practitioner of this particular philosophy.

I subscribe to the simplistic belief that ethics can be defined as doing what is right, even when no one is looking.  I believe that rules are necessary and that in most cases they are based on well-established behavioral norms which society has put into place as a means to clearly define the difference between behaviors which are acceptable (right ) as compared to those which are unacceptable (wrong).

On the other hand, Situational Ethics assumes that the situation in which a person finds himself, rather than the behavior itself, is the ultimate determining factor as to whether or not a particular behavior is ethical.

I’ve always believed that cheating in any form and in any situation or context is wrong; whether it’s done while taking a test, playing a game, or in any other activity where one can manipulate the rules or circumstances to improve one’s advantage.

Using the behavior of cheating as an example, Situational Ethics, enables one to engage in the following type of rationalization:

In general, cheating is an inappropriate behavior, unless      (fill in the blank with a situation
or circumstance in which you believe the desired outcome justifies engaging in the behavior)     .

It’s interesting to note that this line of thinking is often reinforced with the addition of a quick,  “Besides!  Everybody does it! 

Alex Rodriguez, my designated poster child, has already given us a hint as to what verbiage he’s used to fill in his personal blank – the tremendous pressure he felt to perform.

I suspect that there may well have been at least 275 million other enticements which were vying for room in his blank space as well.


Thanks to the writer Philip K. Dick for the title of today’s blog.
Photo credit: Keith Allison Foter CC BY-SA
Photo credit: tomvanwyhe / Foter / CC BY