"Lipstick on That Pig," a Song of Conventional Wisdom

The Weatherman is Always Wrong, Jews are Shrewd With Money and Advertising Makes Us Buy Things We Don't Want or Need

By Published on .

In a moment, some song lyrics, but first an observation: People think all sorts of stupid shit.

Or, at least, they say all sort of stupid shit without subjecting the conventional wisdom to any sort of thought, because there are some things you can say and never fear an argument. The fact is, the weatherman isn't always wrong. The weatherman happens to be right to exactly the percentage of probability he/she cites in the forecast (because that's what a forecast is: a statement of probability).

Another truism, right next to "Advertising Insults My Intelligence," is that ads make us buy things we neither want or need. Ads are, therefore, the fuel of the consumer-society engine that is destroying the planet via mindless consumption, production and depletion of non-renewable resouces.

Sounds right -- for about one second.

Yes, humans -- and chiefly western economies -- are indeed destroying the planet. Yes, the chief culprit are automobiles and electric power. Yes, we need curbs on greenhouse gasses. But this does not trace back to Tide or HP digital cameras or pet resorts or anything some third party deems unnecessary for you.

Products may be introduced, and they may be heavily advertised, but the only ones that survive are those that people repeatedly buy. "Fool me once," and all that. Successful products are, by definition, useful and valuable -- because people use them and value them. Now maybe I think your SUV, which has never left Wilshire Boulevard, is a crime against humanity. Maybe I think static cling is a problem that doesn't need to be dealt with. Maybe I think anybody who sends their dog on vacation is a spendthrift imbecile (and I do, and I do and I do). But no doubt there are people who don't think I need my DVD player, which I love. Or my conditioner. Or my chairs.

Yeah, my chairs. All over central and south Asia, there are hundreds of millions of people who do just fine on rugs and pillows or just plain squatting. To them, my chairs are the height of ostentation and excess. Never mind my shower massage, which I am not prepared to surrender, period.

Now then: the song.

It's called "Lipstick on That Pig," lyrics by David Batterson, and it's very pleasantly embittered in a John Prine sort of way. It's also the sort of thing that people will hear and think, "Yeah, you can say that again!" because it puts to music what they already know: that ads are there to camouflage how crappy and useless the product is. Yesiree, it's not just a song; it's a porcine of the times.

The only problem is, as we've seen, the underlying premise simply isn't true. Lipstick or no lipstick, there's no ongoing demand unless that's a mighty fine pig.
In this article:
Most Popular