To the editors:
Tom “Mr. Smuggypants” Frank is obviously exercising his “inalienable American right to be ignorant of history” when he claims that the ironic phenomenon of counterculture-inspired corporate advertising has occurred “sometime in the recent past” [Capital Lies, June 23]. 7UP became the Uncola more than 20 years ago so that the Woodstock generation could reject the tyranny of caramel-colored drinks. Meanwhile, hippies and children drinking Coca-Cola were inspired to sing to the world about perfect harmony from the hilltops.
And really it shouldn’t take a personal letter from Madison Avenue for one to become aware of the current tidal wave of consumer packaged pseudorebellion crashing in upon us. Like Tom Frank, I find it annoying. These ads are annoying to me since they lack integrity: you just can’t buy individuality off the shelf. Apparently, Frank’s annoyance has a different source: the ads are crashing his party of fashionably rebellious politics.
Philosophically, defending capitalism has never been fashionable. Bashing it has been very hip for years. Even Tom Peters is no exception. He writes for and about business, but he’s certainly no capitalist.
So when the “corporate interests” try to be all hip and existentialist, they end up cramping the anticapitalists’ style. And obviously style is of principal concern to Tom. After all, the only thing that differentiates these advertisements from others is their “rebellious” style. So why is it then that they make resisting capitalism “literally unthinkable”? Tom–did you mean to say “unfashionable”? Think = Fashion?!?! I guess this means that Tom’s distaste of capitalism is about as intellectually deep as a pierced nipple.
Tom Frank replies:
I suggest that Mr. Roeser read through all 400 pages of my recent writings on advertising during the 1960s before he accuses me of being unfamiliar with previous countercultural campaigns. I also suggest he read the Reader cover story that Dave Mulcahey and I wrote [January 20] on the labor battle in Decatur before he dismisses my “distaste of capitalism” as being merely fashionable.
Perhaps he ought to pay closer attention to Tom Peters as well: the man is a columnist for Forbes, a widely admired management theorist, and even has a game named after him called “The Tom Peters Business School in a Box.”