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Say what you will about the horror franchise but the latest Purge movie is eerily prophetic in its depiction of the divisive state of our Union. For those unawares, the concept deals with a government sanctioned night of rage that takes place once a year in America. All crimes, including murder, are legal for 12 hours. The subsequent carnage is supposed to “purge” everyone’s pent up frustrations and lead to less crime overall. Something like that anyway.

Regardless of what we think of this science fiction one cannot deny how prescient the idea is. So ripe is the concept I don’t know where to begin. Ragged race relations? Check. Police brutality? Check. The gun debate? Check. Political unrest? Check. Rich vs. poor? Check. And on and on. Clearly, The Purge has tapped into the zeitgeist in ways unimaginable and uncomfortable.

None more so that the latest entry, aptly titled The Purge: Election Year.

One scene has a corrupt, white officer shooting a young black man dead through the window of his car. Another has angry black civilians rampaging against a stronghold of rich white people. At times it was like watching You Tube videos of chaos in our streets. And I haven’t even mentioned the gross similarities between the “Election Year” depicted in the movie and the one we are enduring now. The two Presidential candidates are a fearsome and corrupt rich white man and a liberal leaning female. Sound familiar?

Of course the film is over-the-top and grossly distorted. But it’s all too freakishly on point. That the film was produced well before the recent mayhem in our country further adds to its power. If America wasn’t going through what it is going through right now this movie would come and go as a mildly entertaining piece of pulp genre. Instead, it damn near passes for a documentary.

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images-22“wanna buy a watch…a senate seat?”

Alas, the only racket more consistently maligned than advertising (politics) has achieved a new low. And I mean low. As anyone taking air must know, our honorable Governor, Rod Blagojevich has been indicted on more counts than in a Transylvanian phone book. According to the Feds, he tried to sell the vacated Senatorial seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He shook down the editorial department of the Chicago Tribune. And though not illegal, he referred to our new President-elect, on tape, as a mother——. This is arrogance and ignorance at unheard of levels –even by corrupt Illinois standards. (FYI, our last Governor, George Ryan is currently in jail for corruption charges that lead to human deaths.) Sigh.

I never liked Blagojevich. From his abusive style and undeserved cocksureness to his dumb football coach haircut, I thought the guy was an ass clown. And now there’s proof, tons of it, and the most heinous recorded on tape. Even Rod’s wife can be heard bellowing crudely about something-or-other, I think the Chicago Cubs sale. “F— the Cubs!” she hollers from the kitchen.

Yikes. The whole mess is the talk of the town. It probably has hurt Chicago’s chances for securing the Olympics. And I believe it hurts the President-elect as well. God forbid he’s involved. And while I doubt he is culpable the taint is there. It’ll be like dog crap on Obama’s shoe. Everywhere he goes there will be that foul odor. The stink of Rod. Conservatives will point it out at every turn.

Has advertising ever perpetrated such crimes upon an innocent population? Do I even need to ask? The billions of dollars spent composing myths for the tobacco industry are a prime example. The catch, I suppose, is that for years the public was aware of the harmful nature of cigarettes. In theory, we could make an informed decision on whether to light up. We knew the truth. But still, was (and is) it right?

Less than 100 years ago advertising was pretty much a forum for lying. Magic potions (some containing poisons) were regularly hocked through the mass media.

Today we are more sophisticated consumers. And for the gullible, we have numerous laws protecting them. Watch dogs hound our industry, making sure we don’t tell lies to make a sale.

And yet, like dog crap, the taint follows us around, it’s potential for harm lurking in every brief. Smart copywriters learn how to navigate the rulebook composing myths on behalf of countless brands, some woefully undeserving, some not. Are ignorant tribesmen from third world countries fairly suited to selling us hamburgers? They are in Crispin Porter’s ingenious “Whopper Virgins” campaign. I ask again: Is it right?

images-11whopper virgins or merely duped?

By law, the Governor has the right to choose a new Senator. Intuitively, he elected to find one who came with money attached. He broke the law by degrees, not seeing the white lines, until he no longer knew right from wrong. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. In Rod’s case it did just that.

What about in all our cases, or case studies if you will? Are we culpable for selling cigarettes to the Chinese or liquor to the poor? Are we exploiting “virgins” to sell whoppers? Are we telling whoppers every time we attack a new brief?

I ask because sometimes I wonder. Remember, I do this for a living and love it. But I also recognize the awesome power in mythmaking and I’m pretty sure it corrupts, just hopefully not absolutely.