System Failure

Anheuser-Busch pissed me off last week when it nixed airing its Janet Jackson ad spoof on the Super Bowl. I need a wardrobe-malfunction diversion badly.

An ad gimmick intended for broadcast on the greatest media gimmick of all time, parodying a show-business gimmick gone hamhandedly “wrong” on the same grand media gimmick’s stage a year prior? That’s some fine socio-cultural theater—a lock to generate gigabytes of stupid punditry, fundamental fuming and inane arguments the next day all across the country.

What welcome chaos it would have been for 90 million Americans (and 900 million other viewers around the world who hate Americans, except maybe a handful watching in Poland) to see it free and over the air. Because we need a break. Something mindless our consciousness can float in for a while. Something to relieve the relentless pressure we’re under—yes, from tech marketers and their agents.

It’s more crushing than any consumer appeal I’ve been subjected to in my life. Their campaign to make us covet what many of us can’t even get yet—wireless—is the most pernicious attack on my consumer peace of mind that I’ve ever seen—a natural, if perfidious, evolution of the evil that computers do.

The machines, after all, were heralded as unifiers, but they’ve turned out to be Balkanizers of the first degree. Even cheap computers are still expensive for a lot of people, so that’s divisive right there. Second, so much happens online now that if you can’t access the Internet, you’re like a 21st-century version of Jed Clampett, only without the mansion.

Plus, using a computer to surf the Web—are we still allowed to call it that, or do I have to learn another new buzzword—virtually guarantees that you will develop an unhealthy obsession with your own narrow, personal interests.

We snicker about the foolish few who still won’t use cell phones and refuse to hook up their homes to cable TV. Eccentric, a bit foolish, but still OK to have lunch with. Computer illiterates, however, are viewed the same way Marie Antoinette, passing through the French countryside, would have viewed the villagers.

So maybe we should have seen it coming—this dark age in which it’s not even good enough to be plugged in anymore. Now you have to be unwired or you’re a nonperson.

I mean, look at those Microsoft spots with the smug suburbanites sitting back in their comfort zones. Big smiles on their faces … and dotted lines all around them. Don’t disturb my zone, dude. Could the symbolism be any more obvious?

Hot spots. Bluetooth. Centrino. DirectWay (satellite, I guess, for all you south-facing residents). All this expensive stuff, and now if you “only” have dial-up, you’re treated like a rube, if not a leper. I don’t even know what wireless means, exactly, except in the strictly literal sense.

Look, my kid’s e-machine is so filled with spyware and porn sites I can’t get rid off that he can’t do anything but IM everybody, and now I’m supposed to upgrade to walking around the house with a computer in my hand? So now I still have porn sites I can’t get rid of, but now they’re all over the house instead of just at the computer terminal.

I thought cell phones that went out of style every six weeks were a marketer’s gift from God. Now we have to buy a new wireless computer every three months as well.

So I could have really used some gratuitous nudity or, more accurately, a spoof that alluded to gratuitous nudity, to take my mind off the crushing need to get technologically fit.

But I gave in and went wireless after all. I threw the e-machine out the window.

I feel better already.