Air Date 6/6/2022
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the widespread impact of marketing on culture, consumerism, transportation, food, gender roles, and gun ownership in the United States. It's sort of a nice summary topic, I think.
Clips today include Then and Now, Not Just Bikes, Climate Town, Cheddar, hbomberguy, Cool Stuff Ride Home, and Marketing Muckraking, with additional members-only clips from Not Just Bikes and Citations Needed.
Our Consumer Society - Then & Now - Air Date 6-9-22
LEWIS WALLER - HOST, THEN & NOW: Some objects, some consumer goods fulfill a simple, natural biological need. We eat to satiate ourselves. We buy a bed to sleep on, a home to protect us from the elements. But we are not just a needs species. We go beyond our simple [00:01:00] needs. We create new desires, new ways of being in the world. We seem to have a desire for the new. But really understanding what that means, what it could mean, has only developed over the past few hundred years.
We can see this shift in what desire means across the 19th century. Sociologist Colin Campbell argues, for example, that romanticism, that hugely influential pan-European movement that emphasized feelings, sentiments, emotions, novel experiences, and adventure and creativity was an important part of the development of a consumerist outlook.
Campbell writes that "the consumer withdraws from reality as fast as he encounters it, ever casting his daydreams forward in time, attaching them to [00:02:00] objects of desire, and then subsequently unhooking them from these objects, as and when they are attained and experienced. As modernity developed and we were unshackled from the circularity of traditional life of the same routines every day, every month, every year, we began to want to collect something new: experiences."
Oscar Wilde satirized this idea of new experiences in his 1891 The Picture of Dorian Gray. Gray exchanges his soul for everlasting youth so that he can live endlessly as a hedonist. Rachel Bowlby writes that Gray "exchanges his moral self for the unbound liberty of the new hedonist." There's no limit "to the number of personalities he can adopt to the experiences he can try."
The modern world created [00:03:00] adventurers, explorers, dandies and flaneurs, moving through the streets, through the countryside, moving through the world just to collate and to understand the new. Already in 1655, philosopher and scientist Robert Boyle had written that while "other creatures were content with easily attainable necessaries", humans had a "multiplicity of desires" and "greedy appetites".
In 1741's Fable of the Bees, Bernard Mandeville had argued against the received wisdom of Christianity, the ancient Greeks and the Romans, that private vice and selfish individual desire were simply pernicious. Instead, he said they were socially useful; they created more trade, more commerce, and, in the end, made everyone better off.
Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume agreed to an [00:04:00] extent, writing that indolent luxury was still pernicious, but that an "increase and consumption of all the commodities which serve to the ornament and pleasures of life are advantages to society."
When Wilde was writing in the 19th century, Paris was becoming an international hotspot for new department stores, placing a universe of exotic goods on display. In his book, The Ladies Paradise, author Emile Zola wrote about the allure of the new stores. He called them "alters", a "miracle", a "machine", and that "mad desires were driving all the women crazy." Other Parisians and critics talked about a new type of person: the flaneur, the everyday person strolling aimlessly around the Parisian arcades, just taking it all in, [00:05:00] experiencing as much as possible. And at the beginning of the 20th century, as Henry Ford popularized a new method of standardized mass production, capitalists and then advertising executives on Madison Avenue wondered how new desires could be maintained, created from thin air.
The father of public relations and Freud's nephew Edward Bernays, wrote that "mass production is profitable, only if its rhythm can be maintained." Business "cannot afford to wait until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch through advertising and propaganda... to ensure itself the continuous demand, which alone will make its costly planned profitable."
Freud himself became central to the new advertising industry. Admen drew on his theories of sexual [00:06:00] desire, oral gratification, and the pleasure principle to sell new brands, new products. The psychologist and marketer, Ernest Dichter, famously recommended to his colleagues, "don't sell shoes, sell lovely feet!"
The shift was that the consumerism and marketing that was developing wasn't about needs. It was about new fantasies, new lives, becoming a new and different person. It wasn't about the present, it was about the future. The bank Lehman Brothers' Paul Mazur wrote that "we must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs."
Some of [00:07:00] these new desires, new dreams, new visions were practical: the washing machine, freeing up some of the housewife's time; the automobile, the typewriter. But others were criticized as luxuries: sports cars, and endless new fashions.
Retail analyst Victor Lebow wrote in 1955, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."
Would You Fall for It? - Not Just Bikes - Air Date 1-9-23
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: This is the American dream of freedom on wheels; an automotive age, traveling on time-saving superhighways, futureamas, free-flowing channels of concrete and steel. [00:08:00]
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: I love this quote. It speaks about highways as this magical new technology that will bring freedom to everyone.
Of course there are still people holding onto this idea today, but most of us acknowledge that reality is quite different. These "free-flowing channels of concrete and steel" look more like this, jammed up with so much traffic that nobody is getting anywhere quickly.
When I think about highways, especially elevated highways, I think of them as this: an antiquated, mid-century technology that never really lived up to its promised potential.
And when I'm on a high-speed train, comfortably flying along at 300 kilometers an hour, it's really hard to see highways as anything other than a washed-up, outdated technology.
But of course, in the 1950s, this was the future, especially according to General Motors. So here's the key message in this video:
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: We have become the nation on wheels, [00:09:00] with more motorized mobility than ever dreamed of before. Though we have the greatest highway system in all the world, it can't carry the mounting traffic of our growing greatness.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: "Our growing greatness." I love that little bit of American exceptionalism in there.
Anyway. It's funny to see that already in 1954, the roads weren't big enough to fit all the cars. We now refer to this as "induced demand" where building more roads and highways generates more trips by car, requiring even more roads and wider highways in a never-ending cycle, or at least until the city goes bankrupt.
But this effect was known to urban planners as early as the 1930s when it was referred to as "traffic generation." Of course this film doesn't talk about induced demand because it was made by GM and they love the idea that more people will drive because then they'll sell more [00:10:00] cars. That's, like, the entire point.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: We're running out of roads. We didn't dream big enough.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: Yeah, that's the problem. Not that you've built a car-dependent system with no viable alternatives to driving.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: And here's the crisis. Two-thirds of the way is now obsolete, worn out, inadequate in width, inferior in condition, capacity, and safety. Sure, these were good roads 30 years ago when they were laid out. But nothing lasts forever.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: I find this part very interesting because this is exactly what Strong Towns talks about so often. It's not the cost of building the roads that is the biggest problem, it's the ongoing maintenance expense, especially the replacement cost of the infrastructure that tends to happen after about 30 years.
Here, this video acknowledges this problem: [00:11:00] the financial cost of the end of the first life cycle of automobile infrastructure. Of course, their solution is for the government to pay for it all, but we'll get to that later.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: All over the county, our farm-to-market roads are dying of old age. Not anybody's fault, just a matter of time, and not enough money to keep them up or make them modern. Most were built in the twenties.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: The pitch here is that they need to improve their "farm-to-market roads," and this was certainly true at the time. It's important to have good quality infrastructure to get products from where they're produced to where they're sold. And even today, many highway projects are pitched as a way of speeding up trucking.
But we now know that these farm-to-market roads aren't just used for trucking. Suburbs and exurbs get built along the road, and this induces huge amounts of traffic from personal vehicles. My infamous walk in Houston, where I risked my life to walk 800 [00:12:00] meters to a nearby luggage store, was along this strode, which ironically is called "Farm to Market, 1960."
This is one of those farm-to-market roads referred to in this video, and it is used for trucking, but it's very obvious that the majority of the traffic here is not commercial trucks. And if anything, the trucks are being slowed down by all the personal vehicles. And all those personal cars and SUVs are here because there's no other way to get around. There isn't even a sidewalk along most of this strode.
Of course, American cities never acknowledge that all these cars are slowing down trucking. Instead, they use the congestion as a justification to widen the supposed farm-to-market roads until they become asphalt-covered strodes like this one.
Strodes are found all over the US and Canada. They are streets that are designed like roads and in doing so, fail at being good at either one. The "strode" is a term coined by Strong Towns, and I have a whole [00:13:00] video about them and why they're a problem that you should watch if you're not familiar with them.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: We pay for roads whether we have 'em or not. Only we pay more for 'em when we don't have 'em. Soured milk. Wear and tear on equipment. Wasted time. Soaks everybody from the farmers right up to the family budget. We're growin' more crops, growin' more people, growin' more cars and trucks. Trouble is we've just not been growin' enough more good roads.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: Again, this may have been true at the time there very well may have been economic benefits that were being lost because the infrastructure wasn't good enough. But there are diminishing returns too. Laying a high-quality road could help many aspects of the economy, but if that road is used to encourage car-dependent sprawl and the road is widened and turned into a strode, then it destroys that infrastructure investment and fundamentally gives the [00:14:00] city a huge infrastructure liability that it can't afford.
The video goes on with obviously fake testimonials from various members of society, but this one is the most interesting.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: Ask the small town merchant. Our town has a population of 4,002, except on weekends. On Friday night and Saturday, congestion hits our main arteries like a heart attack. But customers pass us by if they can't find a place to stop. What rings up store sales today is parking space. It's as important to volume as shelf space and display windows. Best investment a town can make: lots of parking.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: The place shown in this segment is clearly a traditional mixed-use, walkable neighborhood. This is the kind of place where, in the past, people would walk to the local [00:15:00] shops.
The mass adoption of automobiles absolutely did devastate these places. And while the quotes in this video are obviously scripted, parking was a problem for shop owners.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: In small town and suburb, in cities of all sizes, the situation is the same: all snarled up.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: You can see that the problem of downtown congestion and parking was already well known in 1954, but they didn't look at this and think, hmm, maybe it's not a good idea to try to bring everybody in here by car. Instead, they tried to make more space for all the cars.
GIVE YOURSELF THE GREEN LIGHT CLIP: Ask Mrs. America. Every day it gets worse shopping. It's not just a matter of getting through the congestion. It's impossible to find a place to park.
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: The fundamental fallacy here, though, is that you can't build enough parking to replace the number of customers you would get from foot traffic in a walkable neighborhood. [00:16:00] But that certainly didn't stop American and Canadian cities from trying. The places where downtown people used to live were turned into places where suburbanites could park.
Trying to attract car-driving suburbanites to a downtown area by providing ample cheap parking is doomed to fail. But North American cities literally destroyed their downtowns, trying to make them car friendly.
How The Auto Industry Carjacked The American Dream - Climate Town - Air Date 4-8-21
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: In the event that a pedestrian was hit by a car, the driver of the car was almost always held liable because they were a car and they hit a kid. The problem got so bad that cities started voting on legislation that would limit a car speed to 20 miles per hour in city centers. So cars would stop hitting kids by, ironically, the boatload. It all came to a head in 1923 when a full 10% of the city of Cincinnati, 42,000 people physically signed a petition, and this wasn't some kind of change.org petition to outlaw the word slacktivism online. 42,000 people signed this thing — like with a pen, [00:17:00] and not a good pen, a pen from the 1920s.
So at this point, car companies had to listen to the will of the people, and I'm just kidding. They launched this series of racist ads attacking Cincinnati, and successfully killed the mandate. The auto industry was after permanent custody of the streets, not some kind of weekends and holidays visitation rights.
Unfortunately by 1924, so many people were getting killed by cars—
PRESIDENT CALVIN COOLIDGE: Such a sum is difficult to comprehend.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: — that Calvin Coolidge, aka the President America forgot, asked his then Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, to please do something, anything, so people would stop getting killed by cars. Hoover started the first national conference on Street and Highway Safety and kicked the whole thing off with some pretty terrifying statistics.
Over the past year alone, America had suffered an estimated $600 million in economic losses from death and injury. 22,600 deaths so far that year, and 678,000 serious injuries caused by cars. Let's just take a quick peek at the list of organizations Hoover gathered to figure out the best way to stop cars from [00:18:00] killing pedestrians— oh it's car companies, it's almost all car companies. Okay.
But I'm sure putting a bunch of proverbial foxes in charge of metaphorical henhouse security didn't have any lasting impact— oh the conference laid the foundation for the 1928 model municipal traffic ordinance, and set up the strictest anti pedestrian rules in America.
Okay. That's not fair. It gave people the freedom to do whatever they want in the road as long as what they wanted was to cross the street in only a tiny little designated area, and only at right angles.
Go around. Go around. Cars, man.
Problem solved, thought the auto industry until they found out that people weren't obeying the law they worked so darn hard to get past, and judges weren't convicting people for the obvious crime of being in the road.
So they did three things. Number one, they made fun of people who got killed by cars.
ARCHIVE CLIP: Do you wonder at the gentle chuckling of the undertaker running, jumping, and skipping across the street?
Don't [00:19:00] take foolish chances, don't jaywalk.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: They even spent money popularizing the term jaywalking. See, back in the 19 hundreds, a jay meant like a doofus or a country idiot. So by officially labeling the term jaywalking, car companies cemented the idea that only idiots get hit by cars.
ARCHIVE CLIP: They aren't pedestrians at all.
They're jaywalkers with a capital J.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: See, if a person got hit by a car— it was probably the car's fault, but if that person was, say, some kind of fugly dip shit; then it was probably their fault, they were basically asking to be hit.
ARCHIVE CLIP: One track minds just blundering stubbornly ahead.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: Number two, in 1928, the American Automobile Association, or AAA, took over road safety education for children.
They forced kids to sign a pledge promising they'd never jaywalk. Another abstinence only program that's sure to have no negative repercussions later in life.
Number three, the National Automobile Chamber of commerce built and paid for a national wire service that allowed newspapers to report on car accidents. If they didn't like what you wrote [00:20:00] about the cars, they could take your wire service away, giving your competitors a huge advantage over you.
It'd be like if you got kicked off of Facebook just for writing, I got home last night and Mark Zuckerberg was in my house going through my closet, even if it was true. People weren't the only ones the auto industry needed to kick out of the streets, there were also public street cars and urban railways. A government regulated public transportation system that required reasonable fares and that lower income areas be connected and served. Well after some lobbying, cars were just allowed to drive on the tracks and with hundreds of cars constantly cutting off public transportation left and right, it got pretty impossible for the trains and street cars to make their stops on time. Now, fewer people wanted to take public transit, and some of those people bought cars. Which made the problem way better.
Oh, I'm sorry. Worse. Oh, so much worse. Think of it this way; a bus can hold maybe 60 people. Cars can hold five, usually hold one, maybe two. The amount of space 60 cars takes up is— you're looking at it, it's way more. [00:21:00] All of this is maybe just the nature of competitive business, maybe cars are just the result of the product consumers want.
Sure. Maybe. The part that is maybe not okay, is the part where the auto and fossil fuel industry hired front companies to buy up public transportation. Then ripped out the tracks, and purposely destroyed the businesses to give the road to cars. It would maybe be illegal for a monopoly to buy up and destroy the competition.
It would be, and it was, and in 1949, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, GM and Mac trucks were all convicted of conspiring to monopolize. Luckily, the regulators had enough power to force GM to pay the unfathomably high sum of $5,000. The GM Treasurer himself was forced to pay a fine of $1.
ARCHIVE CLIP: The family's automobile, which they will probably trade in for a new one next year, not only helps keep the automobile industry thriving, but continually supports the gasoline station, the [00:22:00] service garage, the tire dealer.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: These moves worked wonderfully to reorient people to a car's focused version of their own street.
The auto industry wanted to be woven into the fabric of every city and every state in America. That meant highways that crisscross applesauce all over the US, and especially through the dense urban centers. In the early 1930s, there were a bunch of privately owned toll roads, but that wasn't gonna get every American to buy a new car every year.
So in 1932, the President of General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, and some other auto industry groups created the National Highway users conference to, in their words, protect highway funding sources from depression born demands.
Oh, these poors with their demands all the time.
It became clear to them that they needed to fund highway spending through a more socialist kind of method, so they successfully lobbied to fund roads using a national tax on gasoline.
Ever heard the term freeway? The free refers to the fact that it wasn't a toll road, and the way is for the way that it actually wasn't free at all, and it was in fact subsidized by [00:23:00] the government when the gasoline tax didn't cover the cost. There was a 1939 congressional report called Toll Roads and Free Roads.
It really lays out exactly what the auto industry was hoping for, and spoiler alert, almost exactly what they would get. Most people don't read congressional report. So in 1939, GM sold their dream of highways chopping apart American cities and connecting everything by cars, by sponsoring a gigantic diorama of their idea of the future of America.
I know what you might be thinking. How could a diorama possibly do something like that? Easy. You do it at the 1939 New York World's Fair baby. Oh, the World's Fair. Imagine you live in a world with no cell phones, internet, or cargo pants. There's no color TV or modern medicine, and you and everyone you know just went through the Great Depression. Then you get to go to a future themed amusement park slash Coachella.
It was like if ecstasy did cocaine. People were getting emotional whiplash just from walking in the front gates. The New York World's Fair was a banger, [00:24:00] and the banginest exhibit was GM's Future Rama. A 16 minute immersive diorama slash ride showcasing the future according to General Motors, created by the legendary designer Norman Bel Geddes.
ARCHIVE CLIP: At an ever accelerating rate of progress, a greater world, a better world, a world which always will grow.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: 1.5 million handcrafted buildings and trees, 50,000 model cars, a 14 lane highway with moving miniature vehicles, and no public transportation.
ARCHIVE CLIP: Here is an American city re-planned around a highly developed modern traffic system.
ROLLIE WILLIAMS - HOST, CLIMATE TOWN: People flew along the diorama in chairs attached to a series of tracks, and were absolutely blown the f### away by what GM was showing them. In America there was no cohesive understanding of what the future could even look like, but within the first three months of opening, 2 million people had seen the exhibit and were convinced this was the future.
Sprawling Interstate highways, a car for everyone, no public transportation, lots of people living in the suburbs, and basically exactly what America ended up [00:25:00] looking like by the 1970s. It was so good that Walt Disney admitted to ripping it off when he created Epcot, the most culturally sensitive destination in America.
It was an acid trip, inside a crystal ball, inside of a General Motors commercial. GM had now successfully incepted their dream of the future inside the minds of millions of Americans.
How Backyard Grilling Conquered America - Cheddar Explains - Air Date 5-19-20
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: As Europeans settled on the eastern seaboard and brought slaves over from Africa, a new phenomenon emerged.
ADRIAN MILLER: Taking that Native American kind of smoking traditions and then adding European and African smoking traditions as well. And those all come together and they start to become what we call barbecue today.
JIM AUCHMUTEY: It became a very favored way of cooking for big events, particularly in the southern colonies: Virginia, North and South Carolina.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: By the Revolutionary War, these big cookout style gatherings became staples of life in those colonies.
JIM AUCHMUTEY: George Washington's Mount Vernon hosted several barbecues. George Washington mentions barbecues several times in his diary. There were big events that were held at plantations. They drew people from [00:26:00] all over.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: It also wasn't just for casual fun. Barbecues celebrated momentous, even formal occasions.
JIM AUCHMUTEY: The most significant barbecue is the barbecue that was held in 1793 to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for the US Capitol building. George Washington went and they had a Masonic ceremony and after the ceremony, all the dignitaries repaired to a what's called an ox barbecue, it's beef barbecue.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: As the young country started to solidify, barbecue did, too, becoming a focal point of antebellum life. For all of Gone With the Wind's many, many faults, and there are a lot of them, it did key in on something by opening with a barbecue.
GONE WITH THE WIND CLIP: I was counting on eating barbecue with you two. Well, you are Scarlett! Of course you are honey!
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: But what that movie and many people since have missed is how central enslaved African-American skill, craft, and creativity were to the emergence of this cuisine.
JIM AUCHMUTEY: George Washington did not cook barbecue. He hosted barbecues.
ADRIAN MILLER: African Americans were the principal cooks [00:27:00] of barbecue. Newspaper articles and magazine articles from the 1800s, and even for most of the 1900s, they would say African-Americans were indispensable to having the best barbecue.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: A barbecue would've been held in a large clearing or meadow.
ADRIAN MILLER: It would be a very long trench, which would be about a foot and a half deep, maybe three feet wide. And then essentially you would have whole animal carcasses on rods across that pit with people flipping it and dousing it with a sop of usually vinegar and spices.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: As barbecues became a center of community life in the old South, they also started spreading out to the frontier. The Midwest and Texas took on the traditions, too. Soon these barbecues became sort of like a public square. When politicians campaigned, they would swing through the various barbecues to give stump speeches, take questions from people, and even debate their opponents.
ADRIAN MILLER: So then you start having these huge political rallies with barbecue for like 25,000-50,000 people.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: It was kind of [00:28:00] like a 19th you version of CNN, except for a lot of people were drunk.
ADRIAN MILLER: And then as the 19th Century progresses, you see barbecue for almost any civic event. The launching of a railroad track, businessmen just wanting to say, Hey, we had a good year this year, or celebrating a harvest.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: It's no surprise then that barbecue became the go-to method of celebration for Independence Day on the 4th of July.
ADRIAN MILLER: And then after emancipation. These enslaved African Americans who are now free and have this very marketable skill are the ones that are really barbecue's earliest ambassadors. They take barbecue all around the country.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: But how do we go from southern barbecues to nationwide backyard grilling? Well, that story starts with a titan of American business, Henry Ford.
To avoid shortages and keep his assembly lines humming. Ford wanted to own every link in his supply chain.
MATT ANDERSON: He becomes absolutely obsessed with controlling every aspect of the manufacture of his automobile. So not just building the cars, but [00:29:00] sourcing the raw materials, you know, everything down to the ore and the coal and the wood. Ford has a cousin-in-law by the name of E.G. Kingsford living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Kingsford eventually puts together this deal for Ford to purchase something like 313,000 acres of forest up in the Upper Peninsula and then Ford constructs sawmills in a plant and that plant produces wood that will go into the bodies of Model-T cars.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: But that creates a residual problem. There's all this leftover scrap wood.
MATT ANDERSON: Ford throughout his career was absolutely dedicated to reducing waste wherever he could. Waste is just kind of burning your money. So try to reduce it and find some other use for byproducts wherever you can.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: So Ford started thinking about what he could do with all that wood. And he caught wind of an idea to press it into charcoal briquettes for grilling. As the story goes, his friend Thomas Edison even helped him figure out the design for the factory. Ford then started selling charcoal in his dealerships, along with grills, encouraging people to enjoy their [00:30:00] cars by taking a Sunday drive out to the woods and having a picnic. It was a huge hit, enough that the Ford Motor Company eventually sold it off as its own business. The spinoff was renamed Kingsford Charcoal, the namesake of Ford's cousin-in-law who set up the original purchase of the Woodlands. It was charcoal that helped introduce families to grilling for camping and picnics. But what brought that Southern style barbecue we talked about before into the home?
JIM AUCHMUTEY: I was very surprised to learn this because, you know, Southerners think that we invented everything about barbecue and we did not. And the whole growth of backyard cooking is really more comes from California.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: Barbecue culture had continued moving west with Americans in the 1800s. As it moved into California, it started to mix with outdoor cooking traditions coming out of Mexico, too. Cooking over an open flame became a common part of the lore of cowboys, adventure, and westward expansion. As people settled on the California coast and built middle class homes, many added big stone [00:31:00] barbecue pits to cook in the backyard. With a little bit of media exposure casting the pits as a piece of the California good life, this backyard quirk started to catch on all over the country. Sunset Magazine even put out a cookbook with instructions for building your own backyard barbecue pit, and included barbecue recipes.
Over the next few decades, these pits popped up in countless yards, becoming such a common home improvement project that one even made an appearance in an I Love Lucy episode. But then there was George Stephen. He worked at Weber Brothers Metal Works, a company that mainly fabricated buoys in Chicago. He started to get annoyed with his barbecue pit and other early attempts at backyard grills because weather and uneven heat could ruin a good meal without warning. So in 1952, he took a buoy, cut it in half, attached three legs, and voila, he had a grill that could provide shelter from the rain and cook with even heat, the now iconic Weber grill. Cheap, durable, and much easier than building a barbecue pit, it opened up grilling to the masses. [00:32:00]
The 1950s and '60s also saw forces in American society pulling people into the home and towards family life. These forces helped grilling take off as a national pastime.
ELAINE TYLER MAY: If the Cold War was a battle of ideas and, uh, politics, the US weapon was the "American dream" to demonstrate that the American way of life was the best way of life, and that it should be the aspiration for people everywhere.
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: This battle of ideas came to a head on the domestic front during an epic news event of the 1950s, the "Kitchen Debate" between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Over the backdrop of an exhibition showcasing a modern American kitchen, the two leaders went toe to toe on which country was better.
ELAINE TYLER MAY: They became very involved in arguing over who had better houses, who had better appliances, and who had better women. You can really see that it was about lifestyle, that it was about family, it was about gender. It was about, [00:33:00] How do you live?
ANDREW MURPHY DAVIS - HOST, CHEDDAR: This meant that being a good citizen was wrapped up, whether consciously or not, in how well you aspire to and embody this ideal of the perfect American family life.
ELAINE TYLER MAY: The American way of life is the white picket fence around the single family home in the suburbs with a nuclear family, happily buying things, and dad was out busy earning a living and mom was home happily taking care of the house and kids. And so you really do begin to see the development of a white, middle class, suburban, consumerist, heterosexual ideal.
WOKE BRANDS - hbomberguy - Air Date 2-22-19
HARRIS BREWIS - HOST, HBOMBERGUY: Advertising has taken place for most of human history, but with the invention of the printing press and popularization of the newspaper, it really took off. Even as early as the 18 hundreds you couldn't read your paper for updates about the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War without some little fucker telling you about his Bovril, invaluable to invalids and weak persons. You can't say that!
Some people think of advertisements as value neutral. It's just a piece of paper or some [00:34:00] video footage, conveniently letting you know about a thing that exists and what it does, so you can make an informed decision about your potential purchase.
GILETTE AD: Sam, I don't have to cut myself to shave close. This is the TRAC II, the two-bladed razor from Gillette. The blades are recessed so it's safer.
HARRIS BREWIS - HOST, HBOMBERGUY: Because as we know, humans are perfectly rational actors. After all, capitalism works because it's just in everyone's rational self-interest to make a really good product.
No, wait. Hang on. I forgot about human psychology. You can just trick people into buying things. Oops.
It turns out that it's possible to convince people to do things they wouldn't do otherwise and probably shouldn't. Advertising is really a large collection of people trying to find the most effective way of getting you to give your money to their bosses to buy their thing. It's a massive and very lucrative industry. To put it the way this old cigarette commercial did, we're gonna get ya!
One of the most effective ways to sell a product is to tie it to someone's sense of value or their goals. Owning this product will prove you're a [00:35:00] successful person. This product will make you irresistible to women we made up. Maybe if you ate at a fast food restaurant more, your children would love you, you piece of shit.
But the problem is, this doesn't work forever. Advertising has become more and more ubiquitous and audiences stop paying attention to commercials when there are a lot like ones they've seen thousands of times before. You have to push these ideas harder and harder for them to work. Over time, commercials became more and more brazen in associating their products with power and sex, until it became so weird it's almost indistinguishable from a joke. Take this classic Big Mac poster where the burger's on a red velvet bed and it says, "Stop staring at me like I'm some piece of meat." "Are you Mac enough?" Like man enough? Like, are you enough of a masculine, manly man man to get into bed with this burger and just go to town with your mouth. But you are a piece of meat. Oh, I'm supposed to fuck this burger.
By this point, [00:36:00] advertisers had drilled so far down into the human id they'd gone too far, broken through all preexisting Freudian evo psych theories, and entered directly into the darkness of the human mindmaw, to the place where you are paying a supermodel to pretend to eat a burger in her bikini at the beach, because maybe horny viewers will want to do a sex so badly they'll get hungry for a Teriyaki Burger!
Men Eat Red Meat, Women Eat Salads –– But Why? - Cool Stuff Ride Home - Air Date 10-26-22
JACKSON BIRD - COOL STUFF RIDE HOME: The shift, or at least the main one that Friedman relays, came amidst various shifting social norms in the latter half of the 19th Century, including more women joining the workforce. This precipitated the rise of women's restaurants, places where women could go to have a midday meal and not be disturbed by rowdy, drunken men.
But at least in the beginning, the menus in men's restaurants and women's restaurants were exactly the same. It was only as more and more women's restaurants began to proliferate and chains emerged, that companies began coming up with foods they decided were more appropriate [00:37:00] for women, things like fish, cottage cheese, and desserts.
Especially desserts. Seen as light and airy and a vice that weak women couldn't resist, desserts outnumbered entrees on many menus at the time, according to Friedman. And this was another crucial shift in the 19th Century. As Samira Kawash points out in her book, Candy: A Century Of Panic And Pleasure, sweet indulgences came to be associated with women and children as the cost of sugar went down.
Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Kawash says, during the reign of sugar plantations, having access to sugar was seen as a sign of immense wealth and power. When hosting events, the wealthy would display extravagant sugar-spun centerpieces. Quoting Kawash, "As production became more mechanized in the 19th Century, the price of sugar fell, and by the second half of the 19th Century, sugar was both cheap and widely available".
As a result, [00:38:00] historian Wendy Wilson suggests "sugar became linked with femininity. Its economic devaluation coincided with its cultural demotion. Sweets were banished to the margins of the table just as women and children were banished to the drawing rooms and nurseries. It's a common belief that women and children are the ones who crave candy. The masculinity of a man who likes candy too much is often seen as somewhat suspect. This turns out to not be the whole story. Historically, men have also eaten their share and have even at some points during the last century, been the primary market for it. But perhaps food historians have paid so little attention to candy because this cultural connection between sweet, trivial people, i.e. women and children, and sweet, trivial candy".
And we also can't separate this from racism and colonialism. Apart from the enslaved people working on the sugar plantations, of course, White people also needed to prove that they were [00:39:00] naturally and scientifically superior to everyone else. That was among the driving factors of the creation of strict gender boundaries around the 19th Century. Quoting Kravitz Marshall in An Injustice! magazine, "As Melissa N. Stein discusses in Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, race became the purview of 19th and early 20th Century American science. White people used their physical gender standards and proposed sex differences to prove their superiority to Africans via scientific racism of the mid-1800s. Many know of the previous measurements of skulls for determining racial purity, but people also used similar evaluations to affirm their gender. Numerous middle class White women used phrenology, the assessment of bumps on the skull, to reassure themselves of their womanhood and distinguish themselves from other races and lower economic classes. "By promoting women's health as good for the race", Carla [00:40:00] Biddle writes in Woman, Know Thyself, "phrenology encouraged good breeding and recommended that women select partners with heredity in mind. Phrenologist in the United States argued that the procedure demonstrated that Europeans were morally and intellectually superior to other races. The 19th Century saw White scientists declaring that only White people could achieve binary sex differentiation. By contrast, people of color allegedly hadn't evolved enough to differentiate between male and female. Essentially, they were unsexed. And this inability to reach this full sexual dichotomy was yet another marker of racial inferiority".
So therefore, the more White people conformed to whatever high society and advertisements told them they were supposed to do as a man or as a woman, the safer they could feel at the top of the evolutionary pyramid, the more they could distinguish themselves from all other races and ethnicities. And this was certainly a class issue even within White society, with working [00:41:00] class women being seen as much more masculine than their wealthy counterparts. I mean, after all, eating a hardy stew made with what your family could afford on your modest budget was just so much more manly than a clear, dainty soup.
And so we have the explosion of sweet and dainty foods marketed towards women, that really takes off as we enter the 20th Century, and especially when Jell-O corners the market on colorful, jiggly salads. As Friedman points out, "At the same time, self-appointed men's advocates complained that women were inordinately fond of the very types of decorative foods being marketed to them".
But fortunately, those cookbooks I mentioned were waiting in the wings to help women know what to cook for their husbands. As early as 1872, books with titles and subtitles like How to Keep a Husband and The Way To a Man's Heart instructed women on feeding their husbands foods that they themselves most likely did not desire at all.[00:42:00]
And as Friedman crucially points out, while all these guidebooks and advertisements were telling women they needed to devote themselves to making the perfect meals for their husbands, a lot of men were saying that they wanted a more carefree wife who wasn't exhausted from cooking all day. Enter the picture perfect ideal of the 1950s housewife, who greets her husband with a fresh-from-the-oven roast while dressed in heels, a full face of makeup, and not a single hair out of place. And advertisements helped with that, too. As kitchen appliances became less laborious, they showed housewives could make a full meal without breaking a sweat.
But then we get into the 1970s, the microwave makes convenience cooking even easier and more popular right as even more women are entering the workforce. Second wave feminism is blossoming and gender segregated dining venues are becoming less popular. But quoting Friedman "As food historians Laura Shapiro and Harvey Levenstein have noted, despite these social changes, the depiction of [00:43:00] male and female tastes in advertising has remained surprisingly consistent, even as some new ingredients and foods have entered the mix. Kale, quinoa, and other healthy food fads are gendered as female. Barbecue, bourbon, and adventurous foods, on the other hand, are the domain of men".
Probably because I live in New York City and mostly hang around LGBTQ+ folks, I hadn't realized how pervasive this gendering still is until I was at a rehearsal dinner for a Midwestern cousin's wedding last year. I hadn't had too much to eat that day, so after finishing my own plate, I was gobbling down what was left of my aunt's kale salad, and as I did so, my uncle looked at me and asked why I was doing that? What my motivation was for eating all that kale? Was I worried about my cholesterol or something? Even though it wasn't my salad, the fact that I would happily be eating a plate of kale was completely confounding to him, even though he hadn't been confused at all why several of the women at the [00:44:00] table had ordered it.
The pernicious way generations of gendering food in society on menus and advertising has snuck into our consciousness, has real world consequences. Like men being more likely to die of heart disease, in part due to less healthy diets, and women feeling shamed for eating anything too masculine, or assuming something is healthy because it's marketed in a feminine way even though it might just in fact be loaded down with sugar. You know, it's absolutely wild how deep often just made up associations can penetrate and for how long they can keep up, morphing to serve the unique paranoias of each generation. Given what we're seeing right now with trans people being used as the latest scapegoat of the culture wars, I'm sure the gender binary of food, with things like gun metal black protein-packed yogurt for men will only pick up in the coming years.
Marketing Masculinity: How Guns Are Marketed, Glamorized, and Normalized - Marketing Muckraking - Air Date 5-25-22
RACHEL KAY ALBERS - HOST, MARKETING MUCKRAKING: There is a very concerted effort on the part of firearm manufacturers, [00:45:00] the NRA, the different industry associations, to glamorize this for youth because if they don't, there's not gonna be a big enough market for them to continue selling guns. "Glocks for Girls", says this junior shooter's essay from 2009. So, this is a kid's magazine dedicated to grooming the next generation of gun owners and they're bringing it to women now, bringing it to girls. With a lot of guns that are marketed to kids, they'll give them kind of fun, playful names: "the Savage Rascal". And again, if you remember the man card kind of humor that was used to downplay the seriousness of gun ownership, to distract from this being a weapon of murder, it's just a "rascal". And this is actually from an article that I found on, like, The Five Best Guns To Get Your Kid. Their first rifle. Here's your first rifle. Here's our five recommendations from a gun trade magazine. The copy on this reads, "This little rifle is great for kids and one of my favorites, the Savage Rascal is [00:46:00] lightweight and the AccuTrigger helps kids with flinching". Also, "since it is a bolt action, it adds a level of safety". I don't know how much safety you can add to a rifle for kids, but they're making the case for it.
The history of gun marketing, specifically in the last few decades, has been focusing more and more on children and the kids coming of age today, and you think about the young man, Adam Lanza, who perpetrated the Newtown, Sandy Hook massacre, he had come of age at a time when these ads were pretty much unregulated. Like, as I said, there was that law passed in 2005 that gun manufacturers were not held liable for what people did with guns, including, you know, coming out of their marketing campaigns.
So, as household gun ownership has declined, and the primary market of White men is aging up, the industry is looking to create replacement shooters, right? With the tobacco industry, they started targeting replacement smokers. How can we make smoking look cool for kids? Because soon the [00:47:00] people who smoke the Marlboro Reds, they're gonna die, and so how do we get a new market? And growing up, they might not be able to buy cigarettes yet, but they will one day. And so we're gonna create all these campaigns to breed a new generation of replacement smokers. And now the firearm industry has been doing the same thing for replacement shooters. You know, they're integrating plastic into the design to make guns seem less scary. In an article on the NRA Family website, from, I think it was like 2005ish, the copy reads "a tiny gun intended for the very youngest shooters, we're targeting the 6-12 year old range", this was actually a spokesman for the Thompson Center Hot Shot rifle, speaking about how they are specifically marketing to six to 12 year olds. So you've got a six year old that's been marketed to since that age range basically. Once they become 18, it kind of helps to answer the question, why would an 18 year old go out and buy a gun as soon as [00:48:00] they turn 18? Well, they have been, had the seed planted since they were a very young child.
So I wanna kind of go back in time a little bit. How did we get here? In the United States of America, there is a narrative that gun ownership has always been popular because of the Second Amendment, and that is baked into the fabric of the nation. In 1791, Congress ratified the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment. And from 1791 into 1934, there was very little regulation. It was pretty restricted in the very early days of like colonizing the United States of America, gun ownership was restricted to White men who had fully agreed to all of the terms of the Revolutionary War. When the Revolutionary War was going on, if you signed on and said, yes, I agree to the terms of the revolution, you actually were mandated to buy a gun and own a gun. You had to. But then between 1791, when Congress ratified the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, up until 1934, which was the [00:49:00] first major gun control act passed, there was very little regulation around gun ownership. But at the very same time, very few people owned guns.
Up until the Industrial Revolution guns were extremely expensive. They had to be custom made for you. It wasn't until the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution when factories were able to start mass producing guns. So here's what happened there. We got the Civil War kind of coinciding with all of these new factories and these ways of mass producing guns, coming off of the Civil War now all these factories have surplus. And they're like, How do we offload this? This is really the story of modern capitalism and modern buying culture in general, was... Industrial Revolution comes, all these people are quick to rush to get part of like this new gold rush of I'm gonna own a factory and I'm gonna make stuff really cheap, and then there's a question of how the heck am I gonna get people to buy it? Because we were not a buying culture historically, right? People didn't have a lot of excess money. People were [00:50:00] used to making things themselves. This is where advertising really started to take off as an industry, how are we gonna get people to buy all these guns? We're gonna advertise to them. We're gonna glamorize guns, we're gonna normalize it. We're gonna make 'em think they need 'em.
Going back to the Bill of Rights and the Revolutionary War, I think it's important to note here that the historical origins of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms and the narrative we have around that, was very much steeped in anti-Blackness and in racism and in slavery. Because one of the ways that they got people on board to ratify the Second Amendment was this fear of, you've got a slave owner who has a a lot of slaves, what happens if there is an uprising? What happens if they revolt? What happens if they come for me? You need a gun. And so there's this big narrative around, oh, the right to bear arms is about us protecting ourselves as individuals from the government. We need to have the right to have a gun in case the government comes and tries to hurt us. But actually a lot of the [00:51:00] historical origins of getting that amendment passed was about appealing to White male fear, appealing to the fear that your power and your money is in jeopardy, and so you need a gun to secure your privilege, your power, your wealth, your position, specifically against slaves.
In, you know, the late 1700s, the early 1800s, Eli Whitney, who's famous for the cotton gin, Eli Whitney also created a system to produce interchangeable rifle parts. Eli Whitney, who was such a big part of the Industrial Revolution, also was a big part of the mass production of guns. Colts, if you know the Colt Gun Manufacturing Company, one of its most famous advertising slogans was, "God created man, Sam Colt made them equal", which became like a really legendary term to gun lovers. But the truth is, ordinary Americans, the civilian market, most people didn't have guns. Not until around like the 1840s. This [00:52:00] is when guns start becoming highly advertised. And then you've got the Civil War. And after the Civil War, we've got this big surplus of guns. So what did manufacturers do? They created advertising campaigns and they tied gun ownership with masculinity. And from the early origins of gun marketing, guns were marketed to men who were afraid that their masculinity was being threatened, that their power was being threatened, that their money was being threatened. So the connection between gun ownership and White supremacy goes all the way back in the United States of America.
So after the Civil War, gun makers started convincing general stores to sell handguns right next to the oats and the flower and the sugar, and they ran ads in newspapers telling parents that that owning a rifle would help real boys to develop sturdy manliness. So the parallels between gun marketing to young men in the [00:53:00] 1800s and gun marketing to young men and their parents today, it goes way back in history as gun ownership as being a talisman, as being a symbol of a real man. And so if you want a position, you wanna raise up your son to be a real man, you're gonna get 'em a gun as early as you can.
These Stupid Trucks are Literally Killing Us - Not Just Bikes -Air Date 3-6-23
JASON SLAUGHTER - HOST, NOT JUST BIKES: The earliest SUVs were Jeeps marketed to rich guys who went hunting on the weekends. Marketers used this outdoorsy image to lure people who wanted to be cool.
Hey, you might live in suburbia and work a super lame desk job in a business park, but you are still a kind of guy who might maybe someday go on a camping trip, and this is the car to do it in.
Don't look at that significantly more practical car over there, station wagons are for losers and boomers. This marketing approach saw some modest success, but the real winning strategy was to make scared people feel safe. Early focus groups showed that Americans were obsessed with crime and violence, so automobile manufacturers took advantage of that.
The [00:54:00] city is a big, scary place. Protect yourself with a big, stupid car. That's how we got ads that say, think of it as a 4,000 pound guardian angel. This one that says, let nature worry about you for a change. Which addresses the incredibly common suburbanite problem of crocodiles attacking you from trees.
This also turned road safety into an arms race. Whoever has the biggest vehicle wins, and so vehicles became bigger and more aggressive every year. It got to the point where you can't even buy a small, practical, fuel efficient car in America anymore, even if you wanted to. When we lived in Brussels, for example, we owned a Toyota Igo. Which was perfect for our family, but Toyota doesn't even sell this model in America. Hmm. I wonder why?
So where does it all end? When everyone is driving tanks? Tanks! What a funny joke, right?
Except that this is one of the largest Sherman tanks from World War II, and this is a Cadillac [00:55:00] Escalade. It's incredibly depressing that SUVs were marketed as being safer because their classification as light trucks has been disastrous for actual safety.
One of the most dangerous things about SUVs is their bumper height. American cars are required to have bumpers between 16 to 20 inches off the ground. Surprise! Light trucks don't have to deal with that regulation, so they can have their bumpers pretty much as high as they want.
SUVs were also stiffer than cars. The original light trucks were built to haul or tow heavy weights, which means they needed a heavier, stiffer chassis. Rather than crumpling in a crash like a car frame, which distributes energy and acts as a protective cushion, the chassis light truck acted like a battering ran, and the people inside became the crumple zone.
Combine that with a high bumper and you run into a problem known as crash compatibility. When two normal size cars crash into each other, they are compatible in that their safety features are pretty much aligned and designed to work together. Which provides more protection to the [00:56:00] drivers of both cars.
When a regular car and an SUV crash into each other, the bigger, higher stiffer vehicle doesn't line up with a smaller car safety feature. Which can make the crash more deadly. Of course, it's even worse for anyone outside of a car. When a person gets hit by a car, they're typically thrown onto the hood.
This can cause injury to lower legs, which sucks, but generally doesn't kill you at low speeds. The higher front end of an S U V means the impact is centered near the torso and head, which is much more deadly. People hit by SUVs are also more likely to hit their head on the ground, or go under the vehicle thanks to their high ground clearance.
In case it isn't obvious, it's a bad thing to be underneath a gigantic heavy light truck. What makes this all even more insane is that most of the features that make SUV drivers feel safe, actually make them more dangerous. Many buyers say they wanted an SUV because you sit up high while driving them, which gives better visibility, but that's not [00:57:00] really true.
It might make it easier to see farther down the road, but it's actually harder to see stuff right in front of you. The advocacy group Kids and Cars put 17 children in front of an SUV and they couldn't see any of them from the driver's seat. Since the introduction of SUVs, there has been a massive increase in what are called front overs.
A person, usually a child getting run over by an SUV, by a driver who can't even see them. Kids and Cars have been documenting the rise of front overs in America, and the results are shocking. Before we move on, I want you to look at this chart and understand what you are seeing. This is saying that over a 10 year period, over 500 American children were killed by being run over by SUVs.
Usually by their own parents in their own driveways. This is insane. This is legitimately insane. In any civilized society, this information alone would be enough to regulate the hood design of SUVs and light [00:58:00] trucks. Instead, the industry solution for this is proximity sensors and front facing cameras.
Because car companies are happy for any regulations, that means they can sell you more stuff. Now, I personally believe that drivers should be looking at the road and not a screen inside their SUV, but hey, what do I know? I'm just a weirdo who objects to children being run over by trucks.
Light trucks are usually four-wheel drive as well, which is pitched as another safety feature. Four-wheel drive is great for accelerating in slippery conditions like mud, but what four-wheel drive doesn't do is help you slow down. That means overconfident. SUV drivers can go as fast as they want in bad conditions as long as they're not planning on stopping.
Maybe that's fine in a rural setting, but these man yachts are all over American cities. I once drove across Texas in the middle of a once in a decade snowstorm, and there was literally a light truck in the ditch every few miles, while my rear wheel drive Oldsmobile pushed through without any [00:59:00] issues.
Though part of this is because SUV owners are more likely to be bad drivers. That's not just my opinion. Car companies paid millions of dollars for market research to find this out. People who gravitate toward SUVs tend to be less confident in their driving abilities, and rely on the large size of the vehicle to keep them "safe" at the expense of everyone else.
What made this even worse is that, in the early days, most SUV buyers were assholes. I'm not being flippant and suggesting that all SUV drivers were assholes, but assholes were literally the primary target market when automakers wanted to make SUVs mainstream. Auto industry research determined that the average light truck purchaser was obsessed with status, less likely to volunteer or feel a strong connection to their communities, less giving, less oriented toward others, more afraid of crime, more likely to text and drive, more likely to take risks while driving, and more likely to think stuff like this looks cool.
10 years [01:00:00] ago, a baby faced Mark Rober put plastic animals on the side of the road to see which ones were most likely to get hit. He found that some drivers would purposefully swerve to run over the animals, and 89% of those people who tried to murder animals were driving SUVs. Yep. The market research is correct. These people are assholes.
You know what SUV drivers are typically not? Outdoorsy. SUVs are marketed for going off road, towing a boat, or for going camping. In reality, 75% of light truck owners tow something once a year or less, and 70% go offroad once a year or less. In fact, the vast majority of SUVs are driven in cities and will never go off-road.
They are just used for everyday tasks like commuting and buying groceries. I guess they go off-road when the driver is texting and plows into a building or something. The most outdoorsy people I've met, those who regularly go hiking or camping, drive something like a Subaru [01:01:00] Outback wagon because they're actual adventurous people, not just a bunch of posers in SUVs.
Americans seem to think you need some giant truck to tow anything, but you see all kinds of regular cars with trailers in Europe. The Dutch in particular are famous for vacationing with their caravans pulled by normal cars.
Of Meat and Men: How Beef Became Synonymous with Settler-Colonial Domination - Citations Needed - Air Date 6-30-21
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Around the late 19th century — likely not a coincidence that the US was expanding West simultaneously — media in the form of advertisements, magazine articles, features and dietary advice reinforced the gendered characteristics of meat. Particularly, of course, red meat, that persist still today. Now, according to Yale history professor Paul Freedman, a bifurcation between masculinized and feminized foods began really in the 1870s. At the time, increasing numbers of women entered the formal workplace and dined in restaurants, and restaurants seeking women as customers proliferated. Freedman writes this, quote:
"It was during this period that the notion that [01:02:00] some foods were more appropriate for women started to emerge. Magazines and newspaper advice columns identified fish and white meat with minimal sauce, as well as new products like packaged cottage cheese, as ‘female foods.’"
Now, if we fast forward a bit to the mid-20th century, by 1949, Esquire magazine was releasing its Handbook for Hosts — a cookbook and how-to guide for entertaining, marketed toward men. Here’s an excerpt, quote:
"The world’s greatest cooks are men. Since the beginning of time, he-men have always prepared the savory dishes that caress the palates of epicures of every nation."
For Food & Wine magazine in February of 2021, Kat Kinsman wrote this about the handbook:
"The handbook goes on to slam ‘woman’s magazine salads’ and ‘doily [01:03:00] tearoom fare,’ making a curious claim that ‘women don’t seem to understand fish’ and declaring that a game-based stew is ‘second only to steak in its standing as a Man’s Dish.’"
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Fast forward to 1990, which saw the publication of Carol J. Adams’s book The Sexual Politics of Meat. The book contextualized meat consumption within the patriarchal social and political structures, connecting the subjugation of women to that of animals. Needless to say, the book incurred the wrath of a lot of conservative media at the time; Rush Limbaugh went on dozens of tirades against it for weeks.
In the 1980s, the Beef Industry Council — the promotional arm of National Beef and Livestock Board, a lobbying group for beef interests — began a series of mass-media ad campaigns to promote consumption of beef, of course what better to do that than the manliest of all men, Bob Mitchum — that’s what his friends call him, you call him Robert Mitchum, but those who knew him called him Bob Mitchum — Bob Mitchum and later after Bob Mitchum’s passing Sam Elliott, who is [01:04:00] of course is the manliest man to ever manly men, and they launched their “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” campaign.
[Begin TV Commercial Clip]
ROBERT MITCHUM: At the end of each day, all over the country, nothing satisfies so many people in so many ways. Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
[End TV Commercial Clip]
[Begin Radio Commercial Clip]
SAM ELLIOT: Some folks like to call beef the red meat, but there’s a lot more to beef than just the color red. It has more micronutrients than a lot of foods you eat everyday. So you might want to take another look at beef the next time you pass by the meat case, because everything else looks pale in comparison. Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
[End Radio Commercial Clip]
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: The idea that meat was associated with virality and manhood obviously cemented itself in popular culture and still exists to this day, this is not a shock to you I’m sure — surfaced in far more explicit ways in a number of mid-2000s commercials were marketing —
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Yeah, it got kind of weird.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [01:05:00] Marketing and advertising people, there was sort of a bit of irony — it was like there was this irony like, ‘Oh, aren’t men — we need to be manly, we’re doing a joke but we’re kind of doing the real thing.’
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Kind of like the Denis Leary ‘I’m an asshole’ song. You’re kind of tongue in cheek, but you also kind of mean it.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Yeah, exactly.
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: So for instance, in 2006, Burger King came out with an ad campaign that was basically a song parody of the Helen Reddy song I Am Woman. It instead was I Am Man, and it sounded like this.
[Begin Burger King Commercial Clip]
MAN: [Singing] I am man, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore, and I’m way too hungry to settle for chick food. Cause my stomach’s starting to growl, and I’m going on the prowl for a cheesy bacon XXL.
Man #2: [Singing] Man, that’s good!
GROUP OF MEN: [Singing] Oh, yes, I’m a guy.
Man #3: [Singing] I’ll admit I’ve been fed quiche, baked tofu bye-bye, now it’s for flame grilled beef I reach. I will eat this meat, until my innie turns into [01:06:00] an outie. I am starved.
[Singing] I am starved.
Man #3: [Singing] I am incorrigible. I can eat a big burger beef bacon super cheesy good thing now.
Man #3: [Singing] I am hungry!
[Singing] I am hungry!
Man #3: [Singing] I am incorrigible!
[Singing] I am man!
Man #4: The cheesy bacon XXL. Eat like a man, man.
[End Burger King Commercial Clip]
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: So this is an ad called Tofu from 2006. It’s a Hummer commercial.
[Begin Hummer Commercial Clip]
Adam [narrating]: We have two bros, two normal looking bros at the grocery store. This guy is getting his groceries rung up, it’s tofu, celery, lettuce, radishes, and there’s a guy behind him with a bunch of meat. He sees a Hummer ad. Then this guy pulls out in his, rather effeminate looking, car and he goes and buys a Hummer. It says, “Restore the balance.” The idea is that he was eating too much tofu and he needs to go get a Hummer to expedite the warming of the planet to prove his manliness.
[End Hummer Commercial Clip]
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [Laughs.] Exactly.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [01:07:00] Again, these are part of a trend where people listen to that and they say; ‘Okay, this is kind of a joke, it’s kind of tongue and cheek,’ but it’s kind of not, right? It’s sort of playing to a general perception that we can overcompensate for our lack of manhood. It’s very much in the 2000s vein of ironically problematic as a joke but, I don’t know, it’s not really ironic. I think they are very much playing to a neurosis among certain kinds of middle class men that they’re inadequately asserting their machoness.
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: You even see this, oddly enough, relating back to that weird handbook line about male chefs. You then have, in the mid-2000s also, Emeril Lagasse’s famous “manly meat lasagna” recipe where he — bam! — now it’s time for meat and there’s squeals of glee from, not the women in the audience, but the men in the audience. I think we can listen to that here.
[Begin Emeril Live Clip]
EMERIL LAGASSE: We got the sausage over here browning, we got the pancetta in the other one. When the panchetta is brown, now it’s time for the meat!
CROWD: [Applause] Yeah!
[End Emeril [01:08:00] Live Clip]
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Again, throughout the 2010s marketers kept playing to this idea of meat being equated with manliness. Waning masculinity in the face of, presumably, women emerging in the ranks of law schools, and medical schools, and colleges, and other kinds of panics around women overtaking manliness, or owning spaces which were typically for manliness. Esquire magazine released a series of cookbooks and articles under the theme “Eat Like A Man”, which were very heavy on red meat. In 2015, Esquire followed this with their book Eat Like a Man Guide to Feeding a Crowd: How to Cook for Family, Friends, and Spontaneous Parties, in which one learned to cook like a man.
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: You need 18 pounds of brisket on hand at all times for your spontaneous parties.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: In January 2014, they proceeded with, Can You Prove to Us That You Eat Like a Man?, an article about how to be a man. Now of course the Republicans and alt-right — some people may view those ads as ironic or tongue-in-cheek, the alt-right and Republican party very much were not being ironical. Which I think was sort of part of the appeal of that approach. Republican politicians in the United [01:09:00] States constantly preserved the connection between red meat and masculinity, albeit to a cartoonish degree, it was very much in earnest.
NIMA SHIRAZI - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: Red meat, particularly beef and — of course, there’s this long history of the American West and cattle ranching, but really just this idea of meat consumption as evidence of your manliness, your man-itude, really just retains enormous cultural purchase in the contemporary right. It's not even about associating with cowboys anymore, although I think that’s part of it. It really just is about what is going to make their own consumption, who is their prey? In contrast with this imagined coming system of totalitarian socialism. In which meat is forever banned, it’s replaced with meat substitutes, soy and tofu is routinely feminized for it’s coming from plants. For daring to presume that it could [01:10:00] replace meat.
Final comments on the counterweight to the power of marketing
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with; Then and Now, breaking down the manufacturing of desire. Not Just Bikes told the story of the infrastructure required to support the mass adoption of cars. Climate Town described the culture shift toward becoming a car-centric society. Cheddar explained the history of the backyard barbecue. H Bomber guy delved into the utter grossness of advertising.
Cool Stuff Ride Home explained how our food got genderized, and Marketing Muckraking looked at all the ways that guns are marketed. That's what everybody heard. Members also heard bonus clips from Not Just Bikes, explaining why SUVs are so much more dangerous than smaller cars, and why they're more likely to be driven by assholes.
Citations Needed dove deeper into the history of genderized foods, going back to settler colonialism and westward expansion.
To hear that, and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only [01:11:00] podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information.
Now as we wrap up our topic on marketing, the biggest news in marketing right now is that Apple has announced their VR headset. Years in the making, and now it's a real thing that exists in the world. Not that you can buy it, but it's been announced. There's been a lot of talk about whether it will be more isolating for people, or facilitate more ways for people to connect. I think the obvious answer is both.
Apple highlights that they thought a lot about making sure that wearing the device wasn't isolating, because they had that exact fear. So they made it possible to see people in the room through the headset, and for those people in the room to be able to see an approximation of [01:12:00] the wearer's eyes as well.
See? Not isolated. You can still see people in the room. Then you actually look at all of their demonstration videos and it's always a person sitting or standing in a room by themselves using the device in a solo experience, so pretty isolated again.
"But wait", Apple will say, "we've also built in lots of ways to connect with other people through the headset."
So while it may somewhat separate you from people in the same room, it can bring you closer to people who are far away. Okay. Fair enough. Though nothing can match an in-person encounter, it's true that a phone call is better than nothing, and a video call with probably some caveats is usually better than a phone call.
So who knows, will it be possible that meeting in a shared virtual space maybe, doing a shared virtual activity might be even better? Help people connect across distance even a little bit better? Maybe. [01:13:00] So in all likelihood, it's probably gonna be a mixed bag, but I think today's episode gives us the chance to think about the bigger picture.
We are currently experiencing an epidemic of isolation and loneliness in our society. Which is precisely why people are so concerned and vocal about any new technology that may tend to push us into further isolation, at least physical isolation. We are right to be concerned because look at what happened with the marketing of the automobile.
People used to live closer together in walkable communities before GM's marketing turned culture on its head, and it's the cars and roads we built to facilitate that culture change that is one of several factors that has steered society toward the loneliness we are now experiencing. You could have said at the time that cars would actually help bring people closer together by helping them connect over longer distances.
That cuts both [01:14:00] ways. The VR headsets will cut both ways as well because the ability to connect over longer distances also lowers the perceived social cost of moving farther away in the first place. Why not move far away when I can just drive or fly back to visit? Or — now I can have FaceTime or a VR experience to visit people, so why not move away?
That's how people end up living in isolation. Away from the people they know, the friends they made when they were young. I know, I've been there. It's tempting to take the contrarian stance; that it's not really the technology, but only how we choose to use it. Cars didn't force you to move to the suburbs, and commercial travel didn't force you to move across the country.
The truth is that technology does matter because both things can be true. We're not talking about force or coercion, but everything still nudges us to act in [01:15:00] one direction or another. For instance, even though as silly as I think the relationship is between masculinity, meat and backyard barbecues, I can at least appreciate that's an invention that tends to draw people together rather than pushing them apart.
Whereas cars and the suburbs in general do the opposite. That is why marketing and the forces of capitalism are so important to understand. Technology, whether it be a car, plane, barbecue or VR headset, may nudge us to act in one way or another. The marketing that comes with them is looking to shove us to act in exactly the way that will be the most profitable for corporations.
Cars could be a perfectly useful tool for us and didn't need to entirely take over the world, except for the fact that car companies used marketing and lobbying to convince people that they should. To maximize their profits. [01:16:00] You could say the same thing about guns. If not for the insatiable drive to sell as many as humanly possible, to as many people as possible, there'd be no motivation to market them to six year olds.
The impact of all of that marketing to maximize profits, changes culture. Now when it comes to kids, I favor a full ban on marketing targeting children. For the adults among us, the counterweight to marketing is for us to actually have a good sense of what we need and what genuinely makes us happy. Because without that, we are a leaf being blown in the wind of marketing messages and the profit motives of corporations.
That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. You can leave us a voicemail or text message at 2 0 2 9 9 9 3 9 9 1 or send me an email to [email protected].
Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and [01:17:00] Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Transcriptionist, Trio, Ken, Brian and La Wendy for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segment, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting.
Thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes all through your regular podcast player. And if you wanted to continue the discussion, join our Discord community. There's a link to join in the show notes. So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC. My name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly.
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