Tragic decades and the marketing response

Rush Limbaugh is a genius.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. There.

Rush Limbaugh is almost single-handedly responsible for teaching a generation of partisans how to think about politics. It’s actually pretty easy.

Step 1: Never speak ill of your own. He learned this one from Reagan. It’s a winning strategy.

Step 2: Defend your own against everything. Do this by pointing at the other side and saying, “But he did it, too! Look! He did it before! So, you can’t criticize my guy for it! Eighteen wrongs make me right!” This gets the issue on a cyclical track that accomplishes nothing other than providing more fodder for the next day’s show…which is exactly what you want.

Step 3: Refuse to consider your opponent’s opinion because it is your opponent’s opinion. If all else fails, return to Step 2.

A lot of people might be surprised to know that I used to lean more right than left. Now that I lean a little more left than right, in the mind of the Ditto Heads, I might as well be burning flags, sleeping with Jane Fonda, and carrying on an unholy relationship with Mike Farrell.

It’s exhausting, really. There is no discourse and there won’t be. Rush made it possible (or, impossible, really), and for that he should be very proud.

I was reading a story on the election the other day, because, in terms of politics, reading is about all I do these days. I don’t watch cable news coverage and I don’t watch the polls. I read and don’t write about it, because, if I’m being frank, I’m not going to convince anybody of anything. The partisan followers on both sides have devolved and I don’t have the energy to debate reality with people who don’t want to talk.

That’s not the point, though. The point is what I saw in the sidebar of the article.

There is so much wrong with this Time Magazine ad that I barely know where to begin. I can’t decide if I was more offended by blatant marking based on the idea of tragedy or that the deaths of Tupac, Princess Diana, and Cobain were what made the 90s tragic. [“I mean, those were the years of Slick Willie’s administration!” chirped the Ditto Heads.]

My friend G-Rob and I spent about five minutes coming up with a list of decades that were far more tragic that the 90s. In a Top Ten list out of the last century, the 90s came in around #7. Make your own list and see what you come up with.

The point is this…when Time Fucking Magazine is marketing its product based on the idea that tragedy is a good selling point, I am ready to give up. And if the 90s gets the nod for the ad spot, Pricess Di’s picture instead of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just makes me want to cry.

It’s a fire sale on tragedy. Find something to hate. Find someone to fight. Find something as tragic as the Nirvana front man stepping off the buckshot ledge. If you’re lucky, Lindsay Lohan might end up being straight after all and give you something to care about. In the meantime, I’m going to ask Rush if this decade is a tragic one or not.

My guess is he’ll be able to tell me sometime in early November.


I ran across this column which pretty much sums up why this year’s election is as useless as the last.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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9 Responses

  1. Da Goddess says:

    I hate that tragedy is used as a marketing ploy, but you know what? Too many dumb bastards out there thrive on that shit.

    None of the three people shown in the ad had much bearing on my life. What I remember most about the 90s was 1) the birth of my children, 2) Oklahoma City, and 3) getting married. Only one of them resonated with the majority of the nation. It frightens me that pop culture overwhelmingly obliterates real news and real pain.

    Then again, I’m just one voice in a very loud world.

  2. Astin says:

    Can I go back in time 40 years and sleep with Jane Fonda? I’ll hang out with Mike Farrell too, but not until his Honeycutt years.

    You should reconsider and move to Canada. Then you can care about the US elections more than your own country’s. It’s very freeing because you get frustrated but it doesn’t directly affect your life. Also, we don’t market tragedy and fear nearly as often as it’s done in the States. And people think sex sells.

    Or just relax, go to a little suburb of Philly and drink your face off this weekend. It’s what I’m doing!

  3. CJ says:


    Rush Limbaugh never speaks ill of his own?

    It’s clear you’ve never actually listened to Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps this is your own attempt at “elevating the debate.”

  4. otis says:

    I listened to Rush five days a week between 1998 and 2003. He’s probably changed a lot since then.

  5. Aaron says:

    Wow, who are you arguing with?! It sure has put you in a bad mood. I don’t think you are a bad person for supporting an opposite view, perhaps for the mental image of the You, Jane Fonda, and Mike Farrell three-way, but not differing views. Of course, another question to ask is, how willing are you to listen and perhaps change your mind on the issues you are debating? There are ditto heads on both sides, just because you agree with one set doesn’t make you any less of a ditto head. As for the tragedy, look at your source. Time Magazine is no better than People anymore, just be glad they actually included a black person.

  6. It is interesting that you’ve changed your political views so drastically over the last few years. You certainly used to have a more conservative fiscal opinion. Your social agenda is probably still about the same, but you now seem more willing to give up your (our) income to help make the world a little more “equal” for everyone.

    While this seems noble on the surface, have you REALLY thought about WHY your views have changed? Your departure from journalism has made you much more isolated from the general public. Aside from your friends, you pretty much only deal with folks in the poker and internet community. Despite the many greedy, slimy, self-serving poker players you write about for your job, the people around you are generally solid individuals. You like most of the people around you and want them to be as well-off as yourself.

    Try to think back a few years. Remember how f@#$ed up society is? Remember how many horrible people exist in your very own community? Remember how hard you had to work just to make ends meet? Remember how few people gave a damn about anyone except themselves? Well, that world still exists. I see it every day. It is difficult to support any candidate whose plans are to take away my hard-earned money and give it to other people (directly or indirectly). I’m more than happy to give my fair share to support our military, our infrastructure, our law enforcement and all the other essential components of a civilized society. But don’t take my money and spread it around to everyone else just so we can all be “better off”. Quite frankly, there are just too many people who don’t deserve it. Period.

    Regardless, just think about WHY your views have changed. There may be a very logical reason. In fact, your views may be more correct than mine. That is the beauty of democracy. I just hope my people can steal another election away from your people 🙂

  7. Wil says:

    I can’t decide if I was more offended by blatant marking based on the idea of tragedy or that the deaths of Tupac, Princess Diana, and Cobain were what made the 90s tragic

    I’m more offended that Time thought these were the most tragic events of the 90s, and that they’re somehow equal to each other.

    Most tragic decade? In America, that probably ryhmes with “the thirties.”

  8. MGM says:

    Rah! for Little Willie. Good sentiments, and a darn good summary of my own political opinions!
    We bust our asses in our house to earn a good living and provide for our kids. We give to charities and support our church, and we are not selfish by a long shot. But the Robin Hood mentality just pisses me off! The beauty of America is the premise that you can work hard and earn and see the fruits of your labor. The freedoms and possibilities should motivate, inspire and reward one’s efforts. On the other hand, the Robin Hood mentality decreases motivation and morale, lowers the standards of what anyone achieves and denigrates what our country is supposed to stand for.

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