Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Post No Bills

Some tourists notice these old signs in Rome and think they are street signs, since those are attached to buildings also -- and wonder why so many streets have the same name.  But both simply say, "post no bills" and usually look like they have been there a long time (well, like most everything else there).  Note the statute cited on them.  I found that the deal is, if you pay a fee and install the sign, people must leave your wall or building alone forever when they're putting up posters, signs or advertisements.  Unfortunately, the out-of-control graffiti sprayers can't be stopped (I saw a pair of massive 16th-century wood doors covered in squiggles of silver paint -- I guess we don't have all the idiots on this side of the ocean).

What if we could, in some similar way and under protection of the law, keep ourselves inviolate from invasive "bills," that is, marketing, advertising and all-pervasive commercial noise?  It's said lobbyists spend around $1 million a year to convince the Vermont legislature to allow roadside billboards -- it's one of the few places that believe that kind of pollution has no place in what they consider a nice-looking countryside (we'll agree with them on its quality).  We travel on Route 581 a lot to do our local business, and I can hardly believe how many billboards are on either side, blocking, almost, a view of the sky.  But gigantic advertising has rights that we residents do not.  The city of Santa Barbara, CA, keeps them at bay, along with other kinds of big, gross commercial signage.  They have a lot more to lose when it comes to obliterating the scenery than we do, but I do envy them and the Vermonters.

Maybe there is no causal connection, but in an age of hysterical, relentless marketing, in your eyes and ears and on every square foot around you, we have people losing it and spraying others with bullets or killing themselves.  The news and broadcast programming is mostly, "we'll be back, stay tuned," because most of it is promos and ads -- over a dozen in a row on cable stations.  When they start, I (and I hope others) search for something, anything, on another channel that's not trying to sell me cell phone service, cars, furniture of Gerber child life insurance.  How many ads are inside and outside a city bus?  Your mailbox is mostly full of...what?  An internet page takes quite a while to load because of all the ads, some of them with motion-sickness inducing shaking and jumping.  I "x" them pretty quickly.  The mute button on your TV remote may be the modern invention that has benefitted our mental health the most. 

And it's all lies.  You can ignore every bit of it and never miss one useful thing.  A blogger checked out the math on that Gerber life policy, for example, and guess what, it's not a good deal.  As soon as reviews showed up on the internet, there were paid shills and "groomers" (like ww.Reputation.com )  moving negative reviews about a company or a product to the bottom of the search results and pushing the positive ones to the top places.  Not only search engine optimization, but Google itself, controls what you see and can find.  The fact is Google and Yahoo allow known scammers to advertise with slick come-ons when what they really want is your credit card number or other information to screw you with.  If there's a "trick to a tiny belly," it's not going to be found by clicking on that flashing ad during a Google search.  You need a lot more carefully tuned b.s. detector and cynicism than Joe Average.  It's not enough to possess just good common sense, but you always, at every waking moment, need that at a bare minimum.

Imagine you were living in 1750.  There were other concerns, like Indian raids or bad teeth, before you, but can you imagine no billboards along the road and no screaming ads dinning your ears or blinding your eyes?  Well, everyone would look like a Tea Partier, but still...


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