Sut Jhally v. James Twitchell, From Stay Free! issue #16
I see a great deal of advertising and commercialism as being the articulated will of consumers rather than the air pumped out by commercial interests. Let's take an example where you seem to hold all the cards. Take De Beers' diamonds campaign. What is more ridiculous than the browbeating of men into buying utterly worthless hunks of stone to make Harry Oppenheimer and his descendants wealthy?
Here's this company saying that if you want to be successful in courting women, it requires two months of your salary. Isn't this an example, from your point of view, of power from the outside compressing human freedom and desire? Yet as hideous as it is--and I think it the most hideous of advertising campaigns--there is something in it that speaks deeply to human beings in moments of high anxiety--namely, how to stabilize a frantic period of time.
You stabilize it by buying something that all logic tells you is ridiculous and stupid, at a time in your life when you are the least able to afford it, when it is the most wasteful expenditure, and the cruelest exploitation in terms of how these stones are mined. And they're completely worthless. I mean, at least Nike makes good shoes! You would say, "Boy, I rest my case," but I say, "Is there any other explanation?" The explanation, I think, is the need to make ceremony, to fetishize moments of great anxiety. You can actually see them colonizing these moments later in life; now they're saying the ten-year anniversary or the twenty-year anniversary demands a whole new panoply of these otherwise worthless stones.