Taking heart from the Toronto Star

I call today’s post “taking heart” because I’ve been told to look at the bright side.

Okay, no one thinks my quest to have car advertisments banned has (to quote Rick C.) “a snowball’s chance in hull” of passing (sorry, not sure I got that right), and yes, the Toronto Star has not enthusiastically called and demanded my skills on the weekly op-ed page, and Susan S, my friend whose dayjob is a negotiator for the C.A.W., did not blanche in fear when I told her of my ambitions, and actually, not one of the politicians I wrote demanding action against the car advertisement even bothered to acknowledge my note (apparently for me they even turned off the “auto-response” feature of their inbox), and, well, even among my fellow ARCistas, who in the past have taken up all kinds of lost causes with great fanfare and enthusiasm (many of which turned out to be not so lost at all, when puss came to shove) [shurely you mean “push”–ed.], and even Mez, that great beacon of hope in the pantheon of de-advertisements, had no more to offer than “keep me posted,” and finally, AdBusters has not returned my calls. So where the hell is the bright side?

My horoscope? It offered the following: “Take it easy” (I’m a Taurus).

But as David Byrne puts it, “Watch me work!” How can one not be cheerful with that thought in mind?

Letter to the Editor
Toronto Star

March 21 2005

To the Editor:

Today’s paper provides much fuel for the fire of my pet cause, the banning of all car advertisements. Let me elucidate.

1. Your front page story, “Sorry didn’t mean to &*$#!% you off” (Kevin McGran) describes a school to train drivers in “social” driving skills, with the express aim of deterring road rage. The school’s gimmick, a sign reading “SORRY” to be flashed by the offending driver, misses the real cause of road rage: cars themselves. Do bicyclists experience road rage, for example? Do transit passengers? No and No. Cyclists simply ride past the gridlock that so enrages car drivers. We get there at our own chosen pace, regardless of what’s in the way of our bulky road-mates. And as for transit riders, they have better things to do than getting enraged at inevitable delay. They have novels and newspapers tucked under their arms. They can knit or chat with a neighbour. Now, while replacing the hand-held “SORRY” sign with a permanent bumper sticker, as Sgt Cam Woolley suggests, gets closer to the point, what would really be appropriate would be a bumper sticker saying “SORRY FOR DRIVING.”

2. Page A18, where McGran’s article concludes, has the quickie CP story “No love for politicians, poll finds.” It points out how among the most admired professions car salespeople are 2nd from the bottom, just before politicians. How significant is it that only 18% (“down a point from last year”) of the population trusts car dealers? And more to the point, who are these people? Are they the same ones McGran wrote about March 9 (“20% admit they fall asleep while driving”)?

3. Same page: you have a huge ad selling your readers on the merits of some car or other. What car? Who cares? Who trusts people who try to sell cars? Only 18% of the population, apparently, and who knows if that lot can even read?

4. Letters to the editor: you publish two of note, and frankly I’m thrilled to see them. One from Steven C. Barr, headlined “Downtown Oshawa will be rejuvenated but cause will create chaos as the end of cheap oil and fall of the automobile hurt city’s chief product;” the other from Gideon Forman, “Fossil fuels bad from start to finish,” taking your condemnatory editorial against U.S. approval of drilling in the Arctic National Refuge to its logical limit.

Why am I thrilled by these letters? For the same reason I take heart at your allowing the investigative journalism of Kevin McGran on your front page, and your willingness to print the facts about peoples’ distrust of automobile salespeople: because it tells me despite your newspaper’s role as lead salesperson for the auto industry, it may be you can yet be trusted. It may be your paper still has some integrity, regardless of your source of revenue.

It suggests to me I am not tilting at a windmill in my quest to see a ban on car advertisements–or at the least, that the wind direction is changing. It may be yet that the 82% who distrust car salespeople would be happy to see the seller’s propaganda banished from the media.

Now, if only they can be mobilized.

Yours truly,

Jacob Allderdice

(533 words)

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