A man stands at a gas pump, filling his SUV with premium as the numbers on the pump spin around. A child's voice is heard: "This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV." The scene changes to a shot of an executive walking down a city street. "This is the oil company executive who sold the gas that George bought for his SUV." The scene changes to a map of the Persian Gulf region. "This is the part of the world where the executive bought the oil that made the gas that George bought for his SUV." The scene changes to a shot of terrorists training. "And these are the terrorists bankrolled by many of the countries where the oil companies do business so that George can fill up his gas-guzzling SUV."
Writing appears superimposed on the image: "Oil money supports some terrible things. If you drive a SUV, you might too. Brought to you by Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars."
The above is one of a pair of advertisements set to air this Sunday during the morning network talk shows. Avid TV watchers and drug reformers will immediately grasp the obvious: The ads are a sharp parody of the infamous ad campaign from the Office of National Drug Control Policy seeking to tie drug users to global terrorism (http://www.mediacampaign.org/mg/television.html). But beyond parody, the ads also make another point, according to Arianna Huffington, the political columnist who inspired the campaign.
"The idea for this project came to me while watching -- for the umpteenth time -- one of those outrageous drug war ads the Bush administration has flooded the airwaves with," she wrote on her web site's SUV page (http://www.ariannaonline.com/suv/). "You know, the ones that try and link using drugs to financing terrorism. Instead of shaking my head in disgust and reaching for the Mute button like I usually do when I see these ads, I decided to channel my indignation. Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security? Thus began our campaign to create a series of TV ads designed to win the hearts and minds -- and change the driving habits -- of American consumers by asking them to connect the dots and think about the effect energy wastefulness is having not just on the environment, but on our foreign policy."
The ads, which challenge Americans' cherished right to guzzle as much gasoline as they can as well as implicitly critiquing the drug czar's ad campaign, have already proven controversial. Huffington told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Wednesday that four major TV stations -- WABC in New York, WDIV in Detroit, and WABC and WCBS in Los Angeles -- have refused to run the ads. WABC said it has a policy against running "controversial" ads; the other stations refused to comment.
And by mid-week, conservative talk radio hosts were bleating and blathering, outraged at "liberal wacko" Huffington's nerve in suggesting that Americans curb their oil habit. They apparently did not get the parody aspect of the ads.
Agree or disagree with Huffington's anti-SUV stance, they do make a much-needed point about the government's ill-conceived "drugs fund terrorism" campaign, a point drug warriors don't like to think about.
The ads can be viewed online at Huffington's web page above or at http://www.detroitproject.com online.