What's strange about this ad is that, for this brief instant at least, the wrist phone does not yet exist. It is not an ad for anything as mundane as an object. This is an advertisement for destiny. I don't have a wrist phone or a video phone yet, and I still live in the informational improved two-lane asphalt road of non-interactive cable, but that's not the point. The point is, while I may not have these things now and while I certainly don't need them, when it comes to having them, I WILL.
I find these AT&T ads terrifying. There's something about the tone, like the narrator in Triumph of the Will, of the juggernaut, of something unstoppable. The YOU WILL tag line carries with it the strong stink of some ominous Orwellian destiny. T hey all start out the same way, Have you ever... received a phone call, on your wrist? Watched television 22 hours a day? Eaten a Turnip... from 2000 miles away? The opening line is posed as a question but in intonation has a definite declarative edge, like a mean Socratic dialogue, rhetorical questions meant only to reveal your ignorance, to humble you, to bring to you the proper attitude of worshipfulness towards the speaker who has taken on the potent charisma of latter-day corporate prophecy; YOU WI LL.
But, to me, all that this boils down to is the stripping away of my freedom. Have you ever been unable to avoid a conversation with every asshole, jerk-off, blabbermouth, boss, secretary, husband, wife, kid, loser friend, and unwanted party inviter? I can't remember the last time I had a conversation on the phone that I couldn't just as well have missed. And soon, I won't be able to. I'll be so surrounded by informational tethers that no amount of physical distance will enable me to escape. I always think about that ad of the guy on the beach, the sun setting, his portable computer displaying 256 active matrix color graphs of his tiny startup company's 2000% growth this year and I think, this isn't freedom. This is just a longer leash.
I came on this realization particularly strongly during game 5 of the Knicks-Rockets series that was interrupted by the good people at NBC who thought we might like to watch O.J. Simpson's last solitary parade down the 110 freeway in Los Angeles instead o f the third quarter of a very tense game. This was information at its most pervasive and most useless. I just hoped O.J. would kill himself so I could get back to watching the Knicks kill themselves. I don't want more information, I want less. My inf ormational fantasy is the early Middle Ages, shortly after the burning of the Library of Alexandria, when a literate person could know everything that was considered knowable. Those were the days.
But when I see those ads, there's tightness in my bowels that can't be wholly explained by fear. It is lust. You see, what I know and what AT&T knows is that I want it. I want it bad. I want to be up to my goddamn eyeballs in high definition, 3 mi llion colors, stereovision digital imagery; I want to be dialed in so tight that geography becomes an anachronism--the sleek, ergonomically designed collapse of space and time into speed, into the ceaseless pulse of info like a machine gun pointed at my h ead gives me a hard-on as stiff as Al Gore; I want to vote by changing the channel. Secretly I want AT&T to tie me up in fiber optics until I beg.
When the adrenaline fuzz fades and my heart-rate drops down to its normal paranoid rabbit-thumping, I realize what they're offering. It's like being chained up and fucked by a beautiful, shiny, leather-and-chrome-clad dominatrix. It would probably be ex citing for about 35 minutes. I'd still like the option to refuse. I don't think I'll get it. YOU WON'T.
REJECTED METAPHORS FOR THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY
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The Journal of SSubstance, Wit,and Dangerous Masturbatory Habits