Advertising and bleeding hearts

Helen Keller

For those of us who are aware that our hearts bleed all over the landscape, and who are the designated audience of many of the big multinationals and corporate giants in our midst, especially if we have undertaken to fight them on the difficult playing field of the mass media (owned and controlled by them), what is known as “promoted content” is an iffy subject. I will NOT listen to one more Coca Cola ad with children singing in the background, when I know from my work with Killer Coke that they deliberately pay to “discourage” (by nefarious means, including murder) trade unionism in the world, in particular in places such as Colombia where the most dangerous job is that of a labor organizer, or one of the ecommercials of big polluters such as BP (a skunk by any other name would smell as rotten, to paraphrase old Willie), Chevron and Exxon, who try to get us to forget their major ecological crimes and the fact that they pay little or no taxes. For me, advertising is another unnecessary pastime of the idle and misinformed.

So when I saw this morning that Upworthy, a site that usually has decent content, and that as they themselves say, “often calls out the advertising industry’s worst practices,” I read the disclaimer before I looked at the content, promoted by Starbucks and involving a deaf woman. I had not thought about advertising when reading their material, and I don’t know how I feel about this, but I promote many things in the course of a day, whether it is my own work as a translator and interpreter or the causes I espouse. Reading further into their note on promoted content, they state that they work “directly with brands and organizations on an issue or set of issues that matter to them and to our world. This will result, we hope, in an experience that feels as engaging and meaningful as anything else you’d find on Upworthy – except it will be clearly labeled with the brand or organization that paid for it.”

So the caveat emptor is right there, up front and marked in bold, highlighted in yellow, and in caps. Provided it is always so designated, I can’t really quibble with it; in our capitalist world, you do need to carry out some promotion, as I do when I send out résumés and engage in correspondence with would-be clients.

The content? Beautiful. Did it make my heart bleed? You betcha. People who are hearing-impaired are among those I respect greatly, and having worked with mothers of hearing-impaired children, I know first-hand the frustrations they experience in trying to survive and belong in a hearing world. My grandfather and mentor, Gerald Brandon, whom I knew as abuelo Gerardo, told me once that as a young man he had been sent to interview many famous people, including Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, but his favorite interviewee was Helen Keller, and when he spoke about her his eyes lit up, because of her absolute refusal to be bowed by her many disabilities. He told me that she held her hand on his throat whenever he spoke. She could not lip-read because she was also blind, but she could somehow discern words by the vibration of the speaker’s throat.

Years ago I listened to a beautiful performance of the Lord’s Prayer, which was sung and interpreted in sign language. I could barely sing for the tears. The sign language enhanced the experience of the voices raised in this most beautiful of prayers. From then on, I always wanted to learn to sign, so that I could interpret for those who cannot hear. It is something I still keep on my “bucket list” of things I want to accomplish. Interpreting, and doing it well, is one of the things I am most proud of, because it bridges gaps between peoples, and allows for communication. And I have always felt that if you only had proper, honest, respectful communication among peoples, war would soon become a faraway memory.

Namaste, beloved.


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