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32. “You can tell the ideas of a nation by its advertisements.”

Explain what you think this quotation means and discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with it. Develop your position with reasons and/or specific examples drawn from history, current events, or your own experience, observations, or reading.

In order to determine whether advertisements reflect a nation’s ideas, it is necessary to determine whether advertisements present real ideas at all, and, if so, whose ideas they actually reflect. On both counts, it appears that advertisements fail to accurately mirror a nation’s ideas.

Indisputably, advertisements inform us as to a nation’s values, attitudes, and priorities—what activities are worthwhile, what the future holds, and what is fashionable and attractive. For instance, a proliferation of ads for sport-utility vehicles reflects a societal concern more for safety and machismo (男子气概an exaggerated or exhilarating sense of power or strength) than for energy conservation and frugality, while a plethora of ads for inexpensive on-line brokerage services reflects an optimistic and perhaps irrationally exuberant economic outlook. However, a mere picture of a social more, outlook, or fashion is not an “idea”—it does not answer questions such as “why” and “how”?

Admittedly, public-interest advertisements do present ideas held by particular segments of society—for example, those of environmental and other public-health interest groups. However, these ads constitute a negligible percentage of all advertisements, and they do not necessarily reflect the majority’s view. Consequently, to assert that advertisements reflect a nation’s ideas distorts reality. In truth (adv. 事实上,的确,说实在的,实际上,本质上), they mirror only the business and product ideas of companies whose goods and services are advertised and the creative ideas of advertising firms. Moreover, advertisements look very much the same in all countries. Western and Eastern alike. Does this suggest that all nations have essentially identical ideas? Certainly not.

In sum, the few true ideas we might see in advertisements are those of only a few business concerns and interest groups; they tell us little about the ideas of a nation as a whole.


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