May 21, 2004

Rainy afternoon mail: "Ann, please BREAK THE SEAL."

It is pouring rain again here. I need to get out of the house--must get supplies--but I would be drenched just getting to the car. My hedges are all overgrown from all this rain, and then with more rain the hedges are wet, and I can't get to my car without being well-swiped by wet hedge leaves. So I'm going through my mail.

I received a letter in the mail from the city telling me I need to hire a plumber to replace my lead service line. (Wouldn't it be easier to just drink bottled water? Are you kidding? You can't have lead pipes!)

And I got a letter from the Republican Presidential Task Force trying to get a donation by pretending to care about my opinion so they can set the Republican platform. This time they've made a big deal out of the fact that the survey is in a sealed envelope. It's an "official document" by the way. And it's in "a secure envelope to protect the integrity of [my] vote." (What's secure about a sealed envelope? [ADDED: I mean, the whole set of papers was already in a sealed envelope. What's the point of an envelope within the envelope except to play with my mind?]) Get this: "If for some reason you cannot participate in this crucial Survey project, please sign the outside of the secure, registered envelope--WITHOUT BREAKING THE SEAL--and return it to me [Senator George Allen] immediately so we can attempt to find another citizen to represent your district." The Republican Party never tires of sending me bizarre mail like this, seemingly in an effort (achieved long ago) to convince me they think their supporters are narcissistic idiots. So I represent my district, do I?

I saw in the paper today (somewhere) that Bush has already spent over $100 million on his campaign. But isn't most of the money just spent trying to get more money? Anyway, according to this letter my money is "urgently needed" because the Democrats have over $400 million "from liberal billionaires like George Soros, from personal injury trial lawyers, from Hollywood elites and from Big Labor to finance their scorched-earth strategy." (What scorched-earth strategy? Trying to win elections?) They need me to "help level the playing field" because "the Democrats' momentum is surging." Ugh! I hate the tone of desperation. Can I be on a special mailing list for people who want to hear reasonable arguments?

If I send them enough money I get to be a "Platinum Member" and then I can get three things: "a ceremonial American flag" (as opposed to what? a functional one?), "a distinctive lapel pin" (not just any lapel pin... and just assume I wear a suit and have lapels), and, my favorite, "an embossed membership card" (oh, "embossed," that's what will push me over the line here).

If I don't break the magic seal, they want me to sign the envelope and mail it back to them in a postpaid envelope. Great way to drain away your campaign funds, paying for the return mailing of bogus "official" documents. I suppose somebody thinks imposing a sense of obligation is going to increase the chance that I'll do the survey, which will increase the chance that I'll give them money. If I really hated them, I'd put over an ounce of papers in the envelope and mail it to further drain their funds. But I'm one of those moderate, undecided types, so I do nothing.


Kirk Parker said...

Re: the "embossed membership card". There is a school of advertisingese, one of whose principal tenets is At Least One Adjective Per Noun. A plain old membership card is nothing, anybody can have one of those. Naturally, this leads to some contortions when there really is nothing else to say about an item.

The most amusing example I ever saw, from a Heartland America catalog, was the entry for the "48 Inch Guitar". So now we sell musical instruments like we sell garden hoses? Although I suppose they did have a point: "Cheap, Crappy Guitar--But What Did You Expect for Only $34.95" might not have sold as well.

Ann Althouse said...

Good point. Any decent English usage book will tell you to try to pick nouns and verbs that let you go without adjectives and adverbs. Yet people somehow get the idea that a noun looks forlorn without an adjective. And it really is especially bad in catalogues, which are often reduced to reusing the same adjectives that just mindlessly express high quality. I make it a practice, when leafing through a catalogue, to toss it aside if I see the word "exceptional" used more than once.