Big Audi-o Dynamite

Heading in to the annual television advertising showcase known as Super Bowl Sunday (and there’s football, too!), the commercial that was generating the most public controversy was Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s “pro-life” ad for right-wing group Focus on the Family.

I haven’t heard a word about that ad since the day it ran. The ad that’s been talked about most in the freedom movement discussions where I hang out is Audi’s “Green Police” commercial:

Surprisingly, most of the libertarian reaction I’ve seen to this action-packed peek into a near-future environmental dystopia has been negative. That may be because the ad’s content (aside from the “buy our car” part) was played straight enough to come off as ambiguous. Is Audi cheering on, or warning us of, the advent of the “green police state?”

One criticism I’ve heard of the commercial is that it’s crassly exploitative because it flogs a product which meets the standards of — which even advertises itself as an “escape” from! — a plausibly portrayed nascent police state carrying out a “war on pollution.”

I don’t find that criticism persuasive. I don’t remember analogous criticisms from the same corners of ads for products meant to help people ride out the “war on drugs” (urinalysis … er, modification … tools) or the “war on guns” (bury-ready gun safes, fast-trigger switches, etc.).

Personally, I find the ad a refreshing — and hopefully eye-opening — social satire. I don’t really care what Audi’s intent (beyond selling cars) in producing and airing it might have been. Regardless of any putative intent, I strongly suspect that its effect must have been eye-opening and thought-provoking for many viewers.

The ad is a pitch-perfect take on one of government’s congenital defects: Its propensity to ruin good ideas (in this case recycling, energy efficiency, etc.; pretty much the entire “green” portion of the idea spectrum) by turning them into political causes, then into tedious mandates, which in turn become trite excuses for throwing around the weight of bureaucratic and “law enforcement” authority.

It’s also a hilarious send-up of virtually every banal, cliched stereotype that “law enforcement” personnel seem to work so hard to live up to in this day and age. As one who deems the modern “law enforcement” regime eminently worthy of mockery and scorn, I applaud.

And, of course, the ad reprises one of the seventies’ coolest tunes, by one of the seventies’ coolest bands.

No, this ad won’t usher in the revolution, nor would any other ad have done so. That’s okay. It’s enough — more than one has any right to expect, really — that it put some essential truths in front of millions of pairs of eyes.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory