Am I For GM? Not So Much.

At home, I get all my media online. I watch the Daily Show on the Comedy Network website and I read newspapers on a laptop. So about the only time out of a year that I get soaked in big media -- advertisements and all -- is when I'm at my folks' house for xmas.

I've only been here a day and a half and, boy howdy, am I soaking in it.

Have CNN anchors always mugged for the camera so much? I've seen them wink, burst into song, and do spontaneous impressions. (I'm hoping to see a spit take from Anderson Cooper before I leave.) All this in a day and a half. In between stories about child murder, natural disasters and financial collapse. Yeah, I know this isn't the age of Cronkite any more. We're not to expect dry, dispassionate news coverage that strives for impariality. Sure. I get that. But I'd expect the luminaries of the news universe to conduct themselves with a little more decorum than, say, your average prairie dog writer. I mean, if sophmoric hijinks are what reporting is all about these days, why aren't I making more money, I ask you, dear dog blog reader?

But buffoonery on CNN is mere cause for amusement. What's rankled me enough to get me blogging this xmas eve is GM's fullpage ad in Tuesday's Edmonton Journal. It's a page of text headed with the question "What does it mean to say, 'I'm for GM'?" (I'll try to edit this post later and include the text of the ad... it's worth puzzling over.)

Their message is that GM is a good company that's striving to be more efficient and environmentally responsible. It also tries to dispel some of the nasty myths about itself, arguing that it had already been working towards those goals. Why, it's been implementing a restructuring plan since 2005 and during that time has produced a great mid-size hybrid in the Malibu, won Car of the Year awards in 07 and 08 and has... wait a second??!?? 2005??!?? [spit take] They've been restructuring since 2005? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that like only three years ago? And isn't three the first number in our counting system to be classed as "a few"? If they'd started their restructuring plan any later in the game their ad would have to read "about a couple years ago, it occured to us oil might not last forever". Any later than that and they'd be writing "Environment?!? [spit take] Oh crap. We'd better get on that!"

Okay. Sorry. I'm just a schmuck from Saskatchewan not a player in the auto industry. Maybe waiting until the early part of the 21st century to start gearing up for the end of oil and runaway climate change is what counts for taking the long view in the world of big business.

But I digress. Ultimately, what GM is trying to say with this ad is thanks for your money. (Mind you, they use the code word "support" to stand in for "your tax dollars.")

They end this way: "We are asking Canadians to look differently at GM. We thank everyone who continues to stand by us. We are changing quickly to become a leaner, greener, sustainable company. So maybe, if it comes up with friends, in the lunch room or around the dinner table, you'll consider saying, 'I'm for GM.'"

Sorry, GM, I just can't say that. First of all, I expect to get paid for PR work. And second, I have deep misgivings about the bailout. It offends my sense of justice.

I thought the whole deal with the self-regulated free market thing was that it rewarded companies that produced things the public wants and those that didn't, died. Fear of corporate death is supposed to be the stick that inspires corporations to innovate, change, respond to the market and the environment, become more efficient, expand and grow. That's the logic pundits, economists and captains of industry have used to justify everything from privatizing health care, cutting off funding to the arts and culture, and just generally starving the public sector at every turn.

And yet, the second the corporate sector gets into trouble, they're knocking on the government's door, looking for a handout. The auto industry has squandered tonnes of public cash and gov't support, they ignored years of warnings about the perils their industry was going to face, and they're being rewarded for that. Way to go, capitalism!

Now, granted, when I'm not busy being Indignant Paul, I'll admit that in the long run, when you consider how many people rely on this industry for their livelihood maybe a bailout of some kind is the way to go.

But, you know, I hear tell of these car companies that aren't on the verge of bankruptcy, that're actually building small, fuel efficient vehicles. I hear they have factories here in Canada. They're companies with foreign-sounding names like "Toyota." Why aren't we giving them money?

No seriously. Educate me. Why aren't we giving money to Toyota and Volkswagon? I know next to nothing about cars. I don't own one. Not planning to. But if we're going to hand out big loans from the public purse, shouldn't we be gambling on companies that seem to have a clue?

Or how about this? We could put the money into passenger rail so we wouldn't need cars so much and wouldn't have to rely quite so heavily on the auto industry to keep our manufacturing sector healthy. I think they call that diversification.

I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here.