A Facebook Haggadah, a Twitter Passion Play and the Beginning of the Post-Absurdist Era

April 12, 2009 at 4:47 am 5 comments

Last week someone sent me the story of Passover as explained by Facebook. It was intended to be amusing, and I suppose it succeeded in a limited way. There are status updates from Elijah on his tipsiness, a list of “25 things you don’t know about me” by God, etc. I gave it a quick glance and then didn’t think much more about it. Then today I read in the Telegraph of London that Trinity Church, the oldest Church in New York (which also occupies the oldest building in New York) has used Twitter to tell the story of the Passion 140 characters at a time. This was not an attempt at comedy. The church was trying to connect with young people by using new technology to tell an ancient story that is one of the cornerstones of Judeo-Christian civilization.

My immediate thought upon reading this was that absurdist expression is no longer possible. Satire and gospel have become indistinguishable. How can we reduce the central mythology of western civilizaton to a handful of Tweets? How can we not do it if we want the mythology to remain relevant to people whose attention spans are measured in fractions of a second? What’s more, if the most sacred texts of a civilization cannot resist being rendered by technology not to paragraphs or sentences but to mere utterances, what chance does the lowly advertising business have to cling to any form of articulate communication in the coming years?

In a documentary made to promote Monty Python’s Life of Brian, John Cleese ridiculed American Terry Gilliam’s limited vocabulary. Cleese claimed there were only two possible responses from Gilliam regardless of the stimulus to which he was exposed: “Hey man, I really like that” or “hey man, that really pisses me off.” Is this where our use of language is headed? Does it create a business opportunity to start “the next thing” after Twitter–something that reduces all human expression to either “like it” or “pisses me off”? Are indecipherable grunts and dumb shows the next (or last) stops on this ever-narrowing road? 

I am worried, not as an advertising professional but as a human being. Advertisers can and will concoct a new semiotic system to sell floor wax without verbs. What I’m less confident of is the next generation’s ability to squeeze Ulysses from an eyedropper.

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Entry filed under: Advertising and Marketing. Tags: , , .

My favorite quotation on advertising, plus a corollary. Howard Gossage inadvertently explained how to look at banner ads when he explained how to look at billboards.

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brad  |  April 14, 2009 at 12:20 am

    “How can we reduce the central mythology of western civilizaton to a handful of Tweets?”

    I dunno. But people have been doing the same thing on bumper stickers for decades.

  • 2. scottj1898  |  April 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I have never seen a Haggadah bumper sticker but look forward to your forwarding pictures of same.

  • 3. Passion Play for Protestants  |  May 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I believe that what The Trinity Church did with regards to Twitter was nothing short of going along with the times. They are trying to communicate the story of The Passion Play, but I’m sure it won’t come to grunts or the 2 expressions John Cleese so eloquently was quoted as saying. Yes, we will all move forward. The question is in what way? Will it be moving forward or backward?

  • 4. scottj1898  |  May 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Yes, the question is should we move forward, or in certain spheres of life and communications should we instead–if I may borrow Mr. Buckley’s famous phrase–”stand athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'”

  • 5. Stinky22  |  October 22, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Other developed countries also used foreign ownership restrictions to help them industrialize. ,

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