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John Leo is a columnist that I enjoy very much. He writes for U.S. News and World Report. In the Oct. 12, 1998 issue he comments on the relationship today between rules, Madison Avenue and society. He titles his column “The Selling of Rebellion.” He writes:

Consider the recent ad for the Isuzu Rodeo. A grotesque giant in a business suit stomps into a beautiful field, startling a deer and jamming skyscrapers, factories and signs into the ground. One of the giant’s signs says “Obey,” but the narrator says, “The world has boundaries. Ignore them.” Trying to trample the Rodeo, the hapless giant trips over his own fence. The Isuzu zips past him and toppling a huge sign that says, “Rules.”

But the central message here is very serious and strongly antisocial: We should all rebel against authority, social order, propriety, and rules of any kind. “Obey” and “Rules” are bad. Breaking rules, with or without your Isuzu, is good.

A great many advertisers now routinely appeal to the so-called postmodern sensibility…Burger King’s “Sometimes, you gotta break the rules.” Outback steakhouses (“No rules. Just right”), Don Q Rum (“Break all the rules”), Neiman Marcus (“No rules here), Columbia House Music Club (“We broke the rules”), Comedy Central (“See comedy that breaks the rules”), Red Kamel cigarettes (“This baby don’t play by the rules”), and even Woolite now says, “All the rules have changed.”

“No rules” also turns up as the name of a book and a CD and a tag line for an NFL video game (“no refs, no rules, no mercy”). The message is everywhere—“the rules are for breaking,” says a Spice Girls lyric.

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