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Making Everything Perfectly Clear

March 5, 1993



IN the endless quest for the pure and natural, an oil company has introduced the "ultimate" gasoline, described as "crystal clear." It still vaporizes. It still explodes. It still pollutes. It's still gasoline. Ah, but it's clear.

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Suddenly everything has become colorless, translucent, guilelessly see-through. There are clear soft drinks, clear deodorants, clear mouthwashes, clear detergents.

Is there any variety of product that has failed to heed the all-clear signal? Clear is the meaningless, if not misleading, symbol for product innocence. Could any nasty chemical, any sneaky preservative, lurk in ambush in these lucid depths? The answer, of course, is yes.

The power or crystal clarity depends on cloudy thinking - on sheer suggestibility. How can anybody brought up in the world of split atoms and radio waves possibly believe that what the eye cannot see cannot exist? And what a stunning lack of sophistication, verging on superstition, to presume that matter is automatically "good" if only its properties are invisible! Did puritanism ever take a more ridiculous twist?

If advertisers can sell consumers on this crude flimflam - "Now you see it, now you don't ... so buy it!" - the marketplace is in danger of reverting to the gullible paradise dreamed of by snake-oil salesmen, peddling crystal-clear snake oil, no doubt.

It is no trick to foresee the end of the cult of the clear. But what will take its place in the ongoing working of the pure and the natural? The "lite" has given way to the clear - please not "cleer," though already there is a clear cleaner called CLR.

Still, nothing essentially changes if each succeeding panacea seems as naive as the one before it while pretending to scientific argument.

In seeing through clear products, may consumers once and for all see through the illusion of the pure and natural, and in the process - who knows? - help make advertising itself perfectly clear.