Stop the Nagging

by L. Neil Smith
Patronize Me!

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

First published in Number 12, August 14, 1996

Iguess it all began for me in 1952 when we had our first TV in McQueenie, Texas.

I was about six years old and the national preoccupation, at least in early broadcast circles, seemed to be smoking in bed, which, judging by what I saw and heard, constituted a threat, not only to Western Civilization, but to Life on Earth As We Know It. All of those “public service announcements” (or PSAs as they’re called today) must have solved the problem—everybody must have stopped smoking in bed—since you don’t see or hear spots about it any more.

Or maybe it was even earlier than that, in Denver when I was about four, lying in my crib, listening to The FBI in Peace and War, which took time to admonish me, at the end of every program, to “drink plenty of beverages”. I didn’t have a clue what “beverages” was, but even then, it was clear that if the anal-retentive sado-masochistic fascists in Our government (who claimed to be protecting us from the anal-retentive sado-masochistic fascists in Their government) asked me to do something, it almost certainly wouldn’t be good for me.

More to the point, it made me feel pushed around, and I didn’t like it a bit. I’ve always been nag-resistant (my mother says the first word I uttered was “No!“), a sensation I experience at the visceral, rather than the cerebral level.

I listen to PSAs cleverly placed between segments of Rush Limbaugh’s show, or Ken Hamblin’s (I wonder who the American Anti-Vivisection League think they’re gonna convince in that audience) and ask myself the same question I ask you now: would you permit a stranger, a neighbor, even a family member, to barge into your living room or office and browbeat you over the least details of your life? Would you let them lecture you about fat, salt, sugar, cholesterol, calories, nicotine, registering for the draft, beating your wife, or recycling garbage? Or would you pitch them right out in the street on their ear?

Mark me down for the latter—and tell me why you let a little box with speakers on the front, or a bigger one that pretends to be a window do the same thing you wouldn’t tolerate from a stranger, a neighbor, or a family member.

Much of the time, these do-gooders don’t know what they’re talking about, either. Somewhere in between beverages and bed-smoking it was, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Only it turned out, 30 years later, that forest fires are a good thing and perhaps shouldn’t be prevented quite so energetically. It seems forests are considerably healthier—and maybe a bit less dangerous—when an occasional fire sweeps through them and does a little of Darwin’s work.

Which is what we get, I guess, for listening to a bear wearing a silly hat.

Not long ago it was “vitamin supplements are unnecessary and basically a scheme by evil capitalism to callously steal the hard-earned money the IRS doesn’t take from you.” Now, however, doctors advise you to take anti- oxidants like Vitamin C and tell me that my habitual consumption of Vitamin E is what prevented any lasting damage when I suffered two heart attacks back in 1993.

Remember when evil video arcade games were going to despoil American youth?

Lately it’s been, “Wear the Gear” (in short, negate every reason you ever bothered to learn to use roller blades, ride a bike, or do whatever people do on a skateboard) because the safety Nazis worry themselves sick with the fear that the thrill of taking a worthwhile risk, the exhilaration of sheer velocity and personal freedom, might spread like cancer to the rest of your life—to your job, to your school, to your voting pattern—and then where would they be? Certainly not making and airing subsidized, tax-deductible. FCC-compulsory PSAs.

PSAs are “the hand that rocks the cradle” in the Nanny State and if Republicans were serious about eradicating socialism in America (which they decidedly are not—they’re merely offering a competing brand of the stuff) this is where they’d concentrate their not-so-friendly fire. Each and every one of the damned things is an advertisement for the underlying collectivist philosophy of the Democratic National Committee (such as it is) and they should each and every one be summarily jerked off the air during election years.

Perhaps Republicans could begin, in their typical timid way, with a few questions that desperately need asking. Who or what is the “Ad Council”, anyway?

And what’s a country with a First Amendment to its Constitution doing with an armed federal bureaucracy that calls itself the Federal Communications Commission?

For that matter, what’s a country with a Constitution doing with armed bureaucracies?

Meanwhile, I have some nagging of my own to do, aimed at the Ad Council, the American Heart and Bladder Association or whatever they call themselves who made quitting smoking so much harder for me, and all the rest of you radio nannies:

Shut up.

Go away.

Don’t come back.


And go to hell, Valerie Yarborough, whoever you are.

Lemme tell you, if they’d really do it, I’d consider that a public service.