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Dorothy Day and Pope Francis on Advertising

Dorothy Day famously said, “There have been many sins against the poor which cry out to high heaven for vengeance. The one listed as one of the seven deadly sins is depriving the laborer of his share. There is another one, that is, instilling in him the paltry desires to satisfy that for which he must sell his liberty and his honor … newspapers, radios, television, and battalions of advertising people (woe to that generation) deliberately stimulate his desires….”

Pope Francis dramatically criticized manipulative advertising aimed at promoting consumption, illustrating his words with the parable of the Good Samaritan, likening advertising to the beating the robbers gave the man before abandoning him:

“Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road. The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbor, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance. In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response. Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbor.” Pope Francis, Message for World Communications Day, 2014.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXXV, No. 1, January-February 2014.