Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

About That Mustache

With respect to the bizarrely anti-American cover of the UK edition of Paul Krugman's book, Mickey Kaus notes this about the little mustache painted on Dick Cheney's face:

Alert kf readers have pointed out it's almost certainly not a Hitler mustache, but rather a parody of the "Got Milk?" mustache. [Duh!-ed]

Really? If it is a parody of the "Got Milk?" mustache, then it seems to be one of the stranger publishing decisions recently made anywhere in the world.

The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"® Campaign is jointly funded by America's milk processors and dairy farmers: the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) in Washington, D.C., and Dairy Management Inc., Chicago. The tagline "got milk?"® was created for the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and is licensed by the national milk processor and dairy producer groups.

There is no mention on the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) site of any use of the "Got Milk?" campaign in Europe, nor is there such a mention on the IDFA International page. Nor is there mention on the CMPB news site of any use of the "Got Milk?" campaign outside the United States. The UK Dairy Council site doesn't mention a "got milk?" campaign - and using its "keyword search" button to search for "got milk?" or "got milk" comes up dry. It is possible that there has been European use of this campaign, but it is not mentioned by these organizations - but that seems odd.

So why use a "Got Milk mustache" on Cheney in the UK - but not the US - edition of a book? How are Europeans supposed to understand that image if they've never been exposed to the ads? Won't they assume it's a Hitler mustache anyway - since that they've seen?

Or, just maybe, the mustache featured on the Krugman book jacket is supposed to be the kind of mustache germanic professors used to wear around the university? The kind the students respectfully called Herr Doktorprofessor - at least to their faces?

UPDATE: One clever e-mailing wag points out that in this case it's really Hair Doktorprofessor. And, if I'm right in this hirsuit encounter, could that [Duh!-ed] Mickey got count as The Case Against Editors, Part III ...? Just asking.

FURTHER UPDATE: An astute e-mailer points out that Cheney's image comes from a "Got Oil?" poster by But the Man Without Qualities has neither received nor discovered evidence that the "Got Milk?" campaign was used anywhere in Europe - including Britain. My e-mailers suggestion that the image may be familiar to British people anyway, since it's so famous in the US, I pass along.

That the image is part of a "Got Oil?" parody of the "Got Milk?" campaign doesn't settle the issue of whether the Cheney mustache is even intended by (never mind the British publishers of Krugman's book) to be Hitleresque. The point of the copy accompanying its "Got Oil?" picture seems to be that Mr. Cheney is led to fascistic activities by his supposed obsession with oil - although Hitler is not mentioned. The "double meaning" of the mustache seems intentional - and, as's "defacement" of President Bush indicates here, the organization is perfectly prepared to visually suggest the Hitler connection.

All that being said, some of the efforts are pretty damn funny.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Verities argues vigorously that the British audience will understand the "Got Milk?" reference, even if the campaign has not been used there. The reader is invited to evaluate the Verities arguments and make her own decisions.

One detail: When I noted above that: The UK Dairy Council site doesn't mention a "got milk?" campaign, I was refering to use of a "got milk?" campaign in the UK. That the Dairy Council has a press release that mentions the campaign in the US, but makes no mention of its use in the UK, suggests that the campaign has not been used in the UK.

Do famous, long-lived ad campaigns in the US necessarilly percolate into minds of many Europeans - or at least the British? Sometimes that happens to some extent. But enough to sell books and displace images of Hitler?

The UK apparently has its own milk campaign that uses people with white mustaches - but not the "Got Milk?" tag line. Would that campaign cause the British to see the mustached image of Cheney as an oil drinker, but not Hitleresque? That seems unlikely to the Man Without Qualities - but others may differ.

The reader should make up her own mind.

MORE: The Times waddles in!

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