Those three weeks were lost in a bath of nostalgia as I sought out memories from the video compendium. I'm opposed to nostalgia. I thought it was because of the revisionism inherent in such behavior. I was wrong. In fact, I was right, but for the wrong reasons.
Nostalgia is bad news because it is nothing more than clutter. A mess of the half-remembered, the wrongly remembered and things we don't even know we don't know. On balance, YouTube is good news, however. It's a video diary of the last 100 years. If it's on tape, on film or on something, it's on YouTube.
I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you have wife and children, send them away for a year and watch YouTube. Or kill them, and film yourself doing it.
YouTube is a video dictionary, so one approaches it in much the same manner in which one picks up a regular dictionary. You dip in, one thing leads to another and--unlike the printed dictionary--suddenly you're six weeks late with the rent.
You'll probably have guessed by now that, sooner or later, I would type "insurance" into the search engine. To save you time, I'll summarize first: It's just a mess of stuff.
What I found initially made me wonder if I'd misjudged insurance. A stack of TV commercials, from companies in the United States, Japan and Europe, are available. They are uniformly clever, witty and, unusually for commercials, worth seeing. The Travelers' series on in-synch risk is a treat. Bangkok Life Assurance's portrayal of an insurance salesman as a cockroach is also good value.
YouTube is a public forum, so anyone can put himself on display. Like Wikipedia and blogging, any semisentient human being who has a thought can post it electronically and have it validated by the electric current. And so, in addition to insurance companies, a search for "insurance" also turns up a representative crew from the far edges of reason. A good example is the gent who blamed the insurance companies for Katrina, saying: "They can do that because they get away with it."
Spare yourself the wittering ninnies, and move on. The two Ronnies, British comedians, perform a hilarious sketch on insurance against becoming Jewish. There's an excellent, if dull, 15-minute film on crash test results. Comedians make bad jokes about insurance companies, sponsored by hapless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaking of disasters, you can watch congressional subcommittee testimony at a hearing on catastrophe insurance, in which Rep. Ron Klein reminds us that the art of rhetoric is not dead. "We must think ahead proactively," he said.
There's a great deal of satire, with insurance companies the butt of humor broad and narrow. A series of purported vox populi on the pros and cons of proportional reinsurance isn't worth watching, or living on the same planet as, really.
There's a life insurance 101 ad from lifeinsure.com and a bunch of obnoxious yahoos, with few debating skills, or skills of any kind, who attack insurance in vignettes they made of themselves. And you thought your life was pointless.
Comes the question: What does this teach us? Comes the answer: not much. But if insurance is as out of touch with the public as most of the evidence on YouTube would suggest, I'm going to start writing about an industry with a better image, such as real estate or waste management.
ROGER CROMBIE is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
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October 1, 2007
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