Vol. 3, Issue 23, November 8, 2005
Think Difference (Engine).
The Sleaze

Army Using Ashlee Simpson Ringtones to Brainwash Recruits

The Pentagon is denying reports that it is using ringtones with embedded hypnotic messages to boost recruitment efforts for the military.

"Our military is a proud organization which many young people find an extremely attractive career option for a variety of legitimate reasons," said Recruitment Director Major Clive McDougal. "I don't even know what a ringtone is. And ringtones are a perfectly harmless cultural phenomenon. I use them myself. Wait... don't print that. It appears to contradict what I said previously."

Millions of cellphone users download snippets of popular music for their phones to use in place of the pedestrian ringing and beeping of yesteryear, often paying a small fee for the privilege. In fact, ringtones have become such a significant part of the music industry that Billboard is creating a top 20 chart just for ringtones in November. But in September, some antiwar activists noticed a suspicious rise in recruitment among youths who had downloaded Ashlee Simpson ringtones to their phones.

"It's a pretty insidious approach," said Arlen Foster, of the anti-war group NOPE. "It took us a while to notice because Ashlee Simpson fans aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer to start with and hence more likely to sign up anyway. But over 85% of people who downloaded Pieces of Me or Boyfriend to their phones signed up for ten-year stints within a week.

Hackers have since identified what appear to be a complicated subsonic hypnotic imperative buried in the Simpson ringtone files.

"We're not even sure what else it's telling listeners to do; we know it suggests signing up for the Army, purchasing Ashlee's latest album, and signing up for a ten-year high-fee agreement with Cingular Wireless. It appears that a lot of people had their fingers in this pie, so to speak."

Cingular has refused to release sales figures for September, noting only that the Better Business Bureau had already de-listed them in New York, so "what are you going to do to us - file a complaint?" But Simpson has enjoyed a remarkable and, to many, inexplicable return to the top of the charts in recent weeks.

"Hoe-down girl was done, toast, permanently relegated to the D-list after her lip-synching debacle last year," said Rolling Stone editor Brent Kinsey. "And now she's back on top and thumbing her nose at her sister? People aren't tired of laughing at her yet. Mass hypnosis does seem like a more convincing explanation for her rebound than talent."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not comment directly on the matter, but did admit that the armed forces would welcome any rise in recruitment at this point.

"We could use a few more soldiers to help fill in over in Iraq," said McClellan. "Like oh, say about two thousand. We've found it's hard to keep good men and women around."

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