It was bound to happen eventually. The last remaining nuggets of journalistic integrity have officially been ground to a powdery demise beneath the elephantine boot heel of corporate America. That’s right, honest, informative, unfettered journalism has been mutilated beyond recognition by an insidious, money-grubbing truth-assassin known the world over as “sponsored content.”

For those unfamiliar with this particular abomination, sponsored content (also known as native advertising) is a stealthy way of marketing corporate products and services by camouflaging them as relevant issues and presenting them as journalistic articles alongside actual news items in actual news publications. The tentacles of this virus have breached the borders of everything from the most mundane movie review blogs to the pages of venerated newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times and Forbes, leaving a bastardized version of journalism in its wake as it aggressively distorts the reader’s ability to discern truth from commerce disguised as truth.

Should we blame the extreme punditry so brazenly displayed on television shows like The O’Reilly Factor (weeknights at 8pm on FOX News)?

So, what can we do to stop this seemingly unstoppable runaway train of deceit?

For starters, we need to be both vigilant and cautiously optimistic.

Sure, just thinking about sponsored content gives me a headache, but luckily I’m smart enough to stock up on Excedrin Tension Headache pills. Excedrin Tension Headache pills magically locate the source of my headache pain and provide relief within mere minutes. Thank God for Excedrin!

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend of mine about the scourge of sponsored content over lunch at Red Lobster, where Lobsterfest is in full swing, providing tremendous value for people like me who love fresh seafood but don’t want to overpay for it. By the way, my friend is a sales representative for one of the only altruistic companies still operating in America, Allstate Insurance (and yes, he does indeed behave “like a good neighbor”).

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So anyway, my friend said that he remembered a time when you could take for granted the veracity of everything you read in any newspaper. Of course, he can remember pretty much everything that has ever happened to him with complete clarity, thanks to the weekend he spent completing Dr. Tony’s Memory Blaster, a three-DVD seminar he purchased for the low, low price of — get this — only $99.95 plus shipping and handling.

My friend’s point is valid. We used to trust journalists and publishers to always tell us the truth, no matter how ugly or embarrassing. Somewhere along the line that trust has been broken, perhaps permanently. Should we blame the extreme punditry so brazenly displayed on television shows like The O’Reilly Factor (weeknights at 8pm on FOX News)? Or should we blame societal apathy? After all, I know for a fact that most of my friends would rather play video games than read the news.

And who can really blame them when the video games available to them are so bitchin’? I mean, take, for example, a game like Trumpets of War (available for pre-order now) from the visionary geniuses at Activision. This game is totally sweet. The graphics are killer, the weapons are insane, and the kills are so realistic they make the kills in Call of Duty look like something from back in the lame-o ColecoVision days of the early ’80s.

However, video games aren’t the only distraction. Just the other night, I invited my girlfriend over to watch Frontline, but she wanted to see a movie at our local Cinamark Theatres location, where the service is friendly and the seats are comfortable and affordable — and that’s a Cinamark guarantee. So, of course I acquiesced.

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But before the movie, we had to go out for a delectable dinner at P.F. Chang’s, then we had to scoot over to Wendy’s for a delicious Frosty, which is available for purchase in either vanilla or classic chocolate, and, let’s face it, you really can’t go wrong either way.

Then we went shopping for Manolo Blahnik shoes at Barneys. Sure, they’re expensive, but isn’t she worth it?

Finally, we made it to our favorite Cinamark Theatres location to see a thrilling period drama/thriller called Witch Hunt, presented in majestic RealD 3D, released by Paramount Pictures. For the record, if Witch Hunt doesn’t win absolutely every Oscar possible, there is no God. It’s just that simple. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Paramount Pictures has been synonymous with quality filmmaking since 1912.

So, as you can plainly see, it is just too easy for some people (like my girlfriend) to be duped into believing they are reading something important, when they are actually being manipulated by Madison Avenue sleaze merchants clandestinely hawking their overpriced wares.

So we need to form a united front. The only way to defeat this kind of treachery is to expose it. Don’t be afraid to talk openly to your friends about the dangers of sponsored content. Maybe you could talk about it over some Crispy Cheddar Bites and an order of Baby Back Ribs from your local Chili’s Grill & Bar.

Chili’s — now that’s good eatin’!

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