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Thursday, January 06, 2005

A rotten President's re-election considered

Here's a great article by Mark Danner about how Bush pretty much won by scaring the piss out of everyone that terrorists are going to bomb their children and eat their pets, so they'd better vote for him because John Kerry is gonna laugh when it happens. The most telling thing about the Bush campaign strategy is how it deliberately infantilizes his supporters to make them feel helpless so that only Big Poppa Smirking Asshole can save them.

"If your babies were left all alone in the dead of night, who would you rather have setting there on the porch – John Kerry and his snowboard or George W. with his shotgun?" – Sean Michaels, professional wrestler, warming up the crowd, Tinker Field, Oct. 30, 2004

Personally, I would rather have someone I know for a fact once chased down a gunman while under fire to save his fellow soliders than someone who hid away in the National Guard. But the problem with those all-to-real comparisons is that metaphorically speaking, using Kerry's story as a story of the potential leader's bravery makes the rest of us, metaphorically speaking that is, other soliders. Bush's appeal to the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and the like is that he looks you in the eye and tells you that there's nothing braver than being a sniveling coward.

In a few blunt lines Bush had subsumed everything else beneath the preeminent shining banner of the war on terror, and subsumed that war beneath his own reputation for forthrightness, decisiveness, and strength. And he had identified uncertainty, hesitation, vacillation – even the sort of nit-picking that would seek to separate the war in Iraq from the war on terror – as not simply mistaken or foolish but dangerous. "Relentless"..."Steadfast"... Determined": these words came fast and strong, again and again. And then the climactic line: "We will fight the terrorists across the globe so we do not have to fight them here at home!"

It drew a huge response...

It's a great line that delivers two conflicting messages and soothes people's moral worries about the war. "We will fight" tells the audience that they are braver than those simpering Democrats, because dammit, they will fight. "Across the globe" undermines the fear the bravery can inspire and reminds the audience that they won't have to do any actual fighting.

It's a common advertising technique to overwhelm the audience with so much conflicting information that they just hang up trying to figure out what's going on and just rely on their emotions and desires to tell them what to do. And the Republicans have that particular technique down cold.

25 Comments:

Blogger La Lubu said...

" The 101st Fighting Keyboardists"? BWA hahahahaha!!! Thank you so much for the good laugh. It's a sucky day here, and I needed it.

And watching the Gonzales proceedings, and the Social Security proceedings, and the fuck-over-malpractice-victims proceedings, I keep reminding myself of the Molly Ivins column about the dog with the dead chicken around its neck. Damn, that column is really turning out to have legs.

1/06/2005

 
Blogger Anne said...

The 101st Fighting KeyboardistsI love it whenever I read that term around the lefty blogosphere. I found that it was especially fun when applying to the righty pro-war-but-I-don't-want-to-enlist bloggers who complained about the reporting of the 1,000th death in Iraq.

1/06/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hadn't realised the true extent of the use of fear to win the election until I watched a political comedy programme on my beloved BBC3 which followed the voice-over "The economy is failing, there are no WMDs and no one knows how Bush will win this one..." with a ten minute sequence of all the times "9/11" or "terrorism/terrorist/terror" were mentioned on the campaign trail edited together humourously.

Funny, but kinda shocking.

thisgirl

1/06/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If your babies were left all alone in the dead of night, who would you rather have setting there on the porch – John Kerry and his snowboard or George W. with his shotgun?" – Sean Michaels, professional wrestler, warming up the crowd, Tinker Field, Oct. 30, 2004

Wow. I'd say Kerry, because I'm not sure I want a guy with a shotgun sitting on my porch while my (nonexistent) babies are in the house, since that just makes things more dangerous all around (I hope Bush JUST has the shotgun, and not a shotgun with a couple of six-packs in a cooler as well). I think this is interesting, though, because it illustrates the siege mentality of some conservatives (well, some of all people, but I think it's more prominent in conservatives), in which the outside is filled with hostility which must be guarded against with militant xenophobia.

I mean, between shotgun Bush and snowboard Kerry, I'd actually rather have no one at all than either of them. Or, rather, I'd rather have someone trusted in the house than on the porch, because choking or something is a bigger threat than anything coming from the porch, but if you think you're under siege, that's an invitation for a mysterious assailant to come in and kidnap your babies. Or something.

Julian Elson

1/06/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

The interesting thing to me about the siege mentality is that paranoid Bush-voting seems to be inversely proportional to your chances of actually getting killed by a terrorist. The major terrorist targets went for Kerry--in part because urban areas traditionally vote for the Democrats but in no small part because the beast seems less scary if you have some idea of the form.

Or, to put it another way, in the rural places that went for Bush, terrorists are a metaphorical threat to our way of life, so they respond to a symbolic leader. To those in target cities, the question is practicality--do we have police? Fireman? Tangible security? You know, the stuff you get when you have the wonky Democrats in charge.

1/06/2005

 
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When I first learned of the study showing that thoughts of mortality made people want a "charismatic" politician, it puzzled me. Thinking about my own death doesn't make me think about politics, at least not single-lifetime politics. Then I read that stupid open letter, and looked into the study, and it started to make sense. "Charismatic" means talking about Good and Evil. I think these voters felt like part of something larger than their lives -- not because of the effect of voting, but because they thought the Universe cared who they voted for. They didn't care so much how W's election affected America or the human race, because they saw Good and Evil as larger than the human race.
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