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The smartness of a political ad or message is often proportional to the stupidity of the audience it intends to influence. Take the recent lawn sign promoted by the Obama campaign team which says, “Occupy the Vote…” It was never a surprise that the administration and its lackeys in the Congress would eventually, if not quickly, co-opt the movement. What shows the smartness of their campaign is how they use it in promoting their candidate.
We all know how the police throughout the US have been brutally harassing Occupy protesters. They’ve been shot at, pepper sprayed, beaten, arrested, monitored, intimidated, and had much of their civil and political rights abrogated. This was done in coordination with Homeland Security providing the means and the intelligence to the local police forces. It is this irony which shows the smartness/stupidity related to the slogan. Do those who support Obama have any clue that the Occupy movement was directly victimized by this administration? Very unlikely. Would it even make a difference? Probably not, as it seems most Americans often vote against their own interests.
One of the techniques used in propaganda, whether it be for political campaigns or advertising, is called ‘glistening generalities’. Motherhood and apple pie is what America is all about. Why not parenthood and cole slaw? Just doesn’t have that ring and who can be against mom and apple pie? But what does that mean? The two leading campaigns’ slogans are just as vacuous. Obama’s message is “Forward” with a period, unlike Dr Pepper without the period. No candidate, except perhaps the Know Nothings of the 1850’s or a Pat Buchanan campaign, would say something like “Backwards”. Romney’s is just as broad: Believe in America. At least Ronald Reagan, Obama’s hero, had more of an umph with “Morning in America”. Now that evoked a bright, sunny new day.
Slogans with a real message often are reserved for those candidates who have brains but little hope for success. The Green Party’s slogan is “A Green Future for America”. We know what that means: green jobs. The Libertarian’s slogan is simply “Live Free”. Free means ‘lack of’ and those who know the party’s philosophy would immediately recognize it as free from government. “Take the Power Back” is brought to you by the Socialist Party USA. A bit general but the message here is also clear. These are smart but when your chances are slim to none, it’s best to go all out with the message all can understand and reflects the party’s philosophy or creed. Leave it to the Obama and Romney campaigns to be as empty with their slogans as they want to be. God forbid they would actually promote something in their message!
Myles B. Hoenig is a veteran ESOL teacher in Prince George’s County, MD.