Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One More Insubstantial Thing

I don’t speak your blasted language.
—Col. John Norton-Griffiths

I have to break my self-imposed deafness regarding all things political and silence regarding the blog to ask, if anyone's left out there, regarding this renegade Obama campaign anti-Clinton ad parodying the old "1984" Apple Computer commercial: how on earth is this an "attack ad"?*
Is it merely because of the imagery, throwing the hammer at the mere representation of Hillary on the screen (it's been a long time, but is that a Hooters girl tossing the hammer?)? Or is it enough to engage in the deliberately fanciful and humorous comparison of Hillary to Big Brother to qualify one as this season's Lee Atwater?

I had the impression that an "attack ad" made clearly false claims or insinuations, engaged in guilt-by-association, or contained scurrilous assaults on personal behavior; I think the definition is being stretched here to include the merely irreverent (and I don't share the disdain for attack ads myself; it's all on the electorate in the end, and if the American public hasn't yet attained the political sophistication to penalize the insubstantial or scandal-mongering with pointed ignorance or ridicule then we do indeed deserve the "leaders" we get--as for the rest of the world, perhaps we owe them an apology).

But is this what we can expect of the coming race, this sideshow of brittle sensibilities? It's probably only a matter of time before Obama revels in his moment of affected outrage because someone has indulged in the temerity of questioning whether his much-hyped personal history of racial struggle isn't just a bit disingenuous. Both campaigns already have the apparatus in place to convert to useful energy anything, such as the moment's so-called attack ad, that can be portrayed as an unfair or bigoted assault.
Both sides are coiled to strike at the first rhetorical duck to step out of line, and with the presence and unspoken collusion of Fox News and the usual suspects of right-wing radio, they will likely have several opportunities. Our only recourse against a political campaign that dodges the glaring stage lights of real scrutiny by grappling in the mosh pit of phony outrage is through ridicule. Let's nip this thing in the bud. Mock early, and often. I'm looking at you, Daily Show. Once more unto the breach.

As for the ad in question, it makes a powerful statement about a longtime political insider who operated ruthlessly behind the scenes before gaining the junior senate seat for the state of New York to use as nothing more than a springboard to executive power while doing absolutely nothing to turn back the assault on civil liberties of the Bush Administration and cheering on its appalling foreign policy until it became no longer politically beneficial, and who is currently joining in the enthusiasm for an attack on Iran (some sixties hippie you turned out to be!), and whose own campaign is currently stifling debate and the political process by threatening donors away from competing candidates with all the subtlety of a snarling Rottweiler defending a side of beef, as it seeks to hoard as much of the available odds- and favor-chasing campaign cash as it can before anything as disorderly as a political debate breaks out (all of this probably a tad more significant than a satirical ad getting carried away with an extreme metaphor).

Add to this the disturbing lack of scrutiny she recieves by many due to her sex and longtime service as a feminist talisman, the fact that so much establishment money has migrated so quickly to her candidacy, the cult-like reverence for her exhibited by the habitual first name only denotation by fawning abjects, and the overall sense of entitlement to power she exudes (and a pair of disembodied eyes that always seem to follow you, even from photographs, chilling every male right down to his inherently misogynistic soul), and I'd say whoever made the offending ad deftly addresses the creeping unease which many of us feel toward this woman who is propelled along on a sort of reverse groundswell of corporate and politically elitist support. Many of us, liberal and conservative alike, get the feeling that Hillary has been selected for us and is now being foisted upon us.
Furthermore, say what you will about either Obama or Clinton, they are clearly of two distinct generations, and our current ruling elders seem to have guided us to a very precarious station in the nation's progress. I don't know what precisely is behind all of the attention the rogue spot is getting, perhaps simply that it strikes a chord with media types who can't help but feel a bit cowed by the Hillary Machine, but its resonant note is sounding over and over again as the piece is being repeatedly shown on television news programs. If the Clinton campaign had a hand in bringing the spot to the public's attention by seeking to generate outrage over it they need to learn when to keep their powder dry.

It seems another common misconception we have foisted upon ourselves, that our political process is increasingly fouled by personal attacks (as many have pointed out, the personal invective has been much worse in the past), when in fact the greater problem is that the process is diluted by so much insubstantial chatter. In fact, the clip the ad's author used of Hillary Clinton blathering about having a "conversation" with the electorate was pretty damned apt, if you ask me. This language, my God.
The feminization of our culture is a given consequence of the sexual revolution and I don't intend to fight it other than obliquely by championing common sense and rigor over kitsch and sentiment, but Hillary Clinton's oeuvre of platitude, euphemism, and thinly veiled female (and other group) resentment shows that a powerful and effective new language has entered the family of totalitarian tongues. Big Sister may prove much more effective than Big Brother in the end, and when she's so very eager to please the aggressive militarism of AIPAC while increasing the size of the state at home and can be counted on to do whatever she can to accelerate our continuing slide into a racial and sexual spoils system, perhaps the 1984 analogy is as pointed as it is farcical.

Are we so afraid of intellectual strife and complexity that we just want someone to stroke our collective head and tell us she'll be our great all-protecting Big Mother, or that he'll flash his winning smile and "transcend" right out of existence the age-old problem of race?
Sorry, stupid question.
So if the candidates are going to waste our time pretending to be engaging the nation in kindly chats or attempting to turn the national political narrative into the equivalent of a black-white buddy movie, I say let the hammers fly.

(Now I have to go back to sharpening my survivalist skills and writing my Kaczynski-esque manifesto)

*The day after posting this I realized that I should perhaps seek out a definition of attack ad, and found this on Wikipedia:
In political campaigns, an attack ad is an advertisement whose message is meant as an attack against another candidate or political party. Attack ads often form part of negative campaigning or smear campaigns, and in large or well-financed campaigns, may be disseminated via mass media.
An attack ad will generally criticize an opponent's political platform, usually by pointing out its faults and contrasting them against its own platform.

So the YouTube spot qualifies by this broad definition of any criticism offered of one's political opponent, but hardly qualifies as a "smear." Clinton supporters no doubt view it as negative, but this merely points out the problem with the whole overbroad "attack ad" concept. I've always thought that offering a critique of your opponent's plan and contrasting it with your own is not only valid but a necessary part of a political campaign.


al fin said...

By all means, sharpen up your survival skills.

As for the Obama ad, I thought it was fairly clever. It suggests that Obama's media team is probably a lot more polished than most people would have thought--given his relative lack of top level political play.

Clinton may need to co-opt Obama into her campaign by offering the VP slot. The combination of a woman and a mixed-race candidate (I can't call Obama black, in the sense that Jesse Jackson is black) may be more than any republican could overcome.

What if Obama wins the nomination? He's going to have to offer Clinton something big. Honestly, I would hate to have her as my VP. If she was Bill's "co-president" without even being elected, imagine what she would be if elected VP!

Dennis Dale said...

Clinton will definitely offer the VP slot to Obama as soon as she thinks the time's right (oh to be in the room if and when he turns it down), but I doubt she would accept it herself, as she would forfeit not only her senate seat but any cabinet jobs for the next eight years, while not having a realistic option of ascending to the presidential nomination at the end of it when she will likely be considered too old (and we deserve this hell we've created if in 2016 [how about that--2016--feeling old yet?] we're still churning the same shallow talent pool).

I agree that the ad was quite clever. Not only was it not an "attack ad" as far as I'm concerned, it was far better than the typical television spot we see when campaigns go into overdrive and start hammering away at the boilerplate.

Someone from Clinton's side has responded with a very lame counter that does the same thing, replacing the Clinton clip with Obama's Monday Night Football intro from last year (itself for me what some call a "douche chill" moment, a slight tremor of revulsion up the back of the neck), and finishing with the line, "Chicago lost, and so will Obama."
Forget about personal attacks. There's no excuse, ever, for bad satire. I demand that Senator Clinton take responsiblity and reign in those behind this outrage.

al fin said...

Watching the backers of Obama and Clinton duel with each other is enlightening. Apparently the clever Obama/1984 ad was done by an outsider with tech skills, not by the Obama team.

Other than the freelancers, if the backers of these two candidates are any indication of what their administrations would be like, they foretell doom.

The funny thing about the left in academia, in the media, and in politics, is that they are so inbred that they have lost the ability to reason and debate effectively.

Most US university graduates have an incredibly inbred view of the world--never having been exposed to more than slight variations of one theme.

Think of it as an academic lobotomy, which when combined with widespread psychological neoteny portends an interesting future for the US.