Thursday, 16 October 2008

The trickiest part of tiger riding is the dismount

Should it be big news that political rhetoric still has power? In the days of mass media, we're all cynics now. Show us a politician, we'll show you someone to doubt and mistrust. Certainly, we're unlikely to lose our heads to them, or be inspired to give voice ourselves.

Both sides in the US seem to be bent on disproving this common-sense view. Obama-mania has been well documented, and even this far into the election the man's star power doesn't seem to be slacking. But McCain too has the power to move crowds. Unfortunately, he's moving them the wrong way. The McCain-Palin rhetoric has all been about Obama recently: "this man pals about with terrorists"; "Who is the real Barack Obama?"; "he doesn't look at America the way you and I look at America". Those are the words - but people listen to the music. The following images have all been either created, published or distributed by official Republican party groups, caught up in the rhetoric. Such defences as have been offered are quoted below:

"I'm aware of the content," MacGlashan told the newspaper. "Some people find it offensive, others do not. I cannot comment on how people interpret things."

By Tuesday night the graphics had been removed. "These types of innuendos have absolutely no place in this election," Barajas said. "This isn't a thing we want out there."

We asked Virginia spokesperson Gerry Scimeca whether the likeness to Obama was in fact the Illinois Senator, and he said he couldn't immediately say. Asked to defend the mailer, he said: "It's about the fact that the world is evil," he said, referring to the multiple bad actors that populate the planet. "Choosing a president is about standing up to them."

The group's president, Diane Fedele, said she plans to send an apology letter to her members and to apologize at the club's meeting next week. She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

None of this can be laid at McCain's door, of course. He's even found himself telling his audience that Obama is a decent family man, and not an "Arab". But the "who is he/can we trust him" rhetoric strikes a chord; someone gins up a funny email or two, stupid rumours get forwarded unquestioningly; suddenly "everyone knows" certain things about Obama, and crowd confirm each other's biases. It's only when these things break out of the echo chamber that people catch themselves doing something they'd never, ever have thought themselves capable of doing. At the lowest level, with crowd support, it gets pretty ugly. The following video comes with three caveats:

2) He who controls the edit, controls the message
3) We don't have a comparison video of Dems

Nevertheless, the ignorance is just a little scary:

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