Tuesday, 7 November, 2006
The Polling Booth and the Propagandists
Today is election day. I couldn’t happier. It’s not that I’m all that excited about the choices, but the daily postbox full of idiot spawned propaganda will finally cease.
I realize I could simply ignore the stuff, tossing it into the recycle bin before raising my blood pressure by actually reading it, but for some reason, I can’t help myself. I suppose it’s my fascination with human nature, coupled with my desire to attempt to comprehend the depths to which the propagandists will lower themselves in their efforts to pander to the public. They apparently think we’re quite stupid. They could be right. Their techniques just might work. In fact, sadly, they probably will.
I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that the propaganda was once reasonably well constructed. Rather than simply throwing scare tactics into the fan, causing the frightening imagery and bite-sized irrational syllogisms to be sprayed at the unsuspecting, the propagandists would actually craft something resembling a cogent argument that took more than 15 seconds to read. Not any more.
My favorite, so far, is the stuff that’s been coming about Proposition 87, which is basically a proposal to add a 1.3% severance tax on oil production in the state of California. Without getting into why this is a very badly thought out proposal, I will simply say that I’m against it for many reasons. However, there are a bunch of people, clearly, who think it’s the solution to the world’s ills, and are willing to go to any lengths to dragoon people into voting for it.
A full color, coated stock, glossy sheet shows, on the obverse, a typical photograph of G. W. looking smug, with a background of a war scene – soldiers with guns, burning Humvee, the works. A red block with white letters reads, “He Took Us To War In The Middle East.” At the bottom, “On November 7th, Your Vote Can Help Get Us Out.” On verso, we’re told that America is too dependent on foreign oil, that we’ll continue fighting wars in the Middle East for centuries unless we end our “addiction” (I’m not making this up) and switch to alternative fuels.
Okay, that’s fine. We are too dependent on oil, and particularly, on foreign oil. We do need to seek alternatives. And, we are. A lot of really smart people are working hard to find alternative methods of fueling our vehicles, and heating our homes. But, these spin-doctors seem to imply, no, do imply, that imposing this 1.3% tax on oil production, IN CALIFORNIA, will end the conflict in Iraq. Huh?
Another broadsheet simply states that voting YES on Proposition 87 will “Change Our Course In Iraq and In America.” I’d love to see how this works. If I pay more for toothpaste, will it end world famine?
Frankly, I find it a bit insulting. I could go on for hours as to why this sort of tax would be bad for California’s economy, how it would result in an unfair increase in the division between the classes, how it won’t solve a damn thing, other than to, ultimately, increase the cost of living in the state that already ranks in the top five. But, my analysis could be wrong, though I doubt it’s far off the mark, and this isn’t really about that anyway.
This is about the insidious, unethical advertising that has become part and parcel of the political process in America today. In interpersonal relationships, this sort of thing is called lying. In marketing, it’s called advertising. (It’s no less egregious there, but probably not as harmful to the fabric of the nation.) In politics, it’s called campaigning. And, it’s wrong. I’m not talking about morality, but about ethics, and a code of decency that we seem to have left behind, apparently with no bread trail back to where we came from. It makes me sick.
For Proposition 86, a proposed tobacco tax that imposes an additional $2.60 cent per pack excise tax on cigarettes, with commensurate taxes for other tobacco products, the glossy sheet tells us, “According to The Tobacco Industry: Nicotine Isn’t Addictive. Cigarettes Aren’t That Bad For You. And Proposition 86 Won’t Save Lives” Ah, the sweet fallacy of composition. They want us to see that since Big Tobacco made the first two fallacious claims, and they did at one time, that they are expected to make the third, and that it is, therefore, an equivalent untruth. In fact, it is unrelated to the first two, and as far as I know, Big Tobacco has never promoted the third idea. The reality is, this is just another example of some politico attempting to graft money out of a marginalized group in an effort to fund their own special interests, and those of some small part of their constituency. Bah. But, again, it’s not really about this one issue, though for obvious reasons, this is an important one to many of my readers. I could write similar things about almost everything on today’s ballot.
Yes, they believe that the public is stupid enough to fall for this sort of tactic, and I’m afraid they are partly right. It’s not that, as a whole, we’re stupid, but that we seem to lack the discipline or the time in our busy lives to sit down and really learn about the issues, forming intelligently considered opinions, and voting according to our minds, not our emotions. Instead, we too quickly rely on the predigested pablum put forth by these unscrupulous architects of tyranny. (Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolical, but I like the sound of it. Maybe I’m no better than they are.)
Until We The People start taking our voting responsibilities seriously, they’ll continue to get away with this, and an ever increasing panoply of wrong-minded legislation will continue to snag and snarl the threads of the very fabric of our body of law.
The politicos and their ad agencies are opportunists. They lurk in the trees like vultures waiting for an easy meal. It’s human nature, I suppose. In a way, WE are to blame for allowing this sort of thing to continue, and to escalate.
We need to, en masse, start voting with our heads, not with our hearts. We need to tell our representatives that we will no longer tolerate the sort of carnival side-show barking that has become the norm in our political system. When they lie, we need to write to them, to tell them we won’t accept it anymore, that we’re smart enough to know they’re doing it, and that we’ll remember, come ballot time, who tells it straight, and who tries to pull the wool over our collective eyes. Sadly, this won’t likely leave anyone or anything to vote for, at least for a while, but, it might be a start.
If we don’t begin to take seriously our constitutionally granted responsibilities in the polling booth, we will, as that tired old maxim states, continue to get the government we deserve.
If you’re in the US, I hope you voted today, but more, I hope you really thought about what you were voting for and against, and can sleep tonight with a clear conscience that you did the right thing according to your own sense of reason, not your emotional response. If not, I’ve been saving a stack of propaganda, and will be happy to mail it to you.