We think you’re stupid
(Cross posted at Greater Democracy)
Dang! I thought I was cutting edge encouraging people to move beyond blogs to online video. Last week, Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu had this Op-Ed in the Washington Post: YouTube? It's So Yesterday. It is great food for thought, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you.
Back in October, I wrote about The Political Palimpsest. I had been to the Action Coalition for Media Education Summit in Burlington, VT and had seen the movie The Ad and the Ego. This movie has really influenced my thinking about political messaging and I think applies very nicely to Zephyr and Tim’s Op-Ed.
One point from the movie is that despite claims by many people that they don’t pay attention to advertisements, and that the advertisements don’t affect them, the ads really do have an important effect. That effect is less about the overt message, “Buy this car”, and more about the underlying message, “you aren’t good enough if you don’t consume, if you don’t look like the people in the ads.”
So, what is the underlying message of all the political advertisements that you’ve seen over the past couple weeks? Behind all the negative ads and false information, it seems as if the key message of political ads over this past cycle is “We think you’re stupid”.
Zephyr and Tim write, “With fewer viewers watching campaign ads on TV -- thanks to Tivo, iTunes and Netflix -- politicians will soon have no choice but to place themselves and their messages directly into popular shows, movies and video games.” I think they are right about political placement and 'Second Life' politics. That needs to happen, but those annoying ads on TV aren’t going away.
So yes, let’s ad new media into the mix, but let’s look at the underlying message that is being sent. I think the Lamont campaign provides a good example of the direction I hope to see things going. I admit, I’m biased. I was the technology coordinator for the Lamont campaign. But, I wasn’t part of the team doing the ads, and if I were, I would have pressed the idea of the underlying message even further.
What was underlying the Lamont ads? Perhaps the most important underlying message was one of community involvement. From the first ad where Markos Moulitsas Zúniga burst in with a group of supporters even before the ad was finished to offer their help, to the recurring “And so do we” tag to all the ads, the message was that Lamont supporters are people that believe that by working together in community, we can make our country better.
To me, that has always been the underlying message of American democracy, and a message that I wish we saw more of in all the political messaging. I wish the Lamont campaign had taken this message further, and I had thoughts on how they could have done it. I hope that we’ll see more of this sort of messaging in 2008.
Perhaps it will come through in the new media that Zephyr and Tim talk about. Perhaps it will also come about in service politics that people like Howard Dean, John Edwards and Matt Dunne have spoken about.
It is time that we move away from a message of “we think you’re stupid” to a message of “working together in community to make our country better”. John McCain may be leading the pack in political placements with his cameo in "Wedding Crashers" but people like Howard Dean, John Edwards, Matt Dunne and Ned Lamont are leading in presenting a more important underlying message.