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No thinking allowed

Tim Pawlenty didn’t turn out to be much of a presidential candidate. But one element of his his brief blink of a campaign that I thought worked were the brief blinking web videos. With pounding background music, the videos changed images at a rate beyond the speed of rational thought or analysis to create an impression that, whatever the problem, TPaw was the answer.

In the most diabolically effective of them, I personally counted (and catalogued) 88 images that flashed by in one minute and I”m sure I missed some.

That filmmaker, Luca Baniano, has signed up with Rick Perry and the first of his Perry pieces is now viewable online. It runs one minute and 45 seconds and I can’t count the images fast enough but it’s about one a second. It spends its first half arguing that President Obama is a liar and a failure. That half uses audio of Obama making promises of hope and change while the images “argue” that everything Obama has touched has turned to poo. Zero hope. Zero change. The video dubs Obama “President Zero.”

In the second half, the voice over changes to Rick Perry purporting to love America and, speaking quite slowly in his deep voice and deep Texas accent, asserting that America’s best days are still ahead, if only we had President Perry in charge.

I argued in the TPaw era, and still believe, that this technique is very effective even though — or perhaps precisely because — it is the death of thought. Here’s the video:

What think? I mean, what feel?

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Bill Kellett on 09/21/2011 - 09:19 am.

    As any adman will tell you, good ads won’t sell a bad product.

  2. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 09/21/2011 - 09:52 am.

    What is it they do for a living then?

  3. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/21/2011 - 09:52 am.

    “No thinking allowed”

    That’s precisely the goal: stop people from using their brain to consider the true ramifications of what the Repubs and Tea Totaler crazies are advocating as solutions.

    In a world under their control, we’d have no regulations (even if those regulations benefit their health or safety); no healthcare except for the very wealthy; no limits on what corporations can do; no safe food; no taxes (then how do you finance the government?); no infrastructure. Nothing at all.

    Everyone except the very wealthy would be on their own, to live or die using whatever desperate means they’re driven to. That would ultimately mean viral epidemics that wipe out huge portions of the population; a huge spike in crime; more and more people unemployed and homeless; and an economy in freefall.

    In the end, those greedy and wealthy 2% will be their own undoing, by having the rest of the population rise up against them, taking no prisoners in the process. Just like the downfall of the Arab regimes earlier this year.

    It will serve them right.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/21/2011 - 10:32 am.

    The ads are just an extension of the methods of modern TV, and increasingly, newspapers. Melodrama, personalization, dramatization and fragmentation, according to Milburn and Conrad in their great book The Politics of Denial, “operates as a kind of thought suppressor.”

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/21/2011 - 10:45 am.

    “In the end, those greedy and wealthy 2% will be their own undoing, by having the rest of the population rise up against them..”

    But it’s *not* class warfare, damnit!

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/21/2011 - 10:48 am.

    The Republicans are hardly the first, only or last to appeal to the mid-brain. It’s an effective ad, particularly for anyone who already believes it’s all Obama’s fault. The object here is not to take down Obama, but make Perry the man to do it.

  7. Submitted by Shawn Otto on 09/21/2011 - 11:21 am.

    Speaking as someone who has worked the biz, it’s a great ad. Home run.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/21/2011 - 01:04 pm.

    What feel?

    Nausea. Big nausea.

    I agree, Eric, that ads like this are very effective, and largely because they suppress thought and replace it with transitory and ephemeral appeals to emotion.

    I can’t speak to “hope” necessarily, but if the criticism of Obama is that there hasn’t been any meaningful “change to believe in,” I’m certainly sympathetic, and even somewhat in agreement, though I think thoughtful people might notice that virtually every Obama proposal, good, bad or indifferent, has been greeted by mindless intransigence on the part of Congressional Republicans, pushed by Tea Partiers still suffering from the “free lunch” syndrome, and all supported by a national broadcasting network owned by a right wing plutocrat and disguised as “Fox ‘News’.” Plenty of people farther left than me are at least as dissatisfied with Obama’s presidency as is Mr. Swift, though obviously for different reasons. They’d like (and often, so would I) Obama to be more intransigent himself, and recent speeches may indicate a turn in that direction. My political expertise “on the ground” being fairly rudimentary, I have no idea if Obama can rescue his presidency by his recent more forceful language and demeanor.

    At this point in the day, I’m inclined to agree with James Hamilton (#6), at least to some degree. It’s a fairly common ad technique, very effective in the realm of remembering the relevant name(s), and of course completely worthless if what you’re expecting is to be informed by it to any significant degree. I’d disagree with James only to argue that the object of the ad seems twofold to me: first, to make Perry the guy you remember; and second, to take down Obama, the other name they want you to remember. Were someone else in the White House, the first half of the ad would change to suit the one being attacked, but the second half would remain largely as is.

    I would hope to see a massive resurgence in the coming year of purchases and rentals of “Elmer Gantry,” since Burt Reynolds’ masterful portrayal of a sort of ultimate religious charlatan is the only one I can think of, offhand, that comes close to matching Mr. Perry’s carefully-manicured shtick. He’s at least as far removed from the reality-based universe as Mrs. Bachmann, but more dangerous to the country and world because people who call themselves “conservatives” tend toward the sexist end of the spectrum, so his electability is probably higher than hers. Sorry, Michele…

    Meanwhile, though all the numbers from unbiased sources, and plenty more from sources even more biased than I, support the notion of the more common top-down “class warfare” over the past generation and more, I’ve still seen nothing in terms of public behavior or widespread sentiment that seems ready to react to it in any forceful way, whether politically or otherwise. Much of the genuine, and sometimes even justified anger of Tea Partiers has, so far, largely been directed at the wrong people and the wrong party, and it’s not helped by the fact that many of the prominent figures in the movement are essentially Know-Nothings in both the cultural and intellectual sense. Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” still strikes me as an astute analysis of people being treated badly by a system that’s rigged against them, and often with their active assistance. Unless and until there really IS some genuine pushback against a growing oligarchy of the wealthy from an enraged – and informed – public, I think Mr. Swift will sleep soundly at night in the belief that “conservative” political forces are looking after his interests.

    Naivete has its charms…

  9. Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/21/2011 - 01:34 pm.

    When the capacity to manipulate how others think and feel outstrips the capacity of a significant part of the population to reject this manipulation, a society has passed from democracy to dystopia.

  10. Submitted by Jennifer Tuder on 09/21/2011 - 01:45 pm.

    Two comments:
    First, a response to Mr. Levine’s comment: “Melodrama, personalization, dramatization and fragmentation, according to Milburn and Conrad in their great book The Politics of Denial, ‘operates as a kind of thought suppressor.'” While I agree that these communicative forms can be used to suppress critical thinking and feeling, they can also be used to induce the same. I’m always wary of the anti-theatrical prejudice, since it assumes that only rational, expository argument reveals the truth. Art, which calls upon both thinking and feeling, can also be critical, incisive, and truth-telling.

    Second, a response to Mr. Hamilton’s comment: “The object here is not to take down Obama, but make Perry the man to do it.” I don’t think this sort of campaigning is designed to change views of Obama, but to reinforce those views and “make Perry the man to do it.” In fact, this ad runs the risk of entrenching views on the other sides of Rick Perry’s political fences. See Susan Perry’s posts:–_even_when_faced_with_the_facts

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/21/2011 - 02:34 pm.

    I must say, I find such tortured introspective as these to be *highly* entertaining, coming as they are, from a guy that bought a campaign platform consisting solely of some nebulous promise of “Hope and Change” from a guy whose CV consisted of community organizing.

    You may well imagine then, what internal hilarity ensues when I recall that the Nobel Committee bought the same bill of goods, sight unseen!

    No thinking, Eric? Oh yeah, it’s a documented feature of the scary smart, reality based community!

  12. Submitted by Rich Crose on 09/21/2011 - 02:56 pm.

    A great ad can sell a bad product once.

    That’s all a politician needs.

    They should give us a receipt at the polls so we can get our money back.

  13. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 09/21/2011 - 03:10 pm.

    I’ve been studying Isaiah (the Bible one) lately. According to him, caring for the poor, the outcast, and the down-trodden is not class warfare, it’s justice. Seems things don’t change much.

  14. Submitted by will lynott on 09/21/2011 - 07:36 pm.

    #5 where have you been rusticating? It most certainly is class warfare–and, until now, the rich have been winning.

  15. Submitted by Doug Gray on 09/21/2011 - 09:37 pm.

    The technique as practiced by both major parties was well-known to George Orwell:

    “The Hate had started.

    “As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience…The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure…Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party — an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it…In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen…The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp…Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock…The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep…But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken…the face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone’s eyeballs was too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandyhaired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like ‘My Saviour!’ she extended her arms towards the screen. Then she buried her face in her hands. It was apparent that she was uttering a prayer.

    “At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B! …B-B!’ — over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first ‘B’ and the second-a heavy, murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.”

  16. Submitted by Tom Miller on 09/22/2011 - 06:21 am.

    It is brainwashing with a firehose.

  17. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/22/2011 - 08:26 am.

    Jennifer (#10) – This isn’t art – as someone else said – this is brainwashing. The point here is to PRECLUDE thought, and it does work. If it IS art it is Leni Refenstahl kind of art.

  18. Submitted by Mark Countryman on 09/22/2011 - 08:49 pm.

    Indeed, the commercial requires no critical thinking from viewers, which is why I fear that it will be so terribly effective (as in, it could result in a terrible outcome in November 2012). The ad captures the viewer much like a movie preview does; complete with exciting music, like what one would hear in an action-adventure film. This is truly scary, and it becomes clear to me how fascism succeeded in taking over such educated and culturally sophisticated countries as Italy and Germany. It can happen here too, if we are not vigilant. And THAT, fellow readers, is why I support journalism like MinnPost!

    (And brace yourselves, fellow MPR listeners, Pledge Drive is just around the corner!!)

  19. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/23/2011 - 11:53 am.

    “I’ve been studying Isaiah (the Bible one) lately. According to him, caring for the poor, the outcast, and the down-trodden is not class warfare, it’s justice.”

    I’m pretty sure Isaiah wanted you and I to care for the poor, the outcast, and the down-trodden and not to out-source the job to government bureaucrats, paid for by someone else.

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