How Does This Ad Work? The Rick Perry Edition

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(sorry this is late! I forgot about our deadline, and I didn't see the email until today!)
Rick Perry's "Strong" ad has already been the subject of a lot of blogosphere ridicule. But it's still worth looking into, because of what it demonstrates about how a certain kind of politician connects (or tries to connect) with his or her base. On the surface, Perry's ad might seem like a rather naked appeal to voter nostalgia: Perry's monologue, the fuzzy background and the treacly, dewy-eyed soundtrack seem to harken back to An America That Once Was. Dig one layer deeper, and the ad seems to be trying to incite aggression: its purpose is to identify and highlight a common enemy in order to establish and strengthen the bond between Perry and his supporters.

But I think the analysis of Perry's ad can be taken one step further. "In contemporary societies," writes Slavoj Zizek, "cynical distance, laughter, and irony are, so to speak, part of the game." What he means is that cynicism can actually form the basis of the relationship between a politician and his or her constituents: both politician and supporter are "in on the joke", and this shared cynical understanding solidifies their connection. Perry's ad works not by articulating the voter's deepest fears, but by parroting a set of un-truths that are recognized as un-truths by his audience (the "war against religion", for example, or that, in this country, anyone would expect Mr. Perry to be ashamed of saying he's a Christian). Paradoxically, it's Perry's disingenuousness--his ham-handed insincerity--that he is using to appeal to voters. If the ad looks false and phony, it's because it's supposed to.


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I disagree with the fact that the ad is supposed to be false. The elections are still in the primaries so Perry is only trying to get votes from the Republican base. This ad is not targeted at a general audience, rather it is targeted at the "traditional" Republican voters that most likely agree with his statements.

I agree with the above comment. I highly doubt a political candidate for the presidency would use sarcasm in order to attract his voters. He may have over done it a bit but I believe this was done to instead make the situation of "the war on religion" seem much more vital and immediate then it actually is.

I disagree I think that sarcasm can hold an appeal. I would like to see a politician with a it of sarcasm and insecurity. To me these attributes are pretty common ground for American citizens. Laughter and vulnerability are two of those odd things that no matter the situation can somehow bind people to one another.

Alex, what do you think of the comments so far? This could be a really interesting debate. Have any of you encountered the study that shows that Conservatives are more likely to think that Stephen Colbert is seriously espousing the things his character says, while Liberals are more likely to acknowledge that his show is satire? (brownie points to anyone who can track down the study and link it in the comments)

Well it doesn't seem like many people were convinced by my argument. Maybe it's just cause I happen to be a progressive that I find it hard to credit the sentiments expressed in this ad as being sincere. But I do think there's something brazenly disingenuous about a lot of the political rhetoric out there these days, and it's hard for me not to think that some of it has a purpose; like the politician or pundit is kind of winking at his audience, and saying, "you're sophisticated enough to know that this isn't 'on the level'; that's why we're on the same team."

I agree with the comment above. Being a liberal, I find this ad way too extreme, using the term "war on religion" to be serious. Although, I don't know how joking in an ad would help Rick Perry. I guess this ad's tactics don't make any sense to me still.

ohhh i hate this add.
this moron thinks that every person in america needs to be like him.
what he fails to see is that diversity is the lifeblood of our nation.
we came as outcasts and used our differences as strengths. it's what the whole nation is founded on, but this idiot wants to homogenize the entire population into one big soup.
what this asshole fails to realize is, if everyone was a rich white christian male, there would be no one left to do any real work.

I understand this is a political ad but it makes me think of the condition research we talked about so long ago. If you vote for Perry, you will be happier in the long run. That type of stuff. This was a interesting thing to have a blog on. It is something I would not expect to see. Great work!

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This page contains a single entry by bleib003 published on February 28, 2012 11:16 PM.

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