bleib003: February 2012 Archives

(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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This page is an archive of recent entries written by bleib003 in February 2012.

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