June 26, 2004

I...but...and then the...what?

There is an absolutely fucking crazy campaign video currently running at the official Bush-Cheney website (click on the "New Web Video" captioned "This is not a time for pessimism and rage). I just have no idea what they are going for with this video. The ad is apparently attempting to convince people that voting for Democrats is bad because the Democrats like to yell. It consists of a series of video clips of Gore, Dean, Gephardt, Michael Moore, Kerry...and Hitler.

Okay. Already it's fucked up. Stick with me. The first thing that seems like it's working against the video is that all these people in it are criticizing the president. I mean, if you're the sort of knee-jerk Bush-booster that thinks criticizing the president is tantamount to treason, then this ad might successfully get you riled up...but you clearly don't need any convincing to vote for the evil candidates. For everyone else, the possibility exists that they might sympathize a tiny bit with the passionately expressed opposing viewpoints presented here.

And then there's Hitler. (Starring Bea Arthur as Hitler.)

At first, it seemed like the makers of the ad were trying to compare the speaking styles of the Democrats to Hitler's histrionics. Which they probably are, but there's more going on. A second viewing rang the bell; it turns out the Hitler appearance are excerpts from another ad that was submitted to a MoveOn contest, which would explain the confusing thing where the Hitler pictures were subtitled with the text "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did."

There are so many levels of dubiousness here. Firstly, for this to work as "look how crazy the Democrats are" propaganda, it requires too much knowledge (but not too too much) on the part of the viewer: they need to know that the Hitler ads appeared on the MoveOn website and were controversial, but they need to not know that the ads weren't actually made by MoveOn and were soon repudiated by them. (MoveOn posted all anti-Bush ads submitted for the competition so people could vote on their favorites; I gather they didn't screen out any ads before posting them.) But even if you know about the Hitler ads, as I did, the excerpts from them go by so fast in the commercial that it's hard to parse them as anything other than just, well, clips of Hitler. So although they can claim they're just highlighting a previous (overblown) campaign scandal, a more likely reading of the ad is "the Democrats are as crazy as Hitler was" -- which is, of course, pretty disingenuous if you're going to complain about Hitler appearing in an opponent's ad.

And then there's that caption: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did." I mean...apparently Bush did actually say that. Is that a quote they really want to spread around?

So, anyway. Weird, yes? Yes. Weird.

Posted by Francis at 01:54 AM

Spinsanity has a good article on this very ad.

Posted by: Charles at July 10, 2004 01:28 AM