Oct 28, 2006

Potemkin Village


by Chris Maynard

On Thursday, as he signed a bill authorizing the Mexican/U.S. border fence (but not the funds to build it), President Bush sounded like a progressive, noting that “Ours is a nation of immigrants" -- just before jumping the political fence, adding "We’re also a nation of law."

Off camera, I'm sure President Bush would admit that a giant fence along the Mexican/U.S. border is not the ideal way to solve immigration problems. But it's election time, and politicians prefer to see how high they can fan the flames to protect America along its newest "front line."

You can't have legislative gestures, however, without real motions to demonstrate teeth.  That's where the Border Patrol comes in.  These photographs recently ran in the Los Angeles Times with an article on the department's training academy in New Mexico. Enrollment this year has climbed to 3600. Seen from a distance, they offer a small Potemkin village. Up close, it looks like an attempt to convince every concerned American that yes, the doors did indeed close after his or her family crossed the border, no matter how long ago they made the trip.

Continue reading "Potemkin Village" »

Oct 26, 2006

Michael J. Fox

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The NYT describes it as one of the most powerful political ads ever made.

But then, The Times wipes its feet on it by pigeonholing the spot as primarily an attack ad.  To frame Michael J. Fox side-by-side with Willie Horton is not only disgusting, it misses the whole point of why this ad is shattering.

In less than thirty seconds, Michael offers us an enormous dose of qualities we've hardly seen a genuine political drop of in years.  Passion, genuineness, pain and honesty are the first to come to mind.

For Fox to expose himself and unmask his Parkinsonian symptoms side-effects (they go hand-in-hand, Rush) in the name of a coherent and humane stem cell policy has next-to-nothing to do with the Johnson daisy ad.  The Johnson ad is a simple, two-dimensional (if highly effective) piece of fear mongering -- not unlike the fear-mongering this unqualified and hateful administration has been suffocating us with almost every minute since Bush and his cronies made off with the 2000 election.

In contrast, Mr. Fox is full of feeling and real life.  Maybe Americans have long lost any sense of what intimate, unselfconscious (and yes, partisan) political communication might actually look like?

And then, going back to The Times article, is it our pitiful legacy that the best analogy to describe this ad is to liken it to an Iraq hostage video?

(You Tube Ad video here.)

(screen shots: McCaskill for U.S. Senate - claireonline.com via YouTube)

Feb 25, 2005

Schwarzenegger From Below

Is the Gov slipping? 

If you've been following the BAG, you know I've been keeping tabs on the Arnold show. 

From the latest visual coverage, however, I sense something is wrong.  Until recently, the press had been happy to follow the director.  Lately though, it seems a revolt is  taking place -- possibly even a backlash. 

The other day, in the halls of Congress, Arnold repositioned a woman he was greeting.  While NPR mikes were recording, Schwarzenegger explained that the spot where the woman had been standing could cause them to be photographed from a low angle.  He add that he didn't look good from below. 


Well, it seems the press can't get enough of those low angles lately.  And, it does make the actor look, well, sort of monstrous.  And, heavy handed.

(I might add, it's not just Arnold who is getting the harder look these days.  Apparently, Maria is catching a glare, as well.)


Low angles and unflattering moments aside, however, the image that has to be the most distressing to Arnold lately is this one:


If you caught my take on Arnold's helicopter ride while surveying the first wave of California storm damage ("Winning By A Landslide" -- link), you can see the lengths he goes to stage various scenes.  The big problem with this photo, however, is not just that the scene didn't come off, but that his game was exposed. 

As a result of the long view, the subject matter here shifts from the scene to the set.  What the Gov seemed to be aiming for was a tight shot of himself with all the Brinks action over his shoulders.  Instead, what he got was an ugly expanse of parking lot; a piece of equipment in the foreground telegraphing the fact that something was being constructed; a version of himself in which he's been miniaturized ("Honey, I shrunk the Terminator!") and overshadowed by a couple of trucks; and a perspective in which it's unclear whether he's a live person standing on the ground, or a little figure mounted on a platform which might be swept up at any minute, and blown into the harbor.  (And, that's not to mention the kind of associations one is free to make about California's Fundraiser-in-Chief and those big bags of dough.)

Because of the time I've spent recently looking at pictures, I wasn't that aware of the latest non-visual Arnold news.  This afternoon, however, I did come upon this entry on DailyKos.  Apparently, the pictorial cracks in Schwarzenegger's PR wall coincide with new fissures in the opinion polls.

(image 1: REUTERS/Jim Ruymen; image 2: REUTERS/Jason Reed; image 3: AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi -- all in YahooNews)

Nov 15, 2004

God Surfs in Mysterious Ways


You could be inscribed in your own glory, as well -- here.

(from: jillian. Her dailykos journal here.)

Oct 29, 2004

Bush's Doctored Ad: A Case of Racial Pandering?

Apparently, President Bush's latest ads have been photoshopped (it used to be called "doctored") with multiple copies of the same troops.


Of course, if a newspaper did the same thing, somebody would be publicly reprimanded for violating professional, ethical and moral standards. The question is, should political ads be held to the same mark? If not, can you say that the falsification is still relevant?

Consider this comment by miasmo in the dailykos message thread.

I don't think this is a real issue. I doubt anyone high in the administration made the decision to photoshop the picture. Why distract ourselves or anyone else from the serious issues that prove Bush is incompetent and not on our side.

Having said that, I think this is indicative of the administrations mindset:
  - Reality doesn't matter
  - soldiers are not valued individual citizens - merely disposable fodder for the empire machine or, in this case, campaign props.

(Ironically, the comment about "using" solders comes on the heels of Rudy Guiliani pointed the finger at U.S. combat troops for the failure to secure the weapons at Al Qaqaa.)

Once you deal with "what" was done to this picture, however, it still leaves the "why?"

If you want my guess, I'd say it's about racial pandering. You'll notice that the "red triangle" of men has two whites, and one black. If you look at the soldiers that are not superimposed, there are already a number of black faces (unless they were added, as well). Now, when you consider the recomposed picture as a whole, not only is it more "racially balanced," it's balanced in a quite symmetrical way. (Check out the black faces near the corners.)

Following this assumption, I came across another scene in the ad that might benefit closer attention. In a very quick shot, Bush's image is superimposed over a cheering crowd, as if his motorcade happened to be passing by. I'm not sure if the people shown are actually cheering for Bush or not (the signs are not distinguishable), but the faces in the crowd are predominantly black. (In fact, judging from the scale of the people--comparing left to right, and top to bottom-- and the fact different people seem to be facing different angles, I wouldn't be surprised if this photo was reworked, as well.)


Of course, Bush's poor standing with the Black constituency is well know. That has not stopped the administration, however, from pandering to blacks and pretending to promote a multiethnic agenda. Some of my early posts -- around the time of the President's gratuitous Africa trip --highlighted the extent to which Bush's website bent over backwards to showcase Bush with Blacks (Link).

On the other hand, Bush's overt appeal to Democrats over the last few days makes the doctoring more understandable. As David Brooks said on this evening's Jim Lehrer show, "Bush saw his share of the black vote double, and he thinks it could win him Michigan."

(By the way, I checked the Bush site again this evening, and it looks like the troop shot has been recropped and altered again to remove some of the duplicated figures. Kos really has an influence now, doesn't it.)

View the ad, incredibly named "Whatever it Takes," on the Bush video page, here .

(image: dailykos)
(referral: jillian. She contributes rants here.)

Oct 04, 2004

About Face


Here's the link to the DNC's take on the debate, "Faces of Frustration."

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(photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP via dogsinthenews.com)

Sep 28, 2004

There are Patriotic Duties and There Are Patriotic Duties


If this latest "Rock the Vote" PSA doesn't motivate young people to vote, I don't know what will. View here.

(I was basically directed to this clip after reading an entry at Kotte.org. Jason put out a "call for help" to gather election information in one place. The resources that have been posted, as well as the trackbacks, look very helpful (here ).

Bush and the Sausage (cont.)

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Up until recently, Bush had been driving Kerry into the rocks with a replay of his father's 1988 decimation of Mike Dukakis. Although not very imaginative, the feminization of Kerry, the swift characterization of him as the fool in a tank boat, and the association of his candidacy with impending doom looked like vintage Dad.

Now however, because Kerry has been more aggressive, and seems to have marginalized the Swift Boat attacks by questioning Bush's war management, the best remaining angle from the '88 playbook is the fear strategy. Fortunately (for Bush, not the country), he has the kind of options that his father never dreamed of. Back then, they had to use some real imagination to come up with a nobody like Willy Horton.

The downside, however, is that Bush/Rove have pushed the scare tactic so hard, long and far, they're hitting the outer edge of credulity. Now desperate for impact, they are starting to do ridiculous things, such as dragging in specific figures, such as Mohammed Atta -- and even Osama bin Laden. (See, they really hadn't forgotten about him.)

If Willy Horton is the spiritual model for the Bush campaign, where might Kerry be drawing inspiration? After about a week bashing Bush over Iraq (Is the guy really a great closer, or is it mainly the Clinton mojo?), you could say JK's playing the Clara Peller card.

If you look back to 1968, Walter Mondale chewed up and spit out the charismatic Gary Hart by virtue of ripping off a hamburger ad. In the classic Wendy's commercial that year, Clara's friend takes receipt of her burger at the counter of a competing fast food chain and slowly lifts up the bun, setting Clara up to deliver the line that not only took over popular culture for a stretch, but did maximum political damage as well.

If Kerry can raise enough doubts about Bush by hammering away on Iraq, he might not be that far away from replicating the Mondale move. If it should comes to that, the next question for Bush is: "Where's the beef?"

The ad's still a classic. Here's the link:

Wendy's ad at iFilm (It's the 5th one down on the list, and you have to view a short movie trailer first).

Also, you can view the Willie Horton ad here:

(horton image: billmon.org)
(clara image: wordiq.com)
(horton ad: museum of the moving image)
(Wendy's ad: ifilm.com)

Sep 26, 2004

Bush/Satan '04! (Or, three recommendations for the price of one)

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I'm usually more judicious in picking out video clips, but I really couldn't decide which of these I liked better.

The first ad, 'Fortunate Son', from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is the first I've seen that (finally!) targets Bush's military record exclusively from the standpoint of privilege.

I like the second piece, "Ten Cuidado Del Nombre (Beware of the Name) Bush" from the New Democratic Network (NDN) for a couple reasons: Obviously, it's interesting to see an ad that is vertically cast for a hispanic audience; I think the tune is infectious (the site provides an MP3 download); and it reminds how the music video format lends a softer edge to a hard edged narrative. As well, it suggests that, with a hispanic audience, there's less pulling of punches.

Finally, I think the Satan piece (satanforbush.com) is very confident. I comb through so much parody, and most of it is either not that funny, or more fatally, not that self assured. On first pass, you would think a Bush endorsement from Satan would be a slam dunk idea. However, the concept is so obvious (given Bush's blind faith), the problem of how to execute it does nothing but raise the bar.

Video Clip One: DNC's Fortunate Son
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Video Clip Two: NDN's Ten Cuidado Del Nombre (Beware of the Name) Bush
Video page here

Video Three: Satan For Bush
.mov file here

(clip 1 & 2 source: bushout.tv)
(clip 3 source; adrants.com)

Sep 10, 2004

Dick Cheney: Once A Bad Cop, Always A Bad Cop?

(After Republican Convention)
(After Cheney Wandered Off Message This Tuesday)

If you factor out the ideology, the Bush spin machine is a pure wonder to behold. Look at the way the Republican's used the convention to moderate Dick Cheney's image, for example. By featuring his speech alongside a decompensating Zell Miller, the GOP managed to make the (typically Zell-like) Veep seem mild mannered and statesmanlike in comparison.

To function at peak efficiency, however, this spin machine requires a high level of discipline. As expected, the post-convention scenario was playing out perfectly. The polls were ticking up, and the Kerry campaign staff was suddenly undergoing its own emergency bypass surgery. That was until Tuesday. That was until the cantankerous Dick Cheney, in a speech in Des Moines, somehow strayed from his written remarks. The election of John Kerry, he warned ominously, would bring with it the danger that "we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating."

Although famous for fear-mongering, Cheney and the White House are always incredibly careful about how (and when) to couch such things. Rarely can you find a phrase that is not pre-formulated in the most carefully coded terms. In this case, however, Democrats freaked out that Cheney had gone too far. Republican insiders, as well, conceded that Cheney had crossed a line. What had to irk the Bush campaign most, however, was how Cheney had suddenly wiped out his "Zell differential."

In a "Political Memo" in yesterday's NYTimes, Adam Nagourney analyzed Cheney's gaffe, and his propensity for alienation. Nagourney commented that Cheney's fear tactics were the worst in a presidential campaign since LBJ broadcast the infamous 1964 mushroom cloud commercial to try and undermine Barry Goldwater. The article went on to cite the belief among Kerry officials that Cheney's warning had been deliberate. "A sitting vice president does not make a comment like that without knowing the implications of it," said Kerry's communications director.

Personally, I'm not so sure. I think Cheney realized afterward that he had fallen out with the team. Given his general level of contempt, however, he probably couldn't help himself.

(To view Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" ad, go here.)

(video source: AMMI)

Sep 07, 2004

Astern Reply


In a move to counter the Swift Boat attack, a Texas group called Texans for Truth is seeking to throw the spotlight back on Bush's military record. They are raising money to run an ad, featuring a member of Bush's Air National Guard unit, questioning whether he ever fulfilled his commitment in Alabama. Beyond the ad, The Washington Post column "White House Briefing" catalogs a number of new questions and allegations coming to the surface regarding Bush's military service.

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Aug 29, 2004

SPECIAL: "Shame" Ad, Yanked By Kerry Campaign, Still Viewable


The only shame of the "Shame" attack ad is that the Kerry campaign withdrew it so quickly.

The ad, featuring 2000 debate footage of John McCain rebuking George Bush for impugning his war record, is far and away the most compelling political advertisement of the presidential campaign. The internet-only version, called "Old Tricks," was on-line for about two days. The TV version, to be named "Shame," never made the tube. (Even worse, most websites that refer to the ad now have broken links because they point to the version that was on the Kerry campaign site.)

Fortunately, the American Museum of the Moving Image has preserved it for historical purposes. You can view it here.

source: AMMI

Aug 28, 2004

Up in Arms


Playing off of the 'Bush in 30 Seconds" contest, MoveOn is featuring a new video clip, created by leading directors and actors, each week until the election.

Frankly, the more artistic campaign content I look at, the more I appreciate the problem of "creativity on demand." The first piece, by John Sayles, felt far too severe to me. Although stereotypical, the second one, by Benny Boom, is better.

You can keep track of the series here.

--Note: Link to the series was previously incorrect. It's fixed now--

Aug 17, 2004

Election 04: Taking Out The Trash


This spot, created by the AdCouncil, has been around awhile. Of the wave of ads encouraging people to vote, however, I like how directly this one addresses the problem of apathy. There's no question it puts the blame on the public and exploits feelings of guilt. What I see in it, however, is the depth to which well meaning people have been disenfranchised from the system.

View the ad in Real Player.

Aug 09, 2004

Campaign Sinking Fast


Look at that. You take a few days off, and you end up missing some of the best slander of the campaign. Here's the link to the ad, created by a right wing outfit with ties to the old Nixon dirty tricks gang. Although they dispute Kerry's actions in Vietnam, the contradictions, misrepresentations and attack-dog sponsors fatally compromise the message.

The ad was attacked by John McCain, who urged the Bush campaign to denounce it. (No luck.)

For background on the ad, check out Joe Conason's piece in Salon. For more background on the swiftvets organization, here's their entry in disinfopedia.

Aug 04, 2004

Vibrantly Vacuous


In the name of overcoming the lack of political involvement by young people, isn't it well worth a moment to appreciate "sheer beauty, uninterrupted by thought"?

Apparently, the Declare Yourself voter registration campaign--aimed at bringing young people into the political process with their counter-intuitive set of ads--has been quite successful. According to the group's Special Projects Director, Caty Borum, the organization has counted over 200,000 downloads of the voter registration form since November 2003. Similar efforts seem to be having similar impact. Rock The Vote, for example, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group aiming to draw 18-30-year-olds to the polls, reports having initiated 300,000 registrations.

Here's an example of one of Declare's most popular ads:

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(Or go to the Declare Yourself PSA page here.)

Jul 04, 2004

SUV This!


The Detroit Project is probably one of the most visible groups advocating for fuel efficient cars. They are also known for developing provocative commercials. You might have seen one of their ads tying SUV owners to terror by fostering our dependence on foreign oil.

TDP has just produced a new commercial titled: "Dream." It begins by introducing a new SUV that will end our dependence on foreign oil. I won't give away the rest.

You can watch the RealPlayer version here or check the "commercials" link above.

(image: the detroit project)

Jul 01, 2004

Jackie Would NEVER Have Let Jack Put Hitler in an Attack Ad!


There's a piece in the NYTimes this morning about the on-line exhibition, "The Living Room Candidate," developed by the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. It goes live today, and features a large cross-section of political ads going back to 1952.

The exhibition also track the various web and television spots produced so far this year for the November election. Included in the collection is the demeaning web ad the Bush team recently created playing on Adolf Hitler. Apparently, what the Bush people did was to take an entry which likened Bush to Hitler which was submitted to the Move On "Bush In 30 Seconds" contest last year, and use it in a montage to imply that John Kerry (and other prominent Democrats) likened Bush to Hitler. Incredibly, the Bush people label the Hitler clip as an official MoveOn ad(!). (Of course, the fact the entry was both rejected and disavowed by MoveOn does not come into play.)

To the extent this Bush ad is worthy of any analysis, it is to suggest the President's reelection people must be feeling desperate (and unaccountable).

(You can find "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed" here on the Bush Video page.)
(For a more uplifting experience, watch the 1960 plug Jackie Kennedy did for Jack in Spanish, here)

Jun 26, 2004

No Education Disaster Left Behind

Who made the biggest expenditure on political ads this month? It's a group called Communities for Quality Education. CQE bills itself as a national education advocacy organization dedicated to advancing a quality public schools agenda. They are going after President Bush in several key states to educate the public on the failure of the No Child Left Behind program.

The commercials feature local teachers from the various cities in which the ads are running.

Here is the CQE ad running in Florida (Quicktime version only).

(CQE Advertisements page here.)

Jun 25, 2004

EPA Commercials Short Circuit

We know the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have a total disregard for auto emission and fuel efficiency issues. It's pretty bad, however, when they actually flaunt the attitude in a public service announcement.

The NYTimes reported today that EPA's Energy Star group (responsible for encouraging home energy savings) has started running an ad that mocks the ability to reduce air pollution or greenhouse emissions from automobiles. Proving that poor policy can go hand in hand with poor management, the Times reported that the Department's transportation division was completely uninformed about the campaign.

In doling out the ridicule, the ad also manages to take a cheap shot at husbands, as well. The story line involves a wife who has all the answers to saving energy around the house, while her idiot spouse is hopelessly preoccupied with Rube Goldberg schemes to meet the same goal with the family car. To view the ad:

Quicktime 60 second version
RealPlayer 60 second version

Quicktime 30 second version
RealPlayer 30 second version

Jun 19, 2004


Hey, what happened to houseofmenthol.com?

The cigarette manufacturer, Brown and Williamson, was nailed this week by a New York state judge for targeting cigarette sales to youths. Using "street marketing" techniques, the company was sponsoring a nationwide series of D.J. tournaments, branded as "Kool Mixx," and had even begun selling special-edition themed cigarettes (above) as part of the campaign.

Mark Smith, a spokesman for B & W, denied that the program was aimed at anyone under 21. That being said, check out this quote from the company's March 17th press release announcing the initiative:

"Kool understands the vibrant urban world of the trendsetting, multicultural smoker," said Ludo Cremers, divisional vice president, brand marketing. "Kool is the menthol authority. At the same time, Kool keeps it real and remains linked to the latest urban trends. We'll showcase these trends this year through Kool Mixx and other promotions and events."

Who, by the way, was the main force behind the bust? My man, Eliot Spitzer--the next Governor of New York.

(image: scaatcn.org)

Jun 14, 2004

Faith-Based Initiative With Real Faith


The idea to run a television ad apologizing to Arab viewers for American actions at Abu Ghraib is proving to be very popular. The ad, created by the interfaith group faithfulamerica.org, is set to begin running tomorrow on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, According to the International Herald Tribune, individual contributors have donated more than twice as much as was originally slated for the ten spots. The group intends to continue buying time as donations allow.

View the ad here or check here for more viewing options.

Jun 12, 2004

George Wilson Reagan

If you're not completely burned out on Reagan at this point, here's another item on the Bush-Reagan bootstrap effort. If you happened to miss it, the Bush campaign website "disappeared" it's regular home page all last week in favor of a colossal cross -promotional memorial to the Gipper. To check it out it, click here.

By the way, the image above is from a nice piece in the Washington Monthly called the Mendacity Index, ranking Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41 and Bush 43 by their records of stretching the truth. I guess Bush and Reagan do have a lot in common.

May 25, 2004

Liberty, Poor Headdress, And The Hunt For Mr. Rumsfeld

One thing you can't accuse MoveOn of is a lack of audacity. To see their most recent ad, click HERE.

Apr 19, 2004

At The Gay Bar


Besides their excellent coverage of the Election 2000 media war, our friends at BushOut.tv also do a diligent job tracking the evolution of interactive campaign media.

On their site today, they have two recent examples. One is an internet ad created by the Democratic National Committee. The ad, titled "Mistakes Were Made," uses President Bush's awkward press conference responses against him.

They also highlight an independent flash video called "Gay Bar". Taking clips from George Bush's meeting last week with Tony Blair, the video is a hybrid between an interactive political parody and a music video.

Ever since MoveOn's Bush In 30 Seconds contest late last year, flash movies have become a legitimate form of campaign media.