Monday, March 19, 2007

The Anti-Hillary Ad: Pro-Obama or Pro-Republican?

I've seen the new viral video, the so-called anti-Hillary Clinton / pro-Barack Obama ad, and I'm not buying it. I don't buy the message, the recycled content, or the idea that it was created by a pro-Obama groupie.

The ad takes an old 1980s-era Apple computer ad parodying the movie version of Orwell's 1984 and mixes some footage of Hillary Clinton saying typical campaign things. The message is that Clinton is a fascist and Obama is the antidote.

The San Francisco Chronicle says "It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate -- one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising."

How is this a pro-Obama ad and not just another hyperbolic conservative attempt to paint liberals the way liberals see neo-cons? And how is it creative? It's a patchwork job that -- okay, maybe some are titillated by the Apple reference -- merely juxtaposes an old computer ad (itself a parody) and adds some Hillary Clinton face footage. Not original, not stunning.

And while many are eager to celebrate the first "post-TV" presidential campaign (i.e., one with ads online that willing dupes seek out via YouTube), I see it as just another salvo in an insufferable two-year-long campaign. Blech.

If it was made by a crazed constituent ... I'm not saying it's a bad thing to support a candidate, or even to do it publicly, but if this ad didn't come from Obama, then it's a bit more like a cat bringing its owner a gory rat carcass. Nice thought, but the offering is a little much.

Then again, maybe anything we can do to get our nation's disaffected bumblers to care and to vote is good.

Eric Jaye, a political consultant to San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom says that the Obama campaign benefits from the ad, even if they didn't make it: "They get to call Hillary Clinton a pabulum-spewing pseudo-fascist, without having to own it."

True, but doesn't anyone who could (and will) run against a Democrat benefit? Don't Republicans benefit now? And call me naïve (I after all, always thought Al Gore was charismatic), but why would you ever compare Clinton to a fascist? And while our current president has us in a losing war of attrition, is eroding our privacy, and legitimizing torture? Who's the fascist, here? It's offensively disingenuous.

Simon Rosenberg, president of the Washington-based New Democrat Network told the Chronicle, "Anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control. It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model. ... [Activists are now] partners in the fight. And they don't have to wait for permission."

Why am I so skeptical? Maybe it's because part of democracy means idiots voting their emotions. And the uninformed being swayed by --- anything. And once we've got average yahoos making their own campaign ads in a free market of ads, we get stuff like Obama supporters doing damage to the Democratic party and spreading a sort of spooky up-is-down, bondage-is-freedom message that sounds like neo-con propaganda. You get Swift Boat Veterans convincing voters that a war hero is really a selfish jerk and an AWOL daddy's boy with below-average grades is actually the hero.

But if I keep talking like that, I start to sound as if I want too much regulation. I start to sound like both political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, which refuse to let other parties play because they don't trust Americans to weigh each (and every?) party's message carefully and choose the best one. So maybe I'm most annoyed with a news media that's fawning over its young usurpers in order to prove it's still cool.

And here I am contributing, in my own tiny way, to the whole frenzy. My final word is this: Something's seriously wrong when Democrats accuse other Democrats of fascism, even if it's a satire meant to highlight a percieved insincerity. I don't think it was made by a Democrat. I think it was another effort by a zealous neo-conservative to paint the Clintons in the same way Democrats see our current administration -- as radical authoritarians.

Watch the home-made ad here.

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