Stories From The Past: Politics as Informercials

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Politics has become one big “imitation game”. It’s no wonder then that spin doctors and PR experts play the most prominent roles. Whether they’re locals or foreigners, or how much they charge, is no object, because we know that it all comes down to them.

It was Monday, September 26, 1960. In the CBS television studio in Chicago, everything was ready for a special program. That evening, for the first time in history, two politicians will meet face to face in a television debate that will be followed live by a million television viewers. The protagonists had arrived: John F. Kennedy, the young and dynamic Massachusetts senator, and Richard Nixon, the skilled politician, and Vice-President of the USA for almost eight years at the time. Kennedy and Nixon were running in the elections for the next President of the USA. Both candidates had had a gruelling summer work schedule and countless presidential rallies, with the outcome still undecided. Ahead of their TV debate, Kennedy decided to take a breather and prepare a bit more for the upcoming TV duel, so he spent the weekend in a hotel with his associates, while for Nixon, this was just another event in his pre-election schedule, to which he had arrived directly from a political meeting, trying to make up for the time off from the campaign at the beginning of summer, when he had been bed-ridden due to the nasty flu for which he had even been hospitalized and due to which he had lost some weight. Tired as he was while getting out of his car in front of the studio that evening, he accidentally hit his knee, re-injuring an old injury. CBS had flown in a make-up artist from New York for this specific event; however, both candidates refused his services, with Nixon, who hadn’t gotten around to shaving before the appearance, getting only a layer of “Lazy Shave” powder, which, as its name clearly suggests, serves to cover up an unshaven face.

Main topics in the campaign were national security, opposing the rising danger of communism, strengthening the US army forces, and the importance of creating a brighter future for America. Both of these candidates had approximately the same attitudes that they repeated that evening. Surveys conducted after the debate showed that those who listened to the debate on the radio rated its outcome equal, with a slight advantage for Nikson. Those who watched the debates on television estimated that Kennedy was much better. What happened?! Was it overwhelming that Kennedy, unlike Nikson, answered to all the questions by looking straight at the camera? Did Nixon choose the wrong suit whose grey colour assimilated with the background, so he looked a kind of slimmer, which, along with the lost weight because of the disease, made him appear pale and unconvincing in that suit? Or was it because of the powder that began to melt under strong studio lights, so it seemed as though Nixon was under pressure, sweating because of unpleasant questions and another candidate, let’s not forget the pain in his knee. The outcome of this debate is best described by two reactions after it had been over. Jacqueline Kennedy, John’s wife, who was then in her sixth month of pregnancy, watching the debate with friends at home, told the media, proudly after the campaign, “I think my husband was brilliant tonight!” At the same time, the mother of Richard Nixon called her son after the show to ask him if he was sick!

It was a fateful meeting of a medium still young at the time – television, and one of the two oldest trades in the world – politics. The love and passion, born on that night in September 1960, have only increased and grown stronger from that first meeting until today. Meanwhile, television has become the most powerful political platform for propaganda. It was for a simple reason that it has the greatest power of persuasion.

As television could convince people to buy a particular shampoo, laundry powder, beer, or sanitary pads, it began to persuade people who to vote for. That’s why political ideas started to come in packages like shampoo, powder for beer, beer and sanitary pads, and politics has become just another market segment in which you have an offer made by politicians and political parties and the demand made by citizens who choose what will they buy, paying that product with their voice. And to avoid making mistakes and, god forbid, give their voice to the wrong product, politicians started to hire magicians and experts from various fields, with various skills to tell people what is best for them, even when they are not aware of it. This is called political marketing today.

Political marketing exists as long as the politics exist!

Modern political marketing began to develop thirty years ago, and today it is experiencing its peak. The main factor that influenced such a boom in political marketing, and which is still its main driving force, is the crisis of a democratic state and, consequently, a crisis of politics. The overriding role of a democratic state is to protect the public interest. In most countries today, the state is not in the function of protecting the public interest, because it is privatized and corrupted. The political class is only a visible part of that usurping elite, and its role is to create an illusion of some kind of democratic political process, thus concealing the absence of legitimacy. The exceptions are the Scandinavian countries and those who have this type of social consensus, while in these “our” countries this state degeneration is only more visible and easily seen.

I agree with those who claim that the multi-party system has successfully mutated into a one-party system. In this system, all parties are in fact parts of the one party in power, which are occasionally engaged in “ruling party – opposition„ role-play, hide the fact that everything essentially remains the same. Maintaining the “status quo” is only contributed to by the constant increase of the number of parties within this one party, because it only amplifies the illusion of the existence of a democratic process. Devoid of true content, politics is thus reduced to mere appearances and omnipresence. The increase of quantity serves to replace the absence of relevant content, with popularity being sold masquerading as trust. Politics has become one big “imitation game”. It’s no wonder then that spin doctors and PR experts play the most prominent roles. Whether they’re locals or foreigners, or how much they charge, is no object, because we know that it all comes down to them. Party yes-men, as well as family members and distant relatives, will somehow get assigned to less important positions, such as ministers, ambassadors, or if worst comes to worst, advisors.

As proof of the above, let’s take a look at political TV shows. Political TV marketing is much more than just TV commercials shown during election campaigns and has been so for a long time. Politics has become a regular program on television, such as sports, movies, sitcoms, educational programs. In addition, political content on television is no longer confined to a traditional “informative-political program”. Political content and political actors are present in almost all program genres. Thus, more and more political content is placed in entertainment programs. Together with actors, singers, riding stars, athletes, starlets and others, “public” figures in quizzes, I-have-a-talent programs, talk-show shows, etc,  politicians make their appearance as well,shoulder to shoulder with them,  becoming actors, singers, reality show stars, starlets,… Simultaneously, a rising number of information programs and political TV shows are turning into infotainment with “something for everyone”, where political topics are portrayed either as “lighthearted entertainment” or as major drama.

It is quite logic that election campaigns receive their corresponding television form. For this, the most suitable is the form of TV sales. Let’s look at it:

  • Then, there is a HOPE: In translation: „Now that is the end of it! Our party (NO MATTER WHICH) has the solution for you! When we come to the power, all of these problems will soon become past! “Hope must be in the form of a great promise to be relevant to most people, and along with it, it has to draw peoples’ attention and make them watch the commercial.
  • Following is the EXPLANATION of the current situation. That part serves to the party-provider of the commercial to show and demonstrate their “professionalism” in understanding the problem. But, only the criticism of the existing situation is not enough, the culprit must be called, because the dissatisfaction of the existing state is referring to him, and along with it, the situation “we-against-them” must be created. The parties entering the campaign as the opposite, of course, blame the ruling party for everything. On the other side, the ruling party in its campaign accuses the opposition for everything bad that diminishes “our good proposals.” Both sides, welcome a new “foreign factor” that can be further accused, because it additionally attracts the sympathy of the voters that naturally stand for “our” and “weaker”.
  • And, at the end, there is an IRRESISTIBLE OFFER: “And so do not miss this unique offer. Your voice is just enough and all your problems will be solved. We will launch a new cycle of production, we will hire young people who will no longer leave the country, we will increase salaries and pensions, and we will build schools, roads, and hospitals. But, that is not all! We will bring back the honor, pride, and glory to our people! Yes, you heard well – honor, pride, and glory!!! In addition to this, in this incredible offer, for the price of one voice, you will not get just our party (NO MATTER WHICH), but completely free in the package, you will receive the part “I WOULD LIKE IT, TOO”. But that is not all- believe or not, for the same price of one single voice, you will get a gift as a present “GIVE WHATEVER YOU GIVE”! So do not hesitate for a moment. Decide today that you will vote for us and go to the elections. You are only a voice away from the bright future. Decide now!!!”
  • First, we should establish the PROBLEMwith which the viewer/ voter can be identified. Translated from the political into usual language of the TV sale, that would sound like this: You have enough of this unbearable state, big unemployment, bad schools and hospitals? You can no longer live with low salaries and pensions? Are you bored of daily price increase? Are you afraid to drive on the roads full of holes? Are you afraid for the future of your children? Are you already tired of waiting that it will be better?

There is, however, a difference between political election campaigns and infomercials. In TV sales if you are not satisfied with the product you can return it and get your money back. As the saying goes – it’s too late for regrets once you vote.

Source: Media Marketing

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