Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Clashing Symbols

There's a long rant that may come out soon, on the philosophical war that is breaking out. Suffice it to say for now that I consider a crucial line to have been crossed this week, and the priority of bringing down this government has just shot significantly higher. That being the case, I'd like to offer an observation about political tactics.

The great strength of the Bush administration has been their use of symbols and images. They paint their cause in heroic archetypes, and do so quite skillfully. If you pay attention to the memetics, their whole strategy has always been to associate Dubya with specific characters: The Devout Man, The Happy Man, The Father Figure, The Cowboy, and so on. The left, by contrast, has tended to ignore that symbolic level, and failed to understand why they aren't getting through more effectively. The answer is simple: many people *want* to believe in Bush, precisely because he is associated with those positive icons in their minds.

That being the case, a crucial step in truly destroying Bush is to break those associations. I alluded to this a couple of years ago in my "This Man Is Lying" post, but I think the point may have gotten missed. It's not enough to *say* that the man is bad; you have to *draw* him that way. Applied memetics is rather like painting: no single brushstroke really accomplishes much, but a carefully-constructed canvas can be very effective.

There are many possible directions to take this. For instance, consider that most of his positive images are vulnerable to specific counter-attacks:
  • The Devout Man is the hardest to hit, because it's probably sincere. Its best counter is The Fanatic; it appears to derive from the same part of his personality that is prone to addiction and obsession. To the religious right, that's not a wholly bad thing, but the libertarians are likely to find it distasteful at best.

  • The Happy Face can easily be painted as The Carpetbagging Salesman, who will smilingly lie as he sells poisonous concoctions, and never shows you the price tag until you've already drunk the merchandise. A smile is effective if and only if people think it's sincere.

  • The Father Figure is easy to view as The Tyrant. This one's particularly apt with the recent reports of the college kid who got a visit from the men in black last week, just for looking up a book for a report. This is perhaps the most apt counter-image right now: Bush is turning the upper levels of the government into exactly what we considered The Enemy for much of the 20th century, so Stalinesque images have some traction to work with. This is also the most important counter-image right now, because it is directly related to the most dangerous aspect of the Administration: its increasingly totalitarian style.

  • The Cowboy is my personal favorite, because it is just too much fun to re-render it as The Coward. Bush's whole image is built around swaggering confidence, but if you scratch the surface, everything he does is based on stark fear -- fear of Saddam, fear of terrorists, fear of criticism, now (as we're finding out) even fear of his own citizens. The counter here is that this man doesn't *deserve* to run this country, because he doesn't have the backbone for it. Bullying is always the mark of the closet coward.
When you're lacing into Bush, think about the painting that you are rendering here. Simply *describing* Bush's atrocities is like just splashing paint at the canvas: it doesn't really grab most viewers. And doing it more shrilly simply splashes brighter paint. Think of yourself as a painter instead, with an image to convey. What are the right brush strokes to delineate the desired image? Keep in mind that great art can't be produced instantly: you build it up gradually over time, refining the initial sketch into the final crystalline image.

Image Uber Alles. The Republicans learned from Nixon not to elect someone with easy-to-parody jowls. But for all his smiles, Bush is quite vulnerable right now. Take away those positive associations he has built up in the minds of the public, and he *will* fall...
Tags: politics

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