Words as ideas: The soundbite trophy, right now, goes to frontrunner Obama. McCain's graphics were originally developed by a defense industry promoter. Selling ideas to the
consumers populace is the art of branding.
Obama branded himself as the Change Agent. The daily candidate bite is around 7.8 seconds. Blips stick and the snippets count. Americans are dumb and getting dumber. Details don't matter. "Words matter. ...What our leaders say matters," Obama said this week.
One of the political communications tactics that Bush introduced and perfected was the background set: a sea of slogans behind him as he spoke. This focus on branding is similar to the red carpet backgrounds for the stars -- the slogans/logos are big enough to be visible and legible for the cameras. Obama's big banner behind him doesn't make it into the camera but his podium slogan does and those behind him were holding up their red signs echoing the talking point.
The semantics of the repetitive sound bite, the talking point, the phrase, the slogan. The branding of the product, program, personality, policy or idea. This is how things are sold. Especially today. (Read the Dumbing of America, yesterday's WaPo article by Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason where she talks about the shrinking attention span, the erosion of general knowledge and the inability to grasp complexity).
The semiotics of it all is something I'm very interested in. My school studies at The New School had historical roots in this area, sociologically, and the strands of the German founding thinkers lead to West Coast studies and George Lakoff is probably the most well-known from that line. He has taken up advising the Democrats on the power of words and ideas to counter the expertise of the Republicans on this front. Fred Luntz uses meters to measure public response to words. Words express ideas. Art expresses ideas. It is the idea today that matters. I wrote yesterday about the iteration of these ideas, graphically.
Lakoff looked at Obama vs. Hillary and the semantics of the issues and ideas. Most voters do not vote primarily on the basis of policies, but rather on (1) values, (2) connection, (3) authenticity, (4) trust, and (5) identity. Lakoff writes: Obama understands this. Hillary is "I, I, I" while Obama is "you, we"...
"I promise you, my friends... we are the makers of history, not its friends," is what McCain said in his celebratory speech last Tuesday. "Hope is a powerful thing.... I've seen mens' hopes tested in powerful ways....my hope for our country resides in my faith in the American character..." ooops. Couldn't get the rest of McCain's speech as my husband turned the tv off. What more can I say? Ok. He turned it back on after my squawk... "My country saved me," McCain says... "I'm running to serve America and to champion the ideas... to make in our time, and from our challenges, a stronger country and a better world. I intend to do that by fighting for the principals and policies that best serve the American people," he continues. My husband is not paying attention while I type the words he's using. As some say about McCain's rhetoric: TLDR*: McCain's use of the pronoun "I" is extensively heavy. I, I, I. "I will not yield. I promise you, my friends, I'm fired up and ready to go." Just like Hillary, all of those I, I I's.
Obama has primed the people for the we's.
Obama's own rhetoric has created imagery via words like progress, hope and 'yes we can'. Obama's words have an evolutionary/revolutionary quality about them. The repetition of words then becomes representative of the brand, the idea. Obama is now "Yes We Can." What do these words now represent? The idea behind these words: hope & change.
The war of snippits, of branding, of tag lines will turn on these words as semantics is fought in soundbites.
Related Media/Political Culture Communication Posts:
Rhetoric, from Aristotle to Obama
The Obama Poster
Presidential Campaign Logos
Word Art: Talking Points
The Che Factor
Political Art: Powerful Tools in the Icon Age
*TDLR=too long didn't read