I’m so glad today is election day. I’m ready for the ads to be over. Of course, I’m doing my civic duty and voting, despite my lack of faith in the process. I teach rhetoric, at least I used to, so I know all of the slippery slopes and the ad hominem arguments and the bandwagon appeals the spin masters throw at us. My years of training in rhetoric and composition make it nearly impossible for me to watch or listen to an advertisement without seeing the techniques. Sometimes I find myself laughing in disbelief at what I believe to be obvious and transparent manipulation, only to discover that most people actually buy this stuff.
I remember when Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California. It was the Proposition to define marriage as a union between one male and one female. The commercial I saw every day depicted a young girl, coming home from elementary school and announcing to her mother: “Today in school, we read about a king who married another king, and when I grow up, I can marry a princess!” The mother’s face clouds over with horror. Subtext: teachers in public school are teaching your kid to be gay.
That’s right, we’re handing out hockey sticks to the girls, and ballet shoes to the boys, and your tax dollars are paying for it. Sometimes, I don’t have time to get to all twelve of the English verb tenses in my English class, because I’m so busy pushing the state mandated socialist-homosexual agenda. If I don’t teach little girls to grow up and marry princesses, who will? Even though most princesses are required to marry people of royal blood, or at the very least someone with a private school education, who am I to kill a little girl’s dreams?
Absurd as it may have seemed to a thinking person like myself, the ads were extremely effective. I heard and read regular people expressing their concerns about homosexuality being taught in school and their belief that Proposition 8 would prevent this terrible travesty. And it passed. In my bleeding-heart liberal state of California, home of Los Angeles and San Francisco and Berkeley, it passed.
This election, it’s all about how one senatorial candidate wants to mandate abortions for everyone and give illegal immigrants all of your money while the other is going to outsource your job to China or India and use the money she saves to buy another private plane. Then there’s the hotly contested run for governor. One candidate is a liar who will raise your taxes, create more unemployment and destroy education, and the other one is a liar who will raise your taxes, create more unemployment and destroy education. That is, if you believe the ads playing on tv and the radio all day every day.
Repetition. That’s another persuasive tactic. If you hear something often enough from enough different places, it has the ring of authenticity. Candidates running for office today are lucky. Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to read anymore. Forget looking up facts or authenticating claims made in advertisements. I don’t think Jon Stewart’s rally restored sanity, although I liked the effort. It can be summed up in one of my favorite signs seen at the rally, “I don’t agree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
Now I have to get back to lesson planning. Those princesses aren’t going to make THEMSELVES gay.