Propaganda is a form of media management that provides a persuasive function, reaches a sizable audience, represents a specific group’s agenda and uses faulty reasoning with or without emotional appeal. It is generally used in politics or in advertising. In each case, it’s purpose is to persuade others to do things or think things that will benefit the sponsor – sell more soap, form voter opinions on important matters, or shape the public’s view of a candidate’s persona.
It is a popular way of controlling large numbers of consumers and reflects the notion that media is power. It can be represented in television commercials, movies, radio broadcasts, magazines, newspapers, and in the Internet blogosphere as well.
President Obama seems to be hip and cool. The problem is, this could be all because of the successful and effective use of propaganda. He appeared on Saturday Night Live, joked with David Letterman and made speeches with great rhetorical effects that when compared with his competitor, showed him to be the more likable candidate. The famous ‘HOPE’ campaign poster positioned him as a great leader, despite his never having run a company, state or city government in his life.
In 2008, his campaign ran a very successful fundraising effort. They raised more that $650 million from about 3 million donors over the course of the election (Meyers). Those contributions paid for massive TV and radio advertising in important states, where he could outdo his challengers with the message of his choosing.
A popular slogan used was “Change That We Can Believe In.” This is an example of the bandwagon technique and also displays the us-vs-them mentality. It encourages the target audience to join up and emotionally commit to being one of the team. It is also misleading since there is no evidence that we should believe in him for anything. His record as a legislator was incomplete at best and consistently weak. As the junior senator from Illinois, he was in the Senate for only 2 years before deciding to run, full-time for President for the next two years.
To conclude the Democratic National Convention, Obama gave his monumental speech on a stage with a Greek temple and it’s prominent columns. It raises the question, why would an American Presidential Candidate give a speech in Denver with Greek columns behind him? The Greek columns are examples of the transfer technique by giving the hint that he is just as great, just as noble and just as powerful as the ancient Greeks. The objective was to give him a status of importance and to make it a memorable experience. Speeches by other Presidential candidates at this stage in the campaign had never been memorable or as impressive as Obama’s concluding speech in the football stadium.
That speech at the Democratic National Convention also qualifies for another example of propaganda. It was the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, made his famous 1963 ‘I have a dream’ speech, made a reference to it, is an example of the testimonial technique. This is when you take someone the audience knows and transfer the opinion to the product (Standler). Here, Obama’s reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, knowing full-well that the audience would recognize the link and place Obama as the fulfillment of Dr King’s dream. Obama’s privileged upbringing and resume shows this transfer to be very misleading.
Presidential Candidate Obama made an appearance on Saturday Night Live while on his campaign. Saturday Night Live is a show that has live comedic skits with improvisation and it usually involves political satire. It is a show that is fairly popular in the hip, cool, and up to date crowds. With him making an appearance it is a testimonial to how hip, cool, and up to date he is. This reaches a sizable target audience and served the persuasive function for the poorly informed youth voter.
In the last full week of the election, the campaign spent $21.5 million on advertising (Meyers) in only a few contentious markets. This is generally purely propaganda that was developed and amplified so that merely exposing someone to the intensive message might convince them. Throughout the campaign, there was some glittering generalities like ‘progress’, and ‘hope’ associated with Obama. This brings an emotional appeal and interest to him, but zero substance.
Throughout Barrack Obama’s Presidential election campaign of 2008, there have been plenty of examples of propaganda. It was effective and had plenty of people who liked the message vote for him. It will be exciting when his administration runs for reelection in 2012 and see if the propaganda will work a second time. Harsh criticisms are sure to be heard.
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