Is America on track to be the Great Satan again?
This week I published an essay in The Japan Times about the perception some have of America as a Great Satan. This piece explores the nomination of Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the world. Is this a sign of a Trump administration embrace of corporatization of foreign policy? I’ve always been troubled by too much top-down, for-profit focus in American foreign policy. This was the subject of my first book, Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World.
It’s too early to call the election but if the vote were held in Japan, Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide. This is a non-scientific poll since I’m basing this on the audible gasp from my students when the race was reported “neck and neck” before the Hofstra debate.
[If you are in the mood for a lengthier treatise on the first debate, check out my Clinton Towered Trump Huffington Post blog.]
What did Hillary Clinton do right? Plenty. She was calm in Trump’s storm. She was prepared and full of pokes and zingers to get Trump off his game.
Two weeks ago it was Hillary Clinton unsteady on her feet. In Hempstead, New York, it was Trump looking and sounding frustrated and unfocused.
What did Donald Trump do wrong? He was too “Donald being Donald.” He interrupted. He forgot (God forbid) that he was always on camera, thanks to that pro-Hillary split screen. In the general election season, all six weeks of it left before November 8, Trump will need to act more like what too many are frightened to imagine: President Trump.
It’s still possible for him to TRiUMPh, but he will have to be more disciplined, calm, and steady in the next two debates. He is now facing a candidate who doesn’t fear him, is not intimidated, and is red power suit ready!
There is no question that despite the obvious liberal Democratic tilt that mainstream media is taking in Campaign 2016, one unavoidable vulnerability for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is her questionable health readiness for the job. Granted, both presidential nominees are senior citizens eligible for Social Security. But Clinton’s health is a meme touchdown for Donald Trump.
The video of Hillary Clinton being carried into her Scooby Van security vehicle at the 9/11 15th anniversary ceremony is enough to make every American citizen wonder about her physical fitness readiness for one of the most stressful jobs in the world. She’s 68 now and turns 69 on October 26th, just two weeks before Election Day. Donald Trump turned 70 on June 14th. He has his own vulnerabilities, including his birther comments about Barack Obama, reluctance to release his full tax returns, Trump University, etc., but he seems like a political and persuasive mega machine compared to Hillary Clinton. (See my Trump talk from May 2016).
Trump’s supporters call themselves the centipedes–they just keep crawling along, slow and steady, and they are solidly behind Trump. Whatever he says, whatever he does, he isn’t going to lose his core centipede supporters. The ground underneath Hillary Clinton isn’t so solid. She is still favored in the election, but my political friends and news junkies, we have never seen an election in American political history quite like this one. I know that I haven’t seen one in my lifetime. This state of politics in America, partial hat tip to Thomas Hobbes, is nasty, brutish but long. Much too long.
Hold onto your sanity. It’s going to be a bumpy autumn.
Hillary’s campaign slogan: I’m with her.
Trump’s campaign slogan: Make America great again.
Does a presidential election increasingly come down to a slogan or catchy phrase put to music? Yes, indeed. But not just this year. It’s been part of the American political landscape in the modern mass media era for over sixty years.
In 1952, Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower was helped by his catchy I Like Ike campaign commercial. Or consider this repetitive jingle about Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy from 1960. Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy! In 1972, we had Nixon Now.
What do all these slogans and campaign songs have in common? They use a propaganda technique called glittering generalities, identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938 as one of the 7 main propaganda techniques. Something that glitters is like gold. It connotes something positive or ideal, even if the particular policies attached to these words are never explained.
I’m with her connotes attachment to potentially the first woman president of the United States. Get on board. Be a part of history making. Make America Great Again is a direct focus on nationalism and America first principles and ideals.
A GG (glittering generality) uses attractive but unspecific words that appeal to values and emotions. The more general and less specific a candidate can be, the better off s/he is with voters. Your goal is to appeal across a wide spectrum. Let the voters fill in the blanks as to the meaning of your GG. All you want is their support. Being too specific loses support.