Sunday, June 28, 2009

So... Rees is sponsored by Sprint?

I've sat on this one for about a day now since I followed the NBC29 link in Waldo's recent post to the campaign website of Brad Rees. At heart, when I discovered Rees' website and this sort of manifesto, I wasn't interested in coming down on it for party reasons. To put it bluntly, I don't think he has a chance; the need to defend Perriello against him is the last thing on my mind. He's just a long shot trying to get his ideas out there, so whatever.

Still, even the above attempt to depoliticize fails, as it implies allegiance to Perriello (Disclosure: his father was my doctor from infancy till only a few years ago, and technically right up till his retirement). More importantly, in stating my doubt for his chance so bluntly, I can be accused of swaying voters. For one reason or another, people tend to not vote for or give their time/money to support lost causes.

Perhaps there is an utter futility to trying to claim politics do not matter here, in the sense that I, as a Democrat (or a crazy independent wolf in Democratic Party clothing), am criticizing the website of a Republican candidate. Nonetheless I insist that my interest is more broad than that. It is the content of his piece that interests me, and while I'd like to think that I'd be just as hard on a Democratic candidate, I'm not really interested in who did what first or how many worse things Republicans think Democrats have done. I'm interested in criticizing the content of Rees' multi-media post "Welcome To A New Kind of Campaign From A New Kind Of Candidate" because I think it is... well... special.

The tiresome 'I hate lawyers' rhetoric and the not very new approach of 'I'm a working Joe like you' (even if he is one) are of little interest to me other than the basic problems of representation that crop up because of them. The aspect that makes this a multi-media post--a video entitled "What if Firefighters Ran the World?"--however, I find fascinating.

Where do I begin?

The video is a neat little piece of blue collar catharsis. A sort of Regan era down with the eggheads mentality permeates it as the firefighters breeze through problem after political problem, unanimously agreeing to fix each--speaking in unison even. Sure, it's funny, but while it seems to praise firefighters, doesn't it also mock them right alongside the bureaucrats they replace? Did the tensions of the last three presidential campaigns not leave us with some degree of heightened awareness of just how complex politics can be? Don't we find the utter naivete of the video repulsive? The representation assumes that the firefighters must purely tackle problems as opposed to issues (problem + solution = done, as opposed to situations where either/or the problem or the solution cannot be unanimously accepted, where there are causes and consequences). Of course, I'm saying the obvious, but nonetheless is this a wise representation of the blue collar worker for a self-proclaimed working Joe politician to evoke right off the bat? Yes, yes, lawyers are teh bad... but they have a fluent knowledge of laws and argumentative/problematic variables, things one should want in a politician. A representation like this makes me question that a candidate opposing them would as well.

Another creepy issue I have with the video is the arguable discrepancy between the title and the content. It says it is about firefighters running the world but it very clearly shows them running America. While we can suppose that a similar scene is occurring in other locations around the world, the logistics of it are difficult to actually imagine. Instead what we have is America (the flag is just barely visible in the top of the frame, and of course there's not exactly much evidence that this is occurring in, say, Russia) as the world. Maybe also not a wise image to associate with running for office.

Then there is the simple intertextuality of firefighters in politics. Over eight years after September 11, I'd like to think that we can dissociate firefighters in general with the heroics of those at the World Trade Center, but when they are placed in such a blatant political context, it's still nigh impossible. Both parties have evoked 9/11 numerous times throughout the decade for political reasons, but Republicans in particular have come under fire for it as a rally cry for Iraq. Bush fell back on it in tight spots so often it was almost like a special kind of TS. So as indirect as it is, again it strikes me as a bad move for a politician to take who is claiming a "New Kind of Campaign." But it gets worse. I've been dancing around one of the most striking things about this video being used in a political campaign:

It's an ad for a cellphone from Sprint.

That's right. It shows firefighters, talking on cellphones, running congress (and the world from congress?), and it's a phone advertisement. So if the issue of exploiting the heroics of firefighters bothers you, here we have them being doubly exploited first by an cellphone company of all things and then by a political candidate. Then there is just the pure issue of having an ad woven into your major introduction to your website and campaign. Is Rees sponsored by Sprint? Did he get permission to use their ad? Are cellphones a big part of his platform? Are firefighters?

There is something appealing about the underdog DIY mentality of utilizing external media to get around the annoying reality that it does take a lot of money to run a campaign, but ultimately is it really a good idea? Most politicians try to avoid addressing their relationships to large corporations helping fund their campaigns. Rees proclaims to be "The guy with no money to speak of" but uses a Sprint Cellphone commercial as a welcome mat.

Regardless of political views, to anyone interested in pursuing politics, I think Rees offers an example for the textbooks of how NOT to run an underdog campaign website.


Blogger Cory Capron said...

Note to readers from Cvilleblogs: some editing has occurred sice the piece was published. As is the case with many of these longer pieces written swiftly, I often come back and find them riddled with errors or simply unclear.

Little beyond spelling errors has changed, but a second reading might be useful.

5:25 PM  

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