I last mentioned Grossberg’s ideas of how new conservatives have to embellish or make untrue statements to strengthen their image to the public. I thought I’d mention an example straight out of the book of how these statements work.
Such statements can function to, “enable the new conservatives to contain any attack on them and even to redirect some attacks” (p.267). For example, in Bush’s “war on drugs” speech there was a staged drug bust just outside the White House. This was used as a false image of immediate danger, and was eventually found out by the public that it was staged.
You would think that the credibility of the White House would have suffered after Bush lied directly to the public. However, nobody challenged the White House, nor did the lie turn into a public outcry for a new war on drugs (p.267).
I thought this was a fitting comic to explain how the War on Drugs is used by the US government
The speech functioned more to show that any action that fought drugs was legitimate. This reduction of politics to affect does not only happen with the war on drugs, as Grossberg mentions that the American government used similar tactics for the Iraq war (p.268). This is not a matter of letting public opinion define political positions, but it is a matter of reducing politics to campaigning and considering how certain appeals will fit into popular sensibilities.
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Grossberg states that in order to hide the economic troubles that have been resulting from policies, conservatives are, “attempting to distract the public’s attention by turning it to ideological issues” (p.257). This is just another example of how politics is more about keeping the public at ease than telling the truth.
He goes on to talk about the fact that the public is lied to, and that events are often intentionally represented selectively. This is done to reduce the public’s worry, especially in times of economic crisis. This is not the media’s fault; it is a result of the relations between both popular sentiment and sales on one hand, and between the press and the state bureaucracy (the sources of information) of the other (Grossberg, p.257-8).
It is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between political reporting and human interest stories, since facts and lies are being increasingly blurred together. The government needs to keep the public happy, and the media are always searching for the best stories. The state has to therefore be cautious in what it releases to the press, and they often embellish or make statements that may not be completely true.
The economic crisis is effecting everyone. It is important however that the new conservatives deal with it the best way possible so that the public remains calm and as happy as possible. They will always make statements to show strength, even when times are tough, because they need to keep the popular culture thinking positively about what’s going on.
Although this was written in the 90s by Grossberg, it continues today, and will continue for a while. Although some people are outraged, no one speaks out against the government because there has been a depoliticization of culture.
Good old new conservatism!
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Lawrence Grossberg states that the concept of difference, “entails a sustained critique of any assumption of such guaranteed and necessary relationships” (p.39). This poststructuralist theory is very common within popular culture and television.
The first thing I thought of when reading this was the political commercials that run during campaign times. It seems like most of the commercials talk badly about other candidates, rather than promote the good qualities of their own campaign. This negative advertising is so common that people make fun of it.
The most famous recent example is perhaps the one of Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, shown looking confused while a quote plays that says, “Do you know how hard it is to make priorities?”. Now, that is not something that politicians should really be saying. If they make a mistake, the opposition sees it as a great chance to run a negative ad.
This is the picture that was run along with Dion's infamous quote.
Politics is very pop culture related nowadays because of this negative advertising. With the media and cameras everywhere, politicians have to realize that anything they say can and may be used against them in their campaign. Image is so important nowadays, especially in politics. This is true all over the world, now that political advertising has become so prevalent in today’s society.
This is just one element of the dirty side of politics, but it is an element that is very influencial. People are becoming more critical, and hopefully a time comes when politicians realize that the public needs more than negative information about the opposition to vote for a specific party.
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