Commentary: Hillary 1984 | KERA News

Commentary: Hillary 1984

Dallas, TX –

By now, millions of people have seen the "Hillary 1984" video on YouTube. Millions more have read about it or seen clips on television. In this young presidential campaign season, it's far and away the most interesting event we've seen.

It's also proof that political advertising, and political campaigns in general, have changed in ways that would have been unimaginable even five years ago.

If you haven't seen it, the short film mimics the famed TV spot that introduced the Apple Macintosh during the 1984 Super Bowl. But in the new version, Senator Hillary Clinton is portrayed as a Big Brother-figure, droning on from a giant TV screen about the conversation she wants to have with the American people. A young woman runs into the room and hurls a hammer at the screen, smashing Clinton's image and startling her almost hypnotized audience. Then comes a message to vote for Senator Barack Obama.

There are many fascinating things about the film, but let me note just a few of them. First, the film doesn't argue: It doesn't try to criticize or ridicule any of Clinton's positions on health care, the war, immigration, and other issues. If someone who hadn't seen the video wanted to know what bad things it says about Clinton, you'd have to say "nothing."

Likewise, though it's pro-Obama, it doesn't list any positive achievements from Obama's slender resume. It simply inserts Clinton into the famous 1984 spot, and in so doing condemns her by association with images of jackbooted storm troopers, robotic drones in the audience, and of course George Orwell's Big Brother, who symbolized the unlimited power of the state.

In short, it's the perfect piece of video propaganda, so good you have to admire it and fear it at the same time, regardless of your stand on Senator Clinton. It doesn't reason; it circumvents reason, skirting right around the rational mind and going for the emotions. It paints Clinton as a bloated, disembodied giant, somehow bland and menacing at the same time.

By contrast, the anti-Hillary forces are seen as idealistic rebels trying to break her spell and awaken the people. It chips away, I believe, at the conventional wisdom that Hillary is inevitable as the Democratic candidate for president. Maybe she is. Maybe not.

And, if you're Clinton's highly paid consultants, how in the world do you "refute" something like this?

One other point: In a curious twist, the very existence of this video reminds us that George Orwell's nightmarish vision--"a boot stomping on a human face forever" has not come to pass, at least in the U. S. and other Western democracies. In fact, the film would be unthinkable under a Big Brother-style government. No totalitarian government would allow an average Joe or Jane to cook up a film and shoot it out to influence millions of people.

In that sense, while there's much that's disturbing about the Hillary 1984 film, it's also a testament to the democratizing power of what's been called "citizen media." The more channels through which people can communicate, the harder it is for any one figure or party to dominate the political "conversation."

It's an amazing change we're seeing. Back in the 1950s, there were maybe five or ten people besides Edward R. Murrow who could have taken on Senator Joe McCarthy. Today, there are millions.

Chris Tucker is a Dallas writer.

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