The Manipulation of America’s Voters

All right, answer me something: is a woman’s voice, soft and slightly hushed, speaking under music,  been shown to sway people?

I don’t watch television much; I vowed not to watch it much as this political campaign swept into high gear. The ads are manipulative and so often, not true. I remember when in the 1988 campaign between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, an ad was run about a man named Willie Horton.  The issue was the death penalty. Bush was for it, Dukakis was apparently against it and advocated convicted felons getting weekend passes. Willie Horton lived in Dukakis’ state of Massachusetts and got such passes. He reportedly murdered a young teen on one of his weekend visits. He was put back into prison but got out and reportedly raped and murdered a woman. That was it. There was Horton’s image on the screen in front of the world: a dark-skinned black man with disheveled hair. He represented what so many people thought about black people, and the ad did what it was supposed to do. Bush won.

I remember being furious about it  because it fed into people’s fears and it fed the widespread belief in the inherent “criminality” of black men. The criminalization of black men really originated after Reconstruction, when angry Southern  whites decided that black people would not be free, Emancipation or not. Slavery had provided the necessary labor to plant and harvest the South’s crops and thus contribute mightily   to the agrarian aristocracy. Under Reconstruction, blacks could own property; they could vote and participate in the political process.  Their children could go to public school. Whites were never impressed with Emancipation because many of them genuinely believed that blacks were inferior to whites and that they were supposed to work for white people. And so, by the late 1800s, the South began to fight back. They put in place vagrancy laws that made it possible for law enforcement to arrest anyone for the slightest thing: selling products they had grown after dark, walking without having money (many walked during the day to find work), not having a job …the laws were ridiculous and wrong. What began to happen systematically is that black men were disproportionately arrested for such “crimes” and were convicted, usually without a trial. Law enforcement officers and justices of the peace would “sell” the new convict to a farmer or a business, which would then require the new convict to work until his debt was paid. When such an unfortunate man was sold, he was at the mercy of his new “owner,” and was worked mercilessly, and often, his new owner would accuse him of another “crime” at or toward the end of his sentence, and his sentence would be extended. The result of this practice, called “convict leasing,” was that prisons began to fill up primarily with black men, and thus the “criminalization” of black men began. Their inability to stay out of  “trouble” with the law proved they were not worthy of freedom. Blacks were predisposed to crime, the belief would be …and continues to this day. So in 1988, those who ran the campaign knew exactly what they were doing. Horton would be a reminder, most especially to white Republicans, that the country needed a man “strong on crime” to keep our streets free from the awful black man.

Well, things have not changed so much. There have not been, among the ads I have seen, any such that compare to the Willie Horton ad, but they are plenty slanted toward the same base that Bush’s 1988 ads were. Mitt Romney’s now infamous “47 percent” speech is not surprising. I wonder who he was really thinking about when he named “47 percent” of Americans who were content to be “victims,” and mooch America’s treasury? I wonder his his campaign thought of who was in that 47 percent?  President Obama uses Romney’s words to his advantage …as any politician would.

But there are ads where an attack on either candidate is as vicious as a wolf eating its prey, and what I have noticed is that many times, there is a soft-spoken woman making the point of the attack, her words carried by music, a lot of it piano. What is the deal?

I wish there were no ads at all. I despise the fact that both candidates are raising literally millions of dollars to get their messages out while so many people in America are in dire straits. I thought about that today as I thought about a friend who is really going through it right now. He is unemployed and “out there,” and it is a constant job to keep him above ground. I wonder how that soft woman’s voice and piano music sounds to him?

I know there is probably someone in marketing who can explain the effect of this soft voice/soft music is. What part of the brain does it reach?

And is there a place on the brain where the suffering of people takes hold?  It doesn’t seem like it. Americans are manipulated as they listen to their views or their circumstances articulated in such a masterful way. What is sad is that after the election, there won’t be anyone out stomping the land, trying to raise money for America’s struggling citizens.

And that makes me very sad.

A candid observation …

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Comments

  1. Caroline says:

    I never paid attention the woman with the soft voice and the piano in the background during the political ads lol but I tried not to watch too many of them, because I didn’t really like the lengths that they went to to smash the other person’s character, lots of which were based on things that just weren’t true.

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