Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Thoughts About Little Drawings: Poll THIS.

I am not, I repeat, not a political cartoonist. But sometimes the line between politics and satire get pretty darn blurred. Like, when there's a really major election coming up...
As far as I can tell, our political process in the US now consists of people who have various levels of skill in manipulating their public personas, and in destroying the public personas of others. This is done using this thing called media, which is a bunch of people who want to sell advertising by getting lots of attention.
So here's how you play: You position yourself as an Interesting Public Person, otherwise known as Someone Who Can Attract A Lot Of Attention, then the media follow you around. Then you make people you don't like Interesting by saying Interesting Bad Things about them. Then the media follow that around too. Whoever does this the best and at the right times wins something called an Election. But before that, there are the Polls.
Polls are where the media attract Attention by counting things about Interesting Public People. They are supposed to be newsworthy because they tell us how the Voters are Feeling. About something or someone. But actually, they are just another way to keep the Interesting Stories going that attract that Attention the media need to make money.
I am fascinated by how newspapers and TV news and other news outlets subtly tell a "story" through their use of headlines, photos and video. Got something unflattering to say about a candidate? Show an unflattering photo. Maybe a sneer or a funky chin angle. Trying to show Controversy (since that's always Interesting?) Juxtapose two stills of the two supposedly warring parties facing toward one another, with angry looks on their faces. Never mind that the pictures were taken on different days, for different reasons, of different people. Tell the Story! Play into the Script! Because that's how you get Attention and Money.
This is big big business for the media, who need the Attention/Advertising, and the Personas, who need to raise money and win and run the world. Or their corner of it.
And frankly, it looks like that's about all that's left of the political process. The only time an issue is brought up is as fodder for The Story, for the Interesting People to play out their Narrative in the media.
And don't even get me started on voting blocs. You know, the Soccer Moms, the Unmarried Women, the Boomers, the Gen X- or Y- or whatevers, all that. People have universal needs. They need food, shelter, love. They are not voting blocs. They do not swing elections en masse. This is just another way to tell an Interesting Story and attract Attention. And make Money.
Until us dumb ol' people out there slogging through our workdays and stuff begin to insist that we have more in common with our fellow voters than not (boring, no conflict there, not gonna play in the media) and that we'd like some Real Problems Solved, please, and no, I don't want to submit some stupid question on YouTube so the media can go off on how the Internets are affecting politics or whatever Narrative, I'd just like people to be able to get healthcare, thanks, we're gonna be stuck with this Attention Economy.
And it has nothing to do with solving problems. It's an Attention Economy, not a government. It's about Winning, not about solving problems. Solving things is boring. Controversy is interesting. It sells media.
So next time you're wondering what the hell happened to our electoral process and why it has nothing to do with anything relevant, just follow the money. 'Cause if it sells advertising, it'll be part of the Big Story. If not, it won't.

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