Because I clicked on the magnificent basketball game between the United States and Spain a minute early yesterday, I got to see NBC perpetrate a classic example of hiding the message in the photographs.
This deceptive propaganda trick came in a 15-second commercial for the website of “Meet the Press,” called “Press Pass.”
The guts of the ad has the narrator telling us the subjects covered at “Press Pass,” and in each case, one sole photograph exemplifies each topic. Here they are; the capital letters are the words spoken by the narrator:
POLITICS: a photo of Condoleezza Rice
CULTURE: a photo of George Clooney
WHAT’S MOVING WASHINGTON: a photo of South Carolina’s arch-conservative Governor Nikki Haley.
The photographs more than list to the conservative side. We have two conservatives and one liberal. Moreover, the liberal is an actor, which implies he’s a lightweight with no real standing in political circles or in the national marketplace of ideas.
Consider, as well, that the producer and editor of the spot had to go through some weird decision-making to come up with Condi and Nikki: You would think that if they wanted to represent politics with a female Secretary of State they might have thought of the current one instead of scrounging into the last administration, you know, the one for which so much of its foreign policy has been discredited.
And in what way does Nikki Haley move Washington? She’s governor of the state with the 24th largest population and has never served in Washington in any capacity whatsoever. While she espouses a number of ideas that are part of the central discussion in Washington, she originated none of them, nor is her name attached to any as the major force or sponsor such as Paul Ryan’s name is attached to ending Medicare. Nor is her combination of beliefs unique, since she shares them with Ryan, Jindal, “Macaca” Allen, Cantor, Bachmann, Daniels, and virtually every other Republican of note.
What Nikki’s face does give NBC is the ability to have two women in the ad and make them both conservative, which is another distortion, since women tend to vote liberal and for Democrats (and in particular single women such as Condi.)
Thus without saying a word, NBC uses photographs to present a version of the world of ideas that is dominated by conservative thinking and in which women are the major standard bearers of conservative ideas. It’s an imaginary world they want us to believe exists.
It’s quite a neat trick that takes about 5 or 6 seconds buried in the hype for what is supposed to be an unbiased website extension of an unbiased news show. It doesn’t have the brute force of a Leni Riefenstahl documentary extolling Nazism. The effect is more subliminal, almost like those half-second signs saying “Drink Coke” that used to flash in front of our unseeing but perceiving brains at drive-in theatres in the 50’s.