Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…
Jonathan Swift, The Examiner, 1710 (Craik, 2010)
Every generation seems to think that their politicians created the art of the lie as a campaign technique. Actually, lying has been an important persuasion strategy for a very long time. In fact, religious scholars actually date the practical application of lying back before the dawn of time. Sometimes they are complete fabrications, but the more artful manipulative technique, often dubbed propaganda, mixes a sprinkling of truth in as a flavor filler. This somehow gives the factually challenged aspects of the communication a hint of acceptability. Admittedly though, it is hard to deny that technology has provided political figures and movements a new and wondrous venue in which the technique can flourish to new speeds and levels.Fascist researchers dating back to the 30’s laid out plans for the Nazi Party’s propaganda unit. This led to the live television broadcasting of Hitler’s speech at the 1936 Olympic Games. He continued the tactic with the filming and broadcasting of speeches and parades. They also planned on showing footage of executions of Nazi traitors; eerily reminiscent of the tactic employed by ISIS terrorists today. There were also plans for what would have been one of the earliest reality shows, “depicting a wholesome Aryan life of a young German couple.” (Irvine, 2008)
The concept of the impact of visual media finally caught on with US politicians when Eisenhower held the first Presidential press conference in the 50’s (Shlaes, 2012). Eisenhower had taken notice of the impact during his first campaign for office in 1952. He had employed a series of short spot commercials, designed by successful product advertising execs, to help work on his television image. His opponent, Adlai Stevenson, refused to adopt the same tactics during their first campaign. Although he did get on board for their 56’ rematch, Ike’s popularity, spurned from his regular television exposure, was more than Mr. Stevenson could compete against. (Kaid, n.d.)
Structurally, the current Republican Presidential nominee has adopted a campaign approach somewhat similar to Ike’s, at least in terms of brevity. His frequency though is much more rabid. Through his use of YouTube videos, Instagram, and especially Twitter (including the Retweet function) he has managed to garner more conversation around water coolers and media outlets than any other candidate. The practice has somehow allowed him to rise without spending any advertising dollars. Having just reached the year mark of his active campaign, and formally locking in the nomination of his party, many in the country now seem to be reflecting on the theme of Jonathan’s Swift warning all those years ago. Will this jest survive through to November?
Craik, Henry, ed. English Prose. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916; Bartleby.com, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.bartleby.com/209/633.html.
Irvine, Chris. Adolf Hitler ‘planned propaganda cable TV’. The Telegraph, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/3239289/Adolf-Hitler-planned-propaganda-cable-TV.html
Shlaes, J. Eisehower Scholars Examine Ike’s Role with the Media. The National Press Club. Retrieved from http://www.press.org/news-multimedia/news/eisenhower-scholars-examine-ike%E2%80%99s-role-media
Kaid L. Political Processes and Television, Museum TV. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.museum.tv/eotv/politicalpro.htm