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June 25, 2004

Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-Eyed

Via Metafilter, I just came across one of the more bizarre and disturbing campaign ads (this link offers a partial script and another link to the ad) I've seen all season. The advertisement, "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed," is intended to depict the "pessimism and rage" of prominent "Kerry Democrats" such as Al Gore, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, and Kerry himself.

The most disturbing image in the ad shows Adolf Hitler giving a speech and implicitly claims that MoveOn compared Bush to Hitler (a false accusation in the first place). The advertisement itself is rather muddled and confusing, at least for me. Without the context of the Bush campaign homepage, it's not at all clear how these images are being used until the very end of the advertisement. In fact, on an initial, inattentive viewing of the ad, most of what we hear in the ad involves criticisms directed at the Bush presidency (Moore's "fictitious president" comment, etc). Although the ad concludes with a call for Bushian optimism, it's impossible to determine from the advertisement what to be optimistic about.

It would also be easy to think that the advertisement is comparing the Democrats themselves to Hitler, especially if you read the editing cues (which suggest an equivalence between each of the images). One commenter in the MeFi discussion did make the point that the ad is likely focused on "true believers" who would already know how to read these images (i.e. "look how scary these guys are"), but no matter the audience, the trivialization of these images of Hitler deserves to be heavily criticized.

Posted by chuck at June 25, 2004 6:37 PM

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That's quite an ad. I expect we'll see worse before the end of summer. It's especially interesting in light of Cheney's unapologetic, furrow-browed f*bomb on the Senate floor yesterday.

Posted by: Derek at June 25, 2004 10:24 PM

That's a Bush ad? Talk about an open text. I can't imagine that this would help to do anything but shore up the core Bush supporters. But that makes sense: it is a "pull" ad, for people who area already at Bush's site, as opposed to the "push" ads on TV.

Posted by: Alex Halavais at June 25, 2004 11:25 PM

I'd agree that it has to be a "pull" ad. Otherwise, it makes almost no sense.

Posted by: chuck at June 26, 2004 2:42 PM

the ad does little for the campaign other than help to see how far out of the mind these kerry supporters are. most people in this country understand that the left want a socialist, marxist, or communist looking government here and this does a little to cement the indignation in the minds of the true america. i would say that the couch sitters that refuse to work and are bankrupting america by sucking up the money in the social programs that we do have may hate the ad. but it still wont matter we are going to remain in the winners seat. thanks

Posted by: BEN at June 27, 2004 3:47 PM

You said..."The most disturbing image in the ad shows Adolf Hitler giving a speech and implicitly claims that MoveOn compared Bush to Hitler (a false accusation in the first place)." NOT AT ALL A FALSE ACCUSATION. Moveon.org, in fact did run such an ad. (Look it up on the web). Democrats seem to like to dish it out, but can't take it.

Posted by: A.Glenn at June 27, 2004 5:25 PM

A. Glenn: MoveOn DENOUNCED the ad and removed it from their wesbite as soon as they realized that someone submitted it to the ad context. MoveOn did not produce the ad, as your comment implies, and disavowed it completely.

BEN: I'm not sure what you mean by the "true America," but it sounds a lot like a euphemism to exclude people who don't agree with you about the direction of this country. And what seems more likely to bankrupt our country to me are the record-breaking deficits due to massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 5% of the population. Meanwhile many "real Americans" find themselves frequently unemployed or underemployed.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2004 5:34 PM

This ad mere crystalizes the campaign of the left that is being implicitly supported by Kerry's team. They want the electorate to think of Bush as a Hitler like figure. Its fair in a democracy to make the points you want. If Kerry continues, the election will be a decision on whether Bush is comparable to Hitler. This commercial just says "Bring it on".

And Move-On only removed the ad when they felt it was getting too much bad media attention. They didn't have a problem with it untill it got some bad press. (Sort of like how the Germans didn't have a problem with repressing Jews until after the war.) Ouch! How does it feel?

Posted by: Dr. D at June 30, 2004 7:51 AM

The web is littered with a thousand Democrat pictures, semi-ads, and flash moives, comparing Bush to Hitler. Thousands and thousands, and thousands. Move-On knew what they were doing...they didn't pull the hitler ad until they got a bunch of bad press. If the Dems dish it out (as they have been for the last 3 and one half years), they should be prepared to take it too. You reap what you sow.

Posted by: Mind at June 30, 2004 10:36 AM

Welcome trolls. You know, instead of continuing down this path of who compared whom to Hitler, I'll make the point that Bush's ad displays such utter hysteria about Kerry's campaign that I read it (quite happily) as a sign that his campaign knows he's losing ground fast.

The advertisement can say nothing positive about Bush's accomplishments other than the fact that he's "optimistic." I'm sure the Titanic captain was pretty optimistic, too. The ad can only say, "Democrats and their supporters are calling me bad names. They're mean."

Posted by: chuck at June 30, 2004 12:06 PM

Easy there Chuck. You lose your credibility when you start calling people names and I would think that someone who considers himself such an intellectual (as you obviously do) could muster something more zinging than "trolls" while still managing to keeping it clean.

Posted by: JP at June 30, 2004 3:24 PM

You know, I thought about cutting that part of the comment, but I was simply echoing common parlance of the blogosphere. There was also a degree of self-consciousness simply because this blog entry has been getting tons of Google hits. For a brief time, this blog actually outranked Bush's website for the search term "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-Eyed."

Posted by: chuck at June 30, 2004 3:47 PM

It could have something to do with Bush's site being down.

Posted by: JP at June 30, 2004 3:57 PM

They're (the Bush website) ahead of me now, I think. Depending on teh search engine and the precise search string, I've been showing up anywhere from 4th place to somewhere on the second page (not that I've looked around that much).

Posted by: chuck at June 30, 2004 4:37 PM

Here's a Slate article with readings of the "Coalition" ad by William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg.

Posted by: chuck at June 30, 2004 5:38 PM

Careful there, JP. You lose your credibility when you display ignorance of an old and very commonly used term.

Here's MoveOn.org's take on the issue of the ad(s), which were created by people not associated with MoveOn.org to enter a contest with over 1,500 entries:

"We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process. In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system."

"Contrast this with the behavior of the RNC and its allies when supporters of President Bush used TV ads morphing the face of Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) into that of Osama Bin Laden during the 2002 Senate race."

The Memory Hole has details (and content) of the ads that were submitted to MoveOn.org.

"Over 1,500 ads were submitted. Out of them, two compared Bush to Hitler. After years of talking about 'feminazis' and 'Hitlery' Clinton, the right wing suddenly felt that Third Reich references were absolutely indefensible. Republicans expressed new-found outrage, and the corporate media dutifully tsk-tsked. MoveOn pulled the ads from their contest Website."

To put it another way, it seems the radical right can dish it out, but they can't take it.

Once the official Kerry election site posts an ad comparing Bush to Hitler, then the comparisons will make sense. Until then, it's just as Chuck says: desperation from a campaign whose only angle (war on terror! be afraid! war on terror!) is increasingly losing validity.

Posted by: George at July 3, 2004 3:49 PM

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