Before Rove, Atwater

There was a statement that caught my attention as I rode through museumplein in the middle of the night recently, listening to the latest edition of On the Media.  They were talking about the late republican strategist Lee Atwater, who Ive always remembered as the guy who trained George HW Bush in 88 to stand up straight to look tough in debates, and use divisive attack ads to destroy his opponent.  The item was about his legacy, and it was interesting to hear a specialist on his life and work talk about how he had been friends with Karl Rove and championed the playing upon people’s fears in a political campaign.

At one point they mention that many people saw what came after Atwater as a marketing of a candidate using sophisticated polling and focus groups. Something that would later be championed by the Clinton campaigns and set the pace for the next decade.  But they added that this most recent election, might have signified a return to a more grassroots direct-to-the people style politics.

All this reminded me of Century of the Self, Adam Curtis’s excellent documentary, which now more than ever deserves to be watched.  One can only hope an update will come soon.

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One thought on “Before Rove, Atwater

  • November 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm
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    This last election is a kind of example of “grassroots direct-to-the-people style politics.” The question we should be asking is why was it a “return.” I think a big part of that was access, that is to say, the Obama people could reach regular folks and those people could respond in turn. A lot of talk is going on about how the Obama campaign was so tech savvy this and text message that. What is not addressed is that Obama found ways for the people to become involved that incorporated media systems not yet under the control of government or monolithic conglomerates or MSM outlets in the pocket of current regimes. The Right Wing here has always been more concerned about the 2nd Amendment than the 1st, so it is not surprising that the “Fourth Estate” is either disenfranchised or made toothless under conservative governments. Add to that mix the fact that rampant capitalism has destroyed a great deal of independent thought in the media and we get the bleak landscape of inaccessible, irrelevant media we have today.

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