Sunday, March 06, 2011

Image, Substance

Still life 04

Republican presidential-hopeful Mike Huckabee seems to have discovered what our Prime Minister could have told him a long time ago: in a large whack of the North American population at this time, substance is of little consequence; it’s image that sticks. Although knowing that none of these things are true, he has stated and/or implied that President Obama was born and raised in Kenya by his father and grandfather (he was born in the USA and spent most of his growing-up years in Indonesia), that he is Muslim (he has been a member of Christian churches all his life), that he is anti-West and anti-American (as proven by the fact that he had a bust of Churchill moved in the White House and replaced with one of Abe Lincoln – go figure!). (Check out an interview with Huckabee on You Tube, or see )
 And image is everything in Conservative Party advertising these days: besmirch Michael Ignatieff’s character and fill people’s minds with images of Stephen Harper interacting with his family, silhouetted against the flag, playing the piano. The Conservative Party of Canada apparently believes that if they can throw enough mud at the opposition while portraying their leader in the best, most patriotic light, enough Canadians may buy into the propaganda to win them another election.
They may be right. Surveys show that Canadian young people (15-25) are not politically knowledgeable, and when many people don’t have the information or understanding needed to be active citizens in a democracy, image building (and besmirching) may be the road to victory after all:
“Young Canadians’ political knowledge is low – only slightly higher than the level of their American counterparts and, therefore, low compared with Europe. This suggests that European nations are better at disseminating the information and skills needed to turn its young people into participating citizens, and raises the question of whether Canadians should look there, rather than to the United States, in seeking to address the issue. (See”  
Do Canadians understand the significance to democracy of Bev Oda’s lying to parliament and Harper’s shrugging it off? Of the proroguing of parliament to avoid a critical test? Of the function of election spending rules and the far-reaching significance when leadership “bends the rules” they themselves have set? Of the repeated stonewalling on the dissemination of information vital to Canadians on something as serious as our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan?
People who don’t “get this stuff” can probably be swayed by image advertising; can probably even be found in enough numbers to win another minority. Seems Huckabee has figured that out. Our political parties seem to have come to a similar conclusion.
For far too many Canadians—and probably even a greater percentage of Americans—substance is of little consequence; it’s image that sticks. Someone needs to tell Harper the obvious; if he wants a majority, he may need to walk around in hockey garb throughout the campaign! Hockey is, after all “our game.” It’s something we get.

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