Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stop the Presses: Canadian Campaign Ads, Now With Music, Voiceovers and Images

Post Secret – I think Stephen Harper is a creepy mother fucker and if he was my neighbor I wouldn’t give him my spare key to water my plants and take care of my cats when I went away on vacation. That’s how much I trust the dude who has all of our country’s secret codes.

That being said – the Conservative’s new ad campaign “Our Country” is taking a drubbing in the media and I feel it necessary to defend Herr Harper. When this is all said and done I’ll be taking a nice long shower to wash myself clean.

But in the interim - Simon Houpt, in the Globe, and scores of other reporters have reported the following story today, that Our Country is a direct copy of an ad done for Tea Party candidate Tim Pawlenty. This story was most likely fed to media outlets by the Liberal Party itself, which has quickly put together a nice video montage of both ads:

I commend the Libs for quick spin on this one; looks like that whole disaster with the Stephane Dion coalition video thing is finally behind them (remember the Dion video that arrived late to the CBC looked like Dion was some sort of Al Queda leader releasing a tape from his hidden bunker?)

So where’s the beef?

Well… both ads use voiceovers, images and orchestral music.

Yes that’s right. Voiceovers, images and music. This, in Canada, is what is now consider plagiarism. You should read people’s comments on the YouTube: “if i did this in my university I’d be expelled from all universities in ontario. that's called plagiarism.”

Houpt even uses the word plagiarism in his article: The Pawlenty plagiarism allegations threaten to derail the Conservative attempt to pivot in their messaging, from using their ads to sow fear over Michael Ignatieff to a more hopeful stance.

Since when are “voiceovers” and “images” (which are what people in the movie business call narrative techniques) plagiarism.

Furthermore the actual speeches in both ads are fairly different.

Pawlenty talks about the fact the United States is the world’s most successful nation ever known. This is due to freedom, security, and prosperity. Pawlenty’s rallying cry is that life is not easy, but American’s can overcome their challenges.

In contrast Harper talks about the fact that Canada is the true, north, strong and free. He talks not about overcoming challenges, but about serving, and creating a country of hope, where all Canada can be all that can it be.

Most importantly voiceovers, music and images are old hat in election campaigns in the States. They weren’t invented by Tim Pawlenty and the Tea Party. Here is Reagan’s fairly famous: Morning in America (which shockingly uses Images, Music and Voiceover)

Maybe Pawlenty is plagiarizing from the Gipper? Voiceovers, music and images were trademark of his 1984 campaign. Here's another add from 1984. Yes, MORE voiceover, music and images.

Lest you think this is a Republican versus Democrat thing: here’s an add for Barack Obama from 2008. Yes. Voiceovers. Images. Soaring Music.

I believe what Obama presented in his ad is a vision. Same with Pawlenty. And yes… same with Harper.

So look - lets get angry about the content of Harper’s ads – the $35 billion dollars he’s spending on fighter jets which are so amazingly featured in “Our Country”. Let’s debate Harper’s vision. But let’s not get angry about the fact that he’s presenting one.

Nah what I mean?

I’ll be showering if anyone needs me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On the Youth Vote...

The lead story on the hard copy version of last Thursday’s Globe and Mail, for those of us technological Luddites who still insist on home delivery of their media and or are weighted down by the cost of professional school rendered too impoverished to buy an iPad, trumpeted the fact that on eve of the 41st federal election all three federal parties were targeting the exact same group of voters.

The G+M headline screamed: Three Parties, One Strategy: Courting the Senior Vote, while the article declared: “this election won’t be about the masses. It will be a battle for segments of the population that can be effectively targeted.” One such targeted population: those 65 and older. The stats apparently speak for themselves: 90% of those over 65 voted in the last federal election. Comparatively only 45% of those aged 25-44 voted. The Stats are even worse for new voters 18-25; but just as your average 19 year-old is too lazy to stop taking bong hits to vote [or so how we’re portrayed], I’m too lazy to do actual research. Just know that the numbers are really really bad.

I mean look... I think it is great that our politicians are so concerned about the senior vote. The Baby Boomers ARE important – my parents are Baby Boomers and their portfolio (of issues… obviously) is important to me. But I gotta be honest when I read that no federal party was interested in my support - I felt a bit slighted. Its sorta like anyone under 44 is stuck in the political version of “He’s Just Not That Into You”; and by replacing Jennifer Aniston with Bev Oda we’ve confirmed the adage that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. The He in our scorned lover scenario, because of course all of our dear leaders coincidentally happen to be white, old, men, are Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff and not only do they just not care - they’re like the three musketeers: “All for none and none for you”.

Which of course leads us to the chicken and egg dilemma that we rarely seem to talk about when dealing with what has quaintly been described as youth apathy. While organizations like Apathy is Boring and Student Vote exist to urge our youth to vote, our national newspapers tell us that our votes don’t matter. Our politicians seem to disregard us because youth tend to live in ridings where our votes are worth less then rural ridings which are (drumroll please..) heavily populated by seniors. Mix message, much? No big surprise then that instead of rocking the vote, we’re hitting the snooze button. Is youth (and that word is a bit pejorative isn’t it?) apathy because we’re too young to care or because we’re ostensibly too young to be paid attention to?

There are of course youthful political zealots; I remember them from my stint as a political staffer for a liberal politician. Youth are big business to parties who rely on them for their idolatry of the cause and their willingness to do jobs that no one else wants to do, “Our candidate really really needs you to call this list of people…”

Typical engagement for the under 25 set is limited to membership in party youth wings like CPC Energy, whose headline claims that the last time it was cool to be liberal the New Kids on the Block were cool (uhm… last time making a new kids on the block are no longer cool joke was cool was… never?) or the Young Liberals, which is for those who want to “shape the future of Canada”, the NDP youth wing seems dormant, click around on and you’ll get automatically forwarded to, so I guess uhm… the Dippers care even less about the youth vote then anyone else?

Being a young political animal has its perks beyond open access to the corridors of Canadian politico power such as annual caucus retreats where like-minded individuals argue shades of gray about policy coupled with self-important elected positions. Youth political wings are a self-feeding mechanism that breeds in-group thinking, where every summer John Baird or Justin Trudeau are trotted out at the annual AGM where each will proclaim that those in attendance “are the parties the future”. The whole thing feels like a sycophantic self-congratulating cesspool, which, unsurprisingly, turns off the other half of twenty something’s who are busy trying to solve their own quarter life crisis; not the democratic crisis of a country and a political process that patently declares that it has no interest in them anyway.

So here’s the answer to that chicken versus the egg scenario – why don’t some of the political parties ask us what we want? Maybe then we’ll bother showing up to vote.